How was it done?

When using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe that we are far away … 
Sun Tzu

This chapter develops a hypothetical scenario for the conventional attacks that accounts for the perception by most witnesses of a flash and by fewer witnesses of a ‘bang’. In this scenario, the flash was created with photoflash bombs, while the ‘bangs’ were local events caused by detonation in the air of high explosives, which possibly were contained in bombs that resembled the purported Nagasaki bomb (‘Fat Man’) in size and shape. Also exploded in the air were bombs filled with napalm and with mustard gas, which then rained down on the city.

Furthermore, the chapter makes the case that the Japanese authorities were not surprised or deceived by the ‘atomic’ bombings but rather colluded both in staging them and in obfuscating their true nature. It is also discussed how special effects like ‘atomic shadows’, censorship, and propaganda were used to implant and maintain the myth of the atomic bombings.

One striking aspect of the ‘nuclear’ bombings is certainly the great success of the deception; it appears that all survivors believed, or eventually came to believe, that they had indeed witnessed real nuclear detonations. Even Dr. Masao Tsuzuki, who realized that some poisonous gas had been dispersed, tried to fit this observation into the story of the atomic bombs.

The deception had two elements: firstly, a make-believe nuclear detonation, and secondly, the concealment of the dispersal of conventional incendiaries and of mustard gas. In this chapter, we will examine how the bombings were carried out, and how the deception was achieved.


The make-believe nuclear detonation


The flash

Many eyewitnesses likened the event to a very large photographer’s flash (see for example the quote in Section 13.1.4). Nakatani [1] has proposed that the flash was produced using photoflash bombs, possibly of the AN-M46 type, which was 8 in by 48 in in size [281]. The regular purpose of such bombs was to illuminate, at night, a large target area, so that it could be photographed from high altitude. A flash of such power should make an impression even at daytime. Whether this particular model was indeed used or another one, and whether only one or several such bombs were used in each city seems difficult to ascertain from the available evidence. However, statements such as that of Mr. Tanimoto, who according to Hersey [7] described the light as ‘a sheet of sun’ which ‘traveled from east to west’ (see quote in Section 1.3) suggest a rather sustained display of white light, as does this quote by a Dutch prisoner of war, who experienced the Nagasaki bombing while working in a shipyard within the city [282, p. 728]:

I saw an indescribably strong, white light that might be comparable to the light at the end of a welding torch, but it lasted much longer, incredibly long.159

Quite possibly, therefore, multiple photoflash bombs were employed in each bombing.


The bang

We noted earlier that many eyewitnesses saw a flash but heard no detonation, and also that those near the hypocenter were less likely to hear a bang than those further from it. Moreover, there is no clear correlation of damage intensity with distance from the hypocenter. Similar degrees of destruction were observed by engineer Shigetoshi Wakaki [169], who experienced the bombing at Hatsukaichi, a town situated 13 km to the southwest of the hypocenter, and by Fathers Arrupe [167] and Siemes [283] at the Jesuit convent in Nagatsuka, which is located only some 4 km from the alleged center of the detonation. According to these witnesses, damage to buildings in both areas was mostly limited to blown-out windows and doors.

The only plausible explanation for this pattern is that there was not one large detonation but several smaller ones whose effects were limited and local. Both Wakaki and the Jesuits looked around for some focus of impact (e.g. a blast crater) on the ground, but none of them found it. Wakaki, himself an explosives expert whose job was to develop ordnance for the Japanese army, specifically comments [169, p. 59 f]:

Judging from the blast and assuming the bomb weighed one ton, it cannot be too far—perhaps about 100 metres to the centre of the explosion, I thought to myself as I ran. Yet no matter how far I ran the amount of window glass damage was about the same and I seemed to be getting no nearer the centre of the explosion. Another strange thing was that although the window panes of the upper storeys were damaged, the ground floor panes were not. The contrast was very striking.

The absence of a clear focus of the detonation on the ground suggests that the detonation had been an air burst. Furthermore, the preferential damage to windows in the upper floors suggests that the altitude of that burst had not been very great, so that at some distance from it the lower floors of the houses were shielded from the shock wave by the adjacent rows of buildings.

While damage to buildings in the Nagatsuka and Hatsukaichi areas was limited, the local air bursts seem to have had greater impact in other parts of the city. The Jesuits owned a second building inside the city, some 1.3 km from the hypocenter; and Father Siemes reports that in its vicinity this building alone was left standing. He ascribes this to the reinforcements made to its structure by his confrère Father Gropper at some earlier time. The typical state of repair of traditional Japanese buildings is described by de Seversky as follows [5]:

One must see to believe the flimsiness of average Japanese wooden structures, many of them termite-eaten and dry-rotted for generations. To make things worse they are top-heavy with thick tile roofs, used to protect them from sparks, should neighboring houses catch fire. Sometimes houses tumble down without apparent reason, expiring, as it were, of sheer old age. I nearly crumbled one myself in Nagasaki when I accidentally kicked a wall with my artificial leg.

The immediate or protracted collapse of many wooden houses induced by the ‘bang’ agrees with numerous eyewitness accounts. In the foreword to his collection of such testimony, Arata Osada summed it up as follows [14]:

The astounding number of casualties was chiefly caused by the complete surprise of the attack, the large number of buildings that collapsed and the rapid spread of fires from the embers of charcoal fires used to prepare breakfast—plus, of course, the devastation caused by secondary heat radiation near the blast center.

While we agree with Osada that stoves within collapsed houses were not the only fire starters, we maintain that the second major cause was not heat radiation but napalm, as will be discussed shortly. For now, we should consider what sort of weapon might have been used in these air bursts. While local in their effects, their reach nevertheless seems to have exceeded that of regular explosives.

Thermobaric weapons

While a conventional explosive combines fuel and oxidizer in the same material—and often, as with trinitrotoluene (TNT), in the same molecule—a thermobaric weapon consists mostly of fuel only, which is first dispersed into a cloud using a relatively small initial detonation. A second detonation then ignites the resulting mixture of air (which provides the oxygen) and dispersed fuel. Such weapons had been under development towards the end of World War II in Germany. It is not out of the question that the U.S. made use of these results, or that they had independently pursued their own development of such weapons in secret.

Of note, finely powdered magnesium and aluminum are apparently suitable as fuel for such weapons; the ignition of dispersed magnesium or aluminum might offer an alternate explanation for the flash. Thus, thermobaric weapons might plausibly account for both the ‘flash’ and the ‘bang’; Occam’s razor may therefore suggest them as the preferred explanation. One large thermobaric weapon would not, however, account easily for the apparently uneven pattern of ‘bangs’ experienced in the cities.

The ‘Pumpkin’ bomb

A special Air Force bomb group (the 509th) had been created that was to carry out the ‘nuclear’ bombings. According to Leslie Groves, the leader of the ‘Manhattan Project’, this group used for training purposes a special type of conventional bomb that mimicked the future Nagasaki bomb [40, p. 285]:

Because they had been modified to carry the atomic bomb, the B-29’s of the 509th Group could not easily carry standard conventional bombs. They could, however, deliver bombs having the same shape as the Fat Man, and such a bomb had been developed and produced to provide training and experience to the crews. Known as the Pumpkin, this bomb contained 5,500 pounds of explosives, and was designed for blast effect only, with a proximity fuse that would permit its use for an air burst.

According to Hansen et al. [4, pp. I-143],

the wartime FAT MAN implosion bomb was almost 11 feet long, five feet in diameter, and weighed about 10,000 lbs.

