Chapter 2. 

Hiroshima Is the Chosen Target

☆    Under the State of Preparation for a Decisive Battle on Japan Proper


 Until around the end of 1944, the air raids by B-29s on Japan Proper (Japanese islands) were restricted to targets such as military ammunition facilities, factories and so on. However, in 1945, the bombing targets were not only military facilities but they were shifted to indiscriminate air bombings including residences of civilians. Starting with the Great Tokyo Air Raids on March 10, big cities such as Osaka, Nagoya, and Kobe were attacked by B-29s indiscriminately, and the damage spread to local cities. No doubt, Hiroshima would be attacked.  Every person who lived in Hiroshima believed that. However, B-29s just passed through the sky above Hiroshima, while the air-raid sirens absently wailed. “Why are there no air-raids in Hiroshima?” citizens of Hiroshima all wondered as they looked up at the sky. 

Just Kure, the Naval Base near Hiroshima, had been fiercely bombed by carrier-based aircraft since March 19. On that day, some of the carrier planes that bombed Kure detoured and appeared above the sky over Hiroshima, flew over the central part of the city, and left. No casualties occurred, which was fortunate. Since then, flying over Hiroshima by B-29s became a regular daily pattern, making people presume air raids in a near future. However, because no bombing occurred, a lot of citizens started to believe of their own accord that Hiroshima would never be bombed as a lot of immigrants had been sent to America from Hiroshima. How wrong that belief was became clear on April 30. Early in the morning, suddenly a B-29 appeared above the sky of Hiroshima, dropped several bombs and flew away.  In a book about the Atomic Bomb, it is written that before the atomic bombing conventional bombs were dropped into the city. In Newly Revised History of Hiroshima, Vol.2, it is written that more than ten were killed, but actually the number of deaths was larger. In Considering the A-Bombing, Mr. Ryoichi Nakayama, President of Nakayama Musical Instrument Company, which housed the victims of that bombing writes as follows: One day (April 30), an enemy B-29 suddenly appeared above the sky of Hiroshima and dropped a bomb on Fukuro-machi. A second bomb fell beside the Shirakami Shinto Shrine, and a third fell behind the Chugoku Electric Company before the bomber flew away. This bombing directly killed more than thirty men and women who were stationed as anti-air-raid personnel. Behind the Electricity Company the storage of the power transformer caught fire which developed into a big fire. Mr. Nakayama immediately asked through the General Staff Chief of 5th Brigade for the mobilization of all the Military Police and a platoon of the Infantry. The traffic surrounding Fukuro-machi area was stopped, while the Women’s Unit of the Volunteer Corps was mobilized and all the dead were accommodated in the auditorium of Fukuro-machi Elementary School. The scene of the auditorium, which was filled with blood-covered corpses was so horrible and cruel that one could not stand watching it, making Mr. Nakayama realize the horror of war thorough his own experience. On the other hand, the fire at the power plant (of Chuden, Chugoku Electric company) caused one explosion after another, perhaps because the heavy oil in the transformers caught fire, sending black smoke whirling high into the sky. Being conscious that the smoke might create a target for another bombing, Mr. Nakayama called all the citizens in his district for an emergency meeting to gather the river sand from the banks of the Motoyasu River. Sand was relayed in buckets to the scene of the fire at the power plant, and together they finally succeeded in extinguishing the fierce fire before the sun set.

Following the bombing that day, it was judged that the military defense of Hiroshima was too weak. The military authority began gathering anti-aircraft guns from the surrounding Chugoku area to defend Hiroshima City.

What the military authorities put more efforts into---in comparison with the anti-air defense---was actually the preparation for the decisive war on Japan proper.  At an early stage of war, it was a continual victory for Japan; however, since the battle lost on Guadalcanal in 1943, the war situation became worse and worse, and the decisive war on Japan proper was expected in the near future.

In preparation for this invasion, a new military system was established in Hiroshima in April 1945:the Second General Army. It was decided by the Imperial Headquarters, which commanded the Army and Navy under the Emperor, to divide Japan into two and situate the First General Army in Tokyo and the Second General Army in Hiroshima.

The history of military in Hiroshima is long. In 1874, Hiroshima Chindai (garrison) was opened inside the Hiroshima Castle, was expanded to Brigade in 1887, and various military facilities were established one after another also outside the castle. Thus Hiroshima was developed as one of the largest military bases in western Japan.

The 5th Brigade Headquarters were renamed to Hiroshima Regional Brigade Headquarters in February 1945, and then in June to Chugoku Regional Army Headquarters. The Chugoku Regional General Administration was established at the same time as the administrative organization to support the system, which transferred the authority from the Central Government. 

