(Continued from Part 1
)Some ask, “Why didn’t Japan surrender after Hiroshima, or sooner?” Japan had been suing for peace at least since May 1945, sending secret delegations to contact the Allied Forces. The sticking point did seem to be about the status of the Emperor, but by July the surrender completely in the Allied Forces’ terms – unconditional surrender – was being considered as the only alternative. Japan had nothing to fight with, and was defenseless. There were only a handful of major cities (Kyoto, Niigata, Hiroshima, Kokura, Nagasaki
) that hadn’t been bombed and incinerated. But the negotiations dragged on, going nowhere.Atomic bombing of Nagasaki has an added irony, as the bomb made by a Christian country destroyed a Catholic church
with worshipers in it in a city where the Christians endured harsh state persecution for centuries and kept their faith.Here’s Part 2 of the 2011 NHK documentary “Atomic bombing – top secret information that was never utilized (原爆投下 活かされなかった極秘情報)”.I am aware that this part is even longer than Part 1, but I hope you have time to read it.Summary of Part 2:
August 6, 1945. The Imperial Army’s special intelligence unit picked up the call sign in V600s at 3AM – one of the “special task planes”. It was accompanied by a short-wave message to Washington, then followed by a wireless voice communication to the base in Saipan: “Approaching the target”.
Major Eizo Hori (see Part 1), head of the Division 2 of the General Staff Office that oversees the special intelligence unit, reported to his superiors that the weather reconnaissance plane was followed by the “special task plane” coming to Hiroshima. The General Staff Office sat on the information and did not share it with the regional headquarter in Hiroshima. The bomb was detonated 5 hours later at 8:15AM over unsuspecting residents of Hiroshima. There was no air raid siren. “Enola Gay” and the accompanying B29s were uncontested all the way to the target.
Three days later on August 9, again 5 hours before the atomic bomb explosion over Nagasaki, the intelligence unit picked up the same call sign in V600 again, and this time the B29 was heading for Kyushu. In light of what had happened in Hiroshima, the information was again immediately delivered all the way to the head of the General Staff Office. The cabinet ministers [more than half of whom were either current or former high-ranking military officers] were in a meeting in the Imperial Palace to discuss what to do in light of the atomic bombing in Hiroshima that practically wiped out the city in an instant. They couldn’t come to any conclusion, but the Chief of Staff Umezu assured them there would be no second atomic bombing.
Meanwhile, a pilot of Shidenkai – Japanese fighter plane that could take out B29s – was waiting on the runway of a base in Kyushu. The sortie order never came. The group of B29s, including “Bockscar”, on seeing the visibility of the first target of Kokura City in Fukuoka Prefecture was low, went on to the second target. The atomic bomb was dropped over a Catholic church in Nagasaki.
Survivors, who were intimately involved in the atomic bombing of the two cities and were interviewed by NHK, are still left with the question, “Why didn’t the government do anything?”
原爆投下 活（い）かされなかった極秘情報 by gataro-clone
(26:50 – August 6, 1945)
August 6, 1945, 3AM. The Imperial Army special intelligence unit caught a call sign in V600s. The “special task plane” was heading toward Japan [for the first time]. Major Eizo Hori, of the General Staff Office, received the information.
“On August 6, this plane with a call sign in V600s issued a short-wave message. We didn’t know what the message was, but it went to Washington. Then, it made the wireless voice communication to the US base in Iojima, saying
“We are approaching the target.”
That “special task plane” was B29 “Enola Gay”, carrying the atomic bomb to be used in the real battlefield for the first time in human history.
Lieutenant Russel Guggenbach was on board a B29 accompanying “Enola Gay” to film the bombing:
“They told us this was a big day, that we will be using, dropping our special bomb. Our target would be, in order, Hiroshima, Kokura, and Nagasaki. This is what we were trained for. Others were still training missions, but this was the real thing.”
“Enola Gay” departed Tinian Island, flew over Iojima, and headed toward Hiroshima.
(28:35 – Hiroshima, on August 6, 1945)
August 6. The regional headquarter of the Imperial Army at Hiroshima Castle had been on the heightened alert against air raids. Ms. Yoshie Oka, then 14-year-old student, was working at the headquarter running messages, as part of the student mobilization during the war.
In the early hours of that day, neighboring cities had been attacked by large formations of B29 bombers – Nishinomiya [in Hyogo Prefecture], Imabari [Ehime Prefecture in Shikoku] and Ube [in Yamaguchi Prefecture]. The General Staff Office in Tokyo had had the information of the impending attacks in advance, so it had contacted the regional headquarters which then issued air raid alerts for the residents of those cities.
