The Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

During World War II, an American B-29 bomber detonated the world's first deployed atomic bomb over Hiroshima, Japan. The explosion killed an estimated 80,000 people immediately, and tens of thousands more died subsequently from radioactive exposure. Three days later, a second B-29 detonated another atomic bomb on Nagasaki,  killing an estimated 40,000 people. Japan's Emperor Hirohito proclaimed his country's unconditional surrender in World War II in a radio broadcast on August 15, stressing the deadly force of "a new and most merciless bomb."

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The Allies had already defeated Germany in Europe by the time of the Trinity test (the first nuclear weapon detonation). Despite solid indicators that they had little prospect of prevailing, Japan swore to fight to the end in the Pacific. In reality, between mid-April 1945 and mid-July 1945, Japanese troops caused Allied losses totalling over half of those sustained in three years of the Pacific war, demonstrating that Japan had become even more lethal when confronted with defeat. In late July, Japan's militarist leadership rejected the Allied demand for capitulation outlined in the Potsdam Declaration, which threatened the Japanese with "prompt and total annihilation" if they refused.

General Douglas MacArthur and other top military leaders advocated continuing the conventional bombing of Japan and then launching an extensive invasion dubbed "Operation Downfall". They warned Truman that such an invasion would result in up to a million American casualties. To avoid such a high casualty rate, Truman decided to deploy the atomic bomb, over the moral objections of Secretary of War Henry Stimson, General Dwight Eisenhower, and several Manhattan Project scientists, in the hopes of bringing the war to a quick end.

Hiroshima 

Hiroshima, a manufacturing centre with around 250 000 inhabitants at the time and 800 kilometres from Tokyo, was chosen to be the first target. The more than 9 000-pound uranium-235 bomb was loaded aboard a modified B-29 bomber named Enola Gay, after arriving at the US airfield on the Pacific island of Tinian. At 8:15 a.m., the plane dropped the bomb, known as "Little Boy", by parachute, and it exploded 600 meters over Hiroshima in a blast equivalent to 12-15,000 tonnes of TNT, devastating 13 square kilometres of the city. As the town vanished beneath a mushroom cloud Captain Robert Lewis, co-pilot of the Enola Gay, the bomber that dropped the weapon, wrote in his log “My God, what have we done?”.

 

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Nagasaki

The US hoped that the devastation that “Little Boy” made was enough to make the Japanese immediately surrender, but it didn’t. Major Charles Sweeney flew another B-29 bomber, named Bockscar, from Tinian on August 9 towards the city of Kokura. However, due to thick clouds blocking the view, another target needed to be selected. Which happened to be Nagasaki. On the 9th of August, at 11:02 a.m., the plutonium bomb "Fat Man" was detonated. The bomb, which was more potent than the one used at Hiroshima, weighed about 10,000 pounds and was designed to cause a 22-kiloton blast. Even though “Fat Man” were stronger than “Little Boy”, it actually killed fewer people than “Little Boy”. Nagasaki's topography, which was situated in small valleys between mountains, restricted the effect of the bomb, limiting the destruction to 6,7 square kilometres. 

The two bombs dropped in Japan would kill more than 300 000 people, including those who died immediately and those who died as a result of radiation and other after-effects of the blasts.

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The Aftermath

On the 15th of August 1945, Emperor Hirohito announced Japan’s surrender in a radio broadcast, “The war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan's advantage” - Emperor Hirohito. The news spread quickly and “Victory in Japan” celebrations broke out in the US and allied nations. On the 2nd of September, the formal surrender agreement was made aboard the US battleship Missouri, which was docked in Tokyo Bay. 

After six years World War II was finally over. The Allies occupied Japan for eight years and allowed Emperor Hirohito to keep his position. The aftermath of World War II led to two major superpowers with two very different ideologies had come out victorious and the tension between them would create a new kind of war. A very cold one. 

