The crew of the B-29 Bockscar initially sought to strike Kokura, where one of Japan’s largest munitions plants was located. But the view was blocked by clouds and drifting smoke.
The crew flew southwest to the back-up target: Nagasaki. A small opening in the clouds allowed the bombardier to drop the bomb. The bomb detonated above the Urakami Valley, an area that included industry as well as schools, hospitals and a cathedral.
In September, the first Allied reporter, George Weller, eluded military restrictions and arrived in Nagasaki. He reported that people with no visible wounds were dying of a peculiar bomb-related disease. That was an early account of lethal radiation. But his stories written for the Chicago Daily News were censored and did not become public until 2005.
Casualty and injury estimates vary widely.
Books to check out:
- On the secret effort to build the bomb and aftermath:
The Manhattan Project: The Birth of the Atomic bomb in the Words of its Creators, Eyewitnesses and Historians, edited by Cynthia Kelly of the Atomic Heritage Foundation.
- Two very different perspectives on the war’s end, and the planned ground invasion of Japan:
Hell to Pay: Operation Downfall and the Invasion of Japan, 1945-1947, by D.M. Giangreco
Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan, by Tsuyoshi Hasegawa
- On the ground in Nagasaki:
Nagasaki: Voices of the A-Bomb Survivors, edited by The Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Testimonial Society