Atom Bomb Two - Kokura
Posted 17 April 2009 - 11:27 PM
Prodigy was very good in working with us, but had very tight political correctness quidelines that chocked us all. Thiw is one of them by Otto Whittington a member of the 31st Infantry on the Philippine Islands, 1940 to 1944.
PRIMARY TARGET - KOKURA
Millard E. Hileman
Just a note to explain a little of the back-ground regarding
the article "Primary Target - Kokura". It was in the notes
that was sent to me by Otto Whittington. Although he did
not write the article, (which was written in 1985) it was
about the period of time that he spent there. His added
comments were that - "Again, I had nine lives, thanks to a
cloudy day"..... If I remember correctly, George Idlett,
had mentioned something similar to this, in one of his early
posts about his luck and a cloudy day, etc.,
The copy that I am working from, is one that has been
xeroxed many times, and shrunk extremely small. With the
"Blind in one eye, and Can't see out of the other" problems
that I have, there have been some typo's, commissions, and
ommisions. Just pick u'm and choose them, I did it. I
blame it all on that new fangled spell checker that Pat sent
me, (heck, in this day and age, you know it can't be my
FAULT). In spite of all the mistakes, hope that you can
read and enjoy.
On August 6th, 1945, a lonely B-29 lazily approached
the city of Hiroshima, unchallenged by an impotent
Japanese air force and almost unnoticed by the inhabitants
of the city. The bomb bay opened, and a tiny speck
separated from the silver belly of the monster. As the
speck increased to the size of an orange, a parachute
opened. It descended to an altitude of 1,500 feet and
then it was as if a giant flash bulb had gone off. A
blinding flash, ranging from a flue-white to a deep orange
color, had in an instant released all of the fantastic
forces of an earthquake, hurricane, and flood combined in
one terrible package.
In that instant, a city of 350,000 had been sixty
percent destroyed. 30,000 people had completely
disappeared, thousands lay mutilated and hopelessly
wounded. The exact toll would never be known. With that
blinding flash, the nuclear age had descended on mankind.
On that day, a city died, with the hope that civilization
Three days later an even more powerful bomb was dropped
on the city of Nagasaki, on Kyushu Island. the result:
30,000 lives lost, and the complete destruction of 18,000
buildings. It could have been much worse. This second
effort was hampered by adverse weather conditions. In
desperation, Nagasaki had been chosen as the alternate
target, and even then the target was missed by five miles.
Amidst all this death and destruction, the people of
Kokura went about their business in the same peaceful,
quiet manner that had been their custom even before the
start of the World War. Kokura, a beautiful, quiet ,
residential city of about 150,000 people lay nestled in
the low, rolling coastal hills on the northern part of
Kyushu Island. In distance, it lay about sixty airline
miles south of Hiroshima, and about the same distance
north of Nagasaki.
For some 1,200 American and Dutch prisoners of war, in
the prison camp located on the outskirts of Kokura, the
morning of August 9th, 1945, was just about like any other
morning during the past year. It was 5 am, and already
the Japanese guards were running through the barracks,
chattering and waving bamboo sticks, waking the men as
they had almost every morning since that hot august day a
little over a year ago. That was the day the Japanese
freighter, "Nishi Maru", had quietly slipped into Moji and
disgorged her human cargo of 1,500 American prisoners of
war who had made the trip up from Manila as "Guests" of
the suns of Nippon.
On that day, all aboard were quickly unloaded, forced
to wait for three hours in the hot sun, and then were
divided into two groups. The first group was marched to
the railroad depot, where they boarded cars for parts
unknown. The second group, of which I happened to be an
unwilling member, was left "sweating it out" under the
relentless rays of the hot August sun for another two hours.
Finally, we were herded from the port area and ordered to
board several waiting street cars. Once under way, we
were informed by a not unfriendly guard that we were to
get off at a town called Kokura. About an hour, and
eighteen miles later, the noise, smelly cars ground to
a stop, and we were pushed from the doorway. We were
quickly lined up, and the never ending ritual of roll
call took place. Roll calls had always been extremely
interesting, and Americans believed them to be a gimmick
invented by the Japanese to instigate legalized confusion
among the POW's.
The first order of business after lining up was to count off.
The counting, of course, to be done in Japanese. As no man
ever stood in the same place twice, his number was never the
same. One slip in counting gave the guard in charge the right
to punish the offender, by any means that his Oriental mind
could devise at the moment, such as a knee to the groin, the
butt of a rifle to the Adam's Apple, a resounding thumb under
the nose, by snapping his finger off his thumb, and numerous
other childish pranks, originated only to humiliate an American
male by someone half his size. We always stayed very much
alert during the counting off ceremony.
