A stroll along 42nd Street

By Gary Frueholz, Dilbeck Real Estate

Adjacent to bomb pit number two the following inscription is on a plaque: "From this loading pit the second atomic bomb ever to be used in combat was loaded aboard a B-29 aircraft and dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, August 9, 1945."

By Gary Frueholz, Dilbeck Real Estate


It was a beautiful sunny summer day in 1995, and I was walking along 42nd Street trying to make my way all the way up to 190th. It was a longer walk, but I was up to it. I was not sure if I wanted to use a turn on Broadway or Riverside Drive on my trek.  Surrounded by these legendary street names of New York, I was walking on a piece of real estate surrounded by some very serious history.

One thing … as I walked along 42nd Street I was nearly 8,000 miles from New York. I was in the Central Pacific on the island of Tinian. And there was a reason for these fabled street names of Manhattan to be assigned to roads on this 39 square mile island. Tinian was part of the Manhattan Project.

Up near 190th were the Bomb Pits where the final assembly of Little Boy and Fat Man occurred.  

History moves over years and decades. And real estate can tell history in many ways.  Street names in real estate can capture the history of an area. Los Angeles has Hollywood Boulevard (movies) and Mulholland Drive (water), while Tinian has the street names of Manhattan. This August marks 76 years since the atomic weapons produced by the Manhattan Project were used to end World War II.

During the 1990s, I lived in the U.S. Territory of Guam in the Central Pacific. A series of islands lead north of Guam and form the Marianna Islands. One of these islands is the island of Tinian. During my time in Micronesia, I made a point to visit and see adjacent islands like Tinian. I knew the runways for the B-29’s that delivered the atomic bombs were on Tinian, but I did not expect the street names to mirror Manhattan.

The Manhattan Project was the code name for the American-led effort, along with England and Canada, to develop a functional atomic weapon during World War II. It was started in response to fears that German scientists had been working on a weapon using nuclear technology since the 1930s. The project’s early headquarters in 1942 were in an office building at 270 Broadway in Manhattan. The New York area had a number of physics laboratories, scientists, and major universities in close proximity.  

In early 1943, the project was moved to the Los Alamos Laboratory in New Mexico for security concerns. The project employed over 130,000 people and more than 30 research and production sites in the United States, England, and Canada. A 1945 Lifemagazine article stated that “no more than a few dozen men in the entire country knew the full meaning of the Manhattan Project.”  

Tinian is a beautiful, sparsely populated island 1,500 miles from Tokyo with around 3,500 residents now. No military bases remain on this island. Rather than skyscrapers, which line the streets of Manhattan, Tinian’s streets with their famous names are surrounded with palm trees. Some of the streets actually are the old B-29 runways from World War II, and many of the homes surround cul-de-sacs that were the tarmacs for the bombers.

Final assembly and loading of the bombs occurred in pits dug into the tarmac areas below the B-29 bombers. Due to the large amount of fuel required for the mission, crashes of the bombers on test runs had occurred. The initial bomb dropped on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, referred to as Little Boy, was a simpler uranium bomb that would not have exploded had the B-29 carrying it, the Enola Gay, crashed on takeoff. The second atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki on Aug. 9, known as Fat Man, was a more complicated plutonium bomb that had to be armed prior to takeoff and could have detonated upon a takeoff crash.

As ghastly as the atomic bombs were with nearly 200,000 immediate Japanese casualties and thousands more in the following decades from radiation exposure, the United States avoided the invasion of Japan. Japan surrendered four days after the second bomb. A study done for Secretary of War Henry Stimson's staff by William Shockley estimated that invading Japan would cost 1.7–4 million American casualties, including 400,000–800,000 fatalities, and the deaths of five to 10 million Japanese.

Real estate has its stories and can tell history. The streets of Tinian have a very sobering historical story to tell. Adjacent to bomb pit number two the following inscription is on a plaque:

"From this loading pit the second atomic bomb ever to be used in combat was loaded aboard a B-29 aircraft and dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, August 9, 1945."

Gary Frueholz is a realtor with Dilbeck Real Estate, a past member of the Alhambra Planning Commission, a Certified Senior Real Estate Specialist, and a Certified International Property Specialist. He can be reached at 626-318-9436. See his stories at www.garysstories.com.  


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Oct 2021


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