The regional headquarter in Hiroshima was in the underground vault to escape air raids. The next target might be Hiroshima. Ms. Oka and others were there the whole night, so that they could issue air raid alerts as soon as possible.
“Yes, we were tense, and unsettled. We were wondering what was going on that night. We stayed up all night, till the morning of August 6.”
Slightly past 7AM, a solitary B29 entered Hiroshima, about one hour before the atomic bomb was to be dropped.
Major Eizo Hori’s voice:
“About 7:20AM, there was a plane coming from Bungo Channel into Hiroshima. It was a B29. Judging by the radio wave it emitted, it was a weather reconnaissance plane.”
Major Hori’s analysis was correct. According to the mission order issued by the US government, it was a weather reconnaissance plane. The instruction was that the weather aircraft fly first, and using the call sign of “V675” instruct the “Enola Gay”, which was following the weather aircraft.
“Then, as it flew over Hiroshima, this B29 emitted short-wave signal, again it was in V600s. This was so out of the ordinary, we thought. We knew the “special task plane” was approaching.”
However, the General Staff Office in Tokyo did not share this information with the regional headquarter in Hiroshima.
Not knowing the “special task plane” was following the weather reconnaissance plane, the regional headquarter called off the alert.
Ms. Yoshie Oka [who was at the regional headquarter running errands]:
“That plane flew over us without doing anything, and we were all relieved. The commander and his staff stayed up all night, so they thought it should be OK if they went back home, eat something and take a short 30-minute nap and come back.”
Voice of Lieutenant Guggenbach, who was on board a B29 following “Enola Gay” to document the bombing:
“…none of our planes were ever shot at. Never saw a flight.. Prior to getting to Hiroshima, I did get out of my seat and I did stand behind the bombardier and the pilot. So I did have a look straight at the front of the plane.”
Destroyed Hiroshima, without even an air raid siren:
Unprotected, many residents perished.
(34:10 – Why the information wasn’t used)
Why didn’t the top military officials give the information of the “special task plane” to the Hiroshima regional headquarter? We still don’t know the answer.
Mr. Ryoji Hasegawa, who worked in the special intelligence unit, saw in this very room his superior mortified because the information they conveyed to the top officials hadn’t been used.
“His face said everything – ‘My opinion was not accepted. I am so frustrated.'”
(Hasegawa continues with some heat:)
“‘Japan was being attacked, to death probably, and yet people are too slow to respond.’ My superior’s recognition was not shared with the other members of the General Staff Office.”
(35:16 – Hiroshima)
Ms. Yoshie Oka again. She was working as a student at the regional headquarter. Although she was only 700 meters away from the hypocenter, she was unharmed because she was in the underground vault. But her 60 classmates who were out in the nearby field all perished.
If only there had been an air raid alert. Ms. Oka is chagrined even today.
“We were working in this underground vault, and we were saved, with no injuries. If there had been an early air raid alert and people had taken shelters in the underground vaults, many people wouldn’t have had to die, many more people would have survived.”
Ms. Oka tended her injured classmates after the bomb dropped. But all she could do was to watch them die, one after another.
“A mother was holding her badly injured daughter and cried. But the daughter said, ‘Don’t cry, mother. I am dying, serving the country.’ And she made a smile on her badly burned face and died peacefully. Every day was like that. It was hard. All we could do was to watch.”
(37:45 – August 7, August 8)
August 7, the day after the bombing of Hiroshima. Even after the news of destruction of Hiroshima reached them, the Imperial Army wouldn’t admit it was an atomic bomb.
Shigenori Togo, Foreign Minister, demanded the affirmation of the fact. To that, the Imperial Army staff answered,
“The US is saying it was an atomic bomb, but it is also possible that it was just a conventional bomb with large explosive power.”
Minister Togo said the Army, who denied the existence of an atomic bomb, was trying to minimize the effect of the bomb as little as possible.
However, the General Staff Office admitted, among themselves, that it was an atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima.
On August 8, two days after the bomb was dropped, an award ceremony was performed by the General Staff Office in the courtyard of the headquarter of the special intelligence unit. The feat of identifying the call sign of the B29 that dropped the atomic bomb was hailed as great achievement.
We found someone who was present at the ceremony. Mr. Kunio Tanaka, 90, was a captain of the special intelligence unit. Mr. Tanaka listened to the officer from the General Staff Office explaining that the B29 with the call sign in V600s was carrying an atomic bomb.