We were immediately marched to a stockade, complete with
barbed wire and guard towers. As we were approaching this
structure, two large gates swung open, and we had our first
look at "Camp #3", which was to be our home until the war's
end. The trip from Moji to Kokura had followed the coastline,
and while the crowded cars had somewhat hampered our view,
we were thrilled by the natural beauty of the landscape. All
along the coast of Kyushu, the land rose from the sea in gentle
contours, unmarked by freeways and outdoor advertising, and
remains as green as the hills of Erin. As the streetcars
entered the outskirts of Kokura, we noticed that it was mostly
residential, and very delightfully situated among the low
terraced hills that are so characteristic of Kyushu Island.
Like most Japanese cities in 1944, the war had not actually
reached Kokura. Isolated air raids had taken place in some
areas, more for psychological reasons than anything else,
such as Doolittle's Raid on Tokyo in 1942. As yet the
Americans had not been able to position themselves in such
a way that they could offer a concentrated barrage on the
heart of Japanese heavy industry. Yawata, a sister city of
Kokura, and an industrial giant of 250,000 people had been
victimized by such an attack only two months previous.
However, little damage had been done, either materially or
psychologically, and business went on as usual. The Japanese
were refusing to believe that the Holy Empire would be violated.
Yawata was the heart of Japanese heavy industry on Kyushu, and
the home of the tremendous government-owned Yawata Steel Works,
Sugar and Oil refineries, chemical works, paper and flour mills,
glass factories and various types of metal industries completed
the massive industrial complex.
But for a low range of coastal hills, the two cities
might have been one. They were separated geographically
by only a few miles, but by the standards of culture,
atmosphere and the daily humdrum tensions of industry,
they were separated by centuries. The Yawata Steel Works
would be our source of employment for the ensuing year.
We would spend our working hours in Yawata, retreating at
nightfall to the serene, pleasant atmosphere of Kokura and
nineteenth century Japan. Each day we traveled to the
mill area aboard a small work train that rattled along
at about ten miles per hour. A short distance from
Kokura, the train entered a tunnel approximately one
half mile in length, and then emerged abruptly into
the confines of the vast industrial arena.
The morning of August 9th, 1945, dawned hot and humid.
Even though the sky was free of clouds, the smell and feel
of rain was in the air. As we ate our breakfast of
rice and tea, guards circulated nervously among us,
shouting and jabbing with sticks, and encouraging us
to hurry. They had seemed unduly disturbed the last
two days. This was somewhat puzzling and had caused
us no end of anxiety. They appeared to be extremely
emotional and an air raid alarm or the sound of
approaching aircraft only increased the horror in their eyes.
As we finished our breakfast and started lining up for
work, everyone, somehow sensed that this day would be
different, as if the strains and tensions that had been
building up over the last three years would suddenly be
released. While lining up, occasional glances were cast
skyward, possibly with the hope of catching a glimpse of
an American plane, but mostly in anticipation of clouds
that would open up and cast blessed coolness in the form
of rain on the tired, haggard figures that had once been
men of a proud fighting force.
The past year had been a lucky one for the men in "Camp
No. 3". Even though things had been rough at times, our
good fortunes had been appreciated. Mostly, we thought
that it had been a lucky camp, just as Kokura had been a
lucky city. No bombs had fallen in our immediate area,
yet we had been under constant alert for three months.
There had been a minimum of atrocities. Food had not been
plentiful, but it had been enough to keep body and soul
together. The work was hard and certainly not suited to
our skills, the guards mean, and almost everyday someone
was beaten up, but as of yet no one had been killed in
camp or on the job. Yes, we had been very lucky. We had
discussed it many times, wondering if we would always be
lucky, even in the end. The End? What would be the End?
What would it bring? The Japanese had been talking a lot
about the possibility of an invasion by American troops.
Then what? The Japanese guards had told us, "When the
Americans come, you will die. You will be placed on the
beaches to die by the shells of your own troops".
"COUNT OFF"! The command had caught everyone unaware.
Being preoccupied as we were with thoughts of weather,
what the future had in store, and being thankful for our
good fortunes of the previous year, we had forgotten to
pre-count our positions. Strangely, however, the guards
this morning seemed oblivious of our mistakes. The gates
of the stockade swung open and the march to the waiting
As we sat in the cars waiting for the train to pull
out, once again the mood of the group turned to thoughts
of what this day would bring. Would it rain? Today it
must rain. Why? We could not answer that question.
Looking around, I could see the pained expressions of the
tired, haggard faces, and an occasional pair of pale, thin
lips moving in silent prayer. Perhaps thanking God in
Heaven for the life He had given us, and asking His
protection from whatever this thing was that we felt was
about to happen.
In a few minutes we were shocked back into reality by
the grinding and squealing of the brakes. The train had
emerged from the tunnel and was stopping at it's usual
place in front of the offices of the Yomato Steel Works.
