Aug. 1, 1945
Food shortages in California reached a crisis point. Restaurants in Auburn, in the foothills east of Sacramento, and in Colusa County north of Sacramento closed. The nearest cup of coffee was 40 miles to the north and 10 miles to the west.
Ration point shortages prevented items like coffee and meat from showing up on the menu. In San Luis Obispo, restaurant owners blamed the shortages on bureaucratic bungling.
Demand was going up as troops shifted to the West Coast and crews working harvest season were in full swing.
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In San Luis Obispo, Charles Simon, owner of Austin's restaurant, said they had added a number of new practically meatless dishes but used over two-thirds of his points only halfway through the ration period.
Housing was in short supply as well. With bases expanding, the Army was telling wives and families of soldiers not to follow reassigned troops to San Luis Obispo County.
A local committee suggested installing cots in various halls, churches and public buildings. Between 80 and 90 individual rooms had been found after a public appeal, but there were no apartments or houses available.
The biggest B-29 fleet to hit Japan, 800 bombers strong, dropped 6,000 tons of incendiaries and high explosives.
The cities of Hachoji, Toyama, Nagoka and Mito were warned before the strike.
By comparison the largest U.S. raid over Europe was a little over half that amount. The attack was 2,000 tons larger than the previous record dropped on Japan.
Five days later, from the island of Tinian, a single airplane, with a single bomb, would carry more than three times the destructive force of 800 bombers.
Aug. 6, 1945
When the secret was revealed, it was so big there was no way to immediately put it into context.
How could a lump of uranium, about the size of a baseball, instantly cause the death of 80,000 men, women and children?
By the end of the year it was estimated as many as 150,000 or more had died as radiation took a further toll.
An incendiary raid on Tokyo — March 9, 1945 — killed between 80,000 and 130,000 and destroyed almost 16 square miles, but that had been the result of hundreds of bombers.
Hiroshima had been spared from similar destructive raids.
The port city was preserved so U.S. planners could accurately map the destructive force of the first hostile detonation of a nuclear bomb.
A few on the ground cheered when a parachute fell from the enemy B-29 bomber, thinking it was in distress.
That thought ended after 8 a.m. when a brilliant magnesium-like flash devoured shadows the morning of Aug. 6, 1945.
In that flash, warfare and the world changed forever.
The full horror of nuclear warfare would be learned over the next few months and years.
The Atomic Age had arrived in secret a few weeks earlier 120 miles south of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Trinity was detonated at Alamogordo on July 16, 1945. British and American scientists had created a weapon so powerful that was difficult for laymen to understand.
Within a decade, flashes from atmospheric atomic testing in Nevada would be visible over the horizon in San Luis Obispo.
To place the atomic bomb in the context of the time, America and the war-ravaged Great Britain were the only nations with the resources to carry the fight to Japan. Russia was still neutral, even as the Potsdam conference of the Big Three leaders was closing. China, had been unable to drive the Japanese off the mainland and soon would be involved in civil war between the communists and nationalists.
An advertisement on Page 8 of the Telegram-Tribune included the view of Asia veteran General Joseph Stilwell. It said that Japan still controlled Manchuria, twice as big as Germany and rich in coal, magnesite and iron.
The region also could produce corn, soy beans and rice. The advertisement said it was paid for by Lagomarsino's and written by armed forces.
The ad argued that the Japanese would not surrender whole armies like the Germans. The expectation was that a long invasion and ground war was still ahead.
The atomic bomb was so poorly understood that it was the second story on the Telegram-Tribune front page, under the headline "New Super-Explosive Hits Japan."
The lead story was the death of senior California U.S. Sen. Hiram Johnson. He had successfully fought the United States joining the League of Nations in the wake of World War I.
He had been Theodore Roosevelt's running mate in 1912 during Roosevelt's ill-fated presidential bid with the Progressive or Bull Moose party.
The progressive had endorsed popular election of U.S. senators and regulated the Southern Pacific Railroad.
Johnson was credited with saying: "The first casualty when war comes is truth."
He would be also active pushing through restrictive anti-Asian immigration law.
Isolationism was no longer a viable political path Aug. 6, 1945, and the Atomic Age had begun.
Hiram Johnson's impact could still be felt in 2003, when he responsible — in part — for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's election.
The ability to recall state officials was one of the laws Johnson championed.