Assuming that the Pumpkin replicated also the weight of the ‘Fat Man’, Hansen’s number leaves some 4,500 lbs of weight for the casing. The shock wave produced by detonating this much explosive in such a heavy and presumably sturdy casing should indeed have been considerable. But why was it necessary to employ this much explosive just to practice the drop of an atomic bomb? Wouldn’t it have been much cheaper, and therefore more conducive to training, to simply use a dud? Groves has the answer [40, p. 285]:

Although it was primarily a training device, we had always recognized that it could have tactical uses; now as part of the group’s security cover, we let it leak out on Tinian that its mission was the delivery of Pumpkins in battle. … 

The Pumpkins began to arrive at the end of June. Reaction to these bombs were mixed. The members of the 509th who, with a few exceptions, still did not know the real reason for their training, were somewhat disappointed that they had spent so much time in practicing to deliver this fairly modest weapon. … 

To familiarize the plane crews with the general areas of the targets and to ensure more certain navigation and target recognition, the cities selected for the Pumpkin missions were in the general vicinities of, but outside, the atomic targets. The bombings were carried out at the same high altitudes … 

In this context, we must note that the 509th Bomb Group received a very considerable number of B-29 planes modified to carry Pumpkins or nuclear bombs. According to Groves [40, p. 256 ff], General Arnold, the head of the Air Force, promised Groves the delivery of 42 such planes overall.160 The number of modified planes could hardly have been much smaller, if indeed Groves ‘cover story’—namely, that dropping Pumpkins was the real purpose of the entire bomb group—should have appeared credible.161 The question then arises how many modified planes would truly have been required to prepare adequately for the atomic bombings. In his book, Groves himself states that the minimum number was one. Of course, a certain level of redundancy would have been advisable. While we might accept a number of three or even five such planes as appropriate, a number of up to 42 surely is excessive. We therefore conclude that these planes had indeed been modified explicitly for the delivery of Pumpkin bombs.

In light of the foregoing, we propose that the air bursts which occurred as part of the ‘nuclear’ bombings were created using Pumpkin bombs, of which several were used in each bombing. This accounts for the circumstance that many witnesses report hearing loud bangs—and, to a man, all of these witnesses were under the impression that the bomb had detonated in their own vicinity—whereas many others did not. Furthermore, it explains why similar degrees of destruction were observed at very different distances from the hypocenter. Depending on their state of repair and on their proximity to the nearest detonating Pumpkin, wooden houses were damaged or collapsed entirely, with fire resulting in many cases.


The parachutes

Many eyewitnesses report that multiple parachutes were dropped above each city shortly before the flashes and bangs occurred. It is unclear, however, whether these parachutes carried any of the devices used to produce the illusion of atomic detonations.

Wakaki, the weapons engineer, personally participated in the disassembly of the cargo attached to three parachutes and reports that it contained no explosives but only physical instruments and radio transmitters for monitoring the supposed nuclear blast [169, p. 95 ff]. On the other hand, Father Siemes suggests that some parachutes may have carried bombs [283]:

A few maintained that they saw the planes drop a parachute which had carried something that exploded at a height of 1,000 meters.

Bombs carried by parachutes are also mentioned in the first Japanese radio broadcast on record [285, p. 242]:

A small number of B-29s penetrated into Hiroshima city little after eight a.m. yesterday morning and dropped a small number of bombs. As a result, a considerable number of homes were reduced to ashes and fires broke out in various parts of the city.

To this new type of bomb are attached parachutes, and it appears as if these new bombs exploded in the air. Investigations are now being made with regard to the effectiveness of this bomb, which should not be regarded as slight.

As noted above, the Pumpkin bombs were large and heavy; they should therefore have been quite conspicuous and also required rather large parachutes. Witness testimony mentions neither large cargo nor large parachutes. Thus, if indeed any bombs were carried by parachutes, these would have been of a different type; possibly the photoflash bombs, which is indeed suggested by some witness reports. Here is one such report [14, p. 127]:

All of a sudden, something white like a parachute fell out from the plane. Five or six seconds later, everything turned yellow. It was like I’d looked right at the sun. Then there was a big sound a second or two later and everything went dark.

Even if the parachutes did not themselves carry the photoflash bombs, they would certainly have held the attention of most spectators and caused them to look at least in the general direction of the flash. This would have enhanced the impression of the flash on those onlookers. At the same time, the falling parachutes would also have diverted attention from the other planes that were needed to carry out the attack—to deliver the pumpkins, but also the bombs filled with napalm and mustard gas, which we will consider shortly.


The ‘beautiful cloud’

The most detailed description of the Hiroshima cloud is given by Ogura [12, p. 15 f]. The author, a professor of history at Hiroshima University, is at the time some 4 km east of the city center but walking towards it:

I came to the east side of Shin’ozu Bridge. I stopped there for a minute, and just as I looked toward the sea and noticed the way the waves were sparkling, I saw, or rather felt, an enormous bluish white flash of light, as when a photographer lights a dish of magnesium. Off to my right, the sky split open over the city of Hiroshima. I instinctively flung myself face down onto the ground.

I lay there without moving. Then I raised my head and looked up over the city. To the west, in the sky that had been blue a minute before, I saw a mass of white clouds—or was it smoke? Whichever it was, it had taken shape in an instant. Then a halo of sparkling lights, a little bit like the ring that forms around the moon as a sign of rain, appeared near the cloud mass and expanded like a rainbow. The outer edges of the white cloud mass rolled down and curled inward toward the center while the entire shape ballooned out to the sides.

Immediately another mountain of clouds, accompanied by a huge column of red flame like lava from a volcano that had erupted in midair, formed under the first cloud mass. I don’t know how to describe it. A massive cloud column defying all description appeared, boiling violently and seething upward. It was so big it blotted out much of the blue sky. Then the top of it began to spill down, like the breakup of some vast thundercloud, and the whole thing started to seep out and spread to the sides. The first cloud mass set down a foot like a huge waterspout, suddenly growing into the form of a monstrous mushroom. The two immense masses of clouds, one above the other, then rapidly formed into a single vast column of vapor, reaching all the way to the ground. Its shape was constantly changing and its colors were kaleidoscopic. Here and there it glittered with some small explosion.

While other individual witness accounts are less detailed, they collectively confirm Ogura’s description. For example, eyewitness Hiroshi Shibayama recounts [152, p. 97 f]:

Suddenly I heard the sharp crack of an explosion. … The wall of the factory collapsed in a pile of dust. What had happened? Without thinking I turned around to look in the direction of the explosion. The Nishioka boy cried out, “How beautiful!” Rising rapidly into the cobalt blue sky was a towering mass of cloud—deep red, yellow, white, blue, purple, all the colors swirling violently. Unaware of its import, l was fascinated by its beauty.

This mesmerizing display of colors is of course not accounted for by an atomic detonation; it rather suggests that some colored smoke bombs were used. Indeed, some such smoke bombs seem to have reached the ground [152, p. 136 f]:

I noticed what seemed to be a multicolored parachute floating in the sky to the east above Gokoku Shrine. … My ten-month-old son, inside the house, began to cry as if burned. I had just turned to see to him when a sudden shock from behind propelled me into the room. Tottering, I threw myself down on the baby. … 

It was a little while before I looked down at him. I was amazed to see blood streaming from his forehead. … I thought that a bomb must have exploded. As I gathered up the baby and searched for the first-aid kit, the air of the room became heavy with purple smoke. My first thought was poison gas. Afraid of being trapped inside, I took the baby downstairs and out into the street. Then the house collapsed and began to burn.

