Blog 12/05/2023 - MHT "Oppenheimer" Movie Part II

96th Academy Award Wins

Best Picture

Best Director – Christopher Nolan

Best Actor – Cillian Murphy

Best Supporting Actor – Robert Downey Jr.

Best Cinematography

Best Film Editing 

Best Original Score

MHT completes its tenth blog in our Atomic Bomb / Defeat of Imperial Japan / Victory in the Pacific Blog series. MHT’s review of the hit film “Oppenheimer” tried to dig into some of the lesser-known items in the movie. Some controversies surrounding Oppenheimer are Hollywood generated including the angering of Hindus by using a verse of the Bhagavad Gita during a sex scene, the censorship of Florence Pugh's nudity in certain Asian & Middle Eastern countries, even the age gap between Florence Pugh & Cillian Murphy in the movie. However, my favorite is the social media storm that arose due to the identical release dates of “Barbie” & “Oppenheimer” as many theaters across the country screened these polar opposite movies back-to-back.

This offbeat double feature blew up the internet leading to the rise of humorous Barbieheimer Memes on social media using their catch phrases “She’s Everything. He’s Death, the Destroyer of Worlds. She’s Mattel. He’s the Manhattan Project!” [My favorite is the meme of the 1975 Pink Floyd Album Cover “Wish You Were Here” from the design group Hipgnosis where two men shake hands on the Warner Brothers (Burbank) Studio Lot but one is on fire so substituting Barbie for one & Oppenheimer for the guy on fire is extremely clever!]

I had a personal interest in the birth of nuclear weapons as an Artillery Officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. I was involved in Artillery Fired Atomic Projectiles (AFAP) with both 10th & 12th Marine Regiments. To work with AFAPs you had to be part of the Personnel Reliability Program (PRP) that is a Department of Defense security, medical and psychological evaluation program, designed to permit only the most trustworthy individuals to have access to our nuclear weapons. The acronym NTPI (Naval Technical Proficiency Inspection) struck dread in artillery batteries when Navy inspectors arrived to certify batteries were capable of guarding, storage, handling, and delivery of nuclear projectiles. In 5th Battalion, 10th Marines we worked with the W33 AFAP (also known as the Mark 33, M422, T317 & M423 trainer) designed for use in the 8-inch (203 mm) M110 self-propelled howitzer. I also was part of the program in Okinawa with 3rd Battalion, 12th Marines with the W48 AFAP (also known as M48, XM454 & M455 trainer) fired from any standard 155-millimeter at that time the M114 towed howitzer (later the M198) or M109 self-propelled howitzer. All these tactical nuclear weapons were retired in 1992.

I was certified to arm AFAPs at the “Deak Parsons Center” for Nuclear Weapons Training at the USN Base Norfolk. William “Deak” Parsons was an American naval officer & graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy who after working on the Variable Time (VT) Fuses became the Head of the Ordnance Division for the Manhattan Project, “weaponizing” the bomb & addressing the operational problems associated with its combat delivery. Oppenheimer turned over the responsibilities for ordnance matters to Parsons so he could focus on the nuclear physics requirements. As theories & designs for the gun-type weapon developed, scientists needed a firing range to run tests in the field.

A nearby ranch, known as Anchor Ranch, served this purpose after the War Department purchased the land. It included an assortment of typical ranch buildings, but also included a large, flat stretch of land perfect for gun emplacements. The firing range gave researchers a chance to study projectile movement, the effects of impact, interior ballistics, and more. Using a large periscope, researchers had a full view of the test range during shots.

Parson’s work at Los Alamos with Oppenheimer was important but he is best known for going to Tinian with the “Little Boy” & being the weaponeer on the Enola Gay, the aircraft which dropped the bomb on Hiroshima. To avoid the possibility of a nuclear explosion if the aircraft crashed on its Tinian takeoff, he decided to arm the bomb in flight. While the B-29 was enroute to Hiroshima, Parsons climbed into the cramped bomb bay to insert the powder charge & detonator. He was awarded the Silver Star for his part in the mission.

