BBC’s Hiroshima

Summary of BBC’s Hiroshima:

It was the defining moment of the 20th Century – the scientific, technological, military, and political gamble of the world’s first atomic attack. This drama-documentary attempts to do what no other film has done before – to show what it is like to live through a nuclear explosion, millisecond by millisecond.

Set in the three weeks from the first test explosion in New Mexico to the eventual dropping of the bomb, the action takes viewers into the room where the crucial political decisions are made; on board the Enola Gay on her fateful voyage; inside the bomb as it explodes; and on the streets of Hiroshima when disaster strikes. Parallel storylines interweave, unfolding the action from both US and Japanese perspectives, and revealing the tensions and conflicts in the actions and minds of people who were making history. Special effects recreate the reality of the mission – even going inside the workings of the bomb – and archive film replays the horrific aftermath.

I would recommend this documentary to get a more in-depth look at the individuals involved and affected by the atomic attack.  Some insights from this documentary:

*The atomic bomb was originally developed to first attack the Nazis in the European Theatre but later used for Japan in the event they refused to surrender on the conditions laid out in the Potsdam Declaration

*The Americans issued an amended ultimatum to Japan after intercepting their encrypted messages that only asked their armed forces to surrender unconditionally in the hopes they would surrender since their Emperor is protected.  However, the Japanese war cabinet rejected these demands out of the wrong assumption the Americans were softening their stance with the modified terms of surrender.

*The bomb dropped on Hiroshima, called Little Boy, was manually armed while the Enola Gay was en route to Hiroshima.  The crews flying to Japan were given cyanide pills to protect their secrets in the event they were shot down in Japanese air space.

*The Japanese and US war veterans allege Hiroshima was chosen because it was one of the few cities that was unscathed from the periodic American firebombings, which was ideal for observing the full effects of a nuclear attack.  Hiroshima was officially chosen because it had a large industrial base and it was the headquarters for the Japanese forces in charge of defending the country from invasion.

*The city first went on a full air raid alert when an American B-29 was spotted, with everyone hiding in bomb shelters, but the alert ended about an hour after the scouting bomber left the city just as the Enola Gay was making her flyby.  This is part of the reason why the death toll was so high during when Hiroshima was nuked.  The Americans later gave Japan fair warning when they were dropping the second bomb in the event the government failed to surrender.

*The Japanese government was preparing the entire population to defend against an American land invasion.  Local civilians were drilled on the art of suicide bombing on a daily basis, while children and schoolgirls were drilled on how to efficiently kill Americans using sharpened bamboos and bayonets.  Additionally, despite all the firebombings and successes in the Pacific Theatre, the Japanese military was relatively intact and active in the rest of Asia.

*The Americans justified the nuclear attack on the basis that it would save countless American and Japanese lives that would have been wasted from a long and bloody land invasion.  The Japanese argue the Americans wanted to drop the bomb just for the sake of testing its impact and Hiroshimans were the victims of this experimentation.

*It took about 45 seconds for the Little Boy to land on the city once it was dropped by the Enola Gay.  The second nuclear attack on Nagasaki was almost a disaster as the bomber missed the intended target in the city and they only chose to bomb Nagasaki because Kokuro was cloudy that day.

*The nuclear blast was so strong that it darkened the clouds, and triggered a rainstorm of radioactive black liquid.  The survivors of the blast drank this black rain without knowing of its effects because they were extremely dehydrated from the heat caused by the atomic blast.  Many of the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki would later die from radiation poisoning as a result of the loss of white blood cells, which allowed for the spread of infections and necrosis.

*The Japanese militarist faction of the war cabinet refused to surrender even after the attack on Nagasaki and were hellbent on fighting to the end believing the Americans would eventually give up.  The Japanese government only surrendered when they summoned Emperor Showa to perform his constitutional duty to break the deadlock between the military and government factions.

*Initial IJA garrisons sent to recover survivors were ordered not to provide food and water to survivors because it “would kill them”.  Many of them died anyway.

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