The documentary 24 Hours After Hiroshima premiered August 17, 2010 on the National Geographic Channel. This documentary is very well done and also give us real stories told by living hibakusha (the survivors and witnesses of the horrors to what the bomb did) The three hibakusha share their personal experiences and this is what makes this documentary stand out.
The Hiroshima Bomb was an experimental weapon and it was the first test. Three Japanese cities had been chosen as potential targets for the attack, the primary is the port city of Hiroshima, located on the delta of the Ōta river. A city of considerable military importance, it houses a communications center and an assembly area for troops. But it's far from just a military target, 80% of the people here are civilians. Since the previous March of 1945 almost every major city in Japan had been fire bombed. Yet Hiroshima remains untouched.
Richard Rhodes Author, The Making Of The Atomic Bomb: The people of the city worried about that, were they being chosen for something especially terrible?
As the Enola Gay reaches Japan, Hiroshimas fate is still not final. It all depends on the weather. One of the requirements of the target is that it has to be visible from the air. Weather planes fly ahead to check the conditions over the three selected cities. As it happens it is a clear morning at Hiroshima. The cities fate is now sealed. 13 year old Shigeko Sasamori can feel the sun burning down on her on this hot cloudless morning. She runs to join schoolmates in their assignment to clear the streets for firebreaks in case of an attack.
Shigeko Sasamori: I look up at the sky, I saw the beautiful silver airplane, and the white long tail. And blue sky, it looks beautiful. And at the same time, I saw something drop.
Shigeko is less than a mile from the Enola Gays target, the distinctive T-Shaped Aioi bridge, running across the river in the center of downtown it can be spotted easily. Even at 3200 feet. 90 seconds before it was released the bombardier sets his sights on the target about 2 miles below, and makes careful last minutes maneuvers. Will they hit the target? And will it explode at the preset altitude of 190 feet over the city?
Morris Jeppson Weapons Test Officer, Enola Gay: They are hydraulic actuated doors, big long doors 12-15 feet long. They don't just slowly open they fly open.
Jeppson and fellow crew members had done the math and they expect the bomb to detonate at 42 seconds.
Morris Jeppson Weapons Test Officer, Enola Gay: That 43 seconds I was nervous, I was monitoring the test box, thinking and counting in my head.
The crew of the Enola Gay are not the only ones counting down at 8:15 on August 6, 1945. 8 year old Takashi Tanemori left home at 8 AM to get to his school. He is looking forward to playing with his friends.
Takashi Tanemori: I was excited this particular morning for "hide and seek" because I was chosen as "it". So I was standing against the window, looking outside.
While Takashi counts, thousands of others are outside on route to work and school. As the lone Enola Gay flies overhead there is little alarm. It looks nothing like the bombing squadron most people fear.
Richard Rhodes: People assumed it was a weather plane and instead of doing what the scientists had assumed would happen which is that they would run into bomb shelters and be safe from the affects from the blast. People came outdoors to look.
Takashi Tanemori: All of a sudden, bang. Flash in the sky, pure white. I saw the bones in my fingers as though I was looking at an X-ray, so intense.
This is the only footage ever taken of this atomic explosion. Scant documentation of an event that changes the course of history. Within moments the mushroom could is ten miles high, it spreads three miles over the city, and it's more than 350.000 inhabitants. On the day of the attack the United States has been in the war for 4 years, and has lost over 100.000 men on the Pacific front alone. Despite loosing over 1 million men the Japanese continue to fight fiercely. Some fear that if the war goes on millions more will be lost on both sides.
Richard Rhodes: They saw the atomic bomb as an potential way of shock them into surrendering.
This radically new bomb reduces the living, breading downtown of Hiroshima to a wasteland. 70000 human beings are dead instantly, another 70000 injured. It's the highest death toll ever caused by a single weapon. Yet Japan continues to fight. 3 days later on August 9th, the United States drops a second atomic bomb, this time on the city of Nagasaki. Another 40000 die. Japan formally surrenders 3 weeks later. The worlds bloodiest war have ended.