Purple smoke is also described by Brigadier General Thomas Farrell, who was Groves’ deputy in the ‘Manhattan Project’ and reported to him after overseeing the Hiroshima attack [40, p. 323]:

Sound—None appreciable observed.

Flash—Not so blinding as New Mexico test because of bright sunlight. First there was a ball of fire changing in a few seconds to purple clouds and flames boiling and swirling upward.

Groves also quotes a description, allegedly composed by Farrell himself, on the previous test explosion at Alamogordo. That detonation was described as considerably more colorful. The same adjective applies to Farrell’s prose itself:

The whole country was lighted by a searing light with the intensity many times that of the midday sun. It was golden, purple, violet, gray and blue. It lighted every peak, crevasse and ridge of the nearby mountain range with a clarity and beauty that cannot be described but must be seen to be imagined: It was that beauty the great poets dream about but describe most poorly and inadequately.

Another important element in Ogura’s testimony is his mention of ‘lava from a volcano that had erupted in midair’. This is echoed for example in the testimony of British POW Thomas Jones, who observes the Nagasaki cloud from a distance [162, p. 69]:

Following the explosion I saw a beautiful pure white cloud, which changed to red inside and commenced expanding. I thought it was a bomb raining red hot stuff down like a volcano.

We will return to this aspect and its significance below (see Section 13.2.2).


The black rain

A conspicuous part of standard Hiroshima lore is the ‘black rain’, which came down a short while after the bombing. It fell predominantly to the north and north west of the hypocenter, in an area that stretched approximately 30 km in east-west and 40 km in north-south direction [158, p. 125 ff]. In parts of the affected area, more than 100 mm (4 inches) of precipitation were observed.

The black rain is said to have picked up radioactive matter in the air and deposited it as fallout on the ground. However, as we noted in Chapter 3, the level of activity shows unexpectedly large variation between samples of a similar nature and origin (see Figure 3.4B).162 Such pronounced inhomogeneity suggests that the fallout was indeed not deposited by the rain. How else could the fallout have been dispersed? It may simply have been dropped from airplanes. Masamoto Nasu in his book Children of the paper crane [286] relates the experiences of the Sasaki family163 as they seek safety from the approaching fire on a boat near Misasa Bridge, 1.5 km north of the hypocenter:

After a while, the pleading voices faded. Some had drowned, many had been roasted by flame and heat. Fujiko and the other occupants silently continued to bail water out of the boat. A little after 9:00 a.m, they heard the drone of a B-29 in the dark sky. Somewhat later came a patter as drops of a black, oily, liquid splattered them. “The B-sans are covering us with oil so we’ll burn better,” someone murmured.

A similar quote can be found in Ogura’s book [12, p. 76 f]:

But then Mr. Yamaoka said, “When the black rain started to fall …”

“Eh?” I couldn’t help exclaiming. Two of the others also looked at him with surprise. “I was in Yokogawa when it fell,” the third man said. “I was terrified. I thought it was some kind of incendiary bomb that sprayed oil.”

We note that in both cases the black drops are described as oily. There is of course no reason why rain—be it spontaneous or prompted by cloud seeding164 or a nuclear detonation—should produce oily rather than watery precipitation. Therefore, this testimony strongly suggests that some of the ‘black rain’ was indeed artificially dispersed. If this oily fraction contained the radioactivity, the inhomogeneous distribution of the fallout could be readily explained.


The conventional attack and its concealment


Witness accounts of multiple detonations

A nuclear bomb should produce only a single large explosion, whereas a conventional bombing will involve multiple smaller detonations. Before dissecting exactly how the conventional bombing was carried out, we note that reports of multiple detonations are not in short supply:165

Shigeru Tasaka, school boy third grade [14, p. 126]:
About noon, the people who had been out on labor service started coming back in twos and threes. … Some of them thought the explosion was due to the arsenal blowing up, and in fact the thump of explosions could be heard. But others said that it must have been some new type of bomb.
Yasuhiro Ishibashi, school boy fourth grade [14, p. 180]:
To the west, we would hear the sounds of explosions followed by flames rising high into the sky. I vacantly watched a big building burning, its iron framework collapsing in the heat …
Ikuko Wakasa, a girl, 5 years old at the time [14, p. 11]:
From the fields, I could see that not only the part of town where we lived but the whole city of Hiroshima was burning. There were clouds of black smoke and big explosions.
Jesuit Father John Siemes [283]:
While we are attempting to put things in order, a storm comes up and it begins to rain. Over the city, clouds of smoke are rising and I hear a few slight explosions.
Hisayo Yaguchi, a school girl in fifth grade [14, p. 206]:
My big brother, the one who had been doing voluntary labor, said that an incendiary bomb had exploded right in front of him. His face was a burned mass. I looked at him once but I couldn’t bear to look at him a second time.
Wakaki describes an apparent napalm bomb [169, p. 87]:
It is reported that in a farm house near Koi an incendiary-like bomb dropped into a room through the roof and something adhesive, oily and combustible, derived from the bomb, adhered to pillers [sic] and began to burn.

We note, however, that only the last two of these witnesses state that the bomb in question actually hit the ground. This suggests that most bombs may have been detonated in the air. As pointed out before, the two key weapons used in the ‘nuclear’ bombings were napalm and mustard gas. We propose that both were delivered using M47 bomb casings which were fused for air burst. The M47 filled with napalm was one of the most commonly used incendiaries in Japan [13]. The same bomb casing was also available filled with mustard gas [184]; and according to [102], it had been this very bomb that had been shipped to Bari in 1943. Air burst fuses for the M47 were available; thus, all the prerequisites for this scenario were met. We moreover propose that the attacks were carried out as follows:

  1. Groves [40] states explicitly that the planes carrying the ‘Pumpkins’ were flying at high altitude and banked away immediately after releasing the bombs, without overflying the targets. Napalm and mustard bombs were likely delivered in the same manner.
  2. The bombs were thrown into the cloud initially created by photoflash and smoke bombs.

We will now consider how this scenario fits the available evidence.


In-air detonation of napalm bombs

For the dispersal of napalm using M47 bombs, a special burster had been developed. It contained a TNT core to ensure a rapid burst of the bomb and the complete release of its cargo. The TNT was surrounded by white phosphorus to ignite the napalm, which was then dispersed in the form of large burning gobs. When such a bomb was detonated on the ground, the burning napalm was sprayed over a circular area about 50 yards in diameter [290, p. 35]. We submit that napalm bombs detonated in the air account for the following kinds of witness testimony:

  1. Early on in the Nagasaki bombing, a Japanese lieutenant makes the following observations, as related by Weller et al. [162, p. 26]:

    With the parachutes at perhaps a five thousand feet level there suddenly occurred below them, at about fifteen hundred feet, a burst of flame. Almost instantly the flame, yellow as gaslight, fell in a widening cone to earth, at the same time spreading wider in hoop skirt fashion.

    This burst of flame is not, or not just, the photoflash bomb. Such a bomb would produce as its residue only a cloud of finely dispersed and already burned-up magnesium oxide; there would be nothing left to fall to the ground ablaze. Similarly, conventional explosives such as those contained in the Pumpkins would also burn up immediately. In contrast, burning napalm can account for the described falling flames.