“‘The plane was carrying the most terrible weapon, atomic bomb. If the same kind of planes come again, we will stop them. We will pursue and destroy them. You all did a great job.’ We received the praise from him.”
However, the very next day, the same tragedy was repeated in Nagasaki.
(41:08 – August 9)
Before dawn on August 9. The same call sign came in – V675, exactly the same as in Hiroshima. It was coming from Tinian Island, just like before.
We found someone who was monitoring this very call sign. Mr. Arao Ota, 90, was a lieutenant in the intelligence unit. He spoke about the day for the first time on camera.
“It was the same special radio wave used by the B29 that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. It was coming from the airfield on Tinian Island. We didn’t know what it said, all we knew was the radio wave was emitted. But it was me who caught the call sign. I knew it was out of the ordinary, I felt fear. I thought there was a high probability that within a few hours an atomic bomb would be dropped somewhere in Japan.“
This information did reach the top officers in the military. We found the document that backs it up, at the Military History Department of the Ministry of Defense.
It was Lieutenant Colonel Tadao Inoue of the General Staff Office who left the document. He was a close advisor to Chief of General Staff Yoshijiro Umezu.
This is a memorandum kept by Lieutenant Colonel Inoue. There was a running note on August 9, 1945:
“Special bomb V675. We knew in advance, via communication [radio wave], 5 hours before Nagasaki was bombed.”
So, the information of the bomber with atomic bomb approaching had indeed reached the top of the General Staff Office 5 hours before the bombing.
(44:15 – Omura airbase)
Omura Airbase, 15 kilometers north of Nagasaki. In order to protect the entire Kyushu, a detachment of fighter planes was stationed in the airbase.
Mr. Minoru Honda, 88, was a pilot there. Mr. Honda and his fellow pilots flew “Shidenkai” (Purple Thunder). Shidenkai was one of the few fighter planes that could go as high as B29, to 10,000 meters. Mr. Honda says he was determined to take out B29 with the atomic bomb if it came again, even if that meant a suicide attack.
Mr. Honda happened to witness the atomic bomb explosion in Hiroshima from the sky two days earlier. He was on his way from Hyogo to his base in Omura.
“Just as I was flying over the Hiroshima Castle, I was blown off the course. The heavy Shidenkay was blown off. The plane became uncontrollable, and I must have dropped at least 500 meters. I finally regained control of the plane, and looked up ahead. Then I saw a cloud of red and black rapidly rising. The city of Hiroshima, which I had just looked on moments ago, disappeared. I couldn’t see the city. I thought I had gone crazy. I couldn’t tell if that was real.”
(46:45 – Nagasaki bombing)
August 9, 9AM. After taking off Tinian, the B29 with the second atomic bomb was approaching Kyushu – “Bockscar“. It went first to Kokura City in Fukuoka Prefecture, but since the visibility was bad it moved on to the second target, Nagasaki.
However, no order came to Mr. Honda’s unit to make a sortie. That B29 was approaching Nagasaki was confirmed, but they weren’t told the B29 was carrying an atomic bomb.
Shidenkai pilot Minoru Honda looks puzzled:
“B29 is not impregnable. I actually shot it down. It is extremely difficult, but it’s not impossible to shoot it down. Even today, I am vexed. Why didn’t they issue us a sortie order? They lacked information that much?”
(48:35 – What the top echelon of the military was doing when the bomb dropped in Nagasaki)
August 9, 10:30AM. The Conference of Supreme Leaders of War was on-going at the Imperial Palace all morning. They had received information of further deterioration of the war.
On August 9, 1945, Soviet Union, which had remained neutral, declared war against Japan, and the troops were crossing the Manchurian border.
The topic of the meeting that day was whether to accept the Potsdam Declaration and make an unconditional surrender. But if they surrendered, what would happen to the status of the Emperor? Would they be harshly prosecuted as war criminals? They couldn’t decide what to do.
The top military officers present in the meeting, including Chief of Staff Umezu, insisted that it was possible to continue the war even after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, and said the following:
Umezu: “It is true that the damage from the atomic bomb is extremely heavy, but I doubt that the US can keep using the bombs one after another.”
There will be no atomic bombing the second time. As the B29 with the atomic bomb was approaching Nagasaki, the military was repeating the baseless assertion. [NHK’s word, literally.]
At 11:02AM, while the meeting was still on-going, an atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki.
Again, there wasn’t even an air raid siren.
