Less than a century elapsed between the arrival of U.S. Commodore Matthew Perry in Tokyo Bay in 1853 and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945. During these nine decades, Japan underwent a swift political and social transformation. The country changed from a pre-modern society under Shogun military rule to a modern industrialized state that became first a significant colonial power and then … (click below to continue reading Cribb and Li’s Prelude)
6 August. In a blast equal to 12–15,000 tons of TNT, ‘Little Boy’ destroys 12 square kilometres of the city. About 75,000 Hiroshima residents are killed and 100,000 or more will succumb to effects of the bomb within four months. Military members of the Japanese government dismiss the idea that this is a nuclear attack or that it could be repeated.
9 August. Aiming to convince the Japanese leadership that the bombing of Hiroshima was not a once-only event, the Americans drop a second atomic bomb on a Japanese city. With poor visibility preventing the bombing of Kokura, the mission is diverted to Nagasaki where at least 20,000 people (and maybe triple that number) are killed that day.
7 August. After months of work by an investigatory body planning for Indonesian independence, the Japanese announce a new preparatory committee (PPKI) to implement the transition. This committee includes representatives from the outer islands as well as Java.
8 August. Ending months of Japanese attempts to save the Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact and have the Soviets broker a peace deal with the Allies, Soviet foreign minister Molotov informs Japanese ambassador Satō Naotake that the Soviet Union will be at war with Japan from 9 August. It is early evening in Moscow when Satō is told but just before midnight on the border with Manchuria.
9 August. The double shock of the Soviet invasion and bombing of Nagasaki causes Prime Minister Suzuki Kantarō and some ministers to urge an immediate end to the war; others remain steadfast. At this stage none will openly suggest accepting the unconditional surrender demanded by the Allies. As meetings continue into the night, the Emperor is asked to decide on surrender or continued resistance. Reluctantly, he chooses surrender.
5 August. With final preparations underway for the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, the force commander who will pilot the flight instructs that his mother’s name, Enola Gay, be painted on the B-29’s nose. The bomber’s regular pilot (who will co-pilot this mission) is outraged.
6 August. A White House statement announces the bombing of Hiroshima and quotes the response of President Truman, who is travelling back from the Potsdam Conference. The president warns Japan’s apparently intransigent leaders: ‘If they do not now accept our terms they may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth.’
9 August. One minute after midnight, about 1.5 million Soviet troops launch operation August Storm, a giant pincer attack from Mongolia and eastern Siberia on Japan’s badly under-strength Kwantung Army, which is in the middle of a redeployment. The western prong includes Mongolian units even though the Mongolian People’s Republic has not declared war. Its attack out of the Gobi desert into Inner Mongolia and across the supposedly impassable Khingan range into central Manchuria is completely unexpected.