Former Steel Worker Tells How He Saved His City The Day Nagasaki Was Bombed

| by Jared Keever

As the month of August approaches so too do the 69th anniversaries of the atomic blasts that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki and ended World War II. 

Nagasaki was destroyed three days after Hiroshima on August 9, 1945. But were it not for a cloud obscuring the view of the city of Kokura on that day, Nagasaki might have been spared. 

Historians have long known that Nagasaki was not the primary target on that fateful August day. 

On the 50th anniversary of the blast, Nicholas Kristof wrote in The New York Times that the B-29 carrying the plutonium bomb destined for Nagasaki circled Kokura three times searching for an opportunity to drop its deadly payload.

Clouds, he wrote, hid the city’s arms factory, the intended target. With orders to release the bomb only if the arms factory could be positively identified, the pilot decided to proceed to the second target, Nagasaki.

But Satoru Miyashiro, who lived in Kokura at the time, has known something that few historians knew, until now. Those clouds that obscured the bomber’s view were not clouds at all, but smoke.

Miyashiro recently told the Mainichi Shimbun that he and two other other employees of the city’s Yawata Steel Works worked diligently that day to create a smoke screen over the city to protect it from the deadly bombing. 

He recalled how two days earlier he and his colleagues heard radio reports that Hiroshima had been destroyed by a “new kind of bomb.” Because he knew Kokura was home to arms factories, he feared his city would be the next target.

On August 9, as air-raid sirens began going off throughout the city, Miyashiro said his supervisor ordered him and two other workers to fire up the steel mill’s incinerator. They then dumped in oil barrels filled with coal tar, a by-product of steel-making.

Once the man, now 85, confirmed that the sky was filling with black smoke, he said he retreated to a bomb shelter and hoped the plane would pass the city by.

Miyashiro’s story is rarely told in Japan out of respect for the estimated 100,000 people who were eventually in killed in Nagasaki.

“I clearly remember the sky that day,” one man recalled in Kristof’s story. “Sometimes when I look up now and see some clouds, I think it's the same as Aug. 9. It was a light gray, thick cloud, but not a rain cloud. From the ground I could see blue sky in places.”

Sources: The New York Times, Mainichi Shimbun

Photo Source: Wikipedia