In response to the organizational changes made by the military authorities, expecting the Hondo Kessen (decisive war in Japan proper), Hiroshima City authorities eventually arranged preparations for protecting the next generation of elementary school pupils from air raids. Pupils aged from nine to eleven were sent out to the countryside in school-unit group evacuation, or individual evacuation to their relatives. The elder pupils of the elementary schools and students of high schools, aged from twelve to eighteen, were dispatched to work at the sites of tatemono sokai, or to work at factories. Tatemono sokai refers to the forceful demolishing of houses, in advance of bombings; the creation of firebreaks to prevent fires from spreading. Fifty older pupils of my local Koi Elementary School were working in a grenade factory in Yokogawa, and students of the First Hiroshima Junior High School were engaged in producing machine gun ammunition in Jigozen. At seven spots in Hiroshima City, the tatemono sokai was carried out, creating seven vacant strips of land in order to prevent spreading fires caused by incendiary bombs. The current One Hundred Meter Wide Road, which goes across Hiroshima City, is a remaining scar from that operation.

Chugoku Regional Army Headquarters is under control of the Ministry of the Army. The Commander of the Headquarters, Lt. Gen. Yoji Fujii, had been living in Koi before he moved to the official residence located beside the Hiroshima Citizens Ballpark. The fact that he lived there was top secret, but from early morning to midnight, this house received incessant visitors. Most of them were high officials of the Army Ministry. There is no way to know what Lt. Gen. Fujii was talking about. However, those frequent visits by high officials made us feel how absolutely desperate the war situation was then.

Although preparations for the hondo kessen were essential, there was an absolute lack of provisions, clothing, and weaponry. In the Kure Naval Base, they were preparing for the hondo kessen, dispatching the secondary guns and machine guns from war ships.


In the temples of Koi, a great number of soldiers were accommodated. Those who planned to be sent abroad were held up due to the lack of vessels for transportation. What surprised me more was the fact that they had no guns at all. How could soldiers without a gun be able to fight in war?

The answer was clear even for a child. There were rumors among our neighbors that the armory was empty.  After the war, it became known that the rumor was true. Perhaps, because the authorities did not want it to become obvious that there were no vessels left, the seaside blinds of the trains on the Kure Line were constantly closed to shut off the view of the sea. It was the same with the trains on the Miyajima Line.


I have heard, after the war, that the number of the Japanese ships that departed from Ujina Harbor was nearly 800. I was astonished when I read a personal account of Mr. Goro Takeuchi, a cadet of the Akatsuki Unit of Ujina, which was published after the war. On August 15, 1945, around 3,000 soldiers were waiting for the order of departure at Kaita Bay close to Ujina. They were expected to fight against the U.S. Forces in the Okinawa area. It seemed that those soldiers’ departure was delayed due to the lack of vessels. The Chugoku Army Headquarters was trying to cope with the situation, gathering the soldiers in reserve, and managing deployment of small weaponry.


☆    Order to Drop the A-Bomb


In May 1945, a Committee with Maj. Gen. Leslie D. Groves as the chief, who directed the Manhattan Project, was created in the USA in order to select the city where the Atomic Bomb should be dropped. Prior to this, the Target Committee had already chosen several cities as candidates. The criteria for selection were as follows: a residential area of diameter more than 4.8km (3 miles). The location should be located between Tokyo and Nagasaki. The city should have strategic value. At the end of April, seventeen cities had been chosen, i.e. Tokyo (Bay), Kawasaki, Yokohama, Yamaguchi, Nagoya, Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Kure, Yawata, Kokura, Shimonoseki, Kumamoto, Fukuoka, Nagasaki, and Sasebo. For some reason, Kumamoto, which is not located between Tokyo and Nagasaki, was also included.


The committee chose four cities of Kyoto, Hiroshima, Yokohama, and Kokura on May 11. The next day, May 12, an order to prohibit regular air bombings upon the four cities was issued. On May 28, the Committee for Selection of the Target put aside Yokohama and Kokura out of the four cities, which were decided at the previous meeting, and added Niigata, instead. The target cities were limited to Kyoto, Hiroshima, and Niigata. Towards the end of May, Stimson, the Secretary of the Army, organized an Interim Committee that consisted of a civilian, as the advisory body for President Truman on the issue of the A-Bomb deployment, and included some scientists, including J. Robert Oppenheimer. On June 1, the Interim Committee submitted the following three articles to the president:

