'Ruin From The Air' by Gordon Thomas & Max Morgan Witts

BY THE morning of August 7, news had trickled through to the Japanese leaders in Tokyo that Hiroshima had been hit by a new kind of bomb. They were told the destruction caused was very great, but in devastated Tokyo the reports sounded distressingly familiar.

President Truman's statement describing the weapon to an astounded world was broadcast to Japan. It was dismissed by many politicians there as propaganda. The Japanese public was told nothing by its leaders.

Worldwide reaction was mixed.

In Britain, the government welcomed the bomb as a means of speedily ending the war.

In the Soviet Union, the media did not rate the atomic bomb worthy of headline news.

Major General Seizo Arisue, the army intelligence chief, was chosen to head a group of high-ranking officers and scientists to go to Hiroshima to investigate. Among them was Professor Asada, the physicist who had worked on Japan's atomic research and who was still perfecting his death ray.

In Hiroshima, with the mayor dead, Field Marshal Hata took over administrative control of the city. He had been only superficially injured, although his wife was severely burned. Hata rnoved his headquarters to the underground bunker cut into the side of Mount Futaba.

Many of his senior officers were dead. Prince RiGu and his white stallion were gone; so, too, Colonel Katayama, whose horse had been found compressed to half its breadth in a crack in the ground. Hata's orders were relayed through Colonel Kumao Imoto, who, although badly injured, was the field marshal's highest-ranking surviving officer.

Relief workers were slow to arrive in Hiroshima. The first help came from the soldiers based at the port of Ujina, over two miles from the epicenter and little damaged. Marines collected the explosive-filled suicide boats from the coves around the harbor. The small craft were emptied of their charges, lashed together, and covered with planks. Raftlike, they moved slowly up the rivers to Hiroshima's center, collecting the wounded and taking them to the military hospital at Ujina. The boats' passage was hampered by the dead bodies in the rivers; corpses floated in and out with the tide for days.

The fate of all the American prisoners of war is not certain. Two were reported to have been escorted, wounded but able to walk, to Ujina. One was seen under a bridge, apparently dying, wearing only a pair of red-and-white underpants. Two were said to have been battered to death in the castle grounds by their captors.

Warrant Officer Hiroshi Yanagita, the Kempei Tai leader, who was asleep less than half a mile from the epicenter when the bomb exploded, was thrown naked from his bed in his second-floor room. The house was on fire. He went to the window and jumped —only to find that the house had collapsed and his room was at street level. Dressed in a sheet, skirting the edge of the city, he made his way to Ujina. There he collected some clothes and ten soldiers, and went to the leveled site where Hiroshima Castle once stood. He saw no American prisoners of war. But when he reached his divisional Kempei Tai headquarters in the west of the city, one of his men told him he had tried to bring two prisoners to the head-quarters, but finding it impossible, had left them by the Aioi Bridge. There, one person reported seeing them, hands tied behind their backs, being stoned to death.

American records so far available show that of the crew of the Lonesome Lady, at least the pilot, Thomas Cartwright, and the tail gunner, William Abel, survived the war. Both were awarded the Purple Heart. Cartwright's commission terminated in 1953; Abel retired from the American forces in 1968. It is possible that they, and indeed other POWs, had been moved from Hiroshima before the bomb fell.

On Tinian, the day after the bomb was dropped, some 509th crews—including the Enola Gay's, with Bob Lewis in command—took off for a follow-up attack on Japan using conventional bombs. In the meantime, Tibbets flew to Guam, where, on August 8, he held a short press conference in which he gave a straightforward recital of the facts of the atomic strike.

President Truman had warned the Japanese leaders that if they did not now accept American terms, they could expect a rain of ruin from the air, the likes of which had never been seen on this earth. The Japanese did not accept the terms.

American leaders, fearing that the Hiroshima bomb might have hardened Japan's will to resist and also that it be regarded as an unrepeatable phenomenon, decided to use a second atomic bomb—the plutonium weapon—the only other one then ready. They hoped to convince Japan's leaders that America's nuclear capability was far greater than it was.

LeMay asked Tibbets, "Don't you think you should lead the second attack?" Tibbets replied, "No. I'm getting enough publicity. The other guys have worked long and hard and can do the job as well as I can."

Charles Sweeney was chosen to command the second strike. He told his crew he wanted "to do it just like Paul did." Among those on board would be Radar Officer Jacob Beser, the only man to accompany both atomic bombs to Japan. Cheshire and Penney, the British representatives, would ride in one of the two observer planes.

There were only two potential targets: Kokura was the primary, Nagasaki the alternate. Both cities were on the island of Kyushu, southwest of Hiroshima.

