The silent killer in WWII-An unexpected enemy.

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Of all the enemies Allied soldiers confronted during World War II, malaria proved to be among the most stubborn. The mosquito-borne disease was a constant scourge for soldiers stationed in the Pacific and Mediterranean theaters. General MacArthur’s retreat to the malarial Philippine peninsula of Bataan in early 1942 led directly to his sickly army’s surrender to the Japanese a few months later. The illness continued to cripple American forces during the ensuing campaigns in Papua New Guinea and Guadalcanal, where it was so rampant that a division commander ordered that no Marine be excused from duty without a temperature of at least 103°F.

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Troops in Southern Europe faced similar problems. During the Seventh Army’s Sicilian campaign from July to September 1943, 21,482 soldiers were admitted to the hospital for malaria; 17,535 were admitted for battle casualties. All in all, malaria accounted for almost a half-million hospital admissions and more than 300 American deaths during the war.

After some fits and starts, the military responded to the malaria outbreak with a full-out assault. The Army’s Medical Department dispatched malaria control units to war zones to clear and clean standing water and bombard malarial areas with recently developed insecticides like DDT and “bug bombs.” With access to quinine cut off by the Japanese conquest of Java, the government sped up trials of the anti-malarial medicine atabrine.

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Between 60 and 65 percent of Soldiers serving in the South Pacific reported having malaria at some point.  Reports indicate that some enlisted men would refuse to take the anti-malaria drug Atabrine because continual use turned the skin a sallow yellow color.  Atabrine was only partially effective to begin with, and Soldiers who stopped use were virtually unprotected.

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Despite side effects such as turning the skin yellow, millions of tablets of the drug were distributed to troops toward the end of the war.

Atabrine was not the only tool the Army used to fight the spread of malaria in the Pacific.  The fact that no one could ensure that all troops would take the medication consistently meant that additional measures needed to be taken to reduce the risk of infection as much as possible.  One of the most important and effective tools the Army had against malaria was the insecticide dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane, more commonly known as DDT.

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Beginning in 1943, the Army began using DDT in a powdered form which was applied directly to soldiers and refugees in Italy, where a typhus epidemic was raging.  It was discovered that this treatment was highly effective against the lice that carried the disease.  The same powder was used in the Pacific as well, but the Army soon realized that DDT could also be useful against malaria.

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The military also warned soldiers about the dangers of the disease with an aggressive propaganda campaign that tried a variety of approaches, including patriotic appeals, racist caricatures, scare tactics, and goofy cartoons (including one drawn by the young Dr. Seuss). The campaign worked: Infection rates fell dramatically, and a healthier fighting force went on to claim victory in Europe and Asia.

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The Armed Forces Radio Service (AFRS) also did its part to help fight malaria among the servicemen in the PTO.  Stations of AFRS’s “Mosquito Network” in the South Pacific constantly reminded soldiers to take their Atabrine, and often injected humor into their broadcasts.  For instance, the station on Guadalcanal ran a program called “The Atabrine Cocktail Hour,” a show that aired each day at 1730 and featured fifteen minutes of “cocktail music” from “exotic” places like the “Fungus Festooned Fern Room” or the “Starlight Roof high atop the Hotel DeGrink in downtown Guadalcanal.”

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The only silver lining to the malaria problem was that the Japanese suffered just as much, if not more, than the Americans.  Estimates suggest that at times some Japanese units were 90% combat ineffective due to a combination of malaria and dysentery.  Fresh American troops, not yet infected, were most effective when used against Japanese forces that had been in the field for months; and the lack of medical provisioning led to even higher casualties among the Japanese.

 

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Japanese Instrument of Surrender-the end of WWII

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On September 2, 1945, representatives from the Japanese government and Allied forces assembled aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay to sign the Japanese Instrument of Surrender, which effectively ended World War II.

