The Thing They Carried

It could have been the Germans. It could have been the Japanese. It could have been the Russians. But it was the Americans. The United States was the only nation with the resources to be able to create such a Thing. It was a Thing made for one job. For one purpose.

Since the Nazis launched their blitzkrieg on Poland in 1939, since the Japanese Empire attacked Pearl Harbor, war raged around the world. Millions were refugees, dead or held in concentration camps. It was time for it to be over. It would take a Thing to bring it to an end.

The question was: Would it work? The scientists said it would work. The tests had given them the assurance that it would work. But no one was absolutely sure. They would not know until those final moments over Japan. Until it was dropped.

By August, 1945, the Nazis had surrendered. But not the Empire of Japan though it was defeated. It had no air force to speak of. It was under allied blockade. Many of its greatest cities, including Tokyo, were devastated by the firebombing American B29s. Yet the military fanatics who led Japan had decided that the Empire would go down in a blaze of glory rather than submit.

The Japanese military used fifteen and sixteen-year-olds as pilots of planes that were designed to be nothing more than bombs to crash into ships. They fired human torpedoes from their submarines. This was a foreshadowing of things to come if the United States invaded the Japanese homeland. Every man, woman and child was to be a kamikaze. Even Japanese school girls were taught to attack the enemy with spears. Suicide was preferable to surrender.

Few events were as controversial as the decision to drop the Thing. It was debated among the scientists who created It. It was debated by both the civilian and the military leadership in Washington, D.C. President Truman decided the Japanese leaders had left him no choice. After discussions with his advisers, he came to believe that the Thing would shorten the war and save not just thousands of American lives but millions of Japanese as well.

The Thing’s name was Little Boy, also known as the Gadget, the Device, the Gimmick, the S-1, and the most technical of all names, It. It was created at Los Alamos in New Mexico. Then It was assembled 5500 miles from there on Tinian Island, a part of the Marianas in the Pacific. On the night of August 5, 1945, the technicians wheeled It out to a special loading pit to be lifted up into the the bay of the B29 that was to deliver It.

Hours before the mission, the crews of the 509th Composite Group waited. They did what crews do the night before an important mission. A few ate. Some lay in their bunks and thought about loved ones. Some drowned their homesickness with a few shots of whiskey. Some played poker. One, a Catholic went to confession. Another spent his time briefing the New York Times reporter assigned to the mission. The navigator checked his flight bag to make sure his navigational tools were all in order. Each found a way to while away the hours that dragged.

Practice. Practice. Practice. For months, the team had practiced dropping The Thing, then make a 155 degree turn to get the hell out of there. Now there was a different kind of practice. Just in case of a crash upon take-off, the weaponeer decided to load and arm the Thing once the plane was in the air. In the hours before the takeoff, he practiced inserting the explosive charge and the detonator into the Thing. Difficult work to do considering how tight, how hot, how poorly lit the bay of the B29 that was to carry It. When offered a pair of gloves, the weaponeer said no. “I’ve got to feel the touch.”

At midnight, the commander of the mission gave a final briefing. He was the pilot of the B29 that would deliver the Thing to its destination. He finished with a word of advice for the twenty-six airmen in the room. “Do your jobs, obey orders, don’t cut corners.” Then the crew had breakfast while the flight engineer went out to the plane for his preflight check.

Early in the morning of Monday, August 6, 1945, the rest of the crew—the pilot, the co-pilot, the navigator, the electronic countermeasure man, the two radar operators, the bombardier, the tail gunner, and the ordinance expert—climbed aboard the plane, joining the weaponeer and the flight engineer. Painted on the nose of the B29 was the name of the pilot’s mother, Enola Gay.

2:27 a.m. Front engine No. 3, then No. 4, then No. 1, then No. 2.

“Okay to taxi,” the tower said.

2:35 a.m. In position to taxi.

Clear to take off.

A final check.

Take-off weight: 150,000 lbs., 7000 gal. of fuel, 12 men on board, and a five-ton Thing in the plane’s belly. The Enola Gay was eight tons over its normal weight.

“Let’s go.”

All throttles were pushed forward. Down the 8500 foot runway, the plane went past the ambulances and the fire trucks every fifty feet on each side. At the last minute, the B29 lifted into the air and was off the island and heading north by northwest toward Iwo Jima. It would be over the Japanese homeland 1500 miles away in a little less than six hours.

The tail gunner tested his gun, using 50 of the 1000 rounds he had.

The radar operators studied the radar pictures of Hiroshima.

“Judge going to work.” The weaponeer began to load The Thing. He inserted the gun powder and the detonator. He tightened the breach plate. It took him thirty minutes to complete his task.

