Hiroshima Day: Why were the atom bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki called Little Boy and Fat Man?

It is 75 years since the first atomic bomb was dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6, 1945. Thousands of people lost their lives. Those who survived were the victims of genetic mutation caused by the radioactivity, and their offsprings too were badly affected.

And yet, amid the death and destruction that the bombs created, one still ponders at the names they were given by the United States. Little Boy and Fat Man appear to be innocent and innocuous titles for something that caused so much calamity, prompting the world to be more cautious nuclear weapons. Today, while several nations, India included, have nuclear weapons, nobody has dropped a bomb on another nation, despite several threats made by world leaders to one another (think Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un).

Incidentally, in 1945, the United States spent $2 billion to develop the two bombs. US President Harry Truman at the time is reported to have said, “We have spent two billion dollars on the greatest scientific gamble in history. And we have won.”

According to the archives on the bombs, physicist Robert Serber named the bombs based on their shapes. The one that hit Hiroshima was originally called ‘Thin Man’ because it was a long, thin device and its name came from the Thin Man detective novels written by Dashiell Hammett. Little Boy was a modified version of Thin Man. The difference between Thin Man and Little Boy was in its designated materials. By design, Little Boy worked with uranium isotopes, and Thin Man used plutonium.

The "Fat Man" was round and fat so it was named after Kasper Gutman, a rotund character in Hammett's 1930 novel The Maltese Falcon, played by Sydney Greenstreet in the 1941 film version.

The two bombs hit Niroshima and Nagasaki on August 6, 1945 as the United States response to Japan bombing Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. Nearly 1,00,000 people – mostly civilians were killed.

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