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tv   Stephen Walker Shockwave - Countdown to Hiroshima  CSPAN  August 1, 2020 4:00pm-5:16pm EDT

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shockwave, countdown to hiroshima. the story begins with the first atomic bomb test on july 16, 1945 and document key events leading up to the august 6 bombing of hiroshima in japan, was the author describes in detail. >> thanks very much. you will hear me, i hope. thank you for coming on a most wonderful evening in this glorious city which my daughter has fallen in love with. itis such a lovely evening, is great that you can come here to listen to horror stories about the atomic bomb. not -- i want to talk to you from the heart about what this book is and what it means to me. the journey i have taken over the last two to half years since i started the document tree. i was asked to make this 2003ent tree back in april
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by a friend of mine who runs a company in london. i did everything possible to resist the offer to make this film. because it was a complex and frightening and challenging subject. you are dealing with one of the seminal events in world history obviously. there are all kinds of cliches about the world changing. and yet what happened in my case around thoughts buzzing in my brain, did not go away. almost reluctantly i accepted that and started to make a film. the film, really was exactly as story,cribed, a 24-hour
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a story that starts at 8:15 in andmorning august 5, 1945 ends above a clinic in the middle of hiroshima. it took me to so many different voices and people -- places and people and became an obsession, which is a dangerous thing for a filmmaker and nascent writer. i decided after that the subject was something i could not leave and i would write a book about. this is the product. i say that i remember somewhere in my research, i started a journey which took me around the world. it was one i was privileged to take. i went to the eastern seaboard of the united states. i went across to new mexico and spent a lot of time in new mexico and to san francisco and
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actually eventually across to japan and down to the tiny -- in the western pacific, a little dot in the middle of nowhere, where the first atomic commissions flew in 1945. i had an externally experienced -- extraordinary experience. i amcapsulates the feeling trying to put across in the book. it is about the size of manhattan, this island. it looks a bit like manhattan as well from the air. so much so that the construction battalions built the huge airbases from which those missions and others were flown in 1945, named many of the streets after manhattan streets. 96th, 112thoadway, area somewhere around 125th you
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find yourself on the runway. the only way you can get to tinion island these days is from japan. you take off from japan and fly 1500 miles to 1tinion and effectively are your -- you are doing a mission backwards. you cross over volcanic rock of iwo jima, your flying at approximately the same height -- you are flying at approximately the same height as guys were flying, 35,000 feet. you are stranded by japanese japanese surrounded by people and i mentioned to them this was the site of the atomic missions they were going back to. they were shocked, because what is there today is a casino. it is on the southern edge of the island, round about greenwich village if you think
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of it that way. one of the terrorists or or gamblers tourists want to get their money back because they were distraught that this place was lost in history, the site of the first atomic mission. i drove up in a jeep northwards to find these runways, which are still there, rotting in the jungle. this was the biggest airbase in the world in 1945. four huge parallel runways, the size of kennedy airport. it was almost the busiest in the world. it is completely empty. there is nothing there but jungle and coral runways, one of which you can drive on. the other three have succumbed to the fertile jungle. away from these runways, down a little pathway
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that actually traversed in quic thick jungle. i'm terrified of snakes, and god knows what. i wound my way towards this coast, this little path and found myself where i hoped i would find myself, which is on the site of the actual assembly buildings where the bombs which destroyed hiroshima and august kike were both -- and nagasa were both built. aboutread about and spoke with scientists, this was for a few short weeks possibly one of the most sacred places on earth. if i had been there 60 years previously, i would have been
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shot on sight for being in this place. the soundothing but of the sea, nothing else but me. there is a strange feeling to be in this place everyone had gone home so many years ago from what was one of the most extraordinary events in history. i realized i traveled in a way in the bomb's footsteps. i had been in los alamos, at the factory. i had been at the site in alamogordo where the first bomb was tested in the desert. i followed the bomb, and the pilots who had trained to deliver this bomb in this windy, miles west of 120 salt lake city, so remote at the time that all the guys that flew from their hated it. the state line between utah and nevada went down the middle. the state line hotel lobby, you
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could be served on one side and then gamble on the other side of the lobby. they told me about that. i went to san francisco. underneath the golden gate bridge in 1945, the uss indianapolis, which i am sure many of you are familiar with, sailed with its cargo of uranium bucket welded to the lieutenant's floor on its way to tinion island and was dropped on hiroshima. i went to all these places. i followed in the bombs footsteps and they gave me a sense of what my book was about. the seminalto take , and i was going to try and follow individual stories from policymakers like presidents and secretaries of
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war and key figures in the japanese government at the time, down to ordinary people in hiroshima upon whom the bomb was dropped. people i have interviewed and spoken to and the aviators who trained in the windy, dusty, salt lake airfield for so many months before they were shipped out to tinian. core of my book. my book moved between all the different people as the clock goes down on that and -- on that 1945,second august fifth, which we commemorate this saturday. what i would like to do if you -- i mind, and it can be want to read two or three excerpts from my book which is to give you a flavor of what this is about.