From the beginning the mission was bedevilled. The predicted weather over the targets was not promising. Sweeney's old plane, The Great Artiste, had been fitted with scientific equipment for the first atomic run and would be used for the same purpose on the second. To carry the bomb, Sweeney borrowed another B-29, Bock's Car.

Just before takeoff, six hundred gallons of gas were found to be trapped in one tank and would not be available during the flight. Sweeney decided to risk it.

When he reached the rendezvous point, where the other two planes were to join him, Sweeney could find only one. He waited forty minutes for the third bomber to appear, but then could wait no longer. He headed for Kokura.

Bock's Car made three runs over the target, but the aiming point—a munitions complex—remained obscured. Puffs of anti-aircraft fire were exploding below. Beser noticed activity on the Japanese fighter-control circuits he was monitoring. Interceptor planes were on the way.

Sweeney, his fuel running low, decided to "go for Nagasaki." There, again, he found heavy overcast. Suddenly the bombardier, Kermit Beahan—who like Ferebee was a veteran of the war in Europe—shouted that he had spotted a break in the clouds. He told Sweeney, "I'll take it."

Beahan made minor course corrections and then dropped the plutonium bomb. It fell wide of the intended aiming point, exploding above the northwest section of the city.

Although the plutonium bomb was more powerful than the uranium bomb used at Hiroshima, it did less damage and caused fewer casualties, mainly because of the difference in Nagasaki's terrain. Even so, its effect was devastating.

Following a harrowing landing at Okinawa, its fuel supply almost gone, Bock's Car returned after twenty hours to Tinian. Meanwhile, in Moscow, on August 8, Naotake Sato, the Japanese ambassador who had tried repeatedly to get his government to surrender before it was too late, was told by Foreign Minister Molotov that as of midnight the Soviet Union would be at war with Japan.

Next morning, while the six members of Japan's Inner Cabinet met for the first time since the nuclear bomb had fallen on Hiroshima, they learned that Russian troops had marched into Manchuria and that an atomic bomb had been dropped on another city —Nagasaki.

But the members of the Inner Cabinet could not bring themselves to surrender. They talked all morning, afternoon, and into the evening. Those in favor of continuing the war pointed out that millions of Japanese soldiers had hardly been tested. They were spoiling for a fight and would probably not surrender even if ordered to do so.

Premier Suzuki, desperate to break the deadlock, suggested that Emperor Hirohito might graciously agree to help them come to a conclusion.

At 2:00 a.m., August 10, Japan's divine ruler stated that he was in complete accord with Foreign Minister Togo, who believed that Japan should accept the terms of the Potsdam Declaration, on the understanding that the Allied demands did not "prejudice the prerogatives of His Majesty as a sovereign ruler."

When Truman and his advisers learned of this qualification, they, too, found themselves divided. But Secretary of State Byrnes came up with an agreeable formula. While making clear that the emperor's authority to rule would at first be subject to the Allied Supreme Commander in Japan, it reiterated that eventually the Japanese people would be free to choose whatever form of government they wished.

When the Japanese leaders received America's reply, they still could not agree to capitulate. They talked through August 12, 13, and into August 14. Then Emperor Hirohito acted again. He told the military and civilian leaders that they should "bear the unbearable and accept the Allied reply." He agreed personally to inform his people by radio of the decision the next day.

The Japanese surrender was made known to the American people late in the afternoon of August 14. Most had no doubt that the atomic bomb had ended the war.

The Russian public was told the Red Army had forced Japan to submit.

In truth, it was probably the fact of the bomb plus the fear of the Russians that caused —or made it possible for —Japan to give up. On August 15, just before noon, people all over Japan waited to hear their emperor speak. Most still believed they were winning the war. They had no understanding yet of what had happened to Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In Hiroshima, a crowd gathered by a loudspeaker in the demolished railway station to hear the sacred words of their divine monarch. Emperor Hirohito used such formal, oblique phrases —the word surrender was never uttered —that it was almost impossible to grasp his meaning.

When he ended his address, a great number of Japanese no longer thought they were winning the war. They believed they had won. For, as one of those in the crowd at the Hiroshima railway station remarked, "How else could the war end?"

THE crew of the Enola Gay, more than thirty years later, go their separate ways. Since 1945 they have continued to receive hate mail from those who protest the morality of dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima; the mail peaks every year on August 6. From time to time the police are called in to investigate death threats. For the most part, the fliers have learned to live with anonymous insults and recriminations.

Paul Tibbets retired from the air force in 1966 with the rank of brigadier general, convinced he was an "expendable victim" of a changing public attitude toward what he had been ordered to do over Hiroshima.

He has stayed close to his first love —airplanes. He is president of an executive jet company in the Midwest and still regularly flies Lear jets. He has arranged that when he dies, his ashes will be scattered in the sky.

Meanwhile, there was a new love —a new wife. This time the marriage has been successful.

