On August 6 and 9, 1945, the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed by the first atomic bombs used in warfare.
The first atomic bomb ever to be used in a military operation was dropped on the city of Hiroshima, Japan On August 6, 1945 at 8:16:02 a.m. Hiroshima time. The bomb, affectionately named "Little Boy," exploded 1,900 feet above the courtyard of Shima Hospital, with a force equivalent to 12,500 tons of TNT. By the end of 1945, 140,00 people had died as a direct result of the bombing. Within the following five years, another 60,000 would die of bomb-related causes.
The bomb killed men, women, and children indiscriminately. It killed both military personnel and civilians. Although the city produced military items and housed soldiers, it was not selected as a "purely military target" as President Truman had promised. There were six civilians in Hiroshima to every soldier.
The second bomb, called "Fat Man," exploded over Nagasaki, Japan, at 11:02 a.m. on August 9, 1945. It exploded at 1,650 feet with a force of 22,000 tons of TNT. 70,000 people lost their lives in Nagasaki by the end of 1945 due to the bombing. A total of 140,00 died within the next five years.
During World War II, Hiroshima was a city of considerable military importance. It contained the 2nd Army Headquarters, which commanded the defense of all of southern Japan. The city was a communications center, a storage point, and an assembly area for troops. To quote a Japanese report, "Probably more than a thousand times since the beginning of the war did the Hiroshima citizens see off with cries of 'Banzai' the troops leaving from the harbor."
The center of the city contained a number of reinforced concrete buildings as well as lighter structures. Outside the center, the area was congested by a dense collection of small wooden workshops set among Japanese houses; a few larger industrial plants lay near the outskirts of the city.
The houses were of wooden construction with tile roofs. Many of the industrial buildings also were of wood frame construction. The city as a whole was highly susceptible to fire damage.
Some of the reinforced concrete buildings were of a far stronger construction than is required by normal standards in America, because of the earthquake danger in Japan. This exceptionally strong construction undoubtedly accounted for the fact that the framework of some of the buildings which were fairly close to the center of damage in the city did not collapse.
Another is that the blast was more downward than sideways; this has much to do with the "survival" of the Prefectural Promotional Hall (pictured), which was only a few metres from the aiming point.
The population of Hiroshima had reached a peak of over 380,000 earlier in the war but prior to the atomic bombing the population had steadily decreased because of a systematic evacuation ordered by the Japanese government. At the time of the attack the population was approximately 255,000. This figure is based on the registered population, used by the Japanese in computing ration quantities, and the estimates of additional workers and troops who were brought into the city may not be highly accurate.
Hiroshima was the primary target of the first U.S. nuclear attack mission. The mission went smoothly in every respect. The weather was good, and the crew and equipment functioned perfectly. In every detail, the attack was carried out exactly as planned, and the bomb performed exactly as expected.
The bomb exploded over Hiroshima at 8:15 on the morning of August 6, 1945. About an hour previously, the Japanese early warning radar net had detected the approach of some American aircraft headed for the southern part of Japan. The alert had