The Parsons & Oppenheimer’s lived in adjacent houses on “Bathtub Row” (so called because they were the largest houses in Los Alamos & the only ones on the mesa with bathtubs.) The two families became close & they stayed in touch after the war & occasionally vacationed together. Peggy Bowditch nee Parsons was a young girl when she & her family moved to Los Alamos in 1943. Four years after her father only 52 when he had a fatal heart attack in 1953 after learning that Oppenheimer would be stripped of his security clearance for trumped-up security reasons. She was working at Harvard in 1957 when “Oppie” came to lecture. He was mobbed afterwards, but her mother had said she had to go speak to him. He was surrounded by the top physicists making up the inner circle & concentric circles of lesser physicists. She stood outside but now the spitting image of her mother; Oppie saw her & said “Is it Peggy?” The crowd parted & they had a brisk conversation about some Los Alamos people. As she recalled, (the) “physics students followed me out of the lecture. ‘Who is this woman?’ So, that was fun. And, I could call my mother and tell her that I had spoken to Oppie. And, he was just, well, he was God to the physicists & to the people who knew him just casually, like me.”

“Oppenheimer” Director Christopher Nolan has received criticism for not showing the actual Hiroshima & Nagasaki bombings and for overlooking the history and impact on Americans at Los Alamos within the wind contamination area. The man himself has taken online criticism from some undereducated posters, “Oppenheimer is a well-made biopic of a man, or to be more accurate - a ghoul. A man who wilfully, (sic) along with his Los Alamos buddies, messed round with plutonium, mined from thousands of uranium mines [The Shinkolobwe mine in the Katanga province of the Belgian Congo provided two-thirds (66%) of the Manhattan Project's uranium from an extraordinarily rich pitchblende deposit…Virtually all of this had been mined & was above ground at WWII’s start.] to build a weapon that would annihilate the civilian populations of two cities [At Hiroshima, the U.S. estimated that out of a pre-raid population of 255,000 people, 66,000 had died, & 69,000 were injured. At Nagasaki, out of a pre-raid population of 195,000, 39,000 had died, & 25,000 were injured.] and possibly one day humanity.

You can read about the use of new Boeing B-29 Superfortress against Japan including the secret modifications at the Glenn Martin Aircraft Factory Building at Offutt Field near Omaha, Nebraska that was responsible for the construction of the Phase III Silverplate B-29 for the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF):
“The World’s Most Important Bomber”

Major General Curtis Lemay, USAAF, Commander XXI Bomber Command was tasked with bombing Japan which had seen little bombing since 1942’s 16-plane Doolittle B-25 Raid. He had three great advantages, the first was the successful Northern Marianas Campaign where the SEABEES, U.S. Naval Construction Battalions delivered the USAAF huge multiple runway airfields on Guam, Saipan & Tinian that were within reach of his second. The B-29 Superfortress had the range to reach Japan from the Marianas with huge bomb payloads & last unlike Germany the anti-aircraft defenses were far, far weaker allowing the XXI Bomber Command to hit every Japanese city with virtual impunity.

Saipan – Bombing of Tokyo -

Battle of Saipan Facts & Fiction -

Lemay authorized the “Warning of Impending Bombing” leaflets that were produced by the Office of War Information in 1945, headquartered on Saipan warning of strategic bombing. An after-action report by the Central Intelligence Agency’s “Studies in Intelligence” reports that over 63 million leaflets were dropped on 33 Japanese cities, excluding Hiroshima & Nagasaki, prior to the B-29 nuclear bombing raids. Their purpose was to encourage citizens to evacuate cities to minimize civilian deaths. Again, there were no leaflets dropped at Pearl. [Note: 129,000+ Americans have been killed by Fentanyl in the first two years of the Biden Administration’s open borders policy also lessens the impact of the combined 105,000 lost in the two Japanese cities & will be worse if the CDC will release the 2022 & 2023 numbers (doubtful after the huge increases since 2019. I did read how Fentanyl deaths had declined in Hawaii…well they are Islands without borders!)]

