On August 9, another B-29, Bockscar, set out for the Kokura Arsenal on the southwest Japanese island of Kyushu. Foul weather, however, persuaded the pilot to proceed instead toward Nagasaki, the home of a Mitsubishi torpedo factory. Over this secondary target Bockscar dropped a larger device, code-named "Fat Man." Local geography spared Nagasaki from the near total devastation suffered by Hiroshima; only one third of the city was destroyed.
The decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the first and last use of atomic weapons in combat, remains one of the most controversial in military history. Altogether, the two bombings killed an estimated 110,000 Japanese citizens. By 1950, another 230,000 Japanese had died from injuries or radiation. Though the two cities were nominally military targets, the overwhelming majority of the casualties were civilian.
An exhibition documenting the impact of the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II opened in London this week.
Stopped clocks, flattened clothing, the charred contents of a tin lunchbox and a mangled glass bottle recovered from the wreckage of the two Japanese cities and brought to the UK for the first time to coincide with the 65th anniversary of the attacks.
I met a survivor of the bomb, you can see him speaking to Reading children on youtube here. I blogged about it at the time here.
Unfortunately the threat of nuclear weapons is not just in history. Yesterday a fire broke out at AWE that could have been catastrophic.
Caroline Lucas, Green Party leader and MP for Brighton Pavilion, wrote yesterday to Defence Secretary Liam Fox, a day after a fire on Tuesday night at Atomic Weapons Establishment Aldermaston, in Berkshire.
The fire was severe enough for local roads to be cordoned off, and for residents to be evacuated.
AWE Aldermaston is the facility which designs, produces and maintains components for all British nuclear warheads.