"Bockscar": The Aircraft that Ended WWII

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By August 1945, U.S. Navy submarines and aerial mining by the Army Air Forces severely restricted Japanese shipping. The AAF controlled the skies over Japan and the AAF's B-29 bombing attacks crippled its war industry. A plan for the invasion of Japan had been drawn up; Operation Olympic was scheduled for November 1945. Estimates of Allied casualties ranged from 250,000 to a million with much greater losses to the Japanese. To repel invaders, Japan had a veteran army of some two million ready, an army that had already shown its ferocity and fanaticism in combat. Some 8,000 military aircraft were available that could be used for devastating Kamikaze (suicide) attacks on U.S. ships. The draft had been extended to include men from age 15 to 60 and women from 17 to 45, adding millions of civilians ready to defend their homeland to the death, with sharpened sticks if necessary.

Experience throughout the Pacific war had shown that Japanese combat casualties had run from five to 20 times those suffered by the Allies, particularly in the battles of the Philippines and Okinawa. Whatever the predicted Allied losses, the potential Japanese military and civilian casualties would have been staggering. Whether Japan would have surrendered prior to invasion without the use of the atomic bombs is a question that can never be answered. Using the history and projections available to him, President Harry Truman made the grave decision to use the atomic bomb in an effort to end the war quickly, thus avoiding a costly invasion. 

Click on the following links to learn more about Bockscar and the dropping of the atomic bomb.

The Mission
The Aftermath of the Mission
The Aircraft

Click here to return to the World War II Gallery.

 

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Related Fact Sheets
Boeing B-29 Superfortress
Invasion Plans
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Note: The appearance of hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the National Museum of the USAF, the U.S. Air Force, or the Department of Defense, of the external website, or the information, products or services contained therein.