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i should stress it is very important to understand although i have written in this -- horrendous in a way to be engaging for people who won't touch the subject, so many monographs about hiroshima, many people don't read about it. it is daunting, heavily footnoted, academic, but everything i have written is a source i can verify. i have used my own historian's training to universities to be able to test myself and challenge myself constantly with primary sources, with many interviews i have done around the world. so the stories are real. these are not fake. it is one of the situations where they say the truth is much smarter -- much more extraordinary than fiction, much more in this instance. start, which is the test, the first atomic bomb
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in the media -- the new mexico desert. 1945. on july 16, the world's first atomic bomb looks like a giant four tons sphere. it has wires and things sprouting out of it and it sits on the top of a tower in the new mexico desert in alamogordo. there is a massive electrical storm taking place. one of new mexico's worst ever taking place. here is the bomb on this shack on the top of a tower in the middle of a desert, and everyone is panicking about the weather because there are concerns about what it might be doing to the bomb. there is serious concern this bomb, once detonated, might possibly set fire to the earth's atmosphere and destroy the planet completely.
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nobody knows what will happen. they were debating. there are bets taking place in base camp, which is not far away from this tower, a safe distance away, three or four miles away, when nobel prize-winning scientists are actually taking bets on whether or not this bomb might destroy the earth's atmosphere by setting fire to it. this is a serious mathematical probability although slight this could happen. it was worked out. they don't know what is going to happen. there is rain, wind and thunder. in the middle of this, general groves and oppenheimer, the director, and general growth being this ruthless, fat am a powerful, hardass son of a bitch who ran the manhattan project, and his previous job
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was to do it under budget and in time, these two guys together formed a rather extraordinary marriage or partnership decided there might be security concerns. the japanese, somehow some spy might get up there and sabotage the bomb. they sent a man who was a physicist to babysit the bomb in the middle of this storm in the last hours. he gets the bum card. he is the guy that gets to babysit the bomb. here is the flavor of what it is about. the story was told to me by donald himself, when i sat in his living room a year ago in cambridge, massachusetts. this is exactly how he told it to me. sunday, july 15, 9:00 p.m., trinity test site, 40 miles o, new mexico.r
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don stared up at the tower. the written -- the wind and rain ripped through the steel lattice work. the storm had erected in all its fury. flashes of lightning licked the mountains to the south. the tower loomed 103 feet above his head, a network of black braces and girders reaching upward like a giant electric pylon. by now the clouds were so low across the sky, he could barely see the top which was just as well. he did not want to think what was at the top. he began to climb. the wet steel slipped between his fingers and the rain stung his eyes. he wore no safety harness. he pulled himself up the ladder. once or twice he stopped, and he could see the guards looking up like ants on the desert floor.
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they seemed a long way down. at the top of the tower, a simple corrugated tin shack rested on a square wooden platform. it was a cheaply made structure, not designed to last. it was not much bigger than a garden shed. he stepped off the ladder beside it. a huge, dimly discernible shape crouched inside. there was a 60 watt bold hanging from the -- bulb hanging from the roof. he switched it on. there was a metallic gray bloated four ton steel drum that took up almost every inch of space in the shack. even by day looked ominous, but especially so now with the wind whipping the tin walls and the bulb swinging from the ceiling and the lightning and thunder edging nearer.