 

“We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried, most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita. Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty and to impress him takes on his multi-armed form and says, ‘Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.’ I suppose we all thought that one way or another.” — J. Robert Oppenheimer, "father of the atomic bomb", on his reflections of the first atomic bomb test.

Great thanks to our volunteer historian Gustav Falk 

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The Normandy Landings

During World War 2 the largest amphibious invasion in military history took place, namely the Normandy landings. It is also commonly known as D-Day, which started the liberation of western Europe. The “D” in D-Day stands for “day” and the term was used to describe the first day of any large military operation, it is often used when the exact date is either secret or not yet known. The operation consisted of 195 700 naval personnel and 156 000 allied troops with at least 10 000 casualties of which 4 414 were confirmed dead, and around 50 000 German troops with  4 000–9 000 casualties. Note that these numbers are only for the landings and not the invasion of Normandy

 

Background

After the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, Joseph Stalin started demanding his new allies to open up a second front in the west. However, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill persuaded U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt to postpone the promised invasion as the Allies did not have adequate forces for such an activity. At the Tehran Conference in November 1943, Roosevelt and Churchill promised Stalin that they would open the long-delayed second front in May 1944.

 The Allies considered four sites for the landings: Brittany, the Cotentin Peninsula, Normandy, and the Pas-de-Calais. If the Allies would have invaded Brittany or the Cotentin Peninsula, the Germans could have easily cut off the Allied advance at a relatively narrow isthmus, so these sites were rejected. Pas-de-Calais is the closest point between the United Kingdom and continental Europe, the Germans knew this and therefore was it the most heavily fortified region. But it offered few opportunities for expansion, as the area is bounded by numerous rivers and canals, whereas landings on a broad front in Normandy would permit simultaneous threats against the port of Cherbourg, coastal ports further west in Brittany, and an overland attack towards Paris and eventually into Germany. Normandy was hence chosen as the landing site. But Normandy had one serious drawback, the lack of port facilities. However, the Allies would overcome this through the development of artificial Mulberry harbours.

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In January 1944, General Dwight Eisenhower was appointed commander of Operation

Overlord. In the months and weeks before D-Day, the Allies carried out a massive deception operation intended to make the Germans think the main invasion target was Pas-de-Calais rather than Normandy. The Allies also led the Germans to believe that Norway and other locations were also potential invasion targets. The deceptions consisted of fake equipment; a phantom army commanded by George Patton and supposedly based in England, across from Pas-de-Calais; double agents; and fraudulent radio transmissions.

 

A Slight Delay

The Allies originally planned to launch the invasion on the 1st of  May 1944. The plan consisted of amphibious landings by three divisions with two more divisions in support. But when General Dwight D. Eisenhower and General Bernard Montgomery saw the plan they both agreed that it should be expanded to five divisions with airborne descents by three additional divisions, to allow operations on a wider front and to hasten the capture of Cherbourg. Therefore it was delayed to the 5th of June.

However, it was once delayed again, this time because of bad weather. On the morning of June 5, after Eisenhower’s meteorologist predicted improved conditions for the following day, Eisenhower gave the go-ahead for the invasion. He told the troops: “You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you.”

The Battle

At the dawn of the 6th of June 1944, thousands of paratroopers and glider troops were on the ground behind enemy lines, securing bridges and exit roads. The amphibious assault began at 6:30 am. The British and Canadians overcame the light opposition to capture the beaches codenamed Gold, Juno and Sword. As did the Americans with Utah beach. However, the Americans faced heavy resistance at Omaha beach, this happened because Omaha beach was the most fortified beach. They faced the 352nd Infantry Division rather than the expected single regiment. Strong currents forced many landing craft east of their intended position or caused them to be delayed. For fear of hitting the landing craft, U.S. bombers delayed releasing their loads and, as a result, most of the beach obstacles at Omaha remained undamaged when the men came ashore.

