The ‘Little Boy’
.. by Mir Wazir Khan
The world is commemorating 75-years anniversary of 75-years old ‘Little Boy’. In most of the world’s cultures, little boy is a name for someone within the age of early adolescent. However, 75-years ago in July 1945, the United States nuclear scientist gave the name of ‘Little Boy’ to its first nuclear bomb which they were planning to drop over Japan shortly.
The Nazi Germany had surrendered in May 1945; but the war was extremely bloody over the Pacific front between the forces of the US and Japan. The US’ efforts for invasion of Japan by land through amphibious assault by sea had failed and the US was losing thousands of troops on daily basis. The large number of body-bags returning to the US angered the people and leadership of the US and forced them to think seriously for ending the war by all means possible.
During the war the US was engaged in the development of a nuclear bomb under the supervision of Robert Oppenheimer and the project was named Manhattan Project. The project reached its culmination on July 16, 1945 when a nuclear bomb was detonated for the first time in human history. The detonation took place in the desert of New Mexico at 5:29 am. After the successful experimentation of its first nuclear detonation, the first nuclear bomb to be used against Japan to end the war was code-named ‘Little Boy’.
August 6, 1945 was chosen as a date to use the bomb and Hiroshima was selected as the city for the catastrophe. A B-29 bomber of the US Air Force with Colonel Paul W. Tibbet as its chief pilot were to operate the flight for the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. For the special nuclear bombing mission, the flight of the B-29 bomber was code named as Enola Gay in honor of the mother of Col. Paul W.Tibbet.
The nuclear bombing flight took off from US military base from North Field of Northern Mariana Island in the Pacific that was housing major US airpower against Japan. The airbase was around six hour’s flight away from Hiroshima. A 12-person crew boarded the B-29 along with the silent ‘Little Boy’. The project director of the Manhattan Project, Maj. Gen. Leslie B.R Groves wanted to photograph the take-off for the coming generations to see. So the airfield was illuminated with flashlights to take photographs of the take-off. The colonel-pilot Paul W. Tibbets was instructed to take out his head from the cockpit window of the bomber and to wave to the assembled viewers who were none other than senior people of the Manhattan Project and senior military personnel of the USA.
The bomber flew for about six hours towards its unfortunate target with the ‘Little Boy’ sleeping. Capt. Williams armed and assembled the bomb during the six hour flight (a nerve- wrecking mission given the possibility of its mid-air explosion). Capt. William’s assistant 2nd Lt. Morris removed the safety devices of the bomb (another unbelievably dangerous feat) to get it ready for dropping about an hour before it could be released above the chosen target.
The B-29 bomber arrived at the target—the city of Hiroshima- at an altitude of 32333 feet. High altitude was chosen for the flight because the Japanese, due to shortage of fuel, were reluctant to scramble and engage enemy aircrafts at high altitude. The Japanese were not aware that that particular bomber was on a special mission. At 8:15 am on August 6, 1945 the bomb was released from an altitude of 31,060 feet. The bomb detonated above the predetermined site of the city at an altitude of 1968 feet. A doomsday scenario enveloped the city of Hiroshima. Around 80000 died and 70000 were injured in a matter of minutes. The Japanese determination and resistance was shaken. Col. Paul W.Tibbets, the aviator for the first nuclear bombing, in an interview said that he was not sorry for his action as he was doing his assigned duty of a bomber pilot and was acting under the rightful command of his superiors and in service of the nation. He rose through the ranks of US Air Force and retired at the rank of Brigadier-General. After retirement, he worked for aviation companies and died on November 1, 2007 at the age of 92. Before his dead he had asked for no funeral and headstone fearing that opponents of nuclear weapons may use his tomb as a place of protests. His body was cremated and ashes thrown into English Channel.
Two days later from the first nuclear bombing, on August 9, 1945 another nuclear bomb code-named ‘Fat Man’ was dropped over Nagasaki. Japan surrendered on August 15, 1945 and World War II ended with alarming message for the world. Fearing the enormous destructive power of the nuclear bomb, other countries also commenced preparation to acquire the same at any cost. Thus preparation for World War III has begun immediately after the termination of World War II. The ex-Soviet Union become the next nation to possess the ‘Little Boy’. Presently, there are about twelve countries (seven declared and five undeclared) to be in possessions of ‘Little Boys’. Now the nuclear weapons are in a more advanced and destructive shape. It doesn’t need six-hour flight to drop a single nuclear bomb. Rather the Intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles and long-range nuclear bombers can destroy planet Earth several times during the span of six hours. May God save us from any nuclear apocalypse and grant wisdom and sagacity to world leaders to say ‘No’ to nuclear weapons! .. Mir Wazir Khan, Chitral, 06 Aug 2020