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a fantastic complex of cables sprouted from its side like spillage of guts or arteries, as if it were not inert but actually organic, a growing, living, autonomous embryo awaiting the moment of its birth. in acknowledgment of its essence, its creators had given it a name, a number of names. they called it the beast, the gadget, the thing, the device. at times they called it "it." the one thing nobody called it was what it was, the world's first atomic bomb. he squeezed down beside it, the rain pelted on the tin roof like 1000 hammer blows. the wind rattled the walls. in a few hours, a scientist called joan standing in a concrete bunker 1000 yards from the tower would initiate the final act in what was the
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biggest and most expensive scientific experiment in history. he would press a switch on a panel and began a 45 second countdown. at the end of that time, a number of things could happen. the bomb could fail to go off, or it could detonate with varying magnitude of explosion. or, as one believed, it could set fire to the earth's atmosphere, destroying all life on the planet. nobody knew. of theves you a flavor tensions that were building. i decided to go straight in. i make no apologies, to go straight in and start with a moment that begins three weeks before the book ends in hiroshima. what i think is also very important in this story, obviously, is the japanese side
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of it. i went to hiroshima and met a lot of different people who were survivors from the bomb, and heard many stories, some of which i narrowed down and used in this book, almost exactly as they were told to me, through an interpreter. there was one story that really struck me, which i never forgot, and kept, kept turning around and around in my mind. i will tell you what the story was and how i used it. i met a man who must've been in his mid-80's. i met him in his living room in hiroshima. he was clearly someone who had a burned face from the bomb 60 years previously. we were talking about various different things, about what hiroshima was like before the war and what it was like in the
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months leading up to the time the bomb was dropped. he told me about good and bad. he told me about the movies people went to. the hit movie in hiroshima in 1945 was called "four weddings." if you look at the newspapers from that time, which i have one 1945, you august 6, can see there were adverts for weddings."of "four he told me about the grass, the rumors, the city had not been ,ombed -- it was touched twice not bombs like every other major city. razed to the ground. history -- hiroshima was deliberately reserved. that was the air force's wo
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rd. they began to wonder what was going on. there was a rumor which was president truman's mother was a prisoner in the city, being kept captive. city had notthe been destroyed. it was on the personal orders of the president not to bomb it, because his mother was in it. she was in missouri and his orders were the exact opposite. she told me all these things and we talked about the day itself. i asked a simple enough question. i said you remember the night before the bomb? there was a pause. and then he burst into tears which is terribly embarrassing for me being english. i didn't want to upset him. i said is anything the matter? he said i want to tell you
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something that i have never told anybody before. i want to tell it to you. he said the night the bomb was dropped was the happiest night of my life. he started to tell a story. it was a love story. about a woman he had fallen in love with and met earlier that summer. he was 19 -- she was 19 and he was 21. she was sitting on a bridge when they met. they had fallen in love and spent most of the summer together. what met -- made it poignant was their families were not happy with this relationship. it was a room you and julia juliet thing. and then came a time he had to tell her he received his call up papers for the army. been inhis brothers had
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the army and he was facing death, the americans would be invaded and he would be dead, another statistic. o wentt night he and reik to a very beautiful garden, which is still there to this day, restored after the bomb, beautiful japanese garden, and they went into the garden at together, two of them and they lay on the grass under the stars. these are his words, not mine. they lay for a long time together. then for the very first time they held hands. they didn't kiss. they just held hands. that is all they did. they lay like that. around midnight, they passed the gates. he went one way, she went the other way, and the next day the bomb was dropped.
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he searched for his lover in the ruins of the city. partedhe time that they at that garden gate, the crew would have been sitting down to breakfast of pineapple fritters, that is what they had for breakfast, before being shipped off.o the planes to take those kind of contrast he made i found poignant. i decided in this book to start and finish the book with the love story for various different reasons. it moved me hugely, and it was an interesting way to start a book, start with a love story. the two people in the garden on that night, something all of us in some way might be able to identify with. i will read you what i call the
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preface to the book. this is not chapter one, which i read part of. sunday, august 5, 1945, the garden in hiroshima. for the rest of his life, sunao will never forget how beautiful the garden looked, the trees, the lake, the rainbow bridge, the ancient teahouses, the smell of fresh pine, the white herons, the perfect stillness. outside beyond the garden walls, the city slept in the darkness. in the blackout it was almost possible to believe there was no city out there at all, no houses, no army, no war, as if he and reiko were the only people live in the world. that is how he remembered it the night before the bomb.
