The Greatest Moments in Aviation History

Pan Am 747

July 16, 2015

They’ve got a list going over at The Atlantic: What Was the Most Significant Airplane Flight in History?

Flight of the Enola Gay, that’s a heavy one. And from my friend Christine Negroni: “In 1914, Abram Pheil became the very first passenger on the very first passenger flight, a 23-minute trip from St. Petersburg, Florida to Tampa. Like the 12-second flight of the Wright Brothers eleven years earlier, his brief time in the air has had an enormous impact on the world.”

It’s hard to argue with her. But some of the other entries, I don’t know. D.B. Cooper? United 175? Come on. Of course, there is no single correct answer. The idea of lists like these is to draw from different perspectives.

For me, the proper benchmark is less a matter of first, fastest, or highest, than a matter of scope, scale and influence. Thus, my entry would be this one:

The most significant flight of all time was Pan Am’s inaugural of the Boeing 747 in January, 1970. This was the aircraft that introduced the concept of affordable long-haul flying, and changed the face of global air travel more than any other plane in history.

Pan Am 747

Runner up would be the debut of the Douglas DC-3. Rolled out in 1935, the DC-3 wasn’t really the first of anything, but it perfected the evolution of the all-metal passenger transport to become the first truly profitable and mass-produced airliner. So many thousands of DC-3s were built, in civilian and military versions, both in the U.S. and under license abroad, that nobody knows for sure the actual count. As late as the 1960s more than a thousand were still in airline service. Today every passenger plane, from a ten-seater to the 777, bears a debt to this old piston twin.

Much the same way, Boeing’s four-engined 707 revolutionized air travel forever. The 707 was third in jetliner chronology — the star-crossed de Havilland Comet and the Soviet Union’s Tu-104 copycat came before it — but it was faster, with greater range and more seats, taking the Comet’s ill fortune and turning it into gold. At twice the speed of mainstay propliners, it safely crossed oceans and continents in unimaginable time. When, in 1958, Pan Am launched the 707 between New York and Paris (just like Lindbergh), the jet age truly was born. A year later, American Airlines inaugurated transcon 707 nonstops between New York and Los Angeles. The poet Carl Sandburg was on that inaugural voyage. Scheduled westbound flying time in 1959: just under six hours. Scheduled time along that same route, a half century later: just under six hours.

American 707

Boeing’s 747 was the next great leap. The industry’s first-ever widebody, it took the 707’s economies of scale and more or less doubled them, ushering in, like or not, the concept of affordable travel for the masses. Plus, it was a gorgeous plane. Almost fifty years later, the 747 remains in production (for now), and of the vast Boeing inventory, only its 737 has sold more copies.

Pan Am was first again. Its Clipper Victor made the first flight between New York and London on January 21, 1970. Ironically this was the very same 747 destroyed at Tenerife seven years later, in history’s worst aviation disaster. Remarkably, this single aircraft (registration N736PA), was actually involved in two of the most significant flights of all time, one celebratory and the other catastrophic.

Yes, well, sorry to some of you who’d lobby for something flashier. The Concorde, I know, makes a prettier icon than the 707 or a DC-3. But while sexy and expensive, it proved nothing beyond the non-viability of the SST concept. Perhaps when hydrogen replaces kerosene this category will be reborn. Until then, here’s your supersonic whizjet.

 
 

Portions of this story appeared previously in the magazine Salon.
Photo credits: Associated Press, American Airlines

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64 Responses to “The Greatest Moments in Aviation History”
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  1. Mike Clark says:

    You say the 747 made flying affordable, but not very affordable. My very first flight was in a BOAC 747 from London to Hong Kong in 1973. It cost the company about one thousand pounds for the round trip – equal to my salary on graduation in 1968.

    We had four intermediate stops on the way where we could get off the plane and spend time in the terminals. But the most astounding thing was the approach into Kai Tak before the 1975 runway extension. You felt you could touch that chequerboard.

  2. William Staines says:

    Most of what you write is from a North American slant, ask a European and the 3 given examples may well be different. Three aircraft to define this era in aviation is very limiting considering the massive improvements.

