The Bombing of Nagasaki August 9, 1945: The Untold Story
by Gary G. Kohls, MD., Duluth, MN
On August 9th, 1945, the second of the only two atomic bombs ever used as instruments of war was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, by an all-Christian bomb crew. The well-trained American soldiers were only “doing their job,” and they did it well.
It had been only three days since the first bomb, a uranium bomb, had decimated Hiroshima on August 6, with chaos and confusion in Tokyo, where the fascist military government and the Emperor had been searching for months for a way to an honorable end of the war which had exhausted the Japanese to virtually moribund status. (The only obstacle to surrender had been the Truman administration’s insistence on unconditional surrender, which meant that the Emperor Hirohito, whom the Japanese regarded as a deity, would be removed from his figurehead position in Japan -- an intolerable demand for the Japanese.)
The Russian army was advancing across Manchuria with the stated aim of entering the war against Japan on August 8, so there was an extra incentive to end the war quickly: the US military command did not want to divide any spoils or share power after Japan sued for peace.
The US bomber command had spared Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Kokura from the conventional bombing that had burned to the ground sixty-plus other major Japanese cities during the first half of 1945. One of the reasons for targeting relatively undamaged cities with these new weapons of mass destruction was scientific: to see what would happen to intact buildings – and their living inhabitants – when atomic weapons were exploded overhead.
Early in the morning of August 9, 1945, a B-29 Superfortress called Bock’s Car, took off from Tinian Island, with the prayers and blessings of its Lutheran and Catholic chaplains, and headed for Kokura, the primary target. (Its plutonium bomb was code-named “Fat Man,” after Winston Churchill.)
The only field test of a nuclear weapon, blasphemously named “Trinity,” had occurred just three weeks earlier, on July 16, 1945 at Alamogordo, New Mexico. The molten lavarock that resulted, still found at the site today, is called trinitite.
With instructions to drop the bomb only on visual sighting, Bock’s Car arrived at Kokura, which was clouded over. So after circling three times, looking for a break in the clouds, and using up a tremendous amount of valuable fuel in the process, it headed for its secondary target, Nagasaki.
Nagasaki is famous in the history of Japanese Christianity. Not only was it the site of the largest Christian church in the Orient, St. Mary’s Cathedral, but it also had the largest concentration of baptized Christians in all of Japan. It was the city where the legendary Jesuit missionary, Francis Xavier, established a mission church in 1549, a Christian community which thrived and multiplied for several generations. However, soon after Xavier’s planting of Christianity in Japan, Portuguese and Spanish commercial interests began to be accurately perceived by the Japanese rulers as exploiters, and therefore the religion of the Europeans (Christianity) and their new Japanese converts became the target of brutal persecutions.
Within 60 years of the start of Xavier’s mission church, it was a capital crime to be a Christian. The Japanese Christians who refused to recant of their beliefs suffered ostracism, torture and even crucifixions similar to the Roman persecutions in the first three centuries of Christianity. After the reign of terror was over, it appeared to all observers that Japanese Christianity had been stamped out.
However, 250 years later, in the 1850s, after the gunboat diplomacy of Commodore Perry forced open an offshore island for American trade purposes, it was discovered that there were thousands of baptized Christians in Nagasaki, living their faith in a catacomb existence, completely unknown to the government - which immediately started another purge. But because of international pressure, the persecutions were soon stopped, and Nagasaki Christianity came up from the underground. And by 1917, with no help from the government, the Japanese Christian community built the massive St. Mary’s Cathedral, in the Urakami River district of Nagasaki.
Now it turned out, in the mystery of good and evil, that St. Mary’s Cathedral was one of the landmarks that the Bock’s Car bombardier had been briefed on, and looking through his bomb site over Nagasaki that day, he identified the cathedral and ordered the drop.
At 11:02 am, Nagasaki Christianity was carbonized -- then vaporized -- in a scorching, radioactive fireball. And so the persecuted, vibrant, faithful, surviving center of Japanese Christianity became ground zero.
And what the Japanese Imperial government could not do in over 200 years of persecution, American Christians did in nine seconds. Few Nagasaki Christians survived....
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photos: ruins of St Mary's Cathedral in Nagasaki and a scorched statue of St Mary that had stood inside the cathedral