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The document was prepared by the U.S. War Department and approved by President Harry S. Truman. Eight short paragraphs formalized the “unconditional surrender to the Allied Powers of the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters and of all Japanese armed forces and all armed forces under Japanese control wherever situated.” The Japanese signatories of the surrender were Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu and General Yoshijiro Umezu, Chief of the Army General Staff, and acting as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces General Douglas MacArthur accepted their surrender.

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The formal ceremony was witnessed by delegates from the other Allied nations, including China, the United Kingdom, the USSR, France, Australia, Canada, the Netherlands and New Zealand.

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The surrender came after almost two years of continuous defeats for the Imperial Japanese Army, compounded by the devastating atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in early August 1945. Word of the Japanese surrender became public on August 14, when President Truman addressed the nation, and August 15 was marked by victory celebrations across the world.

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On September 7, the Japanese Surrender Instruments were presented to President Truman in Washington, DC, and in less than a week later, they were put on public display in the Rotunda of the National Archives, where the the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights reside today.

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Below are some further impressions of that day

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The war in the pacific

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Pacific Warmajor theatre of World War II that covered a large portion of the Pacific Ocean, East Asia, and Southeast Asia, with significant engagements occurring as far south as northern Australia and as far north as the Aleutian Islands.

Rather then going into specifics, because so much has already been written about it and I probably won’t be adding new to it, I have decided to make this more visual by the pictures below. After all a picture paints a thousand words.

A member of a U.S. Marine patrol discovers this Japanese family hiding in a hillside cave, June 21, 1944, on Saipan. The mother, four children and a dog took shelter in the cave from the fierce fighting in the area during the U.S. invasion of the Mariana Islands.

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Two of twelve U.S. A-20 Havoc light bombers on a mission against Kokas, Indonesia in July of 1943. The lower bomber was hit by anti-aircraft fire after dropping its bombs, and plunged into the sea, killing both crew members

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Torpedoed Japanese destroyer Yamakaze, photographed through periscope of USS Nautilus, 25 June 1942. The Yamakaze sank within five minutes of being struck, there were no survivors

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American reconnaissance patrol into the dense jungles of New Guinea, on December 18, 1942. Lt. Philip Winson had lost one of his boots while building a raft and he made a make-shift boot out of part of a ground sheet and straps from a pack

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Crouching low, U.S. Marines sprint across a beach on Tarawa Island to take the Japanese airport on December 2, 1943.

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Sprawled bodies of American soldiers on the beach of Tarawa atoll testify to the ferocity of the battle for this stretch of sand during the U.S. invasion of the Gilbert Islands, in late November 1943. During the 3-day Battle of Tarawa, some 1,000 U.S. Marines died, and another 687 U.S. Navy sailors lost their lives when the USS Liscome Bay was sunk by a Japanese torpedo.

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This photo provided by former Kamikaze pilot Toshio Yoshitake, shows Yoshitake, right, and his fellow pilots, from left, Tetsuya Ueno, Koshiro Hayashi, Naoki Okagami and Takao Oi, as they pose together in front of a Zero fighter plane before taking off from the Imperial Army airstrip in Choshi, just east of Tokyo, on November 8, 1944. None of the 17 other pilots and flight instructors who flew with Yoshitake on that day survived. Yoshitake only survived because an American warplane shot him out of the air, he crash-landed and was rescued by Japanese soldiers.

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Aftermath of the November 25, 1943 kamikaze attack against the USS Essex. Fire-fighters and scattered fragments of the Japanese aircraft cover the flight deck. The plane struck the port edge of the flight deck, landing among planes fueled for takeoff, causing extensive damage, killing 15, and wounding 44

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During a Japanese air raid on Yonton Airfield, Okinawa, Japan on April 28, 1945, the corsairs of the “Hell’s Belles,” Marine Corps Fighter Squadron are silhouetted against the sky by a lacework of anti-aircraft shells.

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Japan Surrenders

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The Jewel Voice Broadcast  was the radio broadcast in which Japanese Emperor Hirohito  read out the Imperial Rescript on the Termination of the War (, announcing to the Japanese people that the Japanese Government had accepted the Potsdam Declaration demanding the unconditional surrender of the Japanese military at the end of World War II. This speech was broadcast at noon Japan Standard Time on August 15, 1945, after the Battle of Okinawa, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the Soviet invasion of Manchuria.