 Lemay’s Meetinghouse Firestorm: On the night of 9–10 March 1945, 334 B-29s took off from the three Marianas islands to raid with 279 of them dropping 1,665 tons of bombs on Tokyo. The bombs were mostly the 500-pound E-46 cluster bomb which released 38 napalm-carrying M-69 incendiary bomblets. The M-69s could punch through Tokyo’s thin roofing material or hit the ground, throwing out a jet of flaming napalm globules that were deadly to Japan’s prominence of paper & wood structures. Far fewer M-47 incendiary bombs were also dropped, these 100-pound jelled-gasoline & white phosphorus ignited a massive fire wave on impact. The first B-29s to arrive dropped incendiary bombs in a large “X” pattern targeting Tokyo's densely populated working-class district while later aircraft simply dropped their bombloads near the flaming “X” that marked the spot. The fires caused by the bombs were whipped into a firestorm by wind gusts between 17 & 28 mph. In one example, the Futaba School was known for its massive swimming pool & had brick rather than wood buildings, so people flocked to the school hoping to get to the pool or take refuge in the school from the firestorm. The next morning, thousands of corpses were found in the school, not burned, but baked & roasted to death by the heat. Those who found refuge in the pool that had been filled to the top with water were no better off. The next day, over a thousand bodies were counted in the bone-dry pool as the water had steamed away boiling alive the people who were attempting to save themselves from the unrelenting heat.

Operation Meetinghouse’s firebombing of Tokyo destroyed 16 square miles of Tokyo & between 80,000 & 130,000 people perished in the flames while leaving one million homeless. A grand total of 282 of the 334 B-29s launched for "Meetinghouse" made it to the target, 27 were lost due to being shot down by Japanese air defenses, mechanical failure, or being caught in turbulence caused by the fires. Lemay had sent the single deadliest WWII air raid against Tokyo, greater than Dresden, Hamburg, Hiroshima, or Nagasaki as single events.

 Despite a Rotten Tomato rating of 93% positive from critics & 91% from the audience the movie reviews from the ultra-leftist media were less flattering as “The New Yorker” described it as less informative than a “Wikipedia article.” Worse yet, the “Washington Post” of course banged their shrill gender politics drum, “Female scientists who worked on A-bomb mostly absent from ‘Oppenheimer’” & my favorite from a racist Japanese American Californian “The film is disappointing in its blazing whiteness that blinds us to the truth of the world that J. Robert Oppenheimer worked in and, without the complications of racist reactions during a time of heightened hatred, the audience is misled to the historic conclusions.” The prime newspaper of the Land of Nuts, the LA Times featured Brandon Shimoda, a Japanese American poet, writer & professor of…maybe identity politics(?), “I have spoken to many people, especially in the Japanese American community, who have expressed tremendous discomfort in the mere idea of the movie, and grave uncertainty, at least, about whether or not they would put themselves through it,” Shimoda says. “In that way, the movie, even before it came out, was already doing the work of re-traumatization. White audiences have not, for the most part, had to make these kinds of calculations. They instead have the luxury of being entertained.” Now I feel the LA Times will blame me for cultural appropriation for enjoying Godzilla movies.

Japanese filmmakers have been putting the atomic bombing on film for decades from Kaneto Shindo’s “Children of Hiroshima” (1952), Alain Resnais’ French New Wave standard “Hiroshima Mon Amour” (1959) to Shohei Imamura’s “Black Rain” (1989) are just three well-known examples of their exploration. However, it took the steady hand of Director Clint Eastwood to make a pair of movies about the Battle of Iwo Jima with “Flags of Our Fathers” (about the iconic flag raising on Mt. Suribachi) & “Letters from Iwo Jima” (the perspective of the 21,000 Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) & Navy (IJN) soldiers & sailors expected to die on the island but to take as many U.S. Marines with them as possible.) “Letters” was well received in Japan, "Iwo Jima was a defeat. It was miserable & no Japanese movie company wanted to try to show it," said Eichi Tsukada, a 71-year-old retiree whose father died in WWII. After its defeat, Japan is still trying to assign blame for the Pacific. "As a person in the Japanese movie industry, I have the slightly embarrassing sensation that we should have turned our attention to the Battle of Iwo Jima and filmed something on the theme earlier," one of the “Letters” star Hiroshi Watanabe noted.