Beser still regrets that he "didn't get to drop the bomb on Berlin, because of what the Germans did to the Jews." He spends a good deal of his time organizing the 509th reunions, which are held every three years.

Bob Lewis auctioned his log in 1971 for thirty-seven thousand dollars. The money helps him buy marble, from which he sculpts religious motifs.

Van Kirk returned to college and got a degree, with honors, in chemical engineering. In 1950 he joined DuPont and has been with the firm ever since.

Nelson lives in California. Caron collects memorabilia of the atomic missions, but has so far failed to make any real money from selling color prints of the Enola Gay.

Duzenbury and Stiborik live quietly and have long since put the mission behind them. Shumard died in April 1967.

Parsons became a rear admiral. He died on December 5, 1953. His assistant over Hiroshima, Morris Jeppson, is now a scientific consultant.

Ferebee remained in the air force and, after a stint in Vietnam, retired. He divides his time between selling real estate and cultivating his one-acre garden. He looks back on his experience as the world's first A-bombardier without regret, believing it "was a job that had to be done."

For many years Claude Eatherly, the flamboyant Texan who flew the Straight Flush, did not adjust to civilian life—there were stays in Veterans Administration mental hospitals. He was treated by some of the press as the Hiroshima pilot who went mad because of his guilt over the bombing. The Texan became a figurehead for Ban the Bomb groups. Eatherly loved the publicity. A hero at last, he found himself repeating the views attributed to him before he ever pronounced them.

In 1974 a throat malignancy robbed Eatherly of his voice, but in 1976, at the age of fifty-seven, he seemed to have found serenity. He lives with his family on social security and a disability pension in a modest cottage near Houston, Texas, a graying man in a straw hat and cowboy boots.

And what of the Japanese, many of whose lives collided in one moment with those of the twelve men of the Enola Gay?

After the war Field Marshal Hata was tried as one of the twenty-five major Japanese war criminals. He was found guilty in 1948 and sentenced to life imprisonment. He died in 1962.

Lieutenant Commander Hashimoto was a witness at the court-martial of the captain of the Indianapolis, Charles McVay. Hashimoto's impending arrival in the United States to testify was announced by the navy on December 8, 1945, the day after the fourth anniversary of Pearl Harbor. The submarine commander received a cool reception. He understood a little English and did not like what he heard. During the trial he often felt his evidence was being incorrectly translated.

McVay was found guilty of negligence and was demoted; his sentence was later remitted. Hashimoto became a merchant ship's captain, often calling at U.S. and British ports. Now retired, he is head priest at a Shinto shrine in Kyoto.

Lieutenant Colonel Oya was interrogated by the Americans about the way he had treated prisoners of war. He tried to conceal the fact that ten POWs were murdered after the war's end; he told his interrogators that the prisoners had died in Hiroshima along with the others held there. When the questions became difficult, Oya simply pointed at his injured neck and said, "Ever since the bomb my memory has gone." In 1976 Oya was alive and well, a frequent visitor to the United States.

After the war the hero of Pearl Harbor, Mitsuo Fuchida, was converted from Buddhism to Christianity. He toured the United States as a "flying missionary," but was not always welcomed by his audiences. He wrote a booklet entitled No More Pearl Harbors, and was annoyed by the Japanese military medals and citations he continued to receive. Fuchida died May 30, 1976.

Matsuo Yasuzawa, who had flown his bent plane from Hiroshima, was barred by American occupying forces from flying until 1952. By then his eyesight had deteriorated, and he was affected by a constant cough. He was unable to fulfil his dream of becoming a civilian airline pilot, and today lives frugally on a small disability pension.

Chief Warrant Officer Imai, having been in hiding on Tinian for well over a year, gave himself up in September 1945, the last man his cave to do so. He is now president of a large builders' association in Tokyo.

On Tinian, now administered by the United States as part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, a white-robed, hooded Capuchin priest takes care of the spiritual needs of some seven hundred people in an imposing pink church. Its inside upper walls are made of plasterboard taken from the 509th's Tech Area.

HIROSHIMA today is a bustling city with a population near eight hundred thousand, more than twice what it was before the bomb. The citizens seldom talk of August 6, 1945. Those who still show signs of their injuries tend to keep to themselves, often suffering guilt that they lived while so many died. The Industry Promotion Hall, now called The Atomic Bomb Memorial Dome —the only building in the center of the city to withstand the blast —has been left as it was, in all its gruesomeness, as a terrible reminder.

Some years ago the Department of Defense deeded the Enola Gay to the Smithsonian Institution. In 1977 the Enola Gaylay scattered in several pieces over the floor of a hangar in Silver Hill, Maryland, waiting to be reassembled one day and exhibited in the Smithsonian's new National Air and Space Museum in Washington.