  2. A continued delivery of napalm bombs set to go off inside the cloud can account for the observed sustained red glow. Detonations of both napalm and mustard bombs can explain the secondary flashes within the cloud, as well as its continued growth. All of these features were noted by multiple witnesses (see quote in Section 13.1.4, as well as interviews with allied POWs in Weller et al. [162, p. 68 ff]).
  3. Raisuke Shirabe, a professor of surgery at Nagasaki University Hospital, recounts his perceptions at the beginning of the bombing [291]:

    I could hear a dull drumming noise like the sound of heavy rain. It was probably caused by the falling of soil that had been sucked up into the sky by the explosion.

    Shirabe’s assumption that soil had been sent flying is not substantiated by any other testimony. We submit that the drumming noise he describes was instead caused by gobs of napalm raining down from the sky (likely accompanied by drops of mustard gas). The same effect can explain the otherwise puzzling statements by two of Keller’s patients—namely, that at the time of the bombing they perceived a sound ‘like rain’ (see quote in Section 1.3).

  4. Many witnesses describe buildings which were set afire early on in the attack, which had neither collapsed themselves nor adjoined others that had (see for example [163,283]). Similarly, burned spots were noted in the woods near Hiroshima [32,283]. In the absence of a ‘nuclear’ detonation, only some sort of incendiary can explain these fires; at the same time, the dearth of reports of explosions on or near the ground suggests that this incendiary was released in the air.
  5. Takashi Nagai, a physician and writer from Nagasaki, includes this statement in his description of the bombing [292, p. 28]:

    Fragments of incandescent metal rained down in balls of fire immediately setting everything alight.

    Most likely, burning gobs of napalm had adhered to shards of bomb casings and heated them to a glow while falling down towards the ground.

  6. John Toland [74, p. 803] recounts the story of Hajime Iwanaga, a boy from Nagasaki, who is struck by flying gobs of burning jelly in much the same way as acknowledged napalm victim Kim Phuc (see Section 9.4). Many other witnesses describe that they themselves or others were severely burned very shortly after the onset of the attack (see Section 9.3).

In-air detonation of mustard bombs

Mustard will not ignite readily or fall down in large, compact gobs; it is thus less conspicuous than napalm. Nevertheless, we can adduce some evidence to show that mustard gas was indeed released early on in the bombing:

  1. Dr. Tsuzuki’s statement that a ‘white gas with stimulating odor’ and causing ‘suffocating pain’ was perceived immediately after the onset of the bombing (see quote in Section 1.4.4);
  2. Dr. Akizuki’s encounter with patients displaying symptoms of mustard exposure only minutes after the bombing (see Section 10.1.1);
  3. The actress Midori Naka, sometimes referred to as ‘the first victim of radiation sickness’, showed indeed clear and very early signs of mustard gas poisoning [293]:

    She was trapped under the fallen building, but suffered neither burns nor serious injury. She managed to dig herself out and run to Kyobashigawa River to escape the fire … by the time she arrived at the bank of Kyobashigawa River, she was feeling intense pain in her chest. She was vomiting violently, and there was blood in the vomit.166

It seems likely that the amount of explosive in these mustard bombs was carefully calibrated to achieve the best balance of effective dispersal of the fluid and rapid descent of the droplets to the ground. This would likely involve some degree of vaporization; vapors condensing again would form white ‘contrails’ on the way down. This effect could account for Ogura’s observation that after a short while the white cloud column ‘set down a foot’ and reached all the way to the ground (see quote in Section 13.1.4). However, smoke from burning napalm would likely produce a similar impression.


Concealment of the napalm and mustard bombing

Mustard bombs were apparently not used in any other attacks by the Americans, so that their use would not be readily suspected.167 Napalm bombs, on the other hand, were exceedingly common; for example, the well-known raid on Tokyo used almost exclusively napalm bombs [13]. In these raids, however, the incendiaries had been detonated at or near the ground; detonating them several hundred meters above ground thus would have helped disguise their use. The fireworks—the photoflash bombs, followed by colored smoke bombs—hid both types of bombs behind a shroud of magic and mystery.

The smoke produced by all detonations, and also by the rapidly increasing fires on the ground, would also have concealed attacking airplanes from the people on the ground.168 Thus, while early on in the attack it was necessary to use the minimum number of planes above the target, after a short while it should have become possible to employ a larger number of planes for delivering the amounts of napalm, mustard, and possibly other weapons which we may have failed to discern. Last, but not least, this would also include the planes needed to disperse the radioactive ‘fallout’, which were heard but not seen by the observers quoted above (see the first quote in Section 13.1.5).


Were thermate/magnesium bombs used as well?

While napalm—contained in either the larger M47 bomb casing, or the smaller M69 model—was the most widely used type of incendiary used in Japan, another major type was the M50 bomb. This bomb had a body of solid magnesium, with a cavity containing thermate, a powdered mixture of metallic aluminum, iron oxide, and some auxiliary additives, which accounted for one sixth of the bomb’s overall weight [184]. Thermate burns easily and at very high temperature; it was ignited first and served to ignite the magnesium in turn. This bomb had been developed primarily for use against German cities, whose more heavily constructed buildings required incendiaries with greater penetration than the wooden buildings common in Japan.

Intriguingly, just four days before the Hiroshima bombing, a very large quantity—some 1,500 tons—of M50 bombs had been dropped on Hachioji, a small city near Tokyo. The U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey points out that “industrially, economically, militarily, and commercially the city was unimportant” [13, p. 192]. If there was no compelling military reason to destroy this city, could it be that this attack was merely a practice run for Hiroshima, and therefore that the bombs used here also played a major role in the ‘nuclear’ bombings?

While we have no hard evidence to reject this possibility, there is none to support it either. The magnesium bombs were designed to ignite only once they had smashed through the roofs and floors of houses on the ground; air burst fuses would seem to defeat the purpose and were apparently unavailable for this model. These bombs, small and numerous, would therefore have ignited on the ground. Moreover, in the Hachioji bombing, up to 20% of the magnesium bombs reportedly failed to ignite [13, p. 206]. Witness testimony from Hiroshima and Nagasaki mentions neither these duds nor magnesium bombs burning on the ground. In summary, therefore, it appears that this type of bomb was not used in the ‘nuclear’ bombings.


Japanese collusion

According to conventional historiography, the purpose of the ‘nuclear’ bombings was to shock the Japanese into surrender, by demonstrating to them the United States’ possession of a revolutionary weapon with apocalyptic power, against which any further resistance was futile. Of course, this could only have worked if the Japanese were really convinced that the bombings had indeed been nuclear. Conversely, the Japanese government would have had every reason to carefully examine the evidence before accepting the far-reaching implications of America’s claim and conceding defeat.

As a matter of record, the Japanese government accepted the atomic tale very shortly after the Hiroshima bombing and did not reverse itself until the surrender. There seem to be three conceivable reasons for this:

  1. the Japanese failed to notice the signs that the atomic bombs had been faked and were taken in;
  2. while surprised by the fake nuclear bombings, the Japanese were not deceived by them, but they went along with the story nevertheless because they recognized it as a ‘face-saving’ way out of the war;
  3. the Japanese were in on the stitch-up from the beginning and colluded with the Americans in staging the atomic bombings.

Scandalous though it may seem, we will here argue that only the third alternative can be reconciled with the facts.


The Japanese were not taken in

Immediately after the Hiroshima bombing, Truman addressed the world on the radio, claiming that ‘the bomb’ had had an explosive power equal to 20 kt of TNT [285, p. 241]. The Japanese would certainly have been able to estimate the extent of destruction that should result from such a powerful blast (see also Section 13.6.1 below). General Shunroku Hata, a high-ranking officer in the Japanese army and former minister of war who was stationed near Hiroshima, reported to the Emperor that “in his view the atomic bomb was not that powerful a weapon” [295]. This assessment echoes that of de Seversky, the engineer (see Section 1.1), who summed up his impressions as follows:

How strange, I thought, that in their concentration on the spectacle of damage observers should have overlooked the telltale evidence of structural survival!