    • Patrick says:

      Well, I’m open to other opinions, though the significance of those three planes is going to be almost impossible to beat. The fact that all three were North American — two Boeings and one Douglas, with decades separating them — never really dawned on me till you brought it up, and I’d hardly say that my analysis shows a bias or “slant.” I couldn’t care less which countries developed which planes.

      Concorde was a technological marvel, and a gorgeous aircraft, but it was a commercial dud and it did nothing so far as changing commercial aviation for the masses. The Comet was the first jet, of course, but really it was a prototype, a test plane of sorts. It took the 707 to refine the concept and make jet travel truly safe and practical.

      And so on.

  3. DRLunsford says:

    Did you know that both the 707 and 747 passenger planes were afterthoughts? Of course you did. For the readers – Boeing in the early 50s sought to build a jet tanker for aerial refueling of their B52s and B47s. It was considered that a passenger version might be possible, although there was no mandate for that. Thus the Dash-8, to become the KC-135 tanker and the 707. Later on, the main gig at Boeing in the early 60s was the 2707 SST project, stimulated by President Kennedy with a hundred million dollars of Uncle Sam R&D cash. To complement it, Boeing decided to build a large, front-loading cargo plane. For that the cockpit needed to go up top, and the hump was born. 747, cargo hauler for the ages, and by the way, it made a pretty good passenger platform as well. Afterthoughts!

    -drl

  4. Faylinn says:

    I have always been interested in the history of aviation, but I have honestly never heard of Pan Am before. However, I never realized that finding an affordable long-haul flying option was every a big deal. How exactly did the Boeing 747 make it more affordable than other planes did before 1970?

  5. Phoenix says:

    The last entry on that article is most prescient: 9/11. QED. End of argument.

  6. Alex says:

    Wasn’t N736PA also involved in a notable hijacking incident as well? That frame had quite a history…too bad it wasn’t a happier ending.

    Although I think it falls farther down the list, I’d also note the 737 as well. The model has been a huge success over the years and helped usher in fast, efficient short-haul flying. I was discussing with a friend and fellow aviation fan not long ago that the 737 could very well hit the 100 year service milestone. Think about it…the first 737-100 flew in 1967. If the 737 MAX stays in production into the 2030s (assuming Boeing doesn’t come out with yet another generation of the model), some of those last frames off the line could very well still be flying in 2067.

  7. Mitch says:

    By the time 707’s and DC-8’s went into service in 1958-1959, American’s and United’s DC-7’s, plus TWA’s 1049G Super Constellations had been flying transcon non-stop eastbound since 1954 in about 8 hrs. DC-7C’s and 1649 Starliners had been flying the Atlantic non-stop in both directions since 1956 and ’57 respectively.

    The jets’ biggest improvement was not just speed but also productivity – double or triple the passengers twice as fast and twice as high in much less time with the same flight crew, free of the incessant noise and vibration of ever more complicated and unreliable piston engines and variable pitch props.

    For a summary of the revolution in air travel due to the 707 and DC-8, read “From Props To Jets” by Jon Proctor et al.

    Concorde’s significance is that it showed the airlines what NOT to do – technology alone is not enough. Environmental compatibility and affordable operating costs are also necessary.

    And the 747? Patrick your selection was right on. The 747 is an airplane of grace and beauty, especially the newest but unfortunately much too rare 747-8I and -8F. It is always to be cherished, never to be forgotten, even after the last of these magnificent aircraft has been retired.

  8. Lynne Shapiro says:

    I remember being on the 747 when I was 17 in the early ’70’s.
    The sheer SIZE and ambiance of the whole thing was memorable.
    I remember being able to go into 1st class, and visit the pilots in the cockpit.

    I wanted to be a stewardess right after that SO bad.

    I know, pretty vapid and banal post, but just hadda share.

    Love your site AND your book, Patrick!!!

  9. Keelan says:

    I think the impact and engineering marvel that was concorde is beng downplayed here. That plane was so far ahead of it’s time that it HAS to be included on any list.