The pilot did a check with the two planes following and got a “conditions normal”. So far nothing out of the ordinary. He turned the plane over to his co-pilot and went off to chat with the rest of the crew.

The pilot palavered with his crew for a few minutes, answering any questions they might have, trying to ease any tension there might be. The crew gave him a thumbs up that everything was a-okay. The pilot returned to the cockpit. He took the plane up to 9000 feet for a rendezvous in the pale, pink sky above Iwo Jima. A camera plane and an instrument plane joined up with the Enola Gay.

“Proceeding as planned,” the pilot radioed Iwo Jima downstairs.

“Good luck.”

The three planes formed into a V, the Enola Gay leading the way. Now it was on to what was left of the Japanese Empire.

The ordinance expert armed the charge. He was the last person to touch The Thing. Then he checked the circuits of The Thing on his monitor.

The pilot announced to the crew, “You are carrying the world’s first atomic bomb.”

The Enola Gay climbed to an altitude of 30,800 feet.

“Bomb primary,” came the message from the weather plane ahead. The pilot announced, “It’s Hiroshima.”

All lights on The Thing remained green. It was ready to do its job.

Course change to a heading of 264 degrees.

“Initial Point.”

Hiroshima’s morning sky was bright and clear. Perfect weather.

Below soldiers did their calisthenics.

Below a doctor was administering a shot.

Below a sixteen year old girl drove a tram.

Below two women arrived at the bank where they worked.

The pilot knew the city like the back of his hand from studying maps, photographs and radar pictures. He headed straight to the Aiming Point.

From below: “Top alert.”

“On goggles,” the pilot directed his crew to put on their goggles to shelter their eyes from the blast of The Thing they were about to drop. Only the pilot, the bombardier and the electronic countermeasures man did not slip their eyewear over their eyes. They needed their naked eyes to do their jobs.

Hiroshima in the bombardier’s viewfinder.

The plane began its three-and-a-half minute run.

The pilot: “Stand by.”

Below a nurse sterilized hospital tools.

Below a group of boys played hide-and-go-seek.

Below a woman had breakfast with her two children and her husband. He read the “Chugoku Shimbun” daily newspaper.

One of the women in the bank wiped a desk top. A soldier removed his shirt.

The Aiming Point of the T-shaped Aioi Bridge came into the bombardier’s cross hairs. “I’ve got it.”

Fifteen seconds.

The doctor looked up and saw the Enola Gay. Just one plane. Nothing to worry about.

8:15:17 a.m. Enola Gay’s bay doors opened. The Thing dropped from its restraining hook. Freed of the five tons, the B29 lurched upward. The pilot swung the plane into a 155 degree right turn and a steep power dive. The bay doors shut.

The Thing wobbled, then picked up speed.

Below Field Marshall Hata dressed for a meeting.

Korean Prince RiGu cantered his horse on the Aioi Bridge

Radio Hiroshima broadcast an air raid warning. Thousands of workers stopped what they were doing and hurried toward the “safe areas”.

The Enola Gay now five miles from the Aiming Point and heading out of the city.

Five seconds to go.

At 1890 feet above the city of Hiroshima, the Thing detonated, untold quantities of energy released in a blast. A white light, a flash, a fireball fifty million degrees centigrade at its center. The fireball expanded to 300 meters wide.

There was a new sun in the sky. A sudden and throbbing roar, then total darkness, then red, yellow, orange, green burbled up from the city below, then grayish, brownish, black smoke. Looking down at it all, the tail gunner said that it was “a peep into hell.”

That morning in 1945, the people below in the city were no longer Japanese. They were human beings.

Sources
Books

Hersey, J. (1989). Hiroshima. New York, NY: Vintage Books.

Smith, J. M. (2010). Fire in the sky: The story of the atomic bomb. Place of publication not identified: Textstream.

Thomas, G., & Witts, M. M. (1995). Enola Gay – Mission to Hiroshima. Loughborough, England.: White Owl Press.

Films

Hiroshima (BBC History of World War II) [Motion picture on DVD]. (2009). BBC Home Entertainment.

Joffé, R. (Director). (1989). Fat man and little boy [Motion picture on DVD]. United States: Paramount Pictures.

Modern Marvels – The Manhattan Project (History Channel) [Motion picture on DVD]. (2005). A&E Home Video.

 

 

Advertisements

For the Birds

 

A couple sits on a balcony overlooking New York City. They are eating their breakfast. A pigeon is on the balcony’s ledge looking at the couple. The couple are looking at the pigeon.

Carla, the bird, says, “Okay, guys. Here’s your agenda for today.”

“Joe, I can’t believe we are taking orders from a bird.”

“Jill, this bird has made me a fortune. Before Carla here, I was bankrupt. Carla comes into my life and within weeks I am rolling in dough.”