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as always they had to be discreet. the authorities, not to mention their own families, disapproved of unmarried couples spending frivolous hours in each other's company. every day the newspapers in hiroshima urged citizens to work , toer and longer and faster focus their energies on the goal of victory. japan was facing its greatest testing history. this was no moment for love. but reiko was beautiful. sunao remember that first moment he saw her, sitting on a bridge with a party of other girls and laughing. he was shy. there was something about his shyness that appeal to her, or perhaps she liked him because there were so few healthy young men still left. he was 20 and she was younger, out of school. her movements were full of
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grace. he would remember something in her voice and smile that was like the breath of summer. they saw each other through the hot july. sometimes she sent him letters with the faintest whiff of sent, her luxury., they never kissed or touched until that final night. she had cried when he told her. it was inevitable he was young and the -- inevitable. he was young and the war wanted him. he would be in the army by september, a few short weeks away. they lay on the grass and she cried and that is when they touched hands. he would never forget that. at some point there was an air raid alert, but they did not move. there were often alerts as the americans passed north. they would see the planes sometimes so high in daylight
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all you could see was a brilliant white trail in the sky. they took their bombs elsewhere. a little after midnight, they parted. they said goodbye at the gates. reiko walked away. her go.tched she never looked back. he hurried towards his home, the memory of her touch fresh in his mind. he would remember this as the happiest night of his life. he looked up at the sky. the stars were clear and brilliant. tomorrow was going to be a beautiful day. so that is a little bit of the beginning of the book. i have got time to move on. i would like to talk about the moment on impact on the city itself. this was a difficult thing to write about for obvious reasons. banals a fantastically
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thing to say. i worried about from the perspective of the ground, the plane, the politicians. it became at one point almost impossible to write. i would like to share what that feels like. there is a point at which when you trybles to describe this pain and horror. the adjectives begin to pile up like dead bodies in the streets. i mean there is nothing but silence. describe this without it being repetitive or trivial. i decided to write about how difficult it was to write about it. that became the key to describing what happened in holding onto individual personal
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experiences. the experiences were fascinating and raw on all sides. what i'm going to do briefly is to read you two small sections of the moment of impact. i will redo a clinical description of what happened -- read you a clinical description of what happened. i will not personalize at all in the way other bits have been. it is a clinical description of what happened when the bomb dropped. then i will review a little bit about the reaction from the plane, when it was literally just diving away from the bomb having dropped it. areive background here, we 31,000 feet in the city -- over the city. there are three planes are one of them carried photographic instruments, another with observers, the third with the bomb.
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it is dropped over a t shaped bridge, which looks from the air like fingers on an outstretched hand, a lot of rivers. very distinctly standing out from 30,000 feet. the bomb tumbles out of the bomb secondsgoes 30 or 40 through the air. the ballistics of the bomb design were poor which means it made a terrible sound when it dropped. a lot of scientists have talked about this. it shrieked and wales like a like a -- wailed banshee showed. it made a terrible market. -- racket. this would have been the last sound thousands heard but not sure what it was. the streak as it ripped at the speed of sound, tumble in terminal velocity to the ground.
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the bomb explodes, 1900 feet above a clinic. 200 yards away from the aiming point, the bridge. i pick up just in the immediate aftermath of the detonation. i will read that to you now. was at once immediate and catastrophic. billionth of a second, the temperature was 16 million degrees centigrade, 10,000 times hotter than the sun's surface, the heat expanding outwards across the city in a visceral -- visible alien flash of light. afterwards they gave it a name, pika, lightning, the opening act in a terrifying drama. but it was also astonishingly beautiful, a swirling wave of
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colors and electrically vivid greens and blues and reds and golds and seemed to last forever. these witnesses were fortunate. before the flash and it, thousands -- flash ended, thousands were dead, burned beyond recognition by the primal heat, carbonized into charred, smoking bundles where they stood, slept, walked, littering what was left of hiroshima's streets. within a one kilometer radius of the center, the thermal energy contained in that flash was intense enough to evaporate internal organs, boiling off intestines in less than a fraction of a second. birds ignited in midair, clothing poles, trees, , wooden buildings, household pets and entire street cars
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spontaneously combusted. steel framed buildings liquefied like wax, rubber and from boiled together. watches and clocks stopped, their hands burned into their faces, forever according -- recording the precise moment of detonation. hundreds of fire sprang up all across the city, overwhelming the fire breaks carefully prepared in the months before. accidents determining when people died. black or dark club -- colored garments absorbed the heat making white or light reflected it. some individuals so completely incinerated nothing remained but their shadows. one man sitting on the steps outside a bank 200 meters from the center when it was struck. all that was left of him was the imprint of his pose, scorched into the stone like a
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photograph. the heat was destructive as if the sun has suddenly descended to earth. it all happened in the first three seconds. this is a: 15 in the morning -- 8:15 in the morning japan time. i will read you one other section. this is from the plane. i need to give you a couple of character names. as i sure you know, the commander is called to bits, the -- paul tibbetts, still alive today. the tailgunner, bob, a remarkable man, died in 1995. i interviewed him who knew him -- people who knew him well. the plane was only armed with a tail turret.