  10. bill cartaya says:

    “”the non-viability of the SST concept””

    spoken as a true US citizen……
    just the opposite, my friend.. the Concorde DID prove the viability of the SST concept,
    at the same time the whole wide world could see the envy the dirty play of all US politicians and the US Government—
    basically, you guys forbade the Concorde being used in the US, making up some half-assed excuses ….oh, yes, the environment !
    The environment? like you guys cared…..

  11. cornbear says:

    The 747 also changed the way we send mail, or at least, sent mail. Before the mid 1970’s, international postage was priced by weight so we all wrote letters on flimsy onion-skin paper and tried to write as small as possible to minimize the weight of our letters.

    • Patrick says:

      That’s right, I’d forgotten about those old onionskin air mail envelopes. Remember how the whole envelope would unfold into a sheet of writing paper?

  12. Dan says:

    Your mention of the Concorde brought to mind a brief anecdote I read in Flight International decades ago. Seems a little old lady had a Concorde flight on her bucket list and booked a flight from London to New York. As she boarded, the British captain was there greeting everyone. She looked around the cabin and said to him, dejectedly, “It looks just like a regular airliner!” The captain puffed up and icily replied, “*That*, madam, was the difficult bit!”

  13. Old Rockin' Dave says:

    I would choose Alcock and Brown’s great 1919 flight, the real first nonstop flight across the Atlantic. Eight years before Lindbergh they flew nonstop from Newfoundland to Ireland in a barely modified Vickers Vimy bomber with an open cockpit.
    I wonder if Lindbergh would have made his attempt without knowing it had been proven possible before.
    It has always baffled me that everyone thinks that Lindbergh did it first, or that his achievement was somehow greater. Of course they weren’t adopted by the American publicity machine.

  14. jaime purcell says:

    The B-17 introduced something that all pilots have to before/during/after flying: the checklist.

    http://www.flyaoamedia.com/aoa/what-the-b17-taught-us-about-checklists/

  15. Sir,
    Pl also include the remarkable Concorde plane (speed ~ Mach 2)in your list.
    Kindly include your expert opinion / details about this Engineering wonder in next writeup whenever it is possible.
    I appreciate your excellent article on the subject.
    Regards.
    ZM.
    (Highly motivated Engr.Sadiqabad, Pakistan)

    • Curt Sampson says:

      I don’t think that the Concorde belongs anywhere near this list. Long before the Concorde we had much faster jets, and we also had some as or nearly as efficient. It was also fairly obvious before we even started designing commercial supersonic transports that they would never be anywhere near as efficient as high-speed subsonic flight, and so it was entirely predictable, even absent the environmental issues we have today, that commercial supersonic flight would never be more than a niche market.

      Oh, and did we forget that the the Tupolev Tu-144, the world’s other commercial supersonic passenger aircraft, flew both faster and first?

  16. JoeyH says:

    Good picks. My first airplane flight was on a DC-3. The 707 and 747 were both milestone airliners. Other aircraft to think about would be the Piper Cub, which brought general aviation in reach to many…and the B-52, which was the workhorse of our jet age air force. And though it doesn’t really qualify for the top three, I have a soft spot for the DC-9.

  17. UncleStu says:

    Patrick,

    2 things.

    Thing 1: My choices, in order:
    – The Wright Flyer proved the feasability of making airplanes that could fly and be controlled.

    – DC-3 I love the comment by the South American woman pilot, “Un avion muy noble”. Truly, and it has many accomplishents in war and peace.

    – 747 For all the reasons you mention.(I knew you would pick it.)

    Thing 2:
    The comments on this article have been hijacked with topics unrelated to your article. Too many comment sections around the web have been rendered absolutely unreadable because of this phenomenon.

    I would hate to see this continue on your site, regardless of the subject. I wish I knew an easy solution; I don’t.

    The people who did this owe you, and your readers, an apology.

    Warmest regards

  18. Mark Maslowski says:

    I would nominate May 21, 1927 – Lindberg crosses the Atlantic – as a great moment in aviation. Flying an ocean non-stop proved to the world that aircraft travel was possible and would soon be safe enough for practical commercial purposes.

