Second Sun: The Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

by dbdevilliers

In observance of today’s historical significance, here is something a bit different from my usual work.

Seventy years ago, the sun rose early above the barren New Mexico desert, bathing the pre-dawn landscape in brilliant blinding light before burning it to ashes.

In an instant, any sign that life had once existed in this place was immolated by searing hellfire. Devastation swept outward, as ripples caused by a stone dropped into a pond do, from a single point—a gaping crater where, seconds earlier, a steel tower had loomed menacingly before the cacti and sagebrush.

At its apex, this tower had housed the product of one of the most ambitious scientific endeavors in human history—years of toil by the world’s brightest minds made manifest, shut up inside a flimsy tin shack suspended a hundred feet from the desert floor.

It was here, over a rural and desolate region of the American Southwest, where the course of history was irreparably altered, forever damning the notion of total industrial warfare to the pages of history—or rather, consummating the marriage of post-Second World War global conflict to the certain annihilation of modern society.

Approximately thirty minutes before dawn on the 16th of July 1945, the United States catapulted humanity into the atomic age with the detonation of a twenty-kiloton implosion-type nuclear device: named Gadget by its makers. The now-famous scientific leader of the Manhattan Project, J. Robert Oppenheimer, called the test Trinity—a reference to its biblical significance, which was not lost upon those who witnessed the test that chilly morning.

However, Trinity represented not the end of this atomic endeavor; rather, it marked the start of its terrible climax.

Gadget’s iconic cloud had hardly just begun its conquest of the heavens when a series of massive and intricate mechanisms whirred into motion inside the American military juggernaut.

After humming along since its establishment no more audibly than the workings of a fine Swiss watch, Trinity’s success kicked off a second, much larger phase of the Manhattan Project—execution.

The project’s innumerable automatic process ticked away to initiate and sustain larger, more elaborate processes, which in turn soon activated even larger processes still. Men and materials were moved across oceans and continents to fill their proper slots within the Manhattan machine. From the sixteenth of July onward, Manhattan’s mechanisms grew exponentially louder with each passing day, with each passing hour. When August arrived, the faint whirring of clockwork had become the thunderous clamor of great engines.

The American war machine’s twisted song approached a grotesque crescendo—a furious cacophony, a tremendous and deafening atomic roar which wrought devastation the likes of which had never been seen before by mankind.

This is a brief excerpt from a substantial piece I’ve been working on for some time, regarding the military and political circumstances surrounding the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August of 1945. Today’s date, August 6, marks seventy years since the destruction of Hiroshima.