Had acceptance of the atomic tale not been a foregone conclusion, Hata’s observation should have triggered a thorough investigation.

A second line of evidence on the ground that should have been pursued was that of poisonous gas. As early as August 7th, Hiroshima physician Hachiya notes in his diary [62]:

Did the new weapon I had heard about throw off a poison gas or perhaps some deadly germ?

And on August 13th—still two days before Emperor Hirohito announces the surrender—he states:

The most popular explanation was still that some poison gas had been liberated and was still rising from the ruins.

Similar early reactions can be found in other testimony. In this context, we must also consider that the Japanese army was thoroughly familiar with chemical warfare. Japan had used poison gas against Chinese troops, including on occasion mustard [296]. Fear of overwhelming retaliation in kind would account for the avoidance of such tactics against the U.S. However, according to Grunden [297],

the training of Japanese soldiers in defense against gas warfare was well organized and well executed, and all Japanese troops and a large number of reservists received CW [chemical warfare] training.

Several thousand soldiers had been in Hiroshima when the city was bombed. While very many were killed, some survived. The survivors would surely have recognized the signs of poison gas use, and they may well have started the widespread ‘rumor’ that poison gas in fact had been used.

Nor would expertise on mustard gas have been hard to come by. As noted in Section, the Okunojima factory, which manufactured large amounts of sulfur mustard and of several other poisons, was located only 50 km from Hiroshima; this means that specialists with intimate knowledge would have been close to hand. Under these circumstances, it is wholly incredible that the Japanese authorities were unable to ascertain the presence of poison gas, and more specifically of mustard, and to institute appropriate mitigating measures in a timely manner. Their failure to warn survivors and helpers of the danger is one of the most telling and damning indications of their collusion in the hoax.


The Japanese were not surprised but colluded from the outset

A key consideration for deciding between Japanese acquiescence after the fact vs. collusion from the start is the American perspective. Without any prior mutual understanding, the Americans could not expect that the Japanese would go along. The Japanese government could have obtained proof of the poison gas attack and accused the U.S. of it before the world. Without prior assurance that this would not happen, why would the Americans have chanced it? As Alperovitz [53] and other historians have amply demonstrated, the American leadership clearly understood that Japan was defeated, and also that the Japanese government had long been trying to make peace on terms similar to those which were in the end implemented after the war.

Another important indication of the Japanese authorities’ collusion is their failure to trigger an air alarm before the bombings, both at Hiroshima and at Nagasaki. The conventional explanation is that the small number of attacking planes—atomic bomb legend never tires of the Enola Gay, Bock’s Car, the Great Artiste, and the exploits of their plucky crewmen—persuaded the Japanese that these were only flying reconnaissance missions. However, from the foregoing, it is clear that the number of planes in the sky must have been substantially larger.

The U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey of 1946 estimated that replicating the damage which had occurred in Hiroshima and Nagasaki would have required the use of 220 and 125 B-29 bombers, respectively, carrying incendiaries and explosives [298, p. 102]; similar numbers had previously been suggested by expert witness de Seversky [5]. Even assuming that the attack proceeded in stages, we had seen that multiple kinds of ordnance—the Pumpkins or equivalent high explosives, the napalm, and the mustard gas—were already deployed at the beginning of the attack. Thus, even the first stage must have involved a number of planes more than large enough to trigger an air alarm.

As is well known, however, in Hiroshima the alarm that had been in place earlier in the morning was lifted very shortly before the beginning of the attack. This measure caused many inhabitants to leave the air raid shelters and to take to the streets, which must have greatly increased the number of victims.169 As noted above, this effect was compounded by the failure to issue appropriate warnings to survivors or protective equipment to early entrants, which caused avoidable casualties in the aftermath.


Yoshio Nishina’s mission to Hiroshima

The leading Japanese nuclear physicist Yoshio Nishina, who during the war had himself been tasked with developing a nuclear bomb for the Japanese military, flew to Hiroshima two days after the bombing in order to ‘investigate’, accompanied by the head of military intelligence, General Arisue. According to Frank [299, p. 270], Nishina reached his verdict instantly:

As their plane circled the city, the vista of destruction told Nishina “at a glance that nothing but an atomic bomb could have inflicted such damages …”

Toland [74, p. 794] relates that Arisue, too, was overwhelmed:

The general had seen many cities laid waste by fire bombings—usually there was smoldering debris, smoke from emergency kitchens and some signs of human activity—but below him stretched a lifeless desert. No smoke, no fires, nothing. There wasn’t a street in sight.

Of course, these impressions contrast sharply with de Seversky’s description of the scene. Which side is right? Fortunately, we don’t have to guess, since de Seversky supports his case with photographs of his own; one of these, which shows a group of structurally intact concrete buildings very near the bomb’s purported aiming point, is shown in Figure 13.1. The missing emergency kitchens or other ‘signs of life’ noted by Arisue would of course be accounted for by the contamination of the city center with mustard gas, which would have dissuaded people from spending more time in this area than necessary.

Yoshio Nishina’s mission to Hiroshima
Figure 13.1: Photograph of downtown Hiroshima, taken by Alexander P. de Seversky during his visit in early September 1945. The original figure caption [5] reads as follows: “A cluster of concrete office buildings, standing erect and structurally intact amidst the ashes of the surrounding wooden houses, near ‘ground zero’ (B).”

We had seen in Section 3.2 that Nishina’s mission also involved the collection of soil samples. Even though these samples contained no detectable enriched uranium and only minuscule amounts of fission products, Nishina presented them as proof of a nuclear detonation. That the alternate interpretation of a ‘dirty bomb’ had immediately occurred to the Japanese physicists is evident from the report by Sakae Shimizu, whose group of Kyoto physicists conferred with Nishina upon their own arrival in Hiroshima on August 10th[37]. As demonstrated in Chapter 3, this interpretation would have fit the findings from Nishina’s samples much better.170

Another example of how the atomic bomb story was implanted early on is found in the previously cited report by Wakaki. On August 8th, he and other officers are summoned to a conference at Kure, ostensibly to investigate the causes and mechanisms of Hiroshima’s destruction. However, from Wakaki’s account, it appears that nothing occurred at this conference but the exchange of speculations; no collection of further evidence is contemplated or resolved upon. In the end, one Captain Mitsui announces the verdict [169, p. 88 f]:

Judging from the conclusions reached in this debate, this explosion was most unusually powerful and cannot be taken to be an ordinary explosive. Most probably, this was an atomic bomb. In fact, although I did not tell you earlier, an enemy broadcast from the Marianas reported that a uranium bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima.

Overall, it is apparent that the Japanese scientists and the military did not seriously investigate the Hiroshima bombing, but instead swiftly endorsed the tale of the atomic bomb. In its formal protest to the United States, communicated via the Swiss embassy on August 12th, the Japanese government reinforced the narrative [285, p. 244 f]:

On August 6, 1945, American airplanes released on the residential district of the town of Hiroshima bombs of a new type, killing and injuring in one second a large number of civilians and destroying a great part of the town. … They now use this new bomb, having an uncontrollable and cruel effect much greater than any other arms or projectiles ever used to date. This constitutes a new crime against humanity and civilization.