  19. L Hart says:

    I remember when Northwest Airlines got their first three 747s. They were parked at the end of the runway cause they wouldn’t fit in the existing hangars. The public was encouraged to come see them. I was just a kid but I remember being awestruck at how big they were.

  20. Jim Houghton says:

    Nit-picky, perhaps, but I think the headline should read “Greatest Moments in COMMERCIAL Aviation History.” Maybe that goes without saying because Patrick’s passion is CA, but as printed it’s a much larger category.

  21. Don Larsen says:

    Russians without the apostrophe.

  22. Don Larsen says:

    The nuking of Japan was an oppurtunity to test a new weapon on a people who aren’t white, and to let the Russian’s know that ours os bigger than theirs.

  23. No question, Partrick!
    DC-3, 707 and 747.
    They sure changed me if not the world. Although didn’t get to fly the DC-3 because I was too young.
    Not too sure if introducing the world to the nuclular bomb changed the world for better!

  24. James says:

    Missing from all lists — Concorde/SST. The Industrial Revolution can be measured as a speed revolution, as well. Prior to steam engines, we were restricted to wind as sea and horses on land for speed. Then, we developed rail, flight, and finally, more than 50 years ago, reached a top speed by air of ~600 MPH. Apart from a brief foray with Concorde, we’ve not gone faster, and there is nothing imminent for getting humans around faster.

    • Jeff baldwin says:

      If it were still flying today AND every long haul flight was flown by one of six different types of supersonic planes, then yes Concorde should be on the list. But your argument is really about speed, so then it’d have to be the sr-71. Truly neither plane can account for such wholesale change as some of the others mentioned here.

    • Siegfried says:

      Sorry, but when it comes to impact on the present and future of aviation, the Concorde is essentially a dead end. Today, all commercial flights are subsonic and I am confident to predict it will stay this way for the foreseeable future.

  25. Eric Rush says:

    Patrick,

    Before reading your list of three, I composed my own. DC-3 and B-707 were easy. I had to think about B-727 and B-747 for a moment, but after suppressing my personal bias toward the 727, my Top 3 list is the same as yours.

    Eric

  26. Ben says:

    I would put the debut of the Boeing 737 as one of greatest moments of aviation history. Whatever your opinion is on the 737, it’s hard to underestimate the impact the 737 has had on the global aviation industry being the best selling jet airliner in history. The plane has been in production for almost 50 years and makes up a quarter of the global commercial airline fleet.

    • Patrick says:

      A reasonable argument, but in some ways this is like saying that the debut of McDonald’s was one of the greatest moments in culinary history.

      • Ben says:

        You’re Mcdonalds analogy is perfect for the Boeing 737 when it is the favorite aircraft of choice low cost carriers around the world. A great deal of the 737’s stogy reputation probably stems from this.

      • Vinnie says:

        Pat, I agree with you about the 737. I remember when it came out, it floundered for many years almost to extinction. It was not until the fuel crises that this “smaller” plane became popular against the gas guzzling forerunners: 707, DC-8, DC-9, 727, 747 (case in point, the much cheaper 737 came out before the 747). The 737 was the a sleeper and was already in production, barely, when the fuel crises hit. Again, I had written you before, now that the 757 is out of production at 757-200, and Boeing has run out of the series with the 737-900, they should pick up with the next model (vs. the NEO) be designated 757-300 and up. At this point the 737 is virtually indistinguishable in size from the 757.

  27. KenF says:

    I would rank the DC-3 ahead of the 747, as it was probably the start of practical commercial aviation. And I would also add the 727, which I believe opened up jet travel to smaller airports like Washington National.

    • Patrick says:

      I won’t argue the DC-3, but I’m not sure the 727 was all that significant — cool (and ubiquitous) a plane as it was.

      • Can’t argue with many of the comments – my father flew the DC-3 at the start of his career, for me the 747 was super special as I flew it a couple of months after the inaugural on my first trans-Atlantic trip, Pan Am 100 JFK-LHR – hated to see the spiral staircase go.