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they stripped it out completely so they would be able to carry this very heavy bomb. they were unarmed apart from the tail. he was a small man, 5'5". he fit into this cost or phobic turret -- claustrophobic to rich. he carried with him several packs of lucky stripes, which he smoked all the way there and back, and a photograph of his wife and little baby that were dangling in a photograph from his oxygen chart. they were with him all the way there and back and gave him succor as he continued the mission. he carried with him a camera. it was given to him at the last moment by a photographic officer, before he boarded the plane. he said you will have a ring side view. take any photographs you can. don't reset the aperture or
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focus, whatever you see, press the button. you give him this camera. sure enough as the airplane dived away from the shockwave of the bomb, trying to flee the blast wave as it rushed towards the airplane, he picked up his camera. i will review what he said. -- read you what he said. bob karen saw it first. he had a ring side view looking back at the city. one minute he was looking through his goggles barely able to see the sun through the darkness. the next he was blinded by a terrific flash. at that moment, the plane was 11.5 miles from the burst. the dazzling light filled the plane. every part of it was bathed in a strange unearthly radiance. he experience a tingling sensation on his teeth and the taste of lead on his tongue.
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his feelings were interacting with the bomb's radiation. and nobody spoke. then he yelled over the intercom an incoherent animal shelter warning. he watched in astonishment as something that looked like the ring of a distant planet detached itself and came towards him. before he could utter another word, the shockwave had caught up. it smashed against the fuselage, tossing the bomber into the air like scrap. a voice shouted. the plane buckled violently. he fought to keep it under control. at that point, it was traveling away from the city. only bob karen could see it. he removed his goggles and now he was staring through his windscreen in amazement. boiling up from the ground was a
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spectacular and terrifying mushroom shaped cloud at least a corewide with a blood red . it was climbing at an astonishing rate, i.e. purple gray massive turbulence -- a purple great massive turbulence. hiroshima had completely disappeared. everything down there was burning. thick black smoke covered the entire city, rolling out to the foothills and into the valleys like lava from a volcano. karen grabbed his camera and started shooting. the gunfight got in the way. he asked tibbetts to turn the plane five degrees, pointing the lens to the escape hatch window to his right. he snapped images of the mushroom cloud, seven in all, each frozen black and white frame capturing the first instance of your shema's
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disruption -- hiroshima's destruction. he said it was a peep into hell. the copilot picked up his pencil and turned to his log. what have we done? if i live another 100 years, i will never get these minutes out of my mind." the copilot bob lewis who wrote this log all the way through the trip, in which i found a facsimile in the smithsonian museum, has a drawing of the mushroom cloud. his previous entry is extraordinary. there will be a short intermission while we bomb the target. then you get this, oh my god, what have we done. it is chilling to read that.
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dealing with the most difficult part of it all and the last act of the book is about the impact of the moment and how it impacted those people who were most actively involved in it. that is all i want to say from this perspective. i know i got way over time. why don't i take any questions? i will be happy to answer them. when people ask questions, if they could go up to the microphone, that would help matters. yes. [indiscernible] >> was there a consideration [indiscernible] [indiscernible]
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stephen: before the crew took off, they were blessed by a priest, the chaplain, who blessed the mission and the men who were taking the war against our enemies. i have a text of it in the book. some of the guys, there was an interesting story about bob lewis -- not bob lewis, another guy on the -- the captain of the observeriste, the plane, who went to confession, but was not able to confess what he was confessing. it made for an interesting confession.
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there interesting to talk about religion. the target selection committee are interviewed, -- i interviewed the last surviving member who chose the target of your shema. the first -- hiroshima. the first target was going to be kyoto, japan's original capital and the most important religious center in japan. one of the reasons it was not chosen was because the secretary of war had visited 2-2 as a asrist -- had visited kyoto a tourist and loved the city. his love for that city and his appreciation of japanese culture, he persuaded the president not to drop the bomb on kyoto. because he was a happy tourist in 2-2 in 1926, it was spared -- in kyoto, it was spared.
