How A Last-Minute Decision Led To The Nuking Of Nagasaki Days after Hiroshima, a deadlier atomic bomb was bound for an armaments factory in Kokura – until bad weather forced a change of plan. In an extract from his new book, Nagasaki, Craig Collie gets inside the cockpit of the plane that dropped Fat Man.

Born out of a small research programme, the Manhattan Project began in 1942 as a joint American-British-Canadian project, and was responsible for producing the atomic bomb.



The bomb explodes over Nagasaki, Japan, August 9, 1945.


A secret US government advisory group made recommendations for proper use of atomic weapons. It never questioned whether the bomb should be used on Japan, only where it should be dropped.

The preference was for a large urban area with closely built wooden-frame buildings densely populated by Japanese civilians. The project’s target committee recommended detonation at altitude to achieve maximum blast damage.

Five cities were proposed as targets: Kyoto, Hiroshima, Yokohama, Kokura and Niigata. The armed forces were instructed to exclude these cities from conventional firebombing: the project director, General Leslie Groves of the US Army Corps of Engineers, and his team of scientists wanted a ‘clean’ background so the effect of the bomb could be easily assessed. They also wanted visual targeting without cloud cover so damage could be photographed.

Henry Stimson, the US Secretary of War, was concerned that America’s reputation for fair play might be damaged by targeting urban areas. General George Marshall had a similar view, believing the bomb should be used first on military targets and only later on large manufacturing areas after first warning the surrounding population to leave. Both men’s views were ignored.




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