But at the end of the day, 156 000 Allied troops had successfully stormed the beaches. On the 11th of June, the beaches were fully secured and over 326 000 troops, more than 50 000 vehicles and some 100 000 tons of equipment had landed at Normandy. The operation was a success.

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The Aftermath

The success of Operation Overlord further solidified that the tides have turned against Nazi Germany. The naval invasion liberated western Europe and took the fight to the Germans. The Allied victory in Normandy stemmed from several factors. German preparations along the Atlantic Wall were only partially finished, the deceptions undertaken in Operation Fortitude, air supremacy, the Allied bombing of infrastructure and the indecisiveness and an overly complicated command structure on the part of the German high command were also factors in the Allied success. The Battle of Normandy was a hard-fought campaign and proves that the Germans could not have achieved Operation Sealion in 1940 against Britain.

 

“Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force: You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hope and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely. But this is the year 1944! The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to victory! I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory! Good luck! And let us all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.” —General. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, 6th of June 1944.

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The Bay of Pigs Invasion

The Bay of Pigs Invasion was a failed invasion of Cuba by Cuban exiles who opposed Fidel Castro, the operation was covertly financed and directed by the U.S government. The Cuban exiles were trained by the CIA The operation took place from the 17th of April 1961 to the 20th of April 1961 at the peak of the Cold War. This event later set the stage for the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

After Castro's rise to power, militant counter-revolutionary groups developed wanting to overthrow the new regime. The CIA's idea to overthrow the Cuban government emerged in early 1960. The CIA noticed that Cuban exiles were willing to fight and started to recruit and train them. On the 17th of March 1960, the CIA showed their plans to overthrow the Cuban government to the U.S. National Security Council where President Eisenhower gave his support and approved a budget of $13 000 000. 

The first stated objective of the plan was to "bring about the replacement of the Castro regime with one more devoted to the true interests of the Cuban people and more acceptable to the U.S. in such a manner to avoid any appearance of U.S. intervention." 

The CIA also had four major forms of action to aid anti-communist opposition in Cuba. These included providing a powerful propaganda offensive against the regime, perfecting a covert intelligence network within Cuba, developing paramilitary forces outside of Cuba, and acquiring the necessary logistical support for covert military operations on the island. However, at this stage, it was still not clear that an invasion would take place and contrary to popular belief Eisenhower had neither ordered nor approved of an amphibious assault on Cuba. On the On 28th of January 1961, President Kennedy was briefed and authorized the active departments to continue and to report progress.

Why Did the U.S Want to Invade?

After the success of the Cuban revolution, the U.S recognized Castro’s new government. However, the relationship quickly soured after Castro repeatedly condemned the U.S for its misdeeds in Cuba over the previous 60 years. Before Fidel Castro, the U.S was so overwhelmingly influential in Cuba that the American ambassador was the second most important person in Cuba, sometimes even more important than the President himself. Castro legalised the communist party, nationalised property owned by U.S citizens totalling $1,5 billion and strengthened Cuba's ties to the Soviet Union. This enraged the U.S, which wanted to punish Cuba severely. Their relations worsen even more when Castroaccused most of the U.S. State Department personnel in Havana of being spies and subsequently ordered them to leave the country, to which Eisenhower responded by withdrawing recognition of Castro’s government.

Doomed to Fail and the Aftermath

On paper, the U.S should have dominated Cuba. But as we know, they didn’t. What went wrong? First of all, JFK wanted to have deniability, this came at a cost. This meant that the Cuban exiles were poorly supported and the 1500 of them were easily outmatched by Cuba’s military. 

JFK was in a tough spot if he directly aided the exiles he’d have risked upsetting the Soviet Union and escalating things to a bigger scale. But if he did nothing he’d have looked weak on communism and the Soviet Union would have access to the U.S front yard. 