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when they decided what to bomb, they decided at one point or discussed the possibility of following the atomic bomb almost immediately with a full-scale incendiary range. the idea to send in the bombers and to drop incendiaries and napalm on the city when it was most vulnerable. the reason they did not do it was not for any religious or any scruple. they were worried they would muddy the effects of the bomb. it would make the impact of this new weapon less obviously discernible. the most important thing here was public relations. it was not my word but theirs. the fact this bomb was a new weapon. you are talking about a level, a physical destruction that is a long way -- cynical destruction that is a long way from
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anything. i can understand the context of the time that decision was taken. >> even if there was just the slightest possibility of the earth's atmosphere catching on fire and destroying all life on the planet, the u.s. government would take that chance and test the bomb. was it because the scientists felt they could lift -- they could rest safe, that there would be no bad public relations? why would they do that? stephen: that is the point i made in the book. they would not have to be around to justify. the mathematical possibilities were not huge. it was also to do with temperature and was the hot enough -- was it hot enough to set fire to the earth's atmosphere? they were slight possibilities. nobody knew what was going to go on. the impetus to get this tested and moving is terrific. it is important to understand
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the roller coaster the project had become. talking about a project that cost $2 billion in 1945 of taxpayer money, which deployed over -- employed well over 100,000 people. cities have been hired to man production plants, half of the size of rhode island to make this happen. the entire deposit of the united states treasury had been melted down to get uranium processing parts working. for some guy to say there is a slight possibility we might destroy the planet and all life as we know it, let's not do it, it was not real. exactly what people say why did truman make this decision? he said it was no great decision. it was not a decision. the reason he said that, which sounds callous today, can you imagine a situation in which truman sent in the boys to japan
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and then turned around to his taxpayers and said you know, guys, i have a bomb you guys have paid for, but i have decided not to use it, and it could have ended the war and your sons did not have died. it is not real. that is not how the real world works. it is a roller coaster. there is no way these guys can sympathize. we have had second thoughts, not going ahead with it. they were just as worried it would be a dud, and general grove, the large guy that ran the manhattan project, and was a used toic, his aide give chocolate bars in his safe along with top-secret files, he said if this doesn't work, they will stick me in a dungeon so deep in fort leavenworth, they will have to pump sunlight in.
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justs worried about a dud as much as setting fire to the earth's atmosphere. >> what channels to the government in tokyo become aware of the extent of the devastation and how long did it take them? stephen: it is part of the story of my book, very dramatic. within about -- there were no sirens that went off when the bomb was dropped. there were warnings coming in as the bombers were approaching, but it was too late to start the sirens. there was an announcer in hiroshima's local radio station who began to get the words out over the radio, there were three planes approaching. what usually happens is an air raid alert sets up. but the radio station goes off because the bomb drops. he would be hurled into the air, the radio station tilted on its
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side. the tokyo operator noticed the hiroshima station had gone off the air. 40 minutes later the signals people on the railways in japan railways notice there was a signal break in the line. they could not get through to the city. two hours after that a reporter from the domai news agency who would have been in the center of the city before the bomb had gone off but had gone to visit a friend of his and stayed with his friend because he was wearing just waiting for a suit to dry, even goes back in afterwards -- he then goes back in afterwards and sent one of the most famous news flashes of all time. he manages to get to a telephone, one of the few still working and gets the news to tokyo. he says the city has been hit by a huge bomb and at least 80,000
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people are dead. and the guy, and this guy tells the story, in japan, translated for me, his boss on the other not believeo does him. he refuses to believe this could have happened, and he refuses to broadcast this or have anything to do with it at all. on the 6:00 news that night, there was a reference to a bombn bombers dropping on hiroshima but later in the evening it was becoming obvious of the horrific had happened to the city. at that point, the news, the president of the united states' statement that said the atomic bomb had dropped on the city appear shema with the power of 20,000 tons of tnt -- city of hiroshima with the power of 20,000 tons of tnt was
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intercepted in tokyo and then glistened -- to his superior and very quickly in the news, was passed to the prime minister. it was obvious something horrific had happened. as part of that statement, he said the japanese do not now surrender, he said, famously, they will face a rain of ruin the like of which has not been seen on this earth before. >> i lived in japan four years and have been to new mexico. the relationship between oppenheimer and groves is bizarre to say the least. groves did not want to be there. they are joined at the hip to create this monster of a bomb, but they benefited from it in a .ense, prestige and stature
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the second question has to do with the bomb seems to have worked the history -- warped the history. in the smithsonian they could not put together a thing because it turned into a political football. and in japan, schoolchildren get taught you world war ii -- get taught world war ii was where they tried to get rid of european colonialism. i find this monstrosity to talk about but even historically -- the country's ability to understand. devoted -- i think the relationship between oppenheim or and -- oppenheimer and groves is fascinating. groves is large, his weight pacified almost as much as the -- classified as much as the bomb program. he was rude. the only person who would work with him was his secretary.
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the only person in the pentagon office who actually stood up to groves and told him to shut up when he was rude. she knew more about the bomb program than the president. she was a major o'leary. he was scared of her. he was a complete bastard. his deputy called him the greatest son of a bitch i have ever known and also the most capable. he employed a headset with bold commands. his empire was across the world. he was very tough, but he was the guy needed to get this thing working. oppenheimer is the opposite, very thin, cadaver of a man. he weighs 116 pounds by the time of the trinity test and on five packs a day, -- he died finally of throat cancer in the 1960's. he is very thin, very nervous.