The loss of 6,800 Marines & sailors Killed in Action (KIA) on Iwo Jima & 12,098 soldiers, sailors & Marines KIA on Okinawa (including almost 5,000 sailors lost on the 36 ships sunk & 200 damaged by the 800+ IJA & IJN kamikaze suicide aircrafts) convinced U.S. planners that Operation Downfall (operational attack on mainland Japan) would be terribly costly with an estimate of hundreds of thousands of U.S. servicemen killed & wounded. The 36 U.S. Army, 6 Marine & 3 Commonwealth Divisions 2,000 naval ships & 1,600 heavy bombers with supporting fighter aircraft.

By the summer of 1945, despite the XXI Bomber Command devastating strategic bombing campaign, Japan still had four million men under arms, but Japan’s military leaders were not going to quit. Despite the fact that their military industrial complex was in a shambles the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters (IGHQ) were going to fight on to not lose "face." Their honor was far more important than hundreds and hundreds of thousands of Japanese lives. The cowed populace concurred, in silence, without protest to be sacrificed as part of the Kokumin Giyū Sentōtai (Volunteer Fighting Corps) units would be conscripted from all male civilians between the ages of 15 to 60 years & unmarried females of 17 to 40 years from every village. These under armed & trained civilians would be a "second defense line" behind the First & Second General Armies to sustain a war of attrition against invading Allied forces. Operation Ketsu-Go was the final decisive battles of the Japanese empire. The Second General Army was to defend the western portion of Honshu & the islands of Shikoku & Kyushu but picked Hiroshima for their Headquarters. The Japanese slogan in the summer of 1945. – “The sooner the Americans come, the better...One hundred million die proudly.”

Millions of American & Japanese lives were saved by the two bombs that finally convinced the Emperor of Japan that following his military cabinet’s plan to defend every inch of the mainland with a plan for every civilian to die killing Allied invaders. Even when he rebuffed the military cabal the Emperor Hirohito had to withstand a coup to end the war.

 VJ Day Almost Wasn’t -

“‘Oppenheimer’ reinforces, in the guise of false nuance, the tired and ultimately distracting debate of whether or not the mass murder and the incineration of over 100,000 civilians in an instant was justified.” OK, the pusillanimous wokester who wrote that will always underplay the motives & bomb's role in ending the Pacific War, I’m sure if he was writing back in LA in 1941, he would have blamed the U.S.A. for forcing Japan to attack Pearl Harbor & would immediately call for a cease fire & lobby for the Governor of California to go to Tokyo to kowtow to the Emperor of Japan! If he didn’t believe they would fought & died for years he needs to read this:

WWII Japanese Holdouts -

The dropping of the atomic bombs ended the war and the need for an invasion of the Japanese home islands. If the invasion had proceeded, it would have been costly. While there is no way to accurately predict casualties, there is no doubt that the Japanese would have suffered immense losses, both military and civilian, dwarfing those inflicted by the atomic bombs. And American casualties certainly would have been in the hundreds of thousands.

I apologize for being too strident in blessing all the people who worked on the Manhattan Project as well as the 509th Composite Groups B-29 air crews that delivered the atomic bombs. I’m glad to write that as the possibility it wouldn’t have been written if 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st marine Division, III Amphibious Corps under Major General Keller E. Rockey would have landed on the Kanto Plain with 1st Lieutenant William. L. McCulloch, USMC leading his rifle company onto the rocky beaches below Mount Fuji.

To leave this blog on a lighter tone here is something for those who were angry with Nolan for no mushroom clouds from “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” (2008):