The speech was probably the first time that an Emperor of Japan had spoken (albeit via a phonograph record) to the common people. It was delivered in the formal, Classical Japanese that few ordinary people could easily understand. It made no direct reference to a surrender of Japan, instead stating that the government had been instructed to accept the terms of the Potsdam Declaration fully. This created confusion in the minds of many listeners who were not sure whether Japan had surrendered. The poor audio quality of the radio broadcast, as well as the formal courtly language in which the speech was composed, worsened the confusion. A digitally remastered version of the broadcast was released on 30 June 2015.

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The speech was not broadcast directly, but was replayed from a phonograph recording made in the Tokyo Imperial Palace on either August 13 or 14, 1945. Many elements of the Imperial Japanese Army were extremely opposed to the idea that Hirohito was going to end the war, as they believed that this was dishonourable.

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TO OUR GOOD AND LOYAL SUBJECTS:

After pondering deeply the general trends of the world and the actual conditions obtaining in our empire today, We have decided to effect a settlement of the present situation by resorting to an extraordinary measure.

We have ordered our government to communicate to the governments of the United States, Great Britain, China and the Soviet Union that our empire accepts the provisions of their joint declaration.[6]

To strive for the common prosperity and happiness of all nations as well as the security and well-being of our subjects is the solemn obligation which has been handed down by our imperial ancestors and which lies close to our heart.

Indeed, we declared war on America and Britain out of our sincere desire to ensure Japan’s self-preservation and the stabilization of East Asia, it being far from our thought either to infringe upon the sovereignty of other nations or to embark upon territorial aggrandizement.

But now the war has lasted for nearly four years. Despite the best that has been done by everyone – the gallant fighting of the military and naval forces, the diligence and assiduity of our servants of the state, and the devoted service of our one hundred million people – the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest.

Moreover, the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is, indeed, incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should we continue to fight, not only would it result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization.

Such being the case, how are we to save the millions of our subjects, or to atone ourselves before the hallowed spirits of our imperial ancestors? This is the reason why we have ordered the acceptance of the provisions of the joint declaration of the powers.

We cannot but express the deepest sense of regret to our allied nations of East Asia, who have consistently cooperated with the Empire towards the emancipation of East Asia.

The thought of those officers and men as well as others who have fallen in the fields of battle, those who died at their posts of duty, or those who met with untimely death and all their bereaved families, pains our heart night and day.

The welfare of the wounded and the war-sufferers, and of those who have lost their homes and livelihood, are the objects of our profound solicitude.

The hardships and sufferings to which our nation is to be subjected hereafter will be certainly great. We are keenly aware of the inmost feelings of all of you, our subjects. However, it is according to the dictates of time and fate that We have resolved to pave the way for a grand peace for all the generations to come by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is insufferable.

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Having been able to safeguard and maintain the Kokutai, We are always with you, our good and loyal subjects, relying upon your sincerity and integrity.

Beware most strictly of any outbursts of emotion which may engender needless complications, or any fraternal contention and strife which may create confusion, lead you astray and cause you to lose the confidence of the world.

Let the entire nation continue as one family from generation to generation, ever firm in its faith in the imperishability of its sacred land, and mindful of its heavy burden of responsibility, and of the long road before it.

Unite your total strength, to be devoted to construction for the future. Cultivate the ways of rectitude, foster nobility of spirit, and work with resolution – so that you may enhance the innate glory of the imperial state and keep pace with the progress of the world.

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Dozens of F4U Corsair and F6F Hellcat fighter planes fly in formation over the USS Missouri, while the surrender ceremonies to end World War II take place aboard the U.S. Navy battleship, on September 2, 1945.

