At 11:00am on August 9th, 1945, just a minute before the second atomic bomb in the space of three days was dropped on Japan, a B-29 bomber named The Great Artiste quietly dropped three canisters from the sky. Inside each of the canisters, alongside a shockwave gauge designed by American physicist Luis Alvarez, was an unsigned copy of the following letter. The letter, written by Alvarez and two fellow scientists, was addressed to Japanese nuclear physicist Ryokichi Sagane – a man with whom Alvarez had previously worked at Berkeley – and pleaded with him to inform his ‘leaders’ of the impending ‘total annihilation’ of their cities. The letter reached Sagane a month later after being found 50km from the centre of devastation: Nagasaki.
Alvarez and Sagane met again 4 years later, at which point the letter was finally signed.
(Image: The Fat Man bomb detonating over Nagasaki, via.)
Atomic Bomb Command
To: Prof. R. Sagane
From: Three of your former scientific colleagues during your stay in the United States.
We are sending this as a personal message to urge that you use your influence as a reputable nuclear physicist, to convince the Japanese General Staff of the terrible consequences which will be suffered by your people if you continue in this war.
You have known for several years that an atomic bomb could be built if a nation were willing to pay the enormous cost of preparing the necessary material. Now that you have seen that we have constructed the production plants, there can be no doubt in your mind that all the output of these factories, working 24 hours a day, will be exploded on your homeland.
Within the space of three weeks, we have proof-fired one bomb in the American desert, exploded one in Hiroshima, and fired the third this morning.
We implore you to confirm these facts to your leaders, and to do your utmost to stop the destruction and waste of life which can only result in the total annihilation of all your cities, if continued. As scientists, we deplore the use to which a beautiful discovery has been put, but we can assure you that unless Japan surrenders at once, this rain of atomic bombs will increase manyfold in fury.
To my friend Sagane
With best regards from
Louis W. Alvarez
Dec 22, 1949