        Concorde a great experience but did not “change” aviation much, at least not yet. I do like the 727 as a workhorse smaller airport plane eventually replaced by the 737- I remember a comment early on about the flap extension being a “wing disassembly device”

        Did the 707 beat the DC-8? – thought they came out about the same time-similar impact on aviation as the first true jets

  28. Eirik says:

    Since you already mentioned Enola Gay, Im gonna go out on a limb and say the 4 flights of 9/11. Not a glamorous moment by no means, but the impact it had on aviation…well. We still see the aftermath and its not gonna stop anytime soon.

  29. John O'D says:

    I watched a documentary on the DC-3 a few years ago. It was memorably described by a South American woman pilot as “Un avion muy noble”. In her part of the world, the DC-3 had actually replaced the turboprops that were meant to replace it, because it could fly from rougher airstrips and its engines could be maintained by any good motor mechanic.

  30. Mark R says:

    Enola Gay, definitely.

    Maybe not the most significant for aviation, but for the future of life on Earth, yes.

    And I don’t ever expect hydrogen to replace kerosene. Jet fuel is much more energy dense. I’ve used solar electric panels for almost a quarter century but no longer expect hydrogen to be anything more than the fuel of the future (and always will be).

    • Stephen R. Stapleton says:

      At long last, a fellow sane person on hydrogen. I regularly argue hydrogen as not truly being a practical fuel on message boards all the time and rarely have anyone agree. My first complaint, as an “alternative fuel,” it is a complete failure. Almost universally, hydrogen is a product of the petroleum industry and derived from oil. It puts the “hydro” in “hydrocarbon.” Second, it is very impractical to handle. One either needs to keep it in liquid state, which requires significant energy, or must have storage that is incredibly well sealed, as the stuff leaks from almost everything. Worse, in its gaseous state, it is very explosive, so those little leaks can quickly create big disaster.
      All told, hydrogen is simply impractical as a fuel.
      I am more interested in seeing electrically-powered jets and how batteries are made to handle the stresses and strains of changes in altitude. Even transporting lithium-ion batteries by air is problematic, so I look forward to seeing how the various problems get resolved.

  31. Edward Furey says:

    The Tu-104 was a commercial version of the TU-16 (Badger) medium bomber, not a copy of the Comet. The Soviets may have borrowed the concept from Boeing, whose 307 airliner was a civilian version of the B-17 bomber, with the familiar B-17 tail, wings and engines.

    It’s probably worth noting that the 707 and DC-8 were in their own way jumbo jets, roughly doubling the passenger carrying capacity along with the speed. Where a DC-6 or a Constellation could go from New York to Los Angeles in 14 hours, the jets took, as you note, five to six. From one or maybe one and half transcontinental flights a day,the jets could handle three. With higher passenger load, that meant you’d increased daily capacity by roughly fivefold. Which meant the airlines had far more seats to fill and prices began to come down.

  32. Jeff Latten says:

    I’m just a bit surprised that Pan Am’s Clipper service from La Guardia’s Marine Terminal to London(?) didn’t make your list. Such a gorgeous plane, and wasn’t that actually the first regular trans-Atlantic service?

    • Edward Furey says:

      It was, if you don’t count the zeppelins.

      • Jeff Latten says:

        Right you are, Ed. I wasn’t thinking of them. But the Clipper was the first regular trans-Atlantic airplane service.

    • Old Rockin' Dave says:

      The Pan Am Clipper service was significant in another way. The Boeing 314 Clipper was the inspiration for every large Boeing aircraft ever since. That’s quite a heritage to leave behind.

  33. Ed says:

    Wouldn’t the Wrights’ four flights on December 17, 1903 be up there? Or perhaps the flight on October 5, 1905, when the brothers decided that their airplane was finally a practical vehicle?

  34. Tod says:

    As an Australian the A380 Nancy Bird Walton holds a special place. Although the A380 is ugly as sin, that plane proved how tough it could be and how well Qantas trains its pilots.