1.     The bomb should be used on Japan as early as possible.

2.     It should target both military personnel/materiel and civilians.

3.     The raid should be carried out without any warning. **


The double targets of military and civilian means “the target where military facilities and ammunition factories are surrounded by or located next to the most fragile dwellings and other buildings.” The targets which the Interim Committee were submitted to the Committee for the Selection of the Target; however, Stimson was strongly opposed to including Kyoto as a potential target. Thereafter, it was removed. Instead, Kokura was added as a target again. On July 21, Groves, who could not give up Kyoto, asked Stimson to revive Kyoto as a target, but it was denied. In July Nagasaki was added to the list instead of Kyoto. Groves protested that Nagasaki was not appropriate as a target of the A-Bomb, but that opinion was never heard. On July 24, negotiation continued between the two groups: Stimson, Marshall, and Arnold, who were in Potsdam, and Groves, Spaatz, and Handy in New York City.  An order to “Drop A-Bombs on Japan” which Handy signed as the Deputy Chief of the Army General Staff, and were approved by Stimson and Marshall was handed over to Spaatz, Commander of the Army Strategic Air Force. The content of the order was as follows: 


War Department

Office of the Chief of Staff Washington, D.C.

25 July 1945

To: General Carl Spaatz

Commanding General

United States Army Strategic Air Forces

1. The 509 Composite Group 20th Air Force will deliver its first special bomb as soon as weather will permit visual bombing after about 3 August 1945 on one of the targets: Hiroshima, Kokura, Nilgata and Nagasaki. To carry military and civilian scientific personnel from the War Department to observe and record the effects of the explosion of the bomb, additional aircraft will accompany the airplane carrying the bomb. The observing planes will stay several miles distant from the point of impact of the bomb.

2. Additional bombs will be delivered on the above targets as soon as made ready by the project staff. Further instructions will be issued concerning targets other than those listed above.

3. Dissemination of any and all information concerning the use of the weapon against Japan is reserved to the Secretary of War and the President of the United States. No communiqués on the subject or releases of information will be issued by Commanders in the field without specific prior authority. Any news stories will be sent to the War Department for special clearance.

4. The forgoing directive is issued to you by direction and with the approval of the Secretary of War and of the Chief of Staff, USA. It is desired that you personally deliver one copy of this directive to General MacArthur and one copy to Admiral Nimitz for their information.

Thos. T. Handy [signed] General, G.S.C.

Acting Chief of Staff


The date of this order, July 25, is the day previous to the announcement of the Potsdam Declaration. The target cities were confirmed–––Hiroshima, Kokura, Niigata and Nagasaki.

On July 26, in the names of the leaders of the US, Britain and China, i.e., Truman, Churchill and Chiang Kai-shek, the Potsdam Declaration was announced.

On July 28, Japanese Prime Minister Kantaro Suzuki stated that he would “ignore” the Potsdam Declaration, which the Allied interpreted as denial by the Japanese Government.

As the Atomic Bomb was different from the conventional bombs in the techniques for dropping, the training for dropping had been repeatedly performed in such places as the desert in the US. They dropped dummy bombs, Pumpkins, around the targeted cities. This Pumpkin was an explosive bomb, which was the same as the A-Bomb in shape, size and weight. It was nicknamed as it looked similar to a pumpkin. The word “dummy” gives an image of an inert bomb, however, that would not be correct. Compared to a conventional bomb, which weighed around 2 tons, a Pumpkin weighed as much as 5 tons. It was densely stuffed with explosives. Therefore, its destructive power (less than an A-Bomb but much beyond that of a conventional bomb. (The US Force Materials: The Process of the Dropping of the A-Bomb translated by Yoshishige Okuzumi/ Yozo Kudo, Toho Pub.) Indeed forty-nine Pumpkins were dropped all over Japan from July 20 to August 14, including Hitachi Otsu in Ibaragi Prefecture, Yaesu side of Tokyo Station, Suma-ku in Kobe City, Kashiwazaki Diti of Niigata Prefecture, Ube City of Yamaguchi Prefecture, Maizuru in Kyoto, etc., where more than 1,600 were killed or injured.

The first directive of the Order for Dropping the Atomic Bomb issued to Commander Spaatz of the Strategic Air Force specifies bombing after about August 3. According to Field Order No. 13 instruction to the 509th Bomb Group received from of the 20th Air Force Commanding Officer Lt. General Twining, dated August 2, Hiroshima was the primary target. (The US Force Materials Report of the A-Bomb Deployment translated by Yoshishige Okuzumi/ Yozo Kudo/ Tetsuo Katura, Toho Pub.)


Original document was omitted from translation: p 60 - 62