A big factor in why the invasion failed comes down to the lack of American air support for the exiles which would have certainly tipped some things in their favour. But even when Kennedy knew the invasion was failing he refused to send in the air force and there are two reasons for this. The first one is America’s previous foray into Korea and the current one in Vietnam weren’t exactly proving to be a riveting quick success. The second one is that the CIA told him that even without air support they’d expect the exiles to win since the Cuban people would rise up against Castro. One problem about this though, Castro was quite popular. So the Cuban people were largely at this foreign-backed invasion and Castro’s popularity rose even more after the invasion. 

All of the exiles were either killed or captured. The fiasco led to major shifts in international relations between Cuba, the United States, and the Soviet Union. It set the stage for the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, pushed closer ties between Cuba and the Soviet Union and it solidified Castro's role as a national hero.

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My Opinion and Similarities Today

One similarity that pops into my head is the current invasion of Ukraine by Russia. Why? Because of the similar agendas of Kennedy and Putin. On the 24th of February 2022 Putin invaded Ukraine, what was his justification? That modern, Western-leaning Ukraine was a constant threat and Russia could not feel "safe, develop and exist" and "demilitarise and de-Nazify Ukraine", to protect people subjected to what he called eight years of bullying and genocide by Ukraine's government. "It is not our plan to occupy the Ukrainian territory. We do not intend to impose anything on anyone by force," he insisted. This is the same thing Kennedy wanted.

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For comparison, this is what the CIA wrote: “The purpose of the program outlined herein is to bring about the replacement of the Castro regime with one more devoted to the true interests of the Cuban people and more acceptable to the U.S.” This is the same thing Putin want. Another small similarity is that the underdog is doing better than expected and that both Russia and Ukraine underestimated their enemy.

My opinion on the Bay of Pigs invasion is that the U.S had no right in trying to overthrow the Cuban government, as much as I condemn the invasion of Ukraine. I think that their justifications for invasion are not good enough and that the rest of the world should condemn such actions. If a country invades with no valid justification, actions should be made to hinder and cripple the country’s economy like the actions against Russia.

Gustav Falk was born in Malmö, Sweden in December 2004. He started studying at the vocational school of Universitetsholmen Gymnasium in 2020, wanting to become a plumber. He has always had a keen interest in history, especially military history and political history.

The Liberation of Auschwitz

 

Auschwitz was the largest of the German Nazi concentration camps. There were around 1,3 million people who were deported to Auschwitz between 1940-1945 and 1,1 million people of them died there. The number of victims includes 960,000 Jews (865,000 of whom were gassed on arrival), 74,000 ethnic Poles, 21,000 Roma, 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war, and up to 15,000 other Europeans. Those who were not gassed were murdered via starvation, exhaustion, disease, individual executions, or beatings. Others were killed during medical experiments.

 

 

 

 

 

As the Soviet Red Army closed in on the Reich, the SS sent 60 000 prisoners to death. Red Army soldiers from the 322nd Rifle Division arrived in Auschwitz on the 27th of January 1945 at 15:00. The Soviet soldiers were ready for a fight, but no nazis could be found. About 7,000 prisoners had been left behind, most of whom were seriously ill due to the effects of their imprisonment.When the remaining prisoners saw the Soviet soldiers they started to kiss, cry and hug the soldiers. “They rushed toward us shouting, fell on their knees, kissed the flaps of our overcoats, and threw their arms around our legs,” remembered Georgii Elisavetskii, one of the first Red Army soldiers to step into Auschwitz. Red Army soldiers found 600

corpses, 370,000 men's suits, 837,000 articles of women's clothing, and 7,7 tons of human hair.

 

 

 

The Germans had long known they might have to abandon Auschwitz, but they planned to use it as long as possible, further exploiting the workers whose slave labour they rented to companies that produced chemicals, armaments and other materials. Even as they waited to determine if a mass evacuation was needed, the Germans began to destroy evidence of their crimes. They murdered most of the Jews who had worked in Auschwitz’s gas chambers and crematoria, then destroyed most of the killing sites. The destruction didn’t end there: The Germans ordered prisoners to tear down many buildings and systematically destroyed many of their meticulous records of camp life.

