Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Wonderful Enduring value of Those Two Small Atomic Bombs

Fear of Vaporizing a huge city with far more powerful bombs today

There is actually no doubt at all that the usage of the two very small atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki turned out to be a wonderful (continuing) chapter in the world's history. The constant media displays of the horrific effects in those two cities has (so far) kept anyone else from launching even more powerful weapons on anyone else. That's good in itself, but great in a far darker realm. Those two (very small) bombs were the equivalent of around 12,000 tons of TNT and 20,000 tons of TNT, respectively.

The dozen or so countries which have created their own atomic bombs since then have far more powerful nuclear weapons, often in the range of eight to forty times more powerful, even into the multiple millions of tons of TNT. By the early 1960s, the United States had already installed around 140 Titan II missiles in underground silos, each of which included hydrogen (fusion) bombs of about 9,000,000 tons of TNT equivalent, each more than 650 times as powerful as the first atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

The Soviet Union was also building and installing large numbers of hydrogen bomb weapons. At one point, both the US and Soviet Union had more than 16,000 operational nuclear bombs, each of which could be launched at any moment. Even by March 1. 1954, the U.S. already tested a fusion bomb which created the equivalent of around 15,000,000 tons of TNT. Around that same time, the Soviet Union detonated the most powerful hydrogen bomb ever, one that was estimated to have the equivalent of around 50,000,000 tons of TNT. (That one was so big and heavy that it required a heavy bomber to carry as no rockets were powerful enough.)

Please note that available weapons in the 1950s and 1960s were already more than a thousand times more powerful than the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 (which had gotten the attention of a Japanese government that aggressively insisted that all Japanese people be willing to die in the defense of their Emperor.)

It seems a certainty that the fear due to the photos and videos of Hiroshima and Nagasaki may (so far) have kept anyone from detonating a 40-time more powerful or 1000-time more powerful nuclear weapons on any large modern city of innocent civilians. Several decades ago, it was hard to understand why India and Pakistan had not launched nuclear weapons on each other's countries, but, for some reason, they both resisted. If they had not each seen the photographs and videos of the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I really do not see why the politicians of both countries had then resisted. Therefore, as a Physicist and a human, I see incredible value in those two (small) bombings which instantly ended World War II.

As a Nuclear Physicist, I have been dismayed to watch alleged "experts" generate strange conclusions regarding trying to blame the United States for "consequences" of dropping two very small Atomic Bombs on fairly small cities in Japan in August 1945.

Yes, the personal consequences were horrendous on those people involved. But the United States Military certainly knew that Japan had never "surrendered" in any previous battle and they had always "fought to ultimate death of all Japanese". The U.S. was approaching needing to "attack the Homeland of Japan" and they could see that many millions of deaths on both sides were soon certain to occur in horrific battles. Military Advisors had informed the very new President Truman of these concerns, and Truman made the incredibly difficult decision to try to really impress the Japanese Military leaders with a truly horrific weapon. Rather than dropping such weapons on Tokyo or any other huge Japanese city, where even more innocent civilians would be killed, one moderate sized city and then a second was chosen for this demonstration. Truman also backed up the actual bombs with a "Poker game threat" which he could not have fulfilled, to further convince the Japanese to surrender, a threat of "sending many more such bombs to annihilate more Japanese cities". As a Physics student at the University of Chicago in 1963, I learned that if Japan had not really been impressed with Truman's bluff, and they had not immediately surrendered, it would have taken the U.S. at least four months to refine enough nuclear fuel to launch even one more bomb (of either type). If Japan had not immediately surrendered as they did, the U.S. would have been seen as fools in threatening something that they could not have fulfilled, and millions more would have died, on both sides, in a land invasion of Japan.

The actual history of the time was even stranger than that! It had taken the U.S. many months to refine enough Plutonium in order to test the basic idea of a nuclear weapon, which they did on July 16, 1945 in a field near Alamogordo, New Mexico. The one actual test of a nuclear weapon operated on a concept of implosion, and it used Plutonium as a fuel, so it was a physically large structure (which was mounted up on top of a tower).

A few weeks later, the Enola Gay bomber carried an entirely differeent type of atomic bomb, much smaller, one which could be carried in a bomber, and one which used a never-tested fuel called Uranium-235, which it dropped over Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945.

The biggest delay in making more atomic bombs was in Refining the Fissile material which would be used in it. After the Hiroshima bomb, the United States did not have remotely enough Uranium-235 fuel processed for another atom bomb, so, in order to make a second atomic bomb, they had to make the only other atomic bomb entirelly differently, with Plutonium fuel, essentially like the only atomic bomb that had ever been tested a few weeks earlier.

As a Physicist, I know how cocky and arrogant Physicists are, but I am amazed that the first atomic bomb ever used, the one which was dropped on Hiroshima, was of an untested unique "gun-style" design which used uranium-235 as the fuel, which had never been tested. What would they have done if it just went "thud" as it hit the ground? The second atomic bomb, the one dropped on Nagasaki three days later, OK, at least that basic design had actually been tested (once!)

In any case, it turned out to be wonderful that the Japanese Emperor was impressed by the two bombs which we could make and drop, and on President Truman's "Poker game Bluff" that we were prepared to drop many more such atomic bombs to vaporize more Japanese cities. The reality was that we probably could actually have only dropped one or two more atomic bombs a year later in the Spring and Summer of 1946, which would not have been as impressive to the Japanese Emperor if he had known the truth.

For quite a few reasons, World War II could easily have continued for two or three more years, while American bombers would have dropped millions of tons of conventional weapons on Tokyo and all the other big cities of Japan. In an odd way, the Japanese people probably should be happy that everything went as it was intended regarding the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs, which enabled the bulk of Japan to still continue to exist. In previous months, British and American bombers had demonstrate "carpet bombing" of many German cities, so there was no reason to believe that the United States would not have continued such massive (conventional) bombings on Japan. For "as long as it would take".

If that had happened, it is certain that millions of Japanese would have died in all that carpet bombing of their big cities, while a rather small number of Americans would likely have died. The United States was manufacturing bombers and conventional bombs at incredible rates, so they certainly would not have "run out" of conventional bombs, even as the very last Japanese people would have died. That could have been a loss of 50 million Japanese people over several following years of incessant carpet bombing. It seems to me that the remaining Japanese people should probably be happy that the two small atomic bombs only killed a small fraction of one million people. But certainly, in very impressive manner.

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As to the current situation, as far as we know, there are nine countries which have stockpiles of atomic bombs. Russia has 6400; the USA has 6185; France has 300; China has 290; Britain has 200; Pakistan has 160; India has 140; Israel has 90; and North Korea has 30.

All of those 14,000 atom bombs are many times more powerful than the two rather tiny bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

If a World War III begins, all 14,000 of those atom bombs will be launched and detonated, and within an hour, every human on Earth will be dead.

This presentation was first placed on the Internet in May 2016.

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Carl W. Johnson, Theoretical Physicist, Physics Degree from Univ of Chicago