“Okay, guys. Here’s the plan.”

“I don’t know, Joe. Seems real stupid to me. Don’t you know your own mind?”

“Of course, I know my own mind.”

“Hey, guys. Listen up.”

“Joe, it don’t seem like you do.”

“Jill, I can make my own decisions. It’s just that Carla does a much better job. She doesn’t let things get in the way.”

“Guys, you want me to leave. I’ll do it, you know.”

“Jill, you got to quit doubting my decisions.”

Carla up and flaps away.

“And my decision is to follow Carla. By the way, have you seen Carla this morning?”

Cabbage

Why did she have to raise cabbage? Anything but cabbage. Charles hated cabbage, and she knew he hated it.

Since they were married for the past twenty years, Helene had been obsessed with cabbage. Just try it this way, she said time and again. This way or that way was never going to work for him. He hated cabbage.

“Charles,” she said to him a number of times, “the rabbits are eating my cabbage.”

“Good,” Charles responded. “Now you don’t get to force it into me.”

“You know you would love my cabbage strudel if you would give it the old college try.” Just the thought of cabbage strudel about drove Charles insane.

He gave murder some thought over the years. No judge would convict Charles. “Your Honor,” he would say, “you will understand when you hear the circumstances of my crime. You will have no reason to convict me of the murder of my wife.”

After the judge heard his plea, he would immediately release Charles. “Justifiable homicide. No man could live with the persecution Charles has lived with for twenty years.”

This was Charles’ reasoning for some years, but no more. The country had gone cabbage crazy. It was becoming harder and harder to find a restaurant, a tavern or a friend who did not serve a cabbage dish with every meal.

Finally a solution came to Charles. A one way ticket to America. He had heard that America was a savage country where men and women ate only meat. America, everybody claimed, was a barbarous place.

The westward voyage was such a comfort. Not one meal on the menu offered cabbage. The ship passed the Statue of Liberty with its promised freedom from the tyranny of cabbage. As the ship moved into its berth at the port of New York, Charles smiled his broadest smile. He had turned his back on the religious persecution of his home country’s love of cabbage. Before him stood a cabbage-free life.

The ship docked. Charles gathered up his bags and headed into the city. His plan was to follow Horace Greeley’s advice of “Go West, Young Man.” Soon he would be on a train to California. First he must try a meal at one of New York’s finest restaurants.

Charles opened the menu and read. He just about vomitted. It seemed America’s finest restaurants too had embraced the contagion. Before him were offerings of cabbage and potatoes, cabbage rolls, boil-that-cabbage-down, cabbage stew and cabbage burgers. Cabbage mania had struck America when Charles wasn’t looking.

On and on the cabbage dishes ran until he came to the final offering. “Cabbage strudel topped with a dab of vanilla ice cream.” It was named, of all things, Cabbage a la Helene.

Prompt: A Dog Named Bob.

How could I resist this prompt The Daily Post: You have 20 minutes to write a post that includes the words mailbox, bluejay, plate, syrup, and ink. And one more detail… the story must include a dog named Bob. Here goes:

Bob, my cocker spaniel, ran out to the mailbox, carrying his bluejay buddy, Feistus, on his back. He opened the mailbox and ink poured out. It was as sticky as that plate of syrup he got into yesterday.

The Short Stories of 2014, An Evaluation

Just want to wish all my readers a very happy New Year. And take a looksee back at the previeous year. So there it is. Fifty-five stories. All in all, 2014 was a great year for prompts and for writing. This past year of a weekly short story prompt has been such an enjoyable experience. First on Fridays, then on Wednesdays, it has introduced me to a number of wonderful writers, allowed me to touch base with some old friends, and challenged my creativity.

With each story, I had a conversation with the author. Each writer laid down their part of the dialogue. Then I responded with my own bit of the blarney. I was given the opportunity to experiment with: prose poetry, flash fiction, historical fiction, haiku, humor, essay and other forms. In the process, I explored so many different characters’ lives.

I am thankful for you who have shared my adventure. You are the Best. Even better than that. You are the Bestest of the Best.

THEMES ACCORDING TO UNCLE BARDIE

This is where I figure out what I am reading about.

Acceptance (The Birthmark)

American Dream (The Twilight of the Superheroes, Winter Dreams)

Art (Continuity of Parks, Paul’s Case, A Hunger Artist, Cathedral)

Communication (Hills Like White Elephants, Interpreter of Maladies, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love)

Community (Super-Frog Saves Tokyo)

The Conscience (The Tell-Tale Heart)

Cruelty and Compassion (A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings)

Death (A Death in the Woods, The Death of Ivan Ilych,The Odor of Chrysanthemums, A Rose for Emily)

Denial (The Jilting of Granny Weatherall)

Desire (The Monkey’s Paw)

Family (Barn Burning, Everything that rises must converge)

Grace (A Good Man is Hard to Find)

Grief (Shiloh)

Hope (Rita Haworth & the Shawshank Redemption)

Independence (Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?, Why I Live At the P.O.)

