Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Kyushu, Japan: Nagasaki and the "Fat Man" Atomic Bomb

Our last regional trip during our stay here in Korea ended up being a short visit to Kyushu, one of Japan's main islands, and home to the second victim of the dropping of the atomic bomb, the city of Nagasaki.  While Nagasaki was the focus of our trip, we also took time to see the cities of Shimabara and Kagoshima, the national parks of Unzen and Aso, and a very unique museum and memorial to Japan's kamikazi pilots of World War Two in the village of Chiran waaaay down in the south of the island. To get to all those places in a span of five days, we drove, and I can tell you that the drive was worth it, even if it did require driving on the wrong side of the road.  Kyushu is a lovely island of rugged and thickly forested mountains, steamy volcanoes, and picturesque rice paddies and tea farms.  The cities have a provincial feel, the people were welcoming in that very formal Japanese way, and of course, it being Japan, the food was great.

Now, the Nagasaki and atomic bomb part.  It was a sobering experience to see the Japanese perspective on an event that many Americans believe was necessary to end World War Two.  Perhaps what the museum represented--the awesome firepower the US of A can rain on another country from the perspective of that country--is something every American should see and reflect upon.  That's about all I will say about it.  The history is well-known and the photos speak for themselves.  Suffice to say that the 9 August 1945 dropping of "Fat Man" on Nagasaki, an event that by Japanese accounts killed over 70,000 people either instantly or shortly thereafter, a large portion of whom were women and children, and obliterated much of the city, is seared into the city's memory.  The commemorations of the attack are centered near the epicenter (now called the "hypocenter" for reasons that are unclear to me) of the blast and consist of an impressive museum, a memorial hall, and a park filled with monuments to peace and the victims.  We were allowed to take all the photos we wished, contrasting sharply with not being allowed to take any photos in the museum honoring kamikazi pilots we were to visit a few days later.

Nagasaki before its obliteration.  Note the church in the left center.  It was one of, if not the largest church in Japan. The city had a substantial Christian population and because of its history as a port of entry, probably the most western influence of any city in Japan.

Upon entering the museum, there is a montage of TV screens running photos and videos of the destruction.  They were a rather stark and eye-opening way to start the tour.

A replica wall of the destroyed church.  It being the just a few days after the 70th anniversary of the attack, the museum was crowded.

Displays such as these adorned the walls of the museum.  This one laid out the American decision making behind the attack on both Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Major General Leslie Groves, the director of the Manhattan Project, figured prominently in this particular display.

Photos of the bomb's mushroom cloud and the effects of its awesome power.  The photos on the far left and right show Nagasaki before and after the 9 August attack.

"Fat Man," the plutonium-based bombed dropped on the city, and the B-29 bomber "Bockscar" that carried it.

This was an interesting interactive display that showed the effects of the bomb--the flash, fires, wind, and radiation--and the impact of the city's geography.  The hills and mountains surrounding the city limited the destruction largely to the central valley, even though the bomb was more powerful than the one uranium-based bomb ("Little Boy") dropped on Hiroshima on 6 August, which killed between 90,000 and 150,000.

A life-sized mock-up of "Fat Man." 
It held the equivalent of 21 tons of TNT.
And an explanation as to how it worked.
The photo in the background of this display shows a neighborhood located about 800 meters from the hypocenter of the blast left as rubble. 
The area around the hypocenter of the blast.   The bomb exploded about 1,650 feet above the city.

Various artifacts were displayed about the museum demonstrating the effects of the bomb's blast--the heat in particular.
Bones of a hand fused to glass.
Part of a victim's skull remains on the inner surface of this helmet found not far from the center of the blast.
Bodies.   Near the epicenter of the blast, the heat instantly carbonized human bodies and vaporized their internal fluids.  Burns were fatal up to 1.2 kilometers away.  
More displays showing the effects of the heat and fires.

This display discussed the numbers of non-Japanese victims killed by the attack, including over 13,000 Koreans, plus about 650 Chinese, 200 or so British, Dutch, and Australians.
The museum also included a section on the lead up to the war between Japan and the US.
And a section on the number and danger of nuclear weapons in today's world.
This particular display tried to illustrate the number of nuclear tests by location around the world since the 1940s.
Places where nuclear weapons are produced.
The weapons to deliver them.
Origami displays were scattered about following the 70th anniversary of the attack.  As far as we could tell, outside of a few Europeans, we were the only Americans there.  I detected no animosity amongst the hundreds of Japanese visitors.
Adjacent to the museum was the National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims.  Lots of testimonies, photos of victims, poems, and places for reflection.
This portion is called Remembrance Hall.
In the back of the Hall is a listing of all the victims of the bombing, including those who died afterwards due to injuries inflicted by the bomb and exposure to radiation.  According to the displays in the hall, the number is now over 160,000.

1945 and 2015.  A remarkable recovery.  This view is from the top of the museum and looks out over the area where the bomb exploded.
Outside the museum and in the area of the hypocenter, there is a park and a number of monuments like this one.
Some with heartfelt testimonials.
This placard goes to the monument in the previous photo.
The hypocenter.
Hypocenter in 1945.