3. Acceleration ( June 28, 1945 — August 2, 1945)
From 'Ruin From The Air' by Gordon Thomas & Max Morgan Witts

AS HE did every morning, Field Marshal Hata, dressed in a kimono, padded in his slippers to the Shinto shrine that was an integral part of his home. His prayers said, he changed clothes and began the next part of his daily ritual: tending his garden. This work kept him lean and fit; his appearance belied his sixty-five years.

Hata then went into the house and put on his uniform. Awaiting him was an overnight situation report prepared with the help of Lieutenant Colonel Oya, presently acting as his intelligence chief. The summary offered no specific clue as to where or when the Americans intended to invade Japan, but the field marshal was ready. Inland defenses stretched from the shores of Kyushu almost to Hiroshima, on the main island of Honshu. Murderous arcs of crossfire, tank traps, and booby traps awaited the Americans at every turn.

Hata had some tea, then left in his staff car for his headquarters at Mount Futaba.

Most of Hiroshima's officers rode to work on horseback, their equestrian parade regularly earning admiration from the milling crowds on their way to the war factories. The animals, like their owners, and in marked contrast to the civilians, were sleek and well groomed. Particular approbation was reserved for the Korean prince, Lieutenant Colonel RiGu, attached to Hata's staff. His was the most superb horse in Hiroshima, a huge stallion, snow-white with black fetlocks. Sitting bolt upright on his steed, ceremonial sword at his side, the handsome young prince was a reminder of past glories, when the Imperial Japanese Army's cavalry had swept all before them.

Mayor Awaya and his assistant, Kazumasa Maruyama, as usual, walked to work. This July morning their conversation turned to a recurring question: What could be done for the children who still remained in Hiroshima? Many worked in the factories and were receiving only a token education. Maruyama believed all children should be evacuated.

The two men entered the Town Hall and were immediately overwhelmed by complaints about food distribution, lack of fuel, the need for more air-raid shelters. The problem of caring for the children of Hiroshima was lost in the welter of demands.

Six days later Lieutenant Colonel Oya was in Major General Arisue's office at General Army Headquarters in Tokyo, describing Field Marshal Hata's network of defenses that radiated out-ward from Hiroshima and his plans for repelling the invaders.

Arisue wished the area around Tokyo had been in the same high state of readiness. It was July 27, and the city and its environs were devastated, its industries either obliterated by bombs or paralyzed by lack of manpower and materials. The B-29 attacks had driven millions of workers from Tokyo, reducing its population from seven million to less than four million.

Arisue and Oya were interrupted by the arrival of a messenger from the radio monitoring unit of army intelligence, with the long-expected communiqué from Potsdam. Excitedly, Arisue studied the translated Potsdam Declaration, perhaps the most important message the Japanese received from the Allies in the entire war. It spelled out the terms for ending the conflict. Japan must reject its militaristic leaders, submit to Allied occupation, respect fundamental democratic rights, and establish a "peacefully inclined" government. Except for war criminals, the Japanese military forces would be allowed to return home. Industry would be maintained, and eventually Japan would participate in world trade.

The declaration concluded,

"We call upon the government of Japan to proclaim now the unconditional surrender of all Japanese armed forces. . . . The alternative for Japan is prompt and utter destruction."

Truman and Stimson had agreed to leave out mention of the emperor on the understanding that if the Japanese, in their reply, raised the question, it would be treated sympathetically. But to Arisue, as well as to other Japanese, the declaration was a

"warning of annihilation unless we give up what we hold sacred."

Foreign Minister Shigenori Togo brought a copy of the communiqué to Emperor Hirohito in the audience hall of the imperial palace's Obunko, or library building, which was screened by trees near the north gate and was one of the few buildings within the palace grounds unscarred by war. Back in May, the emperor had suffered the agony of seeing many of the palace's buildings burn to the ground when the incendiaries dropped on surrounding areas had created such tornadoes of flame that the conflagration had jumped the moat. In minutes the flames had spread, even to the wooden imperial residence built by Hirohito's grandfather, the revered Emperor Meiji.

At dawn Hirohito and his empress had emerged from their shelter and surveyed the destruction. The emperor had commented to a palace official,

"Now the people will realize that I am sharing their ordeal with no special protection from the Gods."

As the emperor studied the Allies' declaration, the foreign minister sat bolt upright on a hard sofa. To Togo, steeped in the tradition of diplomatic exchanges, conveying such an important document by public broadcast — as the main story in a shortwave newscast emanating from Washington —

"did not seem the way for government to speak to government."

Yet, under the emperor's questioning, Togo conceded that the communiqué did give detailed assurances of humane treatment, freedom of speech, religion, and thought. And the Japanese people were to be consulted on the form of government they wished after the surrender.

The emperor dissected the declaration clause by clause, asking questions and making points. Finally Hirohito asked his foreign minister whether he felt the terms

"were the most reasonable to be expected in the circumstances."

