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Home Articles Flashpoints Nagasaki Day 9th August 2021 - The Forgotten Bomb, The Forgotten Danger

Nagasaki Day 9th August 2021 - The Forgotten Bomb, The Forgotten Danger

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On this date in 1945, 76 years ago, the second city to be targeted by an atomic bomb, Nagasaki, was destroyed.

Ironically, Nagasaki was the city with the largest number of Christians in Japan, and the bomb hit relatively close to Urakami Cathedral. Its effect is vividly documented in the book 'A Song for Nagasaki'.

However, the bomb failed to hit the part of the city that would have caused the largest number of casualties or done the most damage, the CBD, having been dropped somewhat off target.

Indeed, Nagasaki wasn't even the initial target for 'fat man', as the plutonium implosion bomb was called – the plane carrying the bomb initially aimed for steelworks at Kokura, which were blanketed in smoke (deliberately created for that purpose), so the plane diverted to Nagasaki.

Indeed, the plane carrying the bomb nearly didn't make it to Nagasaki, as halfway there, the firing mechanism unaccountably commenced a countdown to ignition. This was fixed and the bomb eventually made it to explode still somewhat off target, in a valley that contained much of the blast, somewhat on the outskirts of Nagasaki, killing outright around 70,000 people – about half the number killed earlier at Hiroshima.

The plane also failed to make it back to its starting point, as it came close to running out of fuel, and had to land at another, nearer, airbase. Nagasaki in many ways came close to being a botched mission.

Japan would it seems, have surrendered anyway, without the bomb, without even the declaration of war by Russia. They had been looking for a face saving way to do it for over a month. This was known to allies.

Botched mission, the 'forgotten' bomb, the 'second' city to be destroyed or largely destroyed by an atomic bomb – Nagasaki is all of these.

But the Nagasaki bomb itself, with its plutonium implosion design (as opposed to the 'Gun' design of the Hiroshima bomb) – went on to be the standard design for fission nuclear weapons, and then for the fission triggers for the monstrous thermonuclear (H-Bomb) weapons that followed. The design still hasn't fundamentally changed, though the standard size of a nuclear weapon now starts at around 200Kt – ten times the size of the 20Kt Nagasaki bomb – and the largest weapon ever made (By the USSR) was a staggering 50Megatons.

The Doomsday Clock now stands at 100 seconds to metaphorical 'midnight',(closer than it has ever been) where 'midnight' represents global thermonuclear war that would destroy what we call or miscall 'civilisation'.


The danger of a premature end to everything we are familiar with has never been greater. The attention given to that danger has rarely been less. Nagasaki has become the 'forgotten' target of a 'forgotten' bomb.

The need both to eliminate nuclear weapons altogether either via the TPNW (Ban Treaty) or by a 'step by step' process, or via a combination of the two, has never been greater.

The need for nuclear risk reduction has never been greater.

Abolition 2000, a global 'umbrella group' of nuclear disarmament NGOs has a working group on nuclear risk reduction, who have put together a menu of wide-ranging nuclear risk reduction measures:


A critically important risk reduction measure is No First Use. Some 1200 distinguished people – former prime ministers, foreign and defence ministers, generals, admirals, and diplomats – wrote to Presidents Biden and Putin urging them to reaffirm the Reagan-Gorbachev statement that 'A Nuclear war Cannot be Won and must never be fought' (which they did) and to adopt No First Use policies at the ongoing Strategic Stability Dialogue in Geneva.


A followup memo was sent to the Geneva Security Dialogue:


Without meaningful and effective nuclear risk reduction measures that lead to the elimination of nuclear weapons, the citizens of Nagasaki will not be the last to perish from nuclear weapons.


John Hallam

People for Nuclear Disarmament

Human Survival Project

Co-Convenor, Abolition 2000 Nuclear Risk Reduction Working Group

Australian Coordinator, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament (PNND)

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Last Updated on Thursday, 16 December 2021 04:10