Shortly, we would all line up for another roll call, and
play Japanese Roulette, a term pinned on the never-ending
ritual by some enterprising G.I. who had somehow been able
to maintain a sense of humor even after years of
intimidation by the Japanese. After we were all announced
present and accounted for, we fell into our pre-determined
groups to be taken by armed guards to our own part of the
industrial area. Once again, things were normal.
As we made the silent trek to our part of the mill, we
looked forward to the 10:15 smoke break. We would then
look at the clock and see that it was nearing 5:30 PM, and
we would once again board the sputtering little train for
the short trip back to Kokura, not realizing that for
thousands of people on Kyushu that day, 5:30 would never
come, but for every American POW who saw the sun rise on
Kokura that morning, every one would live to see it set
that night. The "Luck of Kokura" would once again
envelope us in it's misty shroud, and protect us this day
at least, from the birth of an age that would haunt and
harass mankind for years, until he at last either learned
how to live with it or would completely obliterate himself
from the face of the earth. As we made this silent trek,
a B-29 was already airborne, carrying a single bomb,
PRIMARY TARGET - KOKURA.
But once again Kokura was destined to remain untouched,
just as it had in the past, from the horrors of attack by
enemy aircraft, even though it had already been determined
by a select group of men, that on this day in August, it
was to be mutilated and ravaged as no city on earth had
ever been before, by a weapon so horrible that even men
tested by years of war would issue the order with tongue
in cheek, wondering if their duties as soldiers, required
this kind of responsibility.
By 8:30, clouds had already began to roll in from
Tsushima Strait, and we all breathed a little easier. We
were in a deadly, unexplainable grip of the unknown, but
as the sky darkened, tensions eased. There was no
hurrahing, no emotional demonstration of elation. After
all, we had hoped, we had prayed, and we had faith. We
were just inwardly and quietly happy, for some reason we
had all known that this was the way that it had to be. At
this moment an unscheduled plan of fantastic circumstances
was beginning to unfold, and through ignorance, we were
not to question the events that were about to follow.
Just three minutes before our usual mid-morning smoke
break, the first bomb crashed into the area with a
shattering force. If there had been any warning, no one
had heard it amidst the clattering of the air hammers and
the scream of high speed equipment, even the noise of
approaching aircraft had gone unnoticed. As the first
explosion rocked the area, all the hammers stopped.
Switches were cut, stopping all the equipment. In the
silence that followed, we could hear the drone of heavy
bombers. How many or how high, it was impossible to tell.
One of the guards, a heavy bearded fellow, with tears in
his eyes and fear on his face, remarked that they were
B-29's. With that he broke down completely, threw away his
rifle, and with tears streaming down both cheeks, headed
for the water front in utter panic. He had heard about
Hiroshima, we had not. I have wondered many times what
our reactions would have been, had we been as up to date on
the news as he was.
It was only a matter of minutes until the whole area
was complete chaos. Guards, civilian workers, both men
and women, were running in every direction. We dropped
our tools and headed for the open, with only one thought
in mind, the nearest shelter. The clouds by then, were so
low that it was impossible to sight any aircraft, but the
boom of heavy demolition bombs could be heard in the
distance. At that moment there was a tremendous roar of
low-flying planes directly overhead, and a screaming
shower of incendiary bombs began to hit everywhere,
spewing their deadly streams of white phosphorus in all
We noticed one thing with great delight, the Japanese
were in utter panic, something that we had never seen
before. We started to form into groups, with the hope
that organization would be an aid in finding some kind of
shelter. Non-commissioned officers who could not remember
the last time they had issued an order were taking over.
It was soon determined that the only adequate shelter
available would be the tunnel, and as quickly as possible
we all moved in that direction.
It was then that a strange quiet descended over the whole
arena of destruction. The last plane had gone, and the rain
came down. Gently at first, but rain never the less, and the
clouds seemed to press in from every direction. Visibility
decreased by the minute. Wasn't this the way we had wanted
it? But then, hadn't the damage already been done? No one
knew how many had died in the few short minutes the raid had
lasted. Had our hopes, faith, and our prayers been in vain?
The rain continued, and at least for the moment no planes
were in the air. One thing was certain, fire was everywhere,
and the acrid smell of phosphorus, fumes from gasoline and oil,
burning buildings, and even the smell of burning flesh filled
the air. We soon ascertained that every American was accounted
for. Miraculous? Yes, but then this was to be a day of miracles.
Once inside the tunnel, confusion again predominated as close
friends tried to locate one another. Shortly, a feeling of
restfulness began to creep throughout the whole group, and
everyone began to work toward the far end of the tunnel. One
by one, two by two, and finally a mass exodus of haggard
Americans began to emerge from the Kokura end of the tunnel.