We note in passing that this missive implies the use of multiple bombs at Hiroshima; this deviation from the imposed story also occurs in the first radio broadcast from Tokyo to announce the bombing (see quote in Section 13.1.3). Soon afterwards, however, the plural form was drowned out, never to resurface, by the incessant, breathless propaganda of ‘The Bomb’.


How were the Japanese induced to collude?

On this point, we can offer no more than conjecture. As will be discussed in Section 14.1, Japan had signaled its readiness to surrender several months before the bombings, demanding only that its monarchy and statehood be preserved. These signals had been sent through several different channels, including Japanese representatives in Switzerland and Sweden. However, these efforts did not come to fruition; the war dragged on, and the United States went through with the bombings. Alperovitz [53, p. 551] quotes Richard Hewlett, who interviewed Truman in 1959 concerning this decision:

I … asked him … whether there had been any consideration of putting a specific warning of the weapon in the Potsdam Declaration. His reply was immediate and positive. He said that certainly the Potsdam Declaration did not contain such a warning but that the Japanese had been warned through secret diplomatic channels by way of both Switzerland and Sweden. He said that this warning told the Japanese that they would be attacked by a new and terrible weapon unless they would surrender.

Hewlett professes surprise at this statement—which indeed could hardly have been entirely truthful. Firstly, the ‘new and terrible weapon’ did not exist, and would not come into existence soon enough. Secondly, by stating their warning publicly instead of through secret channels only, the U.S. could have avoided the opprobrium of having attacked without any warning at all.

According to Butow [300, p. 110], Allen Dulles, who oversaw the secret negotiations in Switzerland, let the Japanese side know that

… the United States could not make any firm commitments. All it could do was state its understanding that the imperial institution would be maintained if Japan surrendered.

The Japanese government would certainly have been vexed by such evasive language; nevertheless, in conjunction with the big stick of the new weapon, Dulles’ statement should still have been enough of a carrot to evoke some speedy and substantial reaction. However, ostensibly, nothing came of it. In his book Japan's decision to surrender [300], Robert Butow gives a detailed account of the consultations between the Japanese decision makers, but he mentions neither Truman’s alleged warning nor Dulles’ averred ‘understanding’ as subjects of any internal Japanese discussions.

The lack of a Japanese reaction to the alleged American gambit strongly suggests that the offer of keeping the emperor and avoiding the ‘terrible weapon’ in return for surrendering speedily was never on the table. We speculate, but cannot prove, that instead of being ‘warned’ about the bombings through these secret channels, the Japanese were given demands and instructions for colluding in them. This unheard-of, abhorrent request then induced Japan to hold out for some more months, during which the country lay prostrate, exposed helplessly to the intensifying American bombing campaign.

It also appears that the Japanese government was not satisfied to have received, through these secret channels, an authoritative, binding statement by the highest levels of the U.S. government. This can be surmised from its subsequent diplomatic overture to Moscow—Stalin or Molotov would certainly have had Truman’s ear and thus been able to present the Japanese government’s proposals to him directly. The Soviet Union’s refusal to mediate, and its increasingly obvious preparations for joining the war itself, likely compelled Tokyo to accept the American demand.171

Could Japan have avoided the ‘atomic’ bombings by forthwith declaring unconditional surrender unilaterally? American self-interest would have urged that the institution of the emperor be preserved, since he was uniquely placed to secure the cooperation of his loyal subjects with the occupying troops; American leaders could be expected, or at least hoped, to act accordingly even without having given explicit guarantees. What reasons might have dissuaded Tokyo from following this path? The vengeful and unlawful treatment meted out by the Americans after the war to disarmed soldiers and civilians in Germany, which country had surrendered unconditionally, could certainly have been a powerful deterrent to the Japanese.172

In his biography of Hirohito, Toshiaki Kawahara quotes from a statement by the emperor, made before a Japanese press conference in 1975 [302, p. 201]:

I feel that it was truly regrettable that the atomic bomb was dropped. But it was in the midst of a war, and however tragic it may have been for the citizens of Hiroshima, I believe it was unavoidable.

According to Kawahara, Hirohito’s use of the word “unavoidable”

drew sharp reaction from victims of the bombing and the citizens of Hiroshima, and strong protests from the Communist party.

The outrage would seem understandable on the premise that Hirohito had deemed unavoidable the choice made by American officials. However, considering what we can learn from credible sources [300,302,303] about his general good sense, grace, and sincerity, a thoughtless and callous statement of this kind would seem entirely out of character for the emperor.

We posit that the subtext of Hirohito’s statement is quite different. Caught off guard by a journalist’s unexpected question about the Hiroshima bombing, he thought back to the time preceding it, and to the decision which he had then been forced to take. His unrehearsed reply meant that the bombing had been unavoidable to him—having exhausted all diplomatic channels, unable to protect the country from the relentless bombings and the impending Russian attack,173 or even from starvation, Hirohito and his government had reached the end of the road and saw no other option than giving in to the Americans and playing their wretched, mortifying part in the staged atrocity.


Censorship and propaganda

In Section 1.4.4, we encountered the Australian journalist Wilfred Burchett, who reported from Hiroshima four weeks after the bombing. Looking back on this episode in 1983, Burchett vividly describes the cunning and subterfuge he had to use in order to reach the city, and then to relay his report to the editorial office of his newspaper; the American military was trying hard to thwart him at every step [161]. As noted earlier, his observations in the city clearly suggested the continued presence of mustard gas.

Burchett’s news report in the Daily Express remained a rare exception in this period, however. When the Japanese news agency Domei released a worldwide broadcast in mid-September on the conditions then prevailing in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it was promptly sanctioned with a one-day suspension. Shortly afterwards, Domei was permanently barred from broadcasting outside Japan altogether. In her book on American postwar censorship in Japan, Monica Braw relates how Domei’s president and several other Japanese media executives were summoned at MacArthur’s behest and given a dressing-down [304, p. 39]:

At a meeting called the next day, Japanese press people were told that the Supreme Commander was not satisfied with the manner in which they had carried out the [censorship] directive. “Freedom of the press is very dear to the Supreme Commander, and it is one of the freedoms for which the Allies have fought,” the Civil Censorship officer told them.

Braw states one of the goals of American censorship as follows [304, p. 145]:

… to draw a ring around Japan through which no unauthorized information slipped, either to or from Japan. Seen from this angle, Japan was a territory separated both from most of the world, including to a large extent the allies of the United States.

She also maintains that suppression of information on the effects of the atomic bombings was a key concern that drove such drastic measures, and she supports her case with rich detail on the bans imposed against specific books and news media. Particularly rigorous was the censorship of medical research on atomic bomb victims (see also Section 11.1).


The use of censorship to impose two different stories on two separate audiences

Concerning the reason for censoring all things ‘atomic’, Braw posits [304, p. 133]:

… above all there was concern about the reputation of the United States. An often-stated reason for suppression was that the material gave the impression that the United States was inhumane or barbaric in using the atomic bomb.

This, however, does not tell the whole story. If indeed the purpose had been to hide the horrors of the bombings from the world at large, Hersey’s book Hiroshima [7] would not have been published as early as 1946, nor reprinted as often and generally promoted the way it was. Another early work of nuclear fear propaganda was One World Or None: A Report to the Public on the Full Meaning of the Atomic Bomb [289], which includes a fictional tale describing a nuclear attack on New York City by Morrison, the physicist (see Section 13.5.2).