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A flag as an apology

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The text of this ‘good luck flag’, which belonged to the Japanese General Shunkichi Ikeda, reads: ’A tiger walks 1,000 miles, but always returns again’. A group of Japanese women from his place of birth embroidered this thousand-stitch saying, meant to bring him luck and prosperity.

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Whenever the General went into battle with his troops from the Japanese Imperial Army, the flag went with him. In early 1945, General Ikeda was stationed in Sorong, a town in New Guinea in the Dutch East Indies.

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His men were attacked by the Allies. Two wounded American pilots were taken prisoner. They were beheaded two days later. Who committed this gruesome act? General Ikeda was ultimately responsible but after the war when he was interrogated in 1946, he could not remember anything about the incident.

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He realized what a hopeless position he was in and gave this flag to his interrogator A. Leijten as a gift. Little is known about what happened to General Ikeda after that; he died in 1948.

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Enola Gay’s ‘Little Boy’

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Little Boy” was the codename for the atomic bomb dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 during World War II by the Boeing B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay, piloted by Colonel Paul W. Tibbets, Jr., commander of the 509th Composite Group of the United States Army Air Forces.

Captain Paul Tibbets in the Enola Gay minutes before takeoff to drop the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, changing the world forever. 1945

It was the first atomic bomb to be used in warfare. The Hiroshima bombing was the second artificial nuclear explosion in history, after the Trinity test, and the first uranium-based detonation. It exploded with an energy of approximately 15 kilotons of TNT (63 TJ). The bomb caused significant destruction to the city of Hiroshima and its occupants.

Little Boy was developed by Lieutenant Commander Francis Birch’s group of Captain William S. Parsons’s Ordnance (O) Division at the Manhattan Project’s Los Alamos Laboratory during World War II.

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Parsons flew on the Hiroshima mission as weaponeer. The Little Boy was a development of the unsuccessful Thin Man nuclear bomb. Like Thin Man, it was a gun-type fission weapon, but derived its explosive power from the nuclear fission of uranium-235. This was accomplished by shooting a hollow cylinder of enriched uranium (the “bullet”) onto a solid cylinder of the same material (the “target”) by means of a charge of nitrocellulose propellant powder. It contained 64 kg (141 lb) of enriched uranium, of which less than a kilogram underwent nuclear fission. Its components were fabricated at three different plants so that no one would have a copy of the complete design.

After the war ended, it was not expected that the inefficient Little Boy design would ever again be required, and many plans and diagrams were destroyed, but by mid-1946 the Hanford Site reactors were suffering badly from the Wigner effect, so six Little Boy assemblies were produced at Sandia Base. The Navy Bureau of Ordnance built another 25 Little Boy assemblies in 1947 for use by the Lockheed P2V Neptune nuclear strike aircraft (which could be launched from, but not land on, the Midway-class aircraft carriers). All the Little Boy units were withdrawn from service by the end of January 1951.

Hiroshima before and after.

 

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At the time of its bombing, Hiroshima was a city of both industrial and military significance. A number of military units were located nearby, the most important of which was the headquarters of Field Marshal Shunroku Hata’s Second General Army, which commanded the defense of all of southern Japan, and was located in Hiroshima Castle. Hata’s command consisted of some 400,000 men, most of whom were on Kyushu where an Allied invasion was correctly anticipated.

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Hiroshima was a minor supply and logistics base for the Japanese military, but it also had large stockpiles of military supplies. The city was also a communications center, a key port for shipping and an assembly area for troops. It was a beehive of war industry, manufacturing parts for planes and boats, for bombs, rifles, and handguns; children were shown how to construct and hurl gasoline bombs and the wheelchair-bound and bedridden were assembling booby traps to be planted in the beaches of Kyushu. A new slogan appeared on the walls of Hiroshima: “FORGET SELF! ALL OUT FOR YOUR COUNTRY!”. It was also the second largest city in Japan after Kyoto that was still undamaged by air raids.

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The center of the city contained several reinforced concrete buildings and lighter structures. Outside the center, the area was congested by a dense collection of small timber-made workshops set among Japanese houses. A few larger industrial plants lay near the outskirts of the city. The houses were constructed of timber with tile roofs, and many of the industrial buildings were also built around timber frames. The city as a whole was highly susceptible to fire damage.

