Sixty-eight years ago today, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, killing approximately 110,000 Japanese citizens and thrusting the world into a nuclear age.
The American public didn’t know how to respond to this unprecedented military move. Should they just be glad that the war was over, and conclude that the ends justified the means? Or should they be skeptical, and question whether this final assault was really absolutely necessary?
In December 1946, just over a year after Hiroshima, The Atlantic published Dr. Karl Compton’s article, “If the Atomic Bomb Had Not been Used.” Compton argues that if the United States had not implemented the Manhattan Project, hundreds of thousands more lives - both American and Japanese - would have been lost.
Read more. [Image: AP]
The [588th Night Bomber Regiment of the Soviet Air Forces] was the most highly decorated female unit in that force, flying 30,000 missions over the course of four years — and dropping, in total, 23,000 tons of bombs on invading German armies. Its members, who ranged in age from 17 to 26, flew primarily at night, making do with planes that were — per their plywood-and-canvas construction — generally reserved for training and crop-dusting. They often operated in stealth mode, idling their engines as they neared their targets and gliding to the bomb release point. As a result, their planes made little more than soft “whooshing” noises as they flew by.
Those noises reminded the Germans, apparently, of the sound of a witch’s broomstick. So the Nazis began calling the female fighter pilots Nachthexen: “night witches.” They were loathed. And they were feared. Any German pilot who downed a “witch” was automatically awarded an Iron Cross.
The picture is a rare glimpse of the bomb’s immediate aftermath, showing the distinct two-tiered cloud as it was seen from Kaitaichi, part of present-day Kaita, six miles east of Hiroshima’s center. […]
The person who took this photo would have been among the first to look out there and realize that this wasn’t just your run-of-the-mill bomb. It wasn’t the air raid that the citizens of Hiroshima had been anticipating for months. This was the beginning of a new world.
Read more. [Image: Honkawa Elementary School]
"It is a bit like painting with history," Jo Hedwig Teeuwisse says of her project "Ghosts of History."
She got the idea a few years ago when she found some old negatives at a flea market in Amsterdam, where she lives. “I was very curious about these mysterious photos and wanted to find out who took them and where. So I started to walk around Amsterdam and made photos in the same spot where the old photos were made and combined them on the computer.”
See more. [Images: Jo Hedwig Teeuwisse, Unknown, Tom Timmermans]
Antoni Dobrowolski, a former Polish teacher arrested by the Gestapo in 1942 for teaching underground lessons to students, died on Sunday at the age of 108, according to a Polish official speaking with the Associated Press. He was the oldest known survivor of Germany’s largest death camp.
He was probably too busy as a U.S. Army captain to bother finding anything to rhyme with “malaria,” but the good Theodor Geisel did take the time to personify the Anopheles mosquito as a vixen named Ann out to tempt unwary soldiers into an undignified death. In his typical whimsical style, adjusted to a slightly older audience, he warned young G.I.s to keep their pants (and the rest of their clothes) on: “If you go running around as a strip teaser, you haven’t got a chance.”
See more. [Images: USDA]
The blog Retronaut has unearthed a booklet, created by RCA in the 1940s, intended to inform male bosses about the best ways to supervise their new employees as World War II brought females into factories, often for the first time. […]
What’s remarkable about this is that none of the qualities highlighted or advice dispelled in the booklet is actually specific to women. “Tell them what they’re supposed to do” and “tell them when they’ve done good work” and “make sure they know where the bathroom is” are not nuggets of wisdom that are in any way particular to women. They’re just, you know, what any boss should probably be doing for any employee.
Read more. [Images: National Archives]
By the time Franco consolidated his control of a unified Spain, Juan Pujol knew how to lie. He knew how to hide. He knew how to flee and connive and take measure of the men he encountered. He saw firsthand the cruelties of both the communists and the fascists. He had faced death and survived. In other words, he realized there was more to him than he thought possible. And when a conflict more terrible than civil war began to brew, the former deserter felt the call for service. In his own words when reflecting on Hitler: “I had the idea that this man was a demon, a man who could completely destroy humanity.” The only question was how the poultry salesman might best serve the effort. As it turned out, the very skills that kept him out of one war would make him a decisive force in another.
He became a spy. Not in the submit-a-résumé-and-wait kind of way, but rather, he simply decided that he was a spy and that was that.
Read more. [Image: The U.S. Army/Flickr]
Starting in 1942, the U.S. government began quietly acquiring more than 60,000 acres in Eastern Tennessee for the Manhattan Project — the secret World War II program that developed the atomic bomb. The result was a secret town named Oak Ridge that housed tens of thousands of workers and their families. Workers were sworn to secrecy and only informed of the specific tasks they needed to perform. Most were unaware of the exact nature of their final product until the nuclear bombs were dropped on Japan in 1945. Photographer Ed Westcott, the only authorized photographer on the facility, took many photos of Oak Ridge during the war years and afterwards, capturing construction, scientific experiments, military maneuvers, and everyday life.
Read more. [Images: Ed Westcott/DOE]
Today in 1940, Winston Churchill gave his famous “We shall fight on the beaches" speech after the British army evacuated from Dunkirk. Listen above (jump to 8:50 for the memorable part), then read these fascinating accounts of Churchill’s life:
- "The Medals of His Defeats," April 2002: Christopher Hitchens takes down the Great Man a peg or two, but still finds Churchill to be a great.
- "Churchill at the White House," March 1965: Eleanor Roosevelt recounts the Prime Minister’s visits to the United States.
- "The Lion’s Heart," March 1965: Lady Diana Cooper on Churchill’s marriage.