Togo conceded they were. Then, abruptly, he rose to his feet and faced the emperor, the traditional gesture of the court to signify that a visitor had no more to say. The emperor also stood, and, in another ritual act, he turned and left the room.

Togo had not revealed to the emperor the hardening attitude of Japan's government and military leaders to the Potsdam Declaration. Prime Minister Suzuki and his colleagues were inclined to ignore the communiqué, partly on the grounds that officially they had not even received it. Further, the cabinet still pinned its hopes on the Soviet Union's mediating for them a " reasonable surrender. "

Suzuki arranged a press conference. Hands trembling, the prime minister read a prepared statement. He dismissed the declaration, saying the government

"does not regard it as a thing of great value. We have decided to mokusatsu the declaration."

Within minutes his words were broadcast by the official Japanese news agency, Domei, which translated mokusatsu as "ignore."

At 12:50 p.m. the next day the field telephone rang in Second Lieutenant Tatsuo Yokoyama's anti-aircraft gun post on Mount Futaba. One of the controllers in Hiroshima Castle warned him of the possible approach of bombers from the direction of Kure, twelve miles to the south and east.

Radio Hiroshima interrupted its program to announce an alert, and all over the city people ran for shelter.

Dr. Kaoru Shima was performing an appendectomy in his private clinic. He continued with the surgery. The staff hurried patients to the ground-floor shelter, carrying those unable to walk.

Mayor Senkichi Awaya and Kazumasa Maruyama were in the mayor's office when they heard the alert siren. Maruyama rushed to the window and stared into the sky, but could see nothing. He and Awaya resumed their discussion.

Field Marshal Hata invited his officers to join him at the windows of the conference room to watch developments. Yokoyama, peering through his binoculars, could see two B-24s coming toward him. They were climbing, after their bomb run over the Kure Naval Dockyard, part of a force of thirty B-24s attacking the Haruna, one of the last Japanese battleships afloat.

Aboard the first bomber, named Taloa and piloted by First Lieutenant Joseph Bubinsky, the crewmen were nervous. It was common knowledge that the Japanese often executed captured American fliers. A month earlier eight airmen had been publicly put to death — their bodies prodded into the ritual kneeling position and their heads chopped off by ceremonial swords.

The bombardier, First Lieutenant Robert Johnston, was still in the nose of the Taloa, peering through the Plexiglas. His relief was considerable as the bomber cleared the concentration of gun batteries that made Kure one of the most heavily defended cities in Japan. Ahead were the port facilities of Hiroshima, and beyond was wooded countryside.

Not far behind the Taloa flew the Lonesome Lady. The men aboard both B-24s knew of the standing orders that forbade their bombing Hiroshima, but none of them knew anything about the city's ground defenses — all information about the city had been restricted — and the bombers continued their headlong dash over Hiroshima.

Then, with two-thirds of the city behind them and the safety of open countryside ahead, the fate of the twenty men aboard the two bombers — although never publicly reported by the U.S. government — was about to become inextricably linked with that of Hiroshima.

As soon as the B-24s were within range, Yokoyama ordered his battery to fire. The first salvo bracketed the Taloa, puffs of smoke exploding above and below it. Yokoyama shouted an immediate correction. The next salvo seemed to hit the Taloa squarely on the nose. A frenzied cheer came from the gunners, but Yokoyama shouted at them to keep firing.

The sky around the stricken bomber was now pockmarked with shrapnel bursts. Trailing smoke, the plane abruptly turned left, away from Mount Futaba. Moments later, as the B-24 crossed western Hiroshima, tiny figures tumbled out shortly before the bomber plunged into a nearby hill.

At least three of the men now floating earthward — the pilot, the bombardier, and the tail gunner, Julius Molnar — were in deep shock and suffering superficial wounds, but instinctively they tried to work their parachute cords so they would drift away from the packs of civilians they could see converging below.

The Lonesome Lady, trailing smoke and coming under fire from a battery near Hiroshima Castle, banked sharply to the right, turning back in the direction of Kure. Suddenly it lost altitude and headed for a dense forest southeast of Hiroshima. Eight men managed to jump from the bomber before it crashed to the ground.

By now, squads of Kempei Tai military policemen were fanning out from Hiroshima in pursuit of the fliers. One squad, led , by Warrant Officer Hiroshi Yanagita, raced toward the village of Inokuchi, where they could see parachutes caught in the trees. Yanagita and his men rescued Bubinsky, Johnston, Molnar, and two other crew members of the Taloa from crowds of angry civilians, and drove the fliers to Kempei Tai headquarters at Hiroshima Castle, where special interrogators could question them thoroughly.

The eight crewmen from the Lonesone Lady were also on their way to the castle.

Of the twenty fliers originally in the two bombers, thirteen had survived being shot down. With their arrival in Hiroshima, there would be a total of twenty-three American prisoners of war being held in the city.