The population of Hiroshima had reached a peak of over 381,000 earlier in the war but prior to the atomic bombing, the population had steadily decreased because of a systematic evacuation ordered by the Japanese government. At the time of the attack, the population was approximately 340,000–350,000.

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On August 6, 1945, a mushroom cloud billows into the sky about one hour after an atomic bomb was dropped by American B-29 bomber, the Enola Gay, detonating above Hiroshima, Japan. Nearly 80,000 people are believed to have been killed immediately, with possibly another 60,000 survivors dying of injuries and radiation exposure by 1950.

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A Japanese woman and her child, casualties in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, lie on a blanket on the floor of a damaged bank building converted into a hospital and located near the center of the devastated town, on October 6, 1945.

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Helen Lotichius-Sokolowski-Stuck between a rock and a hard place.

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After Japan invaded the Dutch East Indies, the Japanese occupier put 100,000 Dutch people in camps. There were separate camps for prisoners of war, for men and boys ages ten years and older and for women and children.

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Helen Lotichius-Sokolowski was sent to the women’s camp Banjoe Biroe 10, near the city of Semarang on the island of Java. This Belorussian woman had married the Dutchman Nout Lotichius in Japan. She spoke Russian, Japanese, Dutch, French, German, English and Malaysian.

To pass the time friends in the camp embroidered signatures, scenes and texts on each other’s clothing, so also on this blouse that belonged to Helen.

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Because she spoke Japanese, she was forced her to work as an interpreter. This placed Helen in an impossible position because the Dutch camp leadership also wanted her to provide information about the Japanese. But she was afraid to help them. This led to both her camp mates and the Japanese no longer trusting her: she was even tortured by the Japanese. When the war ended, because of her language skills, she became the assistant of the British Wing-Commander Tull. He was responsible for safeguarding Allied prisoners of war and internees until the Allies arrived to officially accept the Japanese surrender. Working for him helped restore her self-esteem.

Trinity and Gadget the first atomic bomb

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It is often assumed that “Little Boy” the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima was the first atomic device to be detonated, however truth is “the Gadget” was the 1st atomic bomb.

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Trinity was the code name of the first detonation of a nuclear weapon. It was conducted by the United States Army at 5:29 am on July 16, 1945, as part of the Manhattan Project. The test was conducted in the Jornada del Muerto desert about 35 miles (56 km) southeast of Socorro, New Mexico, on what was then the USAAF Alamogordo Bombing and Gunnery Range (now part of White Sands Missile Range). The only structures originally in the vicinity were the McDonald Ranch House and its ancillary buildings, which scientists used as a laboratory for testing bomb components. A base camp was constructed, and there were 425 people present on the weekend of the test.

The code name “Trinity” was assigned by J. Robert Oppenheimer, the director of the Los Alamos Laboratory, inspired by the poetry of John Donne.

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The test was of an implosion-design plutonium device, informally nicknamed “The Gadget”, of the same design as the Fat Man bomb later detonated over Nagasaki, Japan, on August 9, 1945. The complexity of the design required a major effort from the Los Alamos Laboratory, and concerns about whether it would work led to a decision to conduct the first nuclear test. The test was planned and directed by Kenneth Bainbridge.

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The term “Gadget” was a laboratory euphemism for the bomb, from which the laboratory’s weapon physics division, “G Division”, took its name in August 1944. At that time it did not refer specifically to the Trinity Test device as it had yet to be developed, but once it was, it became the laboratory code name. The Trinity Gadget was officially a Y-1561 device, as was the Fat Man used a few weeks later in the bombing of Nagasaki. The two were very similar, with only minor differences, the most obvious being the absence of fuzing and the external ballistic casing. The bombs were still under development, and small changes continued to be made to the Fat Man design.