While both of the above works refrained from explicitly criticizing the United States for their use of the atomic bomb, independent minds in America were of course capable of making their own moral judgment. Alperovitz cites these trenchant words by Father James M. Gillis, editor of Catholic World [53, p. 438]:

I would call it a crime were it not that the word “crime” implies sin and sin requires consciousness of guilt … the action taken by the United States Government was in defiance of every sentiment and every conviction upon which our civilization is based.

When the chorus of critical voices grew louder, former Secretary of War Henry Stimson lent his name to a propaganda effort to shut them up [53].174

We can therefore conclude that censorship was not intended to protect the sensibilities of the American people or the reputation of their government.175 It was not the American people’s feelings in the matter that were to be suppressed, but their understanding of the facts. Information such as Burchett’s, if independently confirmed and properly analyzed, would have undermined the official narrative. Instead, as the incredulity and the brouhaha surrounding de Seversky’s published first-hand observations illustrate (see Section 1.1), the American people were fed cartoonish and exaggerated misrepresentations of ‘The Bomb’s’ effects.

While in America and generally overseas the presence of poison gas in the ‘atom-bombed’ cities could be hushed up, the same was apparently deemed unfeasible in those cities themselves. Most likely because very many survivors and rescue workers had experienced the effects for themselves, the authorities chose to ‘explain’ rather than deny the presence of poison gas. The story that seems to have been told in Japan can only be gleaned in outline from fragmentary information.


The ‘atom-bomb gas’

In Section 1.4.4, we introduced several witnesses whose testimony we interpreted as evidence of poison gas use. Each of them draws a connection between the poison gas perceived and the atomic bomb or its radiation. Here are the pertinent excerpts again:

Dr. Masao Tsuzuki:
… a part of it [the gas] might have originated from electrolytes generated by application of radioactivity to air … At present we have no clue whether it [the bomb] was devised on purpose so as to radiate something like poisonous gas.
Wilfred Burchett:

They believe it [the smell] is given off by the poisonous gas still issuing from the earth soaked with radioactivity released by the split uranium atom.

Hisato Itoh:

… we had breathed the gases when the atom bomb fell.

This list of examples can be extended from Arata Osada’s collection of schoolchildren’s testimony [14]:

Tokiko Wada:
But Grandpa had breathed poisonous gas when the atom bomb fell and he got sick and went to the hospital. He died one night a little later and we had a funeral for him.
Satomi Kanekuni:

On August 6 when the bomb fell, Father and Mother were living in Yanagi-machi. They were trapped by the house when it fell down and inhaled poisonous gas.

Junya Kojima:

When I was five years old, there was the atom bomb explosion. My father was at his office then. I guess he breathed in poison gas … he soon died.

Yohko Kuwabara:

Just then, I was blinded for a moment by piercing flash of bright light, and the air filled with yellow smoke like poison gas.

Yoshiaki Wada:

My mother … breathed the poison gas from the atom bomb. That’s why she was so bad.

In his foreword to the English edition of Osada’s book, the translator Yoichi Fukushima comments on statements such as those quoted above [14, p. ix]:

Readers may often note in the children’s accounts references to ‘poison’ being inhaled, and this is because in 1951 that was about the general level of comprehension regarding the effects of radiation.

It may be fair to assume that school children’s understanding of the matter was indeed limited. Even here, however, the matter-of-fact style in which each of them draws a straight line from the atomic bomb to the poisonous gas is rather striking, and it does suggest that the children are in fact just repeating something they have been told.

Be that as it may, however—lack of education certainly cannot be blamed for Dr. Tsuzuki’s valiant yet unfruitful effort to wring poison gas from radiation. Nor can it explain the following scientific misadventure [151, p. 464]:

Tsuzuki (1951) divided atom-bomb injuries into burns, traumas, and radiation injuries. Kajitano and Hatano (1953) … proposed a fourth type in addition: atom-bomb gas injuries, which they attributed to the effect of residual radioactivity.

In this last example, two medical scholars blatantly conflate poison gas and residual radioactivity. They would very likely not have committed such a blunder without any outside encouragement.

Collectively, these examples strongly suggest that in the postwar period a narrative was forced upon the Japanese public, including the scientific community, in which bomb radiation or residual radioactivity had somehow given rise to poisonous gas—the ‘atom-bomb gas’. While we do not know the full details of this tale, we can safely assume that it could not have survived worldwide exposure and scrutiny.

Thus, overall, we propose that censorship served to separate the people inside Japan from those outside, so that each audience could then be treated to its own made-to-measure propaganda. The people outside Japan received a yarn of instant wholesale annihilation and of an imminent worldwide nuclear war; this, apparently, in order to stampede them into submitting to an all-new and benevolent world government, which alone could save mankind from self-destruction (see Section 14.3). The Japanese, who had been near the events, were fed the ‘atom-bomb gas’ tale in order to hide from them the true meaning of what they had witnessed, so as to protect and consolidate the horror story of ‘The Bomb’.


Special effects

Atomic mythology regales us with a number of remarkable phenomena, such as the shadows of people preserved on walls or pavements, which seem to prove the unique, awesome power of the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We may wonder whether these effects are physically plausible; some such aspects are discussed below (Section 13.6). However, more relevant in the current context is the question when and why they were created.


The timing

Alexander P. de Seversky, who examined Hiroshima for two days in early September, found no “traces of unusual phenomena” (see quote in Section 1.1). Another visitor to Hiroshima who arrived around the same time was Marcel Junod, a physician and official of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Junod’s report [149], like de Seversky’s, mentions no unusual signs.

In contrast, Averill Liebow, who arrived in mid-October as a member of the Joint Commission, describes in his diary a multitude of shadows and other special effects; he also includes a number of photographs [75]. Liebow makes a point of showing them to all of his visitors:

October 31: took Colonel Oughterson and Nagasaki guests on what we have now laid out as the “grand tour.” This includes all of the fascinating evidences of blast and heat damage in the shrine area at the Chugoku Army headquarters, the “Korean Building” with the shadowing on the concrete there, and the remarkable view of the Commercial Museum176 and the area of the hypocenter. All were fascinated by the outlines of men and vehicles on the Bantai Bridge.

When Liebow showed around another visitor (General Morgan) one month later, the shadows are already rapidly fading:

To our disappointment the shadows on the bridge were now only faintly visible, but they impressed the general.

Taken together, these reports of course suggest that the shadows were created at some time between de Seversky’s visit and Liebow’s arrival, and that they were meant for short-term effect but not to be preserved for posterity.177


The motivation

Also traveling in Junod’s airplane was Philip Morrison, a physicist involved with the Manhattan Project. Junod relates [149, p. 291]:

In our plane the physicist Morrison was nervously going from one window to the other studying the scientific message the grim picture held for him. He compared photos he had with him with what he could see out of the windows, made hasty notes and sketched out a general plan. His nervousness and agitation contrasted with the rather shocked silence of General Newman.

Morrison must have seen what de Seversky saw—namely, the “telltale evidence of structural survival”; and, once on the ground, the absence of “unusual phenomena.”178 His apparent agitation may have been due to this realization; and it might have been he to first propose that this appearance of ordinary, conventional destruction be spruced up with the various special effects in question. Whether or not the idea was indeed his, however—the obvious purpose was to fake the evidence of the nuclear bomb’s specific and unique effects, so as to deceive the visitors who would shortly arrive in the city in numbers. Among these, the military men who were acquainted with, and inured to, the sights of cities destroyed by conventional bombing must have caused particular anxiety among the nuclear fakers. Treating each of them to Liebow’s “grand tour” of special effects may have been more than mere courtesy.