In Kokura, as always, there was no war, no ugly smells
or burning buildings. Only the peaceful green countryside
greeted our smoke and horror-filled eyes. There was a
feeling of freedom in each of us as we trudged down the
tracks, a feeling of being released from fear and uncertainty.
In it's place was security and freedom. Freedom from war and
all it's horrors. Kokura was truly another world, a haven of
peace and tranquility. Our war had just ended. The fears and
anxieties of the last hour were gone, and the last act of the
miracle was already beginning to unfold as we heard overhead the
drone of a single airplane.
We were not worried, one plane could not harm us, and anyway we
were now safe within the city of Kokura. The roar of the motors
died out, and once again all was quiet. Moments later we once
again heard the roar of motors, and once again they passed and
all was quiet. No one spoke, for fear, I suppose, of what could
and might happen. Then the plane made a third approach, and once
again it faded into the distance. It did not return again. We
listened, bewildered. The miracle was now complete.
Somewhere above, someone said, "Kokura's socked in, try Nagasaki".
Moments later, this plane approached Nagasaki. Here too was a
cloud cover, but not as dense as the cloud cover over Kokura.
A break in the clouds was sighted, and in desperation, the Hell
of atomic energy was unleashed over this unsuspecting city, sixty
miles south of Kokura. The "Bomb" had been destined for Kokura,
but inclement weather had made it impossible to deliver. It had
rained on Kokura that day. The weather had fooled the experts,
the same experts who were to say that this mission was nothing but
trouble from the start.
ADDENDUM TO "KOKURA"
I was at the same camp as Millard Hillman, Fukuoka Camp #3,
at the outskirts of Kokura on the Suo Sea. This was about equal
distance between Hiroshima on the southern tip of Honshu and
Nagasaki on the western coast of Kyushu. We all have differant
ways of viewing events. The dropping of the two bombs was
the greatest humanitarian acts of the war. The United States,
to avoid taking as many civilian lives as possible, dropped
leaflets ore than a week before the first bomb on Hiroshima
advising all civilians to evacuate ten circled targets as they
would be totally devastated. Of course the type of bomb was not
mentioned. To avoid panic on the part of the civilians, special
police gathered up all leaflets. Thus most civilians were
killed because of the acts of their own officials. Kokura was
circled as target No. 2 because of the large electric
generating plant near our camp, supplying power to one of the
largest steel processing plants in the world at Yawata.
The two bombs brought the Japanese war dogs to the realization
that total destruction of Japan was imminent. For many
months the military had been training women and children
from age of twelve up to fight invaders with bamboo spears.
They were prepared to fight to the death to protect their
homeland if invaded. We were advised that at signs of off-
shore naval bombardment or low level air attacks indicating
imminent invasion, we would be executed. We agreed among
ourselves that when we saw signs of possible invasion, we would
swing our shovels, crow-bars, or any tools handy and try
to fight our way toward the beach. We didn't expect to make
it, but you always try.
The two bombs killed many civilians, but nothing like the
thousands perhaps millions, who would have died in the
bloodiest battle in history in the invasion of Japan
proper. American soldiers would have the tasks of killing
fanatic women and children who fought to protect their
homeland with only bamboo spears. Also, all POW's would have
been executed. The plane from Tinian (this from a speech
made by the pilot at Ft. Worth, Texas, after the war) made a
circle over us but could not drop because of the overcast skies.
Orders were to drop where the target could be observed. The
bomb was dropped with a parachute to detonate a few hundred
feet above the earth for maximum heat effect. Also, to allow the
plane to get clear from the intense radiation. We wondered why a
single plane - when we were used to squadrons of 20 or more
B-29's. I explained it was probably carrying leaflets or
"chafe" to screw up Japanese radar. We later learned that
it continued on to Nagasaki 60 air miles away but it was
socked in. We heard it return and again pass overhead above
the clouds. According to the pilot he advised the bombardier
to select a third target to have enough fuel to return to
base. The bombardier told the pilot he saw clouds breaking
as they approached Nagasaki for the second time. I learned to
never complain about cloudy weather, if that day was a sunny
day over Kokura I would be a cinder on the landscape of
My work detail at the Yawata Steel Mills was (Di Ni
Sako" (known as Number Two Hot Steel Gang). The work we did
in limestone furance room and cleaning gas chambers covered
in hot red glowing soot. Only another POW squatting in a
small three foot doorway, spraying us with a hose kept us from
burning alive. This made Hell look like a church pinic.
- texson66 likes this
Posted 29 August 2010 - 08:10 PM
I was very interested to learn some of the details that I was not aware of and appreciate this posting keeping the memories of these brave men alive. I am not sure how many of these man still survive but would be very interested in learning if there are any still with us who might have known my Father.
Posted 25 December 2010 - 07:31 PM
Posted 04 February 2011 - 08:50 AM
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