July 25, 2008

A error in Ken Burns' War

I finally had a chance to watch Ken Burns' epic War. As I was watching the 6th and final DVD, the narrator stated that after the dropping of Fat Man on Nagasaki that "America had no more such bombs, and would be unable to produce any for several months"

What?! I knew that was incorrect. I could not recall the actual delay. I thought it was about 1- 2 weeks at worst, but months?

So, asked Stan Norris, author of Racing for the Bomb, if he could recall when the third bomb would be ready. He replied

On August 10 General Groves informed General Marshall that a bomb would be ready for delivery on the first suitable weather after 17 or 18 August (See Racing, p. 424)


There were other bombs being prepared beyond that third one, if the need should arise.

It was disappointing to hear this error. I wonder what other errors might have slipped into the film.

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February 13, 2006

Book Review: Shockwave: Countdown to Hiroshima

Book CoverWritten by BBC filmmaker Stephen Walker, who won an Emmy for his documentary on the bombing of Hiroshima, Shockwave: Countdown to Hiroshima is a fast paced engaging book about the period of time from the Trinity Test through the events of August 6th. The story is told from many points of view-from the eyes of the pilots, the victims, the scientists and world leaders. The book begins in the New Mexico desert, as the first atomic bomb is detonated. With this success, the wheels begin to turn toward the first atomic attacks on Japan.

Shockwave is a tightly written book that gives the reader a sense of the tension that was felt by the scientists at Los Alamos, at the top-secret airbase on the island of Tinian, and Potsdam-where Truman, Churchill, and Stalin were meeting to decide Japan's fate. Walker also takes us to Hiroshima before that fateful day, where he introduces us to several residents, including; a soldier named Toshiaki Tanaka, Taeko Nakamae, a female soldier, and a doctor named Shuntaro Hida. We are also taken to the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, where Walker depicts a Japanese leadership torn by a division between those determined to fight to the last child and a peace faction that made overtures to the Soviet Union to convince America to drop its demand for unconditional surrender.

In the predawn hours of August 6th, a B-29, named for the pilot's mother, leaves Tinian Island, some 1,500 miles from Japan. In its bomb bay is the atomic bomb, dubbed "Little Boy". The target is the untouched city of Hiroshima. With these events, the book turns to the stories of the residents and of the Japanese government. Walker recounts Toshiaki Tanaka’s efforts to locate his wife and child. After locating a neighbor, recognizable only by a telltale belt buckle he had worn, Tanaka saw "two figures, like charcoal sticks, fused together on the ground, facing what was once the doorway [to the family-owned liquor store]." He knew that this was his wife and baby daughter.

Although, some readers may draw comparisons to John Hersey's classic, Hiroshima, this book is a rich and moving account of the end of a race of technological discovery and its impact on the world.

Available at Amazon.com

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