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Were the First Atomic Bombs Dropped on Their Intended Targets?

History is filled with near misses. From assassination attempts -- Queen Victoria escaped seven such attempts -- to terrifying standoffs like the Cuban Missile Crisis, cases abound that, had the worst come about, the world would look considerably different today. Perhaps the most devastating example occurred in August 1945, as World War II came to a close, largely due to the American bombing of two Japanese cities: Hiroshima and Nagasaki. However, the terrible attacks didn't go exactly as originally planned. Instead of dropping the nuclear weapon on Nagasaki, U.S. forces were supposed to hit Kokura, a city on the island of Kyushu, but on the morning of August 9th, cloud cover concealed Kokura. The bombing crew circled the city many times, but it eventually became obvious that the sky wasn't going to clear up. Following orders, the crew instead flew 95 miles (153 km) to their backup target: Nagasaki. Over 40,000 people were killed instantly, and one-third of the city was destroyed. After the war, the Japanese took to using the phrase "Kokura's luck" whenever someone escaped peril without even knowing it had existed.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki:

  • Originally, Nagasaki was not among the five cities the United States named as targets of a nuclear attack.

  • The nuclear bomb that was detonated over Hiroshima was codenamed as "Little Boy," whereas "Fat Man" hit Nagasaki.

  • The American firebombing of Tokyo on March 9, 1945, killed nearly as many people as the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

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