  35. Brian S. says:

    What’s to like about the Enola Gay?

    • Patrick says:

      It’s not that you like it, in the way that you’re implying. It’s that you acknowledge its significance. Come on, the word “like” isn’t always so strictly interpreted.

      • Brian S. says:

        Enola Gay’s significance seems to be more military and less aviation. And the military angle is a pretty ugly one. I prefer your other choices.

        P.S. – Have read you column long enough to know you aren’t cheering the bombing of Hiroshima.

        • Nicholas Robinson says:

          Dude

          Please don’t bring 70-year-old politics into this discussion. Believe it or not this issue has been actually discussed before and really, unless you have some incredible, heretofore-unseen insights into how WWII ended, I suggest you get a Scribd subscription and spend the next ten years reading up on things.

          同時に、日本語も習った方がいい。

          • Brian S. says:

            No matter how much I read on Scribd, I will never accept that bombing Hiroshima was in any way acceptable. Discuss it all you want. Dude.

          • Nicholas Robinson says:

            As someone who has visited so-called “Peace Park” in Hiroshima three times and as the father of a half-Japanese kid and as the son of an 8th Air Force B-24 radioman who was being trained to invade Japan in April 1945, I feel somewhat uniquely justified in saying “They started it, and we finished it.”

            Whether or not 75,000 civilians died in carpet bombing by conventional weapons or whether they died in one blinding flash of light is irrelevant. They would all still be dead.

            The only difference is that up to 100,000 American lives were saved by not having to invade Japan.

            There are facts, and there are damned facts. And this happens to be a damned fact.

          • Mark R says:

            August 6, 1945 was not the end of World War II but the start of World War III.

            The Japanese had already been petitioning for surrender, with the caveat that they be able to maintain the Emperor as the ceremonial head of state (which they have to this day).

            Many military leaders, including Eisenhower, admitted that the atomic bombing was not necessary to end the war and the claims that it supposedly saved US troops were not true.

            Ironically, the manufacture of the Bomb’s components in the US killed countless thousands here through radiation exposure. Hanford. Oak Ridge. Uranium mine tailings. Many other places.

            August 6, 1945 was the single largest simultaneous slaughter in human history, a warning to all of us.

          • Brian S. says:

            @Nicholas Robinson: Being the parent of a half Japanese kid or having visited Hiroshima has no bearing on the matter. Just as irrelevant as my being half Japanese and having grown up in Tokyo. Heck, even got expelled from Japanese public school for bonus cred. As Mark R wrote, the war was done. It was a show of military force upon civilians and the springboard into the cold war.

          • Nicholas Robinson says:

            Brian S: I don’t claim any more expertise than anyone else; just saying that I’ve done the homework and am not unfamiliar with Japanese gripes on this matter.

            I’m just saying that the Japanese penchant for playing victim in this matter is way, way out of line.

            I am extremely well aware of all the conflicts facing the people who were assembled at the table that day with Harry S, Truman when discussing the use of the bomb, and whether or not to just “demonstrate it, for God’s sake”—you can trust me, I’ve read almost every conceivable angle on the subject.

            My conclusion is this: DO NOT JUDGE DECISIONS OF THE PAST FROM THE HAPPINESS OF YOUR 21ST-CENTURY COMFY CHAIR.

            These people—ALL OF THEM, including the president of the United States—were facing an indescribable dilemma, which, looking at the options on the face of it now, are actually quite black and white—and NO ONE, contrary to your hindsight observations, took the decision to drop the bombs lightly. There was huge dissent at every level.

            No one questioned whether or not the Japanese still had the power to make war. EVERYONE KNEW THAT THEY DIDN’T. But the militarists in Japan were prepared, up until the very last moments, much like Adolf Hitler, to TAKE THE ENTIRE POPULATION OF JAPAN DOWN WITH THEM in a glorious “ichioku gyokusai.” Now surely, Brian S., since you must speak Japanese, you must understand the insanity of a phrase like that.