The Gadget was an implosion device, which means the plutonium core is surrounded by many small explosives, these compress the plutonium and bring it closer to the point of causing it to go super critical. All those wires are attached to different explosives which burn at different frequencies. The trick of the 20 explosions is that they push the pieces of uranium (or plutonium) together to a ball with an over-critical mass, which explodes. They have to time this extremely accurately, however. Microseconds differences will make the ball lopsided and less effective. Part of the solution is to make each and every cable the same length which is why the Gadget looks like a ball of wires.

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Assembly of the nuclear capsule began on 13 July 1945 at the McDonald Ranch House, where the master bedroom had been turned into a clean room. The polonium-beryllium “Urchin” initiator was assembled, and Louis Slotin placed it inside the two hemispheres of the plutonium core. Cyril Smith then placed the core in the uranium tamper plug, or “slug”. Air gaps were filled with 0.5-mil (0.013 mm) gold foil, and the two halves of the plug were held together with uranium washers and screws which fit smoothly into the domed ends of the plug. The completed capsule was then driven to the base of the tower.

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For the test, the gadget was lifted to the top of a 100-foot (30 m) bomb tower. It was feared by some that the Trinity test might “ignite” the earth’s atmosphere, eliminating all life on the planet, although calculations had determined this was unlikely even for devices “which greatly exceed the bombs now under consideration”. Less wild estimates thought that New Mexico would be incinerated. Calculations showed that the yield of the device would be between zero (if it did not work) or 20 kilotons of TNT. In the aftermath of the test, it appeared to have been a blast equivalent to 18 kilotons of TNT..

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Ground zero after the test

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The USS Indianapolis- When the sinking wasn’t the worst that could happen.

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It was shortly after midnight—on the 30th of July, 1945—when disaster struck.

After delivering Hiroshima-bomb components to Tinian Island, the USS Indianapolis and her crew of 1,196 sailors were sailing west, toward Leyte (in the Philippines).

 

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At 00:14 on 30 July, she was struck on her starboard side by two Type 95 torpedoes, one in the bow and one amidships, from the Japanese submarine I-58, under the command of Mochitsura Hashimoto.

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The explosions caused massive damage. Indianapolis took on a heavy list, and settled by the bow. Twelve minutes later, she rolled completely over, then her stern rose into the air, and she plunged down. Some 300 of the 1,196 crewmen went down with the ship. With few lifeboats and many without life jackets, the remainder of the crew were set adrift.

As the sun rose on July 30, the survivors bobbed in the water. Life rafts were scarce. The living searched for the dead floating in the water and appropriated their lifejackets for survivors who had none. Hoping to keep some semblance of order, survivors began forming groups—some small, some over 300—in the open water. Soon enough they would be staving off exposure, thirst—and sharks.

The animals were drawn by the sound of the explosions, the sinking of the ship and the thrashing and blood in the water. Though many species of shark live in the open water, none is considered as aggressive as the oceanic whitetip. Reports from the Indianapolis survivors indicate that the sharks tended to attack live victims close to the surface, leading historians to believe that most of the shark-related causalities came from oceanic whitetips.

The first night, the sharks focused on the floating dead. But the survivors’ struggles in the water only attracted more and more sharks, which could feel their motions through a biological feature known as a lateral line: receptors along their bodies that pick up changes in pressure and movement from hundreds of yards away. As the sharks turned their attentions toward the living, especially the injured and the bleeding, sailors tried to quarantine themselves away from anyone with an open wound, and when someone died, they would push the body away, hoping to sacrifice the corpse in return for a reprieve from a shark’s jaw. Many survivors were paralyzed with fear, unable even to eat or drink from the meager rations they had salvaged from their ship. One group of survivors made the mistake of opening a can of Spam—but before they could taste it, the scent of the meat drew a swarm of sharks around them. They got rid of their meat rations rather than risk a second swarming.