Isolation and Loneliness (The Fall of the House of Usher, The Metamorphosis, A Perfect Day for Bannafish, The Swimmer, A Clean, Well-Lighted Place)

Love (A & P, Araby, Brokeback Mountain, The Lady With the Pet Dog)

Nature (The Open Boat)

The Past (Babylon Revisited, The Dead, Everyday Use)

Pride (The Necklace)

Reason (The Red-Headed League)

Religion (Young Goodman Brown)

Time (An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge)

Tradition (The Lottery)

Race (The Man Who Was Almost a Man, Sonny’s Blues)

Technology and the Future (Harrison Bergeron)

War (The Most Dangerous Game, The Things They Carried)

Women and their Lives (I Stand Here Ironing, The Story of an Hour, The Yellow Wallpaper, The Chrysanthemums, Girl)

Work (Bartleby the Scrivener)

FIVE FAVORITE SHORT STORY PROMPTS

Each of the fifty-five stories had something to offer. Each of these five sent shivers down my spine as I read it. They are extraordinary stories which I would highly recommend.

“The Man Who Was Almost a Man” by Richard Wright

“A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings’ by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

“The Dead” by James Joyce

“Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates

“Interpreter of Maladies” by Jhumpa Lahiri

FIVE FAVORITE CREATIVE RESPONSES

It’s hard to choose just five, but here goes.

“When She Wore That Dress” in response to “Winter Dreams”.

“Sam” in response to “A Rose For Emily”

“Aurora Farquhar’s Prayer” in response to “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”

“The Train Station” in response to “Hills Like White Elephants

“A High School Sophomore’s Book Report on ‘The Metamorphosis’” in response to “The Metamorphosis”

HARDEST SHORT STORY PROMPT TO RESPOND TO

“Connie” in response to “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”

CREATIVE RESPONSE I AM MOST PROUD OF

“The Thing They Carried” in response to “The Things They Carried”.

You can find all fifty-five stories I wrote as a response to the Short Stories under the From Prompts Category.

SOMETHING NEW

Some of you may have noticed that I have been putting a link to a You tube video at the beginning of each post. I am calling it Video or Song for this Post. The link is to a piece of music or some other video that may have inspired the post or that may reflect the mood of it. I began this practice on Wednesday, December 3, with the “When She Wore That Dress” post. For some time, I have been trying to incorporate music into my posts. I even thought about writing a third post for the week, using a musical number as a prompt for the piece. This new practice seems like a good compromise. Hope you like it.

REPOSTS

I don’t normally repost other blog posts but I have reposted twice post this year. One from Carrying the Gun blog called “The Battle of As Samawah” and “Xmas in the Hood” posted on DevynStella’s blog. Both were posts I thought should have a larger readership. (Not that I don’t think all those I follow shouldn’t have larger readerships.) Xmas in the Hood is about how a South African celebrates Christmas with her community. The Battle of As Samawah is the story of an American soldier’s first days of his sojourn in Iraq. Neither were a substitute for my regular Sunday and Wednesday posts. Hope you enjoyed them.

UNCLE BARDIE DOES HAMLET

When I began this adventure in January, 2014, I wasn’t sure how well it would go. Whether I would make it through. I like the idea that I was out there, walking a creative tightrope without a net. I hope you enjoyed the stories as much as I did creating them.

Now on to 2015. On Wednesdays, I will be posting 52 responses to William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”. Each week I will take on a scene or aspect of the play, such as the opening scene or the costumes the characters are wearing. I might even write a to-be-ing with a chair in the room, giving the soliloquy. You just never know..

I am not a Shakespearean scholar. On top of that, Shakespeare has always scared the hell out of me. What would make me embrace this madness? Someone once asked Sir Edmund Hillary, “Why climb Mount Everest?” His response, “Because it’s there.” That seems about as good a reason as any.

It is always fun to go exploring. I never know what I will discover. Who knows? Uncle Bardie may just bring a whole new set of questions for Shakespearean scholars to work on for the next century or two. He might reveal that “Hamlet” in no tragedy but actually comedy. Now wouldn’t that be something. Really something.

So stay tuned as Uncle Bardie does “Hamlet”. One thing is for sure. It will be entertaining. As the Bunny used to say, “On with the show. This is it.”

ONE FINAL QUESTION FOR YE READERS

What was your favorite(s) of my Short Story Responses to the Short Story Prompts?