Nagasaki before and after 1945 bombing. Public domain image.
On August 9, 1945, the B-29 bomber Bockscar dropped a 21 kilotons nuclear bomb on Nagasaki, Japan. It detonated at an altitude of about 550 meters (1,800 feet) over the city and killed an estimated 40,000 people and injured about 25,000 more.
But that wasn’t plan A.
A post-war “Fat Man” model. Public domain image.
Three days earlier, on August 6, the Enola Gay B-29 bomber had dropped the “little boy” bomb on Hiroshima, killing an estimated 90,000-140,000 people. Kokura was the secondary target, if for some reason it had been impossible to nuke Hiroshima.
Hiroshima, in the aftermath of the bombing. Public domain image.
Back to August 9, the Bockscar was flying over Kokura but it was impossible to visually see the target because of clouds and smoke coming from an earlier fire-bombing of the neighboring city of Yahata. So they moved to their secondary target which was Nagasaki.
The people of Kokura avoided nuclear death twice within 3 days, once because the Enola Gay‘s primary target wasn’t cloud-covered, and once because the Bockscar‘s primary target was. People were doing their laundry, going to work, making love while plans were made – and almost carried out – to nuke them.
I wonder how they felt when they later learned about it.
What Kokura looks like today. Credit: T.J.M., Creative Commons license (BY-NC).