More than two decades after the Cold War ended, the world's combined inventory of nuclear warheads remains at a very high level: more than 17,000. Of these, some 4,300 warheads are considered operational, of which about 1,800 US and Russian warheads are on high alert, ready for use on short notice.
Despite significant reductions in US, Russian, French and British nuclear forces compared with Cold War levels, all the nuclear weapon states continue to modernize their remaining nuclear forces and appear committed to retaining nuclear weapons for the indefinite future.
The exact number of nuclear weapons in each country's possession is a closely held national secret. Despite this limitation, however, publicly available information and occasional leaks make it possible to make best estimates about the size and composition of the national nuclear weapon stockpiles...
At a meeting of the Cabinet on the afternoon of 7 August the War and Home Ministers made reports on the Hiroshima bombing. The Army, pleading the necessity of awaiting the results of the investigation which had been ordered, obviously intended not to admit the nature of the atomic atack, but to minimize the effect of the bombing. On the 8th I had an audience, in the underground shelter of the Imperial Palace, with the Emperor, whom I informed of the enemy's announcement of the use of an atomic bomb, and related matters, and I said that it was now all the more imperative that we end the war, which we could seize this opportunity to do. The Emperor approved of my view, and warned that since we could no longer continue the struggle, now that a weapon of this devastating power was used against us, we should not let slip the opportunity by engaging in attempts to gain more favorable conditions...
The members of the Supreme Council met at 11:00 A.M. I opened the discussion by saying that the war had become more and more hopeless, and now that it had no future, it was necessary to make peace without the slightest delay. Therefore, I said, the Potsdam Declaration must be complied with, and the conditions for its acceptance should be limited to those only which were absolutely essential for Japan. All members of the Supreme Council already recognized the difficulties in going on with the war; and now, after the employment of the atomic bomb and Russian entry into the war against us, none opposed in principle our acceptance of the declaration. None disagreed, either, that we must insist upon preservation of the national polity as the indispensable condition of acceptance.
The military representatives, however, held out for proposing additional terms--specifically, that occupation of Japan should if possible be avoided or, if inescapable, should be on a small scale and should not include such points as Tokyo; that disarmament should be carried out on our responsibility; and that war criminals should be dealt with by Japan.
In mid-October, in a memorandum to President Truman summarizing conversations with MacArthur and his aides, the special presidential envoy Edwin Locke, Jr. reported that "the American officers now in Tokyo are amazed by the fact that resistance continued as long as it did." Indeed, so great was the economic disarray, he added, that in the opinion of some Americans the atomic bombs, "while seized upon by the Japanese as an excuse for getting out of the war, actually speeded surrender by only a few days."
The incendiary raids against Japan dropped numerous types of bombs in different combinations. But the one to focus on, because of its ubiquity and importance in the Pacific theatre, is the AN-M69 Incendiary Bomb. This was a cluster-based napalm weapon developed by the Standard Oil Company, specifically designed to destroy Japanese civilian houses. The most common cluster assembly (the M19) held 38 individual AN-M69s and would release them 5,000 feet above the target. The wind would catch their parachute streams, moving them apart from one another and orienting them nose-down. (Doing this would also arm the bombs by pulling out their safety plungers.) After impact, the bombs would wait 3 to 5 seconds, seemingly inactive. This is to make sure each one is lying on its side, so that, finally, a stream of burning napalm would be explosively blasted out of the tail: “If unobstructed, the burning fuel charge will travel up to 300 ft horizontally, and when it strikes a surface, the flaming fuel charge smears out producing a mass of flames 6 to 10 ft high.”
Each B-29 could carry 40 clusters in their bomb bays. So that’s 1,520 AN-M69s per plane, and the raids could range from dozens to hundreds of planes. You can do the math, there. Over 40,000 tons of AN-M69s were dropped on Japanese cities during the war. It took about 125 tons per square mile to completely burn out an area of a Japanese city. The AN-M69 had, a once-classified postwar report announced triumphantly, “the highest fire-starting efficiency per cluster, or per ton, or per bomber of any incendiary bomb” developed during the war.
The ritual of using a Norden bombsight at air bases was rigid, (including its use at the McCook Army Air base). The bombsight was kept in a fortified storage building. When it was to be used, it would be brought out of the storage building by a contingent of armed guards. It was kept in a zippered bag until it was put in its place aboard a bomber (B-25, B-17, or B-29), by the plane's bombardier. Returning from a mission, the bombsight was again placed in its zippered bag, removed from the plane under the watch of an armed guard, and deposited back into its storage building, which was also under a constant guard
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