The Third Bomb: the inspiration
Growing up, I heard stories about my great uncle's escape from a POW camp during WWII. The courage and nerve it must have taken to do that always filled me with a sense of awe.
Years later, at The University of Texas at Austin, I wrote an honor's thesis on why the Japanese went to war. It was fascinating, and horrifying, to learn how the military had brain washed the Japanese people into believing in a completely distorted version of bushido, the warrior's code. Millions died because of it.
That's why Col. Paul Tibbetts, the Flight Commander of the 'Enola Gay', the B29 that dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, never regretted what he had done. It saved more lives than it took by ending the war quickly, he said.
I interviewed American WWII veterans who had crewed on B29s shot down over Japan. The lucky few who survived served the rest of the war as prisoners of the Japanese and suffered unspeakable horrors. Many also believed, in the context of time and place in history, dropping the atomic bombs was the right thing to do.
That got me to thinking...
Research of historical records showed me that there were plans to drop a third atomic bomb on Japan. The parts were somewhere between California and Hawaii when the Japanese emperor announced their surrender. Then the fate of that bomb sort of evaporated into history.
Now my imagination got fired up. What did/ could have happened to that third atomic bomb?
I didn't want to alter the course of history, though. This wasn't about creating historical fiction where Hitler or Tojo won the war (although 'Man in the High Castle' is proving that there IS a market for this sort of thing). I wanted to create a 'secret history'. A story that could plausibly have happened, and if things had gone differently in the end, THEN it could have altered the world as we know it today. It's the same approach Tom Clancy took in his wildly popular book 'The Hunt for Red October', which was subsequently made into a great movie (Sean Connorey's Russian accent not withstanding).
Being a World War Two history and movie buff, I reasoned that a large percentage of WWII films are filled with fictional stories set in non-fictional times. For instance, movies like Saving Private Ryan or Fury - those were set during real events, but the plots within them were almost entirely fictional. There was never a mission to save a Private Ryan. Brad Pit's tank crew in Fury never existed.
So I though, what if there was a third atomic bomb mission and something went horribly wrong? What if the commander of that mission was faced with a choice between honor and duty? Between killing himself and his own men, and stopping the enemy?
Would the good of the many still trump the good of the few?