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he is a man who believes in open society, that scientists should be able to talk to each other. groves really is a security freak. andet spies on oppenheimer bugged his phones and everything. he was such a security freak that his children that lived near here had absolutely no clue what he was doing every single day of his life, when he went into the office running the most expensive weapons program in history. the first time they found out about it was on the day the bomb was dropped in hiroshima when he rang up his wife and said you should have been to the radio today. i am on it. at 11:00. they switch on the radio, and they hear this man that has been living with them for the last three years going to his office in the new war building across
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from the pentagon is the man responsible for the whole program. they say, completely flabbergasted and we heard it was his bomb that was dropped on the japanese. that is the expression she uses. unquestionably the relationship is extraordinary and yet absolutely pivotal. the one key thing about groves apart from the fact he terrified everybody was he was aged -- a brilliant judge of character. sure he was a right wing -- absolutely. oppenheimer had associations with people who were communist although he himself was never a member of the communist party. but he saw that oppenheimer was not the most brilliant of scientists in the nuclear project, which had its fair size of brilliant egos. he was not a nobel prize winner.
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he saw he was ambitious, and he recognized putting him in charge of all of these eggheads who couldn't, as he described it, run a faculty meeting let alone realized this, he guy would actually keep them all in control, because he had to prove himself. he was a brilliant talents, but not a deep thinker. so it proved. he kept them all in line. that is what gave him his prestige and importance. they needed each other. as far as the other points of concern, the answer is yes, it is a political football and it will continue to be for time immemorial. thehis question addresses survivors appear shema. -- of hiroshima. they had been living with a shockwave, the cancer, radiation
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exposure, and survivor guilt. i wondered if when you talked to the survivors, if they talked to you about how they felt up related to the survival of this ghastly event. stephen: the issue of radiation sickness is a profound and complex one. it is interesting. from my reading of the archives, i spent sometimes in the national archives in washington and interviewed key people in the project still alive. that is the privilege i have had. i am dealing with something that is not exactly history, it is in the twilight memory, which is why i was able to write this book. but they were not expecting, genuinely the radioactivity of the bomb to be a key killer in the bomb. what they were expecting was the
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heat of the bomb in the blast wave, the shock wave, my book title, to be the principal killers effectively. not so much the radioactivity. the memorandum from oppenheimer, which described how he sets in very specific terms, the demolition height, the destination height of the bomb at 1850 feet. that was designed to be the most effective for the maximum definition -- demolition of structures. they thought the higher you go, the less radioactivity. on the ground, you get massive radioactivity. .igher up, less they were looking at -- to give you insight into the mentality of the time, the bomb makes it tremendous flash. the trinity flash was so extraordinary there was a famous story of a blind girl called inrgia green, a violinist
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other cookie, being driven by her brother-in-law joe. it was still nighttime. when the bomb went off, she was 50 miles away and she crossed her brother-in-law's arm and said that light. this is a bomb so bright it could make a blind girl see it, see the light. you are talking about an incredible flash. several key and prominent figures in the program wrote a memo to oppenheimer and groves, in which they actually suggest that they could exploit this blinding brightness from this bomb by dropping super powerful sirens at the same time they drop the bomb so people would hear the sirens and look up at the moment when the bomb's flash occurs, blinding them even
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if they don't kill them. this was suggested in a memo clearly a week or two afterwards . they are not looking at radioactivity but other things. people did die of radioactivity. you are asking about the survivors. there was one story, it hugely affected me, of a doctor. he told me his story in osaka. he was a remarkable man who was in a little village six kilometers to the north of hiroshima when the bomb went off. he was looking after a little girl, age six with a heart condition. he was at the point of injecting sedative with a syringe into her arm when the shockwave struck. detailike bob karen and of the plane. the thing is he tells the story which a bicycle and started
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to cycle down this long road towards the city. corner and he was going so fast he actually fell off his bike. he fell into the road. up, wipe the dust off his he saw this object coming towards him. that is how he described it, this object coming towards him. object had huge eyes and a massive gaping mouth like it might be grinning. there were strips of what he thought was clothing hanging from its arm. he didn't know if it was a man,
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woman, or human being. wasealized the clothing burned flesh. this thing was staggering towards him. backedhorrified and away. as he backed away he collapsed. and then convulsed. he appeared to die. monster, herds this is a doctor. he that he had to do something. he didn't know where to touch the flesh at all. flesh, thethe thend, blackened lash and , and stood uper to get back on his bicycle. as he looked down this white road he suddenly saw hundreds,
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if not thousand of these same figures coming uphill towards him. all looking the same. all with their arms outstretched and these horrible strips of flesh hanging from their arms. there became thousands of them. he actually said, and i quoted him, how many of them are there? they were all coming up the hill. he tried to treat them. they were doing their best. he would go amongst these people, thousand lying in the tilt with a torch having to make decisions about which one to treat and which ones not to. the ones beyond treating would follow him and there is nothing you can do about it at all. there is one extraordinary story about a naked girl rushing, other people tried to get her to
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cover up her legs. they were heavily burned. almost obscenely white. he describes that detail. other people were trying to cover her up and give her some sense of modesty in that moment. of course what started to happen was people began to get dysentery. that came later. argue peoplens the first 80,000 or 90,000 died after the first day or two. many feel the effects to this day. >> is it possible u.s. scientists did not know? >> they knew there would be
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radiation. they absolutely did. wipeey thought it would out most of the population? >> that is one of the things they were determining in the test. a guy is waiting and ready to evacuate entire cities. names from the wizard of oz. the role was basically to evacuate entire population. americans -- the cloud went five times around the world for dissipated from new mexico. tell churchill and stalin? when did they find out about the bomb? where were the japanese fighters on the day the bomb was dropped?