The sharks fed for days, with no sign of rescue for the men. Navy intelligence had intercepted a message from the Japanese submarine that had torpedoed the Indianapolis describing how it had sunk an American battleship along the Indianapolis’ route, but the message was disregarded as a trick to lure American rescue boats into an ambush. In the meantime, the Indianapolis survivors learned that they had the best odds in a group, and ideally in the center of the group. The men on the margins or, worse, alone, were the most susceptible to the sharks.

As the days passed, many survivors succumbed to heat and thirst, or suffered hallucinations that compelled them to drink the seawater around them—a sentence of death by salt poisoning. Those who so slaked their thirst would slip into madness, foaming at the mouth as their tongues and lips swelled. They often became as great a threat to the survivors as the sharks circling below—many dragged their comrades underwater with them as they died.

 

After 11:00 a.m. on their fourth day in the water, a Navy plane flying overhead spotted the Indianapolis survivors and radioed for help. Within hours, another seaplane, manned by Lieutenant Adrian Marks, returned to the scene and dropped rafts and survival supplies.

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When Marks saw men being attacked by sharks, he disobeyed orders and landed in the infested waters, and then began taxiing his plane to help the wounded and stragglers, who were at the greatest risk. A little after midnight, the USS Doyle arrived on the scene and helped to pull the last survivors from the water. Of the Indianapolis’ original 1,196-man crew, only 317 remained.

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Estimates of the number who died from shark attacks range from a few dozen to almost 150. It’s impossible to be sure. But either way, the ordeal of the Indianapolis survivors remains the worst maritime disaster in U.S. naval history.

The USS Indianapolis, led by Captain Charles McVay, was ordered to head toward Guam by going through the Leyte Gulf. What the U.S. Navy didn’t tell him was the Leyte Gulf at the time was a haven for Japanese submarines, and that ships passing through should do so with extreme caution.

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Lacking the intel that he was in unfriendly waters and exercising his order to perform evasive maneuvers “at his discretion,” McVay told the crew to just head straight forward, and bid them a good night. Unfortunately the Japanese submarine I-58, captained by Mochitsura Hashimoto, noticed the Indianapolis heading straight toward it and immediately sank it.

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McVay survived and World War II ended, but soon thereafter he found himself in a court martial for negligence in the sinking of his ship (probably as a scapegoat to cover for the other Navy guys who completely botched the Indianapolis’ travel instructions and subsequent rescue.

In the trial, the U.S. Navy made the fairly unprecedented step of bringing in Hashimoto as a witness . He was brought in as a witness for the prosecution, expected to talk about the gross incompetence of the American captain, hoping he would seal McVay’s fate. Rather unexpectedly, when Hashimoto took the stand he outright defended McVay, stating that no matter what he had done, the Indianapolis still would have been hit by his torpedoes.

The U.S. Navy still found McVay guilty regardless of what Hashimoto said, demoting him and basically ruining his naval career. Though Admiral Nimitz would wind up promoting McVay back to his old rank soon thereafter, the trial decision still stood — that is, until Hashimoto decided to help McVay out again. Hashimoto sent a letter to Senator John Warner, an action that helped lead to McVay being exonerated.

A treasure with so little worth but yet so much value.

kist-mainThese were once the toys, clothing and medicine of Hugo Steenmeijer, the child of a Dutch father and an Inonesian mother.

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When Japan occupied the Dutch East Indies in 1942, his father was sent to work as a forced labourer on the Burma Railway. The Japanese imprisoned Europeans in internment camps. The 150,000 people native to the country, but with ties to the Dutch like Hugo’s mother, were left to their fate.

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As so-called buitenkampers (those outside the camps) they were extremely vulnerable. Because of their loyalty to the Dutch the Japanese often made their lives miserable and they also felt threatened by groups of native rebels set on Independence. Hugo’s mother struggled to survive in the city of Surabaya with her young son. After the war his father returned. But given Hugo was so frail, he died in 1947.

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Along with their two younger children, the couple left for the Netherlands in 1950. For years and years this box containing Hugo’s belongings was off-limits to everyone. When Hugo’s siblings finally decided to open this small chest after the death of their parents, they found something of Hugo’s long lost life inside.

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