As Bock's Car approached the cloud-covered city of Nagasaki on the morning of August 9th, she was running low on fuel. Her crew had originally planned to drop the B-29's payload - a Plutonium 239 bomb dubbed "Fat Man" - on the Japanese city of Kokura. Bad visibility over the primary target caused Bock's Car’s crew to divert to Nagasaki.
Although the skies above Nagasaki had been fairly clear earlier in the morning, a front was moving in. A break in the clouds allowed the bombardier to see his target. "Fat Man" detonated at about 11:02 a.m. Instead of exploding over the center of the industrial port city of Nagasaki, the bomb exploded 1,540 feet above the Urakami River Valley. Smoke rose 60,000 feet.
Like Hiroshima, Nagasaki and its people were devastated. Ground photographs taken by Yosuke Yamahata document the gruesome scene. Fourteen hundred feet north of ground zero, the Mitsubishi-Urakami Torpedo Works (where Pearl Harbor torpedoes had been built) was also destroyed.
Later that day, Major Charles Sweeney, Bock's Car’s pilot, observed:
The shock explosion was felt by those of us in the strike plane. The turbulence of the blast was greater than that at Hiroshima. Even though we were prepared for what happened, it was unbelievable. Seven or eight miles from the city shock waves as visible as ripples on a pond overtook our plane, and concussion waves twice thumped against the plane jolting it roughly.
What did he see below the plane, coming from the city of Nagasaki?
The underside of the great clouds over Nagasaki was amber-tinted, as though reflecting the conflagration at least six miles below. Beneath the top cloud mass, white in color, there gradually climbed a turbulent pillar of black smoke and dust which emitted a second fireball less vivid than the first. It rose as solid as a stump, its base dark purple, with a reddish hue in the center that paled to brown near the top. As we headed away from the city, our last look showed a thick cone of dust covering half of it. On its rim near the harbor great fires were raging.
President Truman’s White House statement (scroll to the last paragraph) told the American people:
We are now prepared to obliterate more rapidly and completely every productive enterprise the Japanese have above ground in any city. We shall destroy their docks, their factories, and their communications. Let there be no mistake; we shall completely destroy Japan’s power to make war.
Except for the moment, America’s supply of atomic bombs had already been used. Japan, of course, didn’t know that.
Meanwhile, and for sixty more years, the American public did not know what the first U.S. observer in Nagasaki had seen (and tried to report) regarding a mysterious illness called "Disease X." Known today as "radiation sickness," it was killing Nagasaki residents who'd survived the bomb.
MacArthur's censors, in Tokyo, prevented George Weller's accounts from seeing the light of day. His stories were finally published, however, after Weller's son (Anthony) found the old manuscripts following his father's death.
After the Nagasaki bomb exploded, some of the tough-minded Japanese military men vowed to keep fighting. The people, however, had had enough.
On the 14th of August, 1945, Emperor Hirohito announced the war was over. Japan was ready to surrender to the Allied Powers, and jubilant Americans gathered to celebrate. In one of the day's iconic moments, Alfred Eisenstadt snapped a picture of a sailor kissing a nurse (later claimed to be Edith Shain) in Times Square.
America's use of the bomb - particularly the one sent to Nagasaki - remains a subject of debate.