Thursday 6 August 2015


Luck of the draw.  Today is the 70th anniversary of the start of the atomic era.  People of my generation knew all the names but I guess the peripheral details are fading, so that there would now be some failures in the pub quiz round on the events leading up to the dropping in anger of the first atomic bomb;
  1. The three bomb designs Fat Man, Thin Man and Little Boy were named from characters in the novels of which 'hard-boiled' American author? Clue: not Raymond Chandler
  2. The plane which carried Little Boy to Hiroshima on the morning of 6th August 1945 was named Enola Gay after whom?
  3. Why was Kyoto excluded from the list of possible targets?
  4. Which US Navy cruiser carried Little Boy to its launch-pad on Tinian?
  5. Which Japanese city missed the cut twice?
1.  Dashiell Hammett's novels (later filmed) The Thin Man and the Maltese Falcon had characters so named.
2. After Mrs Enola Gay Tibbets the mother of Col. Paul Tibbets the pilot of the bomb-carrying B29 on the Hiroshima mission.  She was named after the heroine of a 19thC bodice-ripper Enola; or, Her fatal mistake (1886)by Mary Young Ridenbaugh.
3. Because Henry L. Stimson, the US Secretary of War (they didn't euphemise things by calling it Defense back then) had spent his honeymoon there . . . and also because the Americans recognised it as a World Heritage Site.  Dresden, Monte Cassino and hundreds of other medieval and renaissance gems were not accorded the same respect. Dresden was consumed in a firestorm in mid-February 1945.   Kurt Vonnegut was there as a POW and was inspired to write Slaughterhouse-Five.
4. USS Indianapolis. She was torpedoed on her way back to the USA on 30th July 1945 and through a series of cock-ups was not immediately declared missing. When the wreckage was located four days later, the 900 sailors who had survived the sinking had been reduced to 300 by sharks, dehydration and exposure.
5. Kokura! This was the fall-back target on 6th August if Hiroshima was obscured by cloud and was the primary target on the 9th August.  On arrival, however, Korura had disappeared beneath a pall of smoke generated by the, conventional bombing induced, firestorm in neighbouring Yawata. Not a lot of people know that.  But every red-blooded boy in Japan knows that Kokura was the birthplace of the murderous Samurai swordsman Miyamoto Musashi.  He took out his first victim as a 13 year old hellion and bested Sasaki Kojiro in a legendary duel in which he used a weapon carved from an oar. It was a close-run thing because Sasaki's first blow severed Miyamoto's head-band. It's all in the movies: I and II.

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