Hiroshima before the bomb: Pre-WWII footage captures serene city
The bombs obliterated both cities, killing between 129,000 and 246,000. Tens of thousands of civilians were vaporized by the blast while those who remained died a slow and agonizing death from exposure to radiation. It remains the only example nuclear warfare in history.
Hiroshima was the first city to be targeted with nuclear weapons when US forces dropped its newly developed atomic bomb at the close of World War II. Three days later the United States dropped a second bomb on Nagasaki.
Now, a month before the 72nd anniversary of the first bomb, newly-restored footage shows life in the city of Hiroshima before the devastating attack.
In accordance with the terms of Operations Order No. 35—the Enola Gay departed North Field for Hiroshima, Japan, with Tibbets at the controls. Tinian was approximately 2,000 miles (3,200 km) away from Japan, so it took six hours to reach Hiroshima.
Tibbets was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross by Spaatz immediately after landing on Tinian.He became a celebrity, with pictures and interviews of his wife and children in the major American newspapers.
He was seen as a national hero who had ended the war with Japan. Tibbets later received an invitation from President Harry S. Truman to visit the White House. The 509th Composite Group was awarded an Air Force Outstanding Unit Award in 1999.
Tibbets was interviewed extensively by Mike Harden of the Columbus Dispatch, and profiles appeared in the newspaper on anniversaries of the first dropping of an atomic bomb. In a 1975 interview he said: “I’m proud that I was able to start with nothing, plan it and have it work as perfectly as it did … I sleep clearly every night.”
“I knew when I got the assignment,” he told a reporter in 2005, “it was going to be an emotional thing. We had feelings, but we had to put them in the background. We knew it was going to kill people right and left. But my one driving interest was to do the best job I could so that we could end the killing as quickly as possible.”
He was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1996.
Although the filmmakers put considerable effort into historical accuracy, particularly in details, the film is known for some key distortions of history. An entirely fictional sequence was added in which Truman agonizes over whether to authorize the attack; anti-aircraft shells are shown bursting around the Enola Gay on its bombing run over Hiroshima; and it is said that leaflets were dropped on Hiroshima for ten days in advance of the mission warning the citizens of the forthcoming raid.
In other fictional portrayals, Nicholas Kilbertus was Tibbets in the film Day One (1989), David Gow played him in the TV movie Hiroshima (1995), and Ian Shaw played the part in the BBC‘s TV docudrama Hiroshima (2005), for which Tibbets was also interviewed on camera.
An interview with Tibbets also appeared in the movie Atomic Cafe (1982), as well as was in the 1970s British documentary series The World at War, and the “Men Who Brought the Dawn” episode of the Smithsonian Networks‘ War Stories (1995). Tibbets figured largely in the 2000 book Duty: A Father, His Son and the Man Who Won the War by Bob Greene of the Chicago Tribune.