Additional evidence against the nuclear detonation

The various observations presented earlier in this chapter provide some more evidence to show that no nuclear detonations took place. These aspects have been collected here so as to not disrupt the flow of this chapter’s main argument.


The extent of destruction near to or far from the hypocenter

The extent of destruction near to or far from the hypocenter
Figure 13.2: Wind speed of the pressure wave of a ‘nominal’ atomic bomb. Data points from Table 5.45 in [49]. Wind speed of a category 5 hurricane shown for comparison.

As noted in Section 1.1, Alexander P. de Seversky had noted that flagpoles and “other fragile objects” had somehow withstood the “alleged super-hurricane thousand-mile-an-hour wind.” This would indeed seem impossible—but should we expect a blast wave of such force?

Glasstone [49, p. 135] gives specific figures for a ‘nominal bomb’, that is, one with a yield of 20 kt and thus only slightly stronger than the supposed Hiroshima bomb. Near the hypocenter, the wind speed is indeed almost as high as stated by de Seversky—1280 km/h, or 800 mph, which is five times greater than a category 5 hurricane. Twice the speed of such a hurricane is exceeded beyond 1 km from the hypocenter; it is out of the question for wooden flagpoles etc., exposed on the roofs of tall buildings, to survive a blast of such strength. The wind speed does, however, drop rapidly with distance; the reference gives eight miles—the equivalent of 13 km, that is, the distance to Wakaki’s residence—as the ‘limit of light damage’. Thus, both the preservation of ‘fragile objects’ and Wakaki’s experience of having been thrown to the ground by the blast are incompatible with the story of the nuclear blast.179 Moreover, as noted earlier, the extent of destruction at the Jesuit convent (situated at 4 km from the hypocenter) was similar to that at Wakaki’s residence; this, too, is incompatible with prediction.


The altitude of the epicenter

It is said that the epicenter of the Hiroshima bomb was determined by triangulation from shadows created by the flash. According to Liebow [75], one of the reference points on the ground was in fact the Bantai Bridge, which he places at “approximately 1,000 m from the hypocenter.” On a high-resolution map appended to the official report of the Joint Commission [305], the distance is very close to 920 meters. The still-current DS02 report puts the altitude of the epicenter at 600 m.

The altitude of the epicenter
Figure 13.3: Shadows on the Bantai bridge: observation vs. prediction. Left: shadows of the railing on the pavement (photograph from Liebow [75]). Right: ray-tracing of expected shadows based on the official location of the epicenter. See text for details.

Figure 13.3 shows a photograph of the shadows cast by the railing of the Bantai bridge on its pavement. The height of the individual pillars is approximately equal to the length of their shadows. For comparison, the figure also shows the expected length of the shadows in a simulated scene.180 Here, the shadows appear longer by half than the height of the pillars—as of course they should, given that the ground distance of the epicenter is approximately 1.5 times greater than its altitude. Thus, the observed length of the shadows does not match the location of the epicenter allegedly inferred from them—the epicenter would have had to be at a steeper angle above the bridge in order to produce shadows such as these.

no image info
Figure 13.4: Purported effects of the Hiroshima bomb on tombstones in the city. A: three tombstones said to have been bleached by the flash (cf. light shade on upper surface and on hollow square around base) and subsequently rotated around a vertical axis by the blast [84]. Stones in the background stones were apparently not rotated. B: light areas (chipped) and dark areas (unchipped) on a tombstone in Hiroshima [75]. Both locations are near the hypocenter.

While the shadows suggest that the epicenter should have been higher than the 600 m claimed, another observation indicates that it should have been lower. Wakaki, who witnessed the flash from his home at Hatsukaichi, reports [169, p. 58]:

Then I gazed out at the Chugoku Mountains. At that moment I saw a flash-like lightning but brighter, far larger and much more blinding—just below the highest mountain and directly opposite our windows.

Hatsukaichi is 13 km to the southwest of the hypocenter, on the coast and thus near sea level. The mountain that should loom the highest above the hypocenter is at approximately 2/3 of that distance to the northeast of it and rises to 682 m. Therefore, the detonation would have occurred at an altitude of at most 3/5 × 682 m, that is, about 410 m—only 2/3 of the officially claimed altitude.181 Of note, this estimate is rather insensitive with respect to the location of the hypocenter—while shifting the hypocenter closer to the Bantai Bridge could remove the discrepancy concerning the shadows on the pavement, its effect on the detonation height inferred from Wakaki’s observation would be negligible.


The improbable and ephemeral shadows

Nakatani [1] rightly ridicules dark, sooty shadows cast by humans and inanimate objects on otherwise unblemished wooden walls or doors.182 Another widely celebrated special effect is the flaking or chipping of polished granite surfaces by the bomb flash. The dividing lines of chipped and unchipped areas of such stone surfaces were also used in the attempts to locate the epicenter [83,306].

Somewhat improbably, however, most of these outlines are said to have been weathered away a mere 20 years later [83]. Assuming that nobody disturbed the graveyard peace by night to polish up the chipped and flaked surface areas, this would mean that the unblemished parts had undergone weather-induced chipping to abolish the contrast. Considering the generally very high durability of polished granite, this seems quite unlikely.


The “Trinity” test detonation

In Section 13.1.4, we quoted Thomas Farrell on the “Trinity” test explosion at Alamogordo in New Mexico, whose flash he described as more blinding than the one at Hiroshima. Glasstone [49] shows a photograph which allegedly captured the “ball of fire” in progress, as it hugs the ground (see Figure 13.5A). However, the strange, splotchy object in the picture does not appear luminous at all; instead, it seems to be passively illuminated by a light source located off-image to the top left.

The “Trinity” test detonation
Figure 13.5: The “Trinity” bomb test. A: Alleged photograph of the ball of fire of the alleged nuclear detonation at Alamogordo, New Mexico, on July 16th, 1945. Taken from [49]. B: Oppenheimer and Groves standing near the remains of the tower on which the explosive device was allegedly mounted. From the Library of Congress catalogue. C: Detail from B, enlarged.

Glasstone also relates that the detonation occurred at the low altitude of 100 feet above ground, and that this caused the ground to become highly radioactive. He asserts that the radiation dose measured at the hypocenter, one hour after the detonation, was as high as 8,000 roentgens per hour. This is approximately equal to 80 Gy per hour; thus, any technicians without very heavy protection would have received deadly doses of radiation within mere minutes. Moreover, exact measurements of such enormous radiation intensities would certainly have required special-purpose instruments. On such equipment, Glasstone’s otherwise highly technical book gives no technical explanation at all.183

Had the ball of fire indeed enveloped the ground beneath the detonation, as the stated low altitude and the phony photograph suggest, then the temperature on the ground should have been high enough not merely to melt iron but even to evaporate it. This, however, did not happen, as is evident from the picture of Oppenheimer and Groves inspecting the wreckage of the tower on which the nuclear test device had allegedly been mounted (Figure 13.5B, C). The rods of construction steel are bent, but otherwise intact—even the regularly spaced circumferential ridges on their surfaces are still there. Thus, they evidently were not exposed to extreme heat.

The “Trinity” bomb test is discussed in more detail, and with rather dry humor, by Nakatani [1]. He relates that a conventional test detonation using 100 tons of trinitrotoluene (TNT) was carried out near the same test site shortly before the “atomic” one, and he suggests that more TNT was detonated in the “Trinity” test itself. While this may be so,184 Farrell’s description of the detonation as very bright and colorful suggests that additional devices were deployed as well, as discussed above in Section 13.1.4. The event thus appears to have been a dress rehearsal for the fireworks used at Hiroshima.