Seventy years ago, on Aug. 6, the first atomic bomb was dropped from a B-29 Superfortress over Hiroshima, then three days later on Aug. 9, a second was dropped on Nagasaki.
The destruction was unprecedented and difficult to imagine, so let’s try to put in it perspective: What if an atomic bomb was dropped on Cranbrook?
First a little history: At 8:15 a.m. on Aug. 6, 1945, the first atomic bomb ever dropped on a city, Little Boy, exited the bomb doors of the Enola Gay and fell for 44 seconds before detonating 580 meters above the city.
The destructive power was unlike any-thing that had come before, levelling the city and killing 70,000 to 80,000 people — 30 per cent of the population of Hiroshima — in the initial blast and resultant firestorm. Another 70,000 were injured. Onlookers reported see-ing a brilliant flash followed by a loud boom.
The U.S. estimated that 12 square kilometres of the city was destroyed. However despite the colossal damage, Japan’s war council refused to surrender, except under a number of conditions. Japan also presumed that the U.S. would not have more nuclear bombs ready to drop.
The U.S moved forward on a second planned bombing.
On Aug. 9, Bockscar dropped the bomb nicknamed Fat Man on Nagasaki at 11:01 a.m. Clouds and coal smoke obscured the initial target of Kokura, further east.
It exploded 503 meters over the city and generated temperatures of 3,900 degrees Celsius and 1000 km/h winds.
On Aug. 15, the Empire of Japan announced its surrender. The emperor Hirohito noted the effect the bomb had had on his decision: “Moreover, the enemy now possesses a new and terrible weapon with the power to destroy many innocent lives and do incalculable damage. Should we continue to fight, not only would it result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization.”
And so finally, what kind of destruction would Little Boy cause if dropped on Cranbrook?
Thanks to an app on Public Radio Interna-tional’s website, finding that out is possible.
With the target on Rotary Park, the bomb detonates over the city. Within a half of a mile 90 per cent of people are killed by heavy fire and blast. As well as the destruction of city hall and the entire downtown, the Cran-brook History Centre and Western Financial Place would also fall into this radius.The Cranbrook Daily Townsman building would also be obliterated.
Further out, at a one mile radius, 70 per cent of people are killed by heavy fire and blast. Everything up to this distance is completely destroyed by heavy fire from the explosion at ground zero. That destruction would scorch half of the Cranbrook Golf Club as well as all the neighbourhoods from Slaterville to 27th Avenue South. And half of the industrial park down to 14th Street South.
Within three miles buildings would be heavily destroyed by fire that spreads from ground zero. That’s the entire City of Cranbrook.
Buildings in Fort Steele, Mayook and Lumberton are safe but windows might be broken, within the 12 mile radius.
Of course, all of this is simply speculation. For a sobering account of what it was like to survive the first bomb read John Hersey’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel Hiroshima.