(51:10 – Aftermath – “Day after the fair”)
Mr. Arao Ota, who caught the call sign from Tinian Island and reported on the danger of the second atomic bombing, still can’t understand.
“I am so mortified. We knew it! If they used the information and did all they could, then we might have been able to accept it. But there was no indication that they used the information. All the more I’m mortified.”
Major Eizo Hori, who reported the information collected by the special intelligence unit to the top officers in the General Staff Office, had hardly anything to say about the Nagasaki bombing. In his post-war document, he simply wrote:
“The same call sign was caught again on August 9, but nothing was done. A day after the fair.”
Mr. Minoru Honda, who was waiting for a sortie order at Omura Airbase, was ordered to carry injured people to the hospitals after the bombing.
“I can’t forget, till I die. People without any hair, naked with no clothes on, melted. How could a horrendous thing like this be allowed in this world? I cried and cried. I didn’t even know why I was crying. I still remember. I feel helpless. As a soldier, I feel helpless, I feel sorry.”
We shared our new information with Mr. Honda, that the top military officers had information of the bomber with the atomic bomb approaching Nagasaki 5 hours in advance. The truth, the first time in 66 years.
(Mr. Honda says in a shaky voice, in sheer disbelief, disgust, and anger:)
“So they knew. Then why didn’t they issue orders? 5 hours were more than enough to thoroughly prepare.”
“So this is Japan. Such a thing, I think it will happen again, if we let them get away with it.”
(55:20 – burning the record)
On August 11, with Japan’s surrender all but certain, an order was issued to the special intelligence unit – destroy all information, including intelligence information, kept at the headquarter in Tokyo.
Mr. Ryoji Hasegawa was ordered to burn the documents. He says with some heat:
“I was told to burn them, and then turn them into dust. Destroy evidence. Destroy evidence of the existence of the unit.”
Mr. Hasegawa says he kept burning the documents there, until the day of surrender.
Everything, including the fact that the Imperial Army knew about the activities surrounding the atomic bombing, was made to cease to exist.
Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Atomic bombs dropped on defenseless people. Many lives and living were destroyed in an instant.
Knowing the grave danger approaching, the military leaders did not share the information. Two tragedies keep asking us about the responsibility of those who lead the nation.
This is beyond incompetence. They purposefully withheld the key information and lied.
NHK does not speculate why the top military (essentially the government) decided to sit on the information, but the documentary seems almost begging us to “read between the lines” when the scene was described with highest ranking officers and government officials meeting to decide what to do on the day of Nagasaki bombing.
Excuse can be made for the Imperial Army that by that time, having tens of thousands of people killed on one bombing raid must have seemed like nothing. In March that year, more than 100,000 people perished in Tokyo in one night in a massive incendiary bombing. Hundreds of B29 had been dropping bombs indiscriminately over cities. A few B29s flying toward Hiroshima may have hardly seemed worthy of any attention, even though they were with the peculiar call signs and did unusual things (like short-wave communication to Washington).
But all they needed to do might have been to sound an air raid siren so that people would stay in bomb shelters, and to send fighter planes to at least harass the B29s so that the B29s would abandon the missions (and drop the charge in the ocean, instead of over the targets).
Instead, they withheld, lied. The B29s were uncontested. It is almost as if the military wanted the bombs to go off.
The documentary was aired two years ago. Since then, arm-chair general (or I should say cosplay tank commander) Shinzo Abe has become the prime minister for the second time. Despite the revelation from, of all people, NHK, most Japanese don’t seem to care that ordinary Japanese in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were essentially abandoned by the central government in August 1945. From what I can tell, this documentary doesn’t seem to have caused much impact in Japan at all.
The Japanese continue to let them get away with it.
It is an inconvenient truth, which doesn’t suit anyone’s narrative. The Japanese government wouldn’t want to admit to any of this, after 68 years of having gotten away with it. Japanese people who condemn senseless killing of civilians by the US using atomic bombs would want to keep their narrative that the attacks were “surprise attacks” by the US. They have to remain the victims of the atomic bombs dropped by the US. They probably wouldn’t want to admit that they were victims of their own government.
Mr. Honda the Shidenkai pilot said it will be repeated if people let them get away with it. Many would say it has been repeated, most recently on March 11, 2011 and its aftermath. It will be repeated.
P.S. Chief of Staff Yoshijiro Umezu received a sentence of life in prison in the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, but died while in prison in 1949 because of colon cancer. If he lived, I have no doubt that he was pardoned, like most others who also received the life sentence. He is enshrined in Yasukuni Shrine.