            Out of space, see next

          • Steve Jones says:

            Nicholas Robinson: “The only difference is that up to 100,000 American lives were saved by not having to invade Japan.” It should also not escape notice that several hundred thousand Japanese, mostly civilians, would have died in a US land invasion of Japan. And that the conventional bombing, which killed many more than did the horrible Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs, would have continued and contributed to that total.

            Those who lightly call for War should know these things. And the rest of us should call them fanatics and ignore their call. Wouldst that that had happened in Imperial Japan.

        • Nicholas Robinson says:

          (cont.)

          When faced with an enemy like that, what the FUCK would you have done?

          People were crashing planes into ships with happy abandon. Just WHAT WOULD YOU SUGGEST WE HAVE DONE TO STOP THE INSANITY?

          The Japanese (militarists—never think that I’m lumping the entire population into this) had proved THOUSANDS OF TIMES OVER that they had a complete disregard for any human life; the evidence is massive and overwhelming, to the extent that they DIDN’T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT THEIR OWN CIVILIANS.

          Much like Adolf Hitler blaming the German people for their defeat in the war to the maniacs, like Anami Korechika, who famously said “I am convinced that the Americans had only one bomb, after all.”

          What would you propose to do with homicidal maniacs who are hell-bent on sucking everyone alive into their hellhole of suicidal insanity; if given a way to stop the madness in one, giant exclamation point, wouldn’t YOU have taken it?

          Point is: you were not there, you have NO IDEA what the pressures were on the American government, and whether or not the dropping of the bomb was heinous, I would like to sit you aside for a half-day or so and discuss Unit 731 and Nanjing. THEN we will be discussing heinous.

          お前は日本人か?じゃあ、ちょっと歴史の本を読んで下さい。ああ、忘れた、第二次世界大戦層が入っていない。(Are you Japanese? Then please read your history books. Oh, I forgot. WWII is not in your history books.)

          • Mark R says:

            Few countries have history books that acknowledge their own warmongering.

            “I suppose if I had lost the war, I would have been tried as a war criminal. Fortunately, we were on the winning side.”
            — US General Curtis LeMay, commander of the 1945 Tokyo fire bombing operation.

            “It always appeared to us that, atomic bomb or no atomic bomb, the Japanese were already on the verge of collapse.”
            – General Henry H. “Hap” Arnold
            Commanding General of the U.S. Army
            Air Forces Under President Truman

            “I had been conscious of depression and so I voiced to (Sec. Of War Stimson) my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at this very moment, seeking a way to surrender with a minimum loss of ‘face.’ ”
            – General Dwight D. Eisenhower

            “I am absolutely convinced that had we said they could keep the emperor, together with the threat of an atomic bomb, they would have accepted, and we would never have had to drop the bomb.”
            – John McCloy

        • Curt Sampson says:

          ”Enola Gay’s significance seems to be more military and less aviation.”

          This is a really good point, actually, and enough for me to take it off the list. The atomic bomb changed war, but didn’t really change aviation at all, except to have you need a lot less of it to deliver a load of a given devastation.

          “And the military angle is a pretty ugly one.”

          No more (and in some cases less) ugly than any other military angle.

          I was at the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum a couple of years ago, and it made me a bit sick. Not because the bomb was so terrible, but because of the strong implication that somehow the 100,000 people who died in one night in a traditional incendiary bombing raid on Tokyo were somehow far less important than the 60,000 who died in Nagasaki.

          • Curt Sampson says:

            Oh, and as just one more interesting thought: the use of coal power to generate electricity has killed far more people since 1945 than all uses of atomic power of any kind, including both atomic bombs. There’s something to think about when you run your air conditioner or turn on your electric lights.

            (Dealing properly with this would also help us deal properly with aviation risks, too. We should have a lot more people dying in airplanes and a lot fewer in cars, if you think about it. It’s ridiculous that you’re more likely to die on the 20 km taxi ride to the airport than on the 7000 km airplane ride immediately after that.)

            (On the other hand, the utterly unreasonable fear of dying in the air as compared to dying on the ground has done a great deal for the study of the extremes of risk management, so there is that good side to it.)