ON JULY 29 General Carl Spaatz, head of the U.S. Army Strategic Air Forces, a newly created command for the impending invasion of Japan, met with key personnel of the atomic mission in the Guam office of General LeMay, his new chief of staff, to read an order he had insisted be put in writing. After being briefed in Washington by Groves on the atomic bomb, Spaatz had said, "If I'm going to kill a hundred thousand people I'm not going to do it on verbal orders. I want a piece of paper."

The document had been drafted by Groves and transmitted to the Little White House in Potsdam for approval; it was immediately granted. Acting as chief of staff while General Marshall was in Potsdam, General Thomas Handy had prepared the document for transmission to Spaatz.

Assembled now in LeMay's office to receive their orders were LeMay himself, Tibbets, Parsons, Blanchard, and LeMay's senior meteorologist. The exact date of the first mission would depend on the latter's forecast of "a good bombing day," when there would be a maximum of three-tenths cloud cover and favorable winds over Japan.

Spaatz read the order aloud. It said in part:

"The 509 Composite Group, 20th Air Force will deliver its first special bomb as soon as weather will permit visual bombing after about 3 August 1945 on one of the targets: Hiroshima, Kokura, Niigata and Nagasaki. To carry military and civilian scientific personnel from the War Department to observe and record the effects of the explosion of the bomb, additional aircraft will accompany the airplane carrying the bomb. The observing planes will stay several miles distant from the point of impact of the bomb.
Additional bombs will be delivered on the above targets as soon as made ready by the project staff. . . . It is desired that you personally deliver one copy of this directive to General MacArthur and one copy to Admiral Nimitz for their information."

At last America's senior soldier in the Pacific, General Douglas MacArthur, was to be told about the revolutionary weapon.

Spaatz folded the document and placed it back in his briefcase. "Gentlemen," he asked, "are your preparations on schedule?"

The men around the table nodded. Parsons then read a memorandum he had just received from Oppenheimer, in Los Alamos. The scientist had calculated that the blast from the weapon to be dropped on Japan would be equivalent to that from eight thousand to fifteen thousand tons of TNT. It would take nearly two thousand B-29s, carrying full loads of conventional high-explosive bombs, to match one atomic bomb.

After mentioning that the bomb would probably be fuzed to go off 1850 feet above the target city, Oppenheimer stated that the bomb

"should have a brilliance which should persist longer than at Trinity [Alamogordo] since no dust should be mixed with it. In general, the visible light emitted by the unit should be even more spectacular. Lethal radiation will, of course, reach the ground from the bomb itself."

The meeting in LeMay's office concluded, and Tibbets returned to Tinian with Parsons. Shortly after arriving there, he and Bob Lewis had a brief conversation the meaning of which the two men would later dispute.

Although Lewis had expected to drop the new weapon with "his crew" in "his plane," Tibbets had already told him that Van Kirk and Ferebee would be going along to replace his usual navigator and bombardier. Lewis did not like the idea, but had come to accept it. He had also come to believe that Tibbets would not be on board No. 82, and that he, Lewis, would fly the mission that really mattered.

Lewis assumed that Tibbets saw his own role as a

"chairborne commander, planning the operation, leaving its execution to men who regularly flew B-29s."

Lewis also believed that Tibbets "didn't have an airplane." Technically this was true. The 509th's commander had not assigned himself No. 82; instead he had chosen almost always to fly on it with Lewis. In Tibbets' view, "this made it clear to anyone with a dimesworth of sense that Lewis and his boys were actually my crew. When I went aboard, Lewis was co-pilot and I drove the plane."

The first atomic strike called for more than professional flying expertise. It called for decision-making of the highest order, despite Lewis' belief to the contrary, it was indeed Tibbets' duty to command the mission.

And in the conversation they now had, Tibbets told him that he, Lewis, "would be flying the mission." Lewis took that to mean that he would be the commander of No. 82.

Tibbets would not deny that he made the remark, but his interpretation of it would differ radically from Lewis'.

"Lewis would fly as copilot.... It was clear to anybody that on such a mission I had to be in the driver's seat."

ON July 28 Beser discovered he was being watched by the 509th's flight surgeon for signs of psychological strain. Beser was delighted to discover the surveillance. "It meant we must be getting close to mission time."

In the heavily guarded Tech Area where he and Lieutenant Morris Jeppson worked, the tension increased markedly with the arrival of Captain Parsons. He was on Tinian as the weaponeer — to supervise the final assembly of the atomic bomb.

Also now on Tinian were two Englishmen, Group Captain Leonard Cheshire, an RAF hero, and William Penney, a scientist, whose brilliant mathematical calculations had played a part in developing the weapon.

The War Cabinet in London had insisted that Britain should be represented when the bomb was dropped. President Truman had agreed "in principle" to this at Potsdam. As a result, Cheshire and Penney believed they would be on the flight. But General LeMay had been evasive when the two Englishmen mentioned going on the mission.