 

The Soviets did not know that the camp existed. They were not supposed to liberate the camp, but when scouts spotted the camp they knew they had found something terrible. “We knew nothing,” Soviet soldier Ivan Martynushkin recalled to the Times of Israel. Then, he saw it: inmates behind barbed wire. "I remember their faces, especially their eyes which betrayed their ordeal,” he told the Times. Even the battle-hardened soldiers were horrified of what they found.

 

The scouts were followed by troops who entered the camp. They were shocked by what they saw there: piles of ash that had once been human bodies. People living in barracks were encrusted with excrement. Emaciated patients who became ill when they ate the food they offered. Red Army General Vasily Petrenko, commander of the 107th Infantry Division, remarked, "I who saw people dying every day was shocked by the Nazis' indescribable hatred toward the inmates who had turned into living skeletons. I read about the Nazis' treatment of Jews in various leaflets, but there was nothing about the Nazis' treatment of women, children, and old men. It was in Auschwitz that I found out about the fate of the Jews.". 

 

 

 

Finally, after five years, the hell was over. In 1947 Rudolf Hess, the SS officer who served as Auschwitz’s commandant for more than four years was hanged. The 27th of January is recognized as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Auschwitz caused 1,1 million dreams to fade away and turned 1,1 million hopes into dust.

 

We ought never forget what happened to show our respect to the victims.

 

 

Gustav Falk

A Level Student, Year II

Universitetsholmen Gymnasie, Malmo, Sweden.

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 How do we know that any of this actually happened? Well at this time of the war, the censorship of letters sent home had not been imposed yet. British and German soldiers wrote of playing football and sharing food and drinks with the men who had been their mortal enemies the day before.
Lieutenant Kurt Zehmisch, a schoolteacher of the 134th Saxons, wrote in his diary.
“The British brought a ball from the trenches, and soon a lively game ensued.
How marvellous, how wonderful, yet how strange it was. The British officers felt the same way about it. And so Christmas, that celebration of love, managed to bring together mortal enemies as friends, for a time”.
These letters stress the fact that the soldiers could not believe their eyes that they were celebrating and chatting with the enemy. But it was not all fun and games, however, as the most common activities in areas observing the Christmas Truce were joint services to bury the dead and to repair and improve the trenches. This implies that the soldiers knew that the peace was not going to last. They were right. 

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The Allied and German High Commands knew nothing about these Christmas Day festivities. When the news reached them, in their secluded chateaux, a safe distance from the front, they did their utmost to put a stop to it. The following days after Christmas the violence began again on the Western Front.

“At 8.30 am I fired three shots in the air and put up a flag with ‘Merry Christmas’ on it, and climbed onto the parapet,” wrote Captain JC Dunn, of the Royal Welch Fusiliers. “The German Captain appeared on the parapet - he put up a sheet with ‘Thank You’ on it. We both bowed and saluted and got down into our respective trenches, and he fired two shots in the air, and the war was on again.”

 

I think that this is a beautiful thing that happened. It makes me both happy and sad at the same time. It makes me happy because this unusual event shows the humanity of the soldiers. That they’re not some programmed killing machines, where their only purpose is to kill. They were human, like the rest of us. But it makes me sad thinking of how many of them actually survived until 1918, to the end of the war. Or the fact that they had no clue of the horrors that would come. The second battle of Ypres and its asphyxiating gas were months away and the seemingly endless, mindless slaughter of Paschendale and Verdun would come in the following years. The explosions from artillery shells, the sight and smell of poison gas, the screaming, the loss of friends and limbs. They were young men with ambitions and passions, but it was unfairly taken from them by a pointless war. This was their last time of peaceful silence before they would experience the horror of  The War to End All Wars.

 

Gustav Falk Year II student.

Universitetsholm Vocational College.

Malmo.

Sweden.