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on the first question, churchill knew about the bomb. a british scientist was involved in the manhattan project. when he was told and read the what is account he said gunpowder? it is nothing. it is this atomic bomb, it is the second coming. knew.ill stalin was not supposed to know about the bomb. staged,y carefully ,anaged event one evening andan casually won it over told stalin they have a weapon
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of unusual power they were intending to use on the japanese. great, do uses it. churchill and truman were convinced they got away with it. they were very pleased with it all. stalin knew everything about the omb, he had spies. recorded a conversation. right, we have to get him onto this and start getting him moving. oppenheimer.viet right, we are now in the arms race and we have to get moving. .he way the cold war is born
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the fighter planes, there were no flight or -- fighter planes. it was nothing. one of the reasons that happened is because the japanese, there were a number of practice mission they had flown. they would deliberately fly these mission with one or two or three airplane. with the doing it specific purpose of getting the japanese to highflying airplanes. it works. they flew this mission. what is one or two or three planes going to do? , theyo little fuel left are saving that for the serious stuff. they were not touched.
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theaid after the war hiroshima mission was the most boring mission he had ever flown. it is astonishingly revealing about how perfect mission was. it was the perfect mission. last one, i'm sorry. say today iske to the last day of me being japanese, tomorrow i will become a u.s. citizen. [applause] i finally decided to become a u.s. citizen. have known about hiroshima naturally as a japanese. i'm looking forward to read your book to get more information.
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project hadhattan been conceived, had this been specifically designed to bomb japan? abouterica ever think dropping this bomb on germany to end the war? number two, why hiroshima? why not tokyo or any other place? let me say a very brief story. a hungarian-jewish scientist berlin in 1973. he was working at the kaiser wilhelm institute. .e was a nuclear physicist
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he came to london and he was standing on the street corner. he was staring at the traffic light. in the moment the traffic light how an he suddenly saw atom bomb would work. he come from nazi germany, he said there might be some german scientist on the street corner in berlin who has the same inspiration for some other traffic light junction. it so terrified him he campaigned to get the atomic bomb built to get ahead of the germans doing exactly the same thing.
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together they drafted a letter. they urge the president to get a program going. aidevelt famously told his , he opened a bottle of napoleon brandy. this requires action. purpose was to make the german atomic bomb, not a japanese atomic bomb. what was quite clear the germans did not have an atomic bomb. they were way behind the americans. the next target, the japanese had a fledgling target.
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it turned against the very program that he had been so hard campaigning for. he couldn't see the point any longer. i will point are we developing this weapon for that will be such a terror for future generation? actually the japanese are not an atomic threat. to petition the present to stop this thing from being developed. actually went via general grove getting office. he stuck the petition in his drawer and never got to president truman. he never sought. issue offly, on the hiroshima as the chosen target andshima satisfied described as the target selection committee here at the
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pentagon. was a perfect all these cities are being pulverized. it had one other advantage, it was surrounded by mountains. it would increase the blast from the bomb. it's geographyd, was perfect. it came down somewhere in early august.
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there were 43,000 japanese troops. that were noters actually in the army at all. when the president made his that he drop this bomb. it just says 16 hours ago a bomb was dropped on lank -- blank. when the name hiroshima was and it was decided to add the phrase an important japanese army base. added many hours before the present broadcast that statement to the world. i was not in the earlier draft of state. it is important to provide justification.
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[applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2020] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] containsy bookshelf the best history writers of the past decade. series ontch our c-span3. >> it ended with an armistice agreement in 19. withxt, a 2017 interview george dixon. he talked about how he was drafted into the war and fought as an infantryman despite his training as a machinist. it was underwritten by patriots and veterans of t


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