Second Sun Rises
By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
Modern Japanese politicians have been known
to declare their country to be the only nation
to ever have been targeted by nuclear weapons.
And while the atomic attacks on Hiroshima
and Nagasaki killed tens of thousands of civilians
and caused widespread devastation, the Japanese
Empire had been perfectly willing to use these
weapons itself, if only it could create them.
Serious work on high-energy physics began
in Japan in 1931, under the leadership of
Dr. Yoshio Nishina. The Riken institute in
Tokyo headed the efforts, which gained from
Nishina's international reputation. Nishina,
a friend of Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr,
attracted a great deal of international assistance
and the institute built a series of ever-larger
cyclotrons and also purchased one from the
University of California at Berkeley.
Nishina believed that the Americans would
soon start work on nuclear weapons, and urged
the Japanese Army to initiate its own program.
Meanwhile, the Japanese Navy had its own program
under the leadership of Bunsaku Arakatsu and
Hideki Yukawa, the first Japanese recipient
of the Nobel Prize in physics. The Navy program
was not aimed at weapons, but instead at developing
nuclear power to replace the oil that fueled
The Army authorized Nishina to begin a weapons
program in October 1940, and he developed and
built gaseous diffusion separators to enrich
uranium. While a cyclotron can enrich uranium,
it can't do so at anything near the scale necessary
for a nuclear weapon, and uranium must be enriched
to produce an explosion. Gaseous diffusion technology
was developed independently in the United States
as part of the Manhattan Project, with separators
in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and in Germany as well.
Diffusion has since been developed into gas
centrifuges, the technology used by Pakistan
and Iran in their current nuclear programs.
Without the gas centrifuge, developed long
afterwards, the diffusion methods practiced
by Nishina could not have delivered enough
enriched uranium for a bomb in anything close
to the time frame the Japanese war effort
required. But that was not the only problem
— the Japanese could not secure enough
uranium for their purposes. Small amounts
were found in Korea and Burma, but only enough
for experimentation. And in the 1940s, uranium
was barely known to the public, much less
found on the black market.
Germany, however, possessed uranium from its
own sources as well as Czech ones. Though not
as pure as that mined found in North America,
the Germans were able to refine the ore for
their own program. In the summer of 1943 the
Japanese asked for some, telling their Axis
partners it was for peaceful purposes. They
also — in one of the rare instances of
inter-service cooperation — combined the
two nuclear programs into one with the sole
purpose of delivering a working atomic bomb.
Known as Project F-Go, the nuclear physicists
never received the massive funding of the American
Manhattan Project, and appear to have spent
the war conducting laboratory experiments.
The lunatic fringe has claimed for some
decades that the Germans sent massive amounts
of uranium to the Japanese, but only one shipment
can be confirmed: 560 kilograms of uranium
oxide dispatched in April 1945 aboard the
submarine U-234. Contrary to her special orders,
she surrendered to the U.S. Navy off the Maine
coast on 10 May. The shipment would have given
the Japanese less than 10 percent of what
they needed to create a viable bomb; in the
days before Hiroshima, a "dirty bomb"
of the type trumpeted by modern scare-mongers had not been considered.
Two Japanese technical experts returning from
tours of German shipyards and aircraft factories
killed themselves rather than join the Germans
in surrender. One U.S. Navy sailor, accidentally
shot in the buttocks by a comrade, died a
week later from internal bleeding.
The war ended with Japan's program far from
creating a bomb; American bombers smashed the
Riken laboratories in April 1945 and they were
never re-constituted. American occupiers threw
Nishina's two surviving cyclotrons into Tokyo
Bay that fall, and the confiscated uranium oxide
from U-234 apparently helped create more American
bombs (though it is extremely unlikely that
this uranium was dropped on Japan). The Atlanta
Constitution, paragon of Southern journalism
that it was, reported in October 1946 that the
Japanese had detonated an atomic bomb in August
1945 off the Korean coast, but this apparently
was a tale spread by destitute Japanese officers
seeking payment from a gullible reporter.
We did not include a Japanese atomic bomb
in Great Pacific
War because it wasn't a very likely
possibility. But at least some in the Japanese
power structure believed it to be, and historical
games are not — protestations of some
aside — about what happened. To truly
work as historical models, they have to be
based on what participants thought could happen.
And both the Japanese and American intelligence
believed a Japanese atomic bomb was possible.
Not likely, but possible.
The Japanese player must expend
40 BRPs in the Spring 1943 turn and 10 more
BRPs every Spring turn thereafter until the
Project F-Go marker is drawn. The marker itself
is not placed in the container until the Summer
If the marker is drawn, the Japanese player
rolls one die. On a result of 6, enough uranium
has been obtained to make a bomb. During each
Japanese Naval impulse, the Japanese player
may designate one SUB factor to make a nuclear
suicide attack. The submarine may attack any
hex or port adjacent to the sea area it occupies.
If the United States West Coast box is attacked,
reduce the American BRP base by 15. If Vladivostok
is attacked, reduce the Soviet BRP base by
15. If any other objective hex on any of the
three Great Pacific War maps is attacked,
reduce the owning country's BRP base by 5.
If a hex containing enemy ground units is
attacked, all are reduced or eliminated. If
a hex containing air or naval factors (of
any type) is attacked, the owning player rolls
one die for each factor. On a result of 1
through 4, it is destroyed.
The Japanese SUB factor is destroyed by the
nuclear attack as well. Add five to the Japanese
surrender die roll if the Japanese player
has conducted a nuclear attack.
Place a mushroom cloud marker in any hex attacked
by nuclear weapons. No units other than air
units may enter the hex for the rest of the
game; air units may not be based there.
You can download the new political markers,
and some mushroom cloud markers, by clicking
Great Pacific War returns soon in a Final Edition. For a limited time, Gold Club members can snag an upgrade kit with a new scenario book and full-color play aids.
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Mike Bennighof is president of Avalanche Press and holds a doctorate in history from Emory University. A Fulbright Scholar and NASA Journalist in Space finalist, he has published a great many books, games and articles on historical subjects; people are saying that some of them are actually good.
He lives in Birmingham, Alabama with his wife, three children, and his Iron Dog, Leopold.
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