The atomic bomb that leveled the Hiroshima is an image burned into many Americans minds. News stations heavily reported the momentous incident: “Twenty-one days after the New Mexico dress rehearsal, a lone B-29 was over Hiroshima carrying an atomic bomb. At 8:15 in the morning of August 6, Japanese time, the first atomic bomb hit an enemy target. The bomb was aimed to explode above zero point, a spot in the city at the junction of the Motayasu and Ota Rivers. The bomb was intentionally set to explode well above the zero point to dissipate its radioactivity.”
Same goes for the American attacks on North Vietnam in 1972. An ABC segment reported the harsh reality of the attacks in Hanoi: “The United States has resumed full-scale bombing of North Vietnam, including the Hanoi [and] Hai Phong areas. The North Vietnamese said American planes carried out heavy attacks around those cities tonight and that Hanoi's armed forces shot down a large number of planes and captured several pilots. The removal of restrictions on air strikes against the North came less than two days after Henry Kissinger announced in effect that peace is no longer at hand.”
But many of the air attacks conducted by the United States since the commencement of air warfare have gone under the radar.
That was, until 45-year-old Minnesota native and former Lieutenant Colonel Jenns Robertson decided to make a project of documenting each and every bomb that the United States has dropped. Ever.
After six years of digging, 10,000 pages of hand-written and typed World War II papers, and many nights sitting in front of unearthed World War I raid reports, Robertson’s mission is suddenly gaining substantial media traction. His project, titled Theater History of Operates Report (THOR), was previewed at the Air Force Research Institute last month.
Lieutenant Colonel Jenns Robertson talks about his project, what he has discovered, and the extraordinary task of tracking a century’s worth of American air attacks.
"There's a general curiosity of trying to understand what air power is and what it does," Robertson says. The flexibility that bombers offer in terms of target types and locations can make getting a grasp on air power's application confusing, and the Lieutenant Colonel says that THOR can help explain that.
The project also has a more concrete, humanitarian use. "We have the ability to provide this information to the State Department, and to [the organizations who carry out] mine and unexploded ordinance cleanup in Laos and Cambodia, and all of Southeast Asia," Robertson says.
"The bombs that we dropped back then — the ones that didn't explode — are still a threat to the people there now, and we're able to provide that information of where we dropped those bombs so that we can help focus their cleanup efforts and prevent injuries to current civilians." The Department of State's Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement has spent around $2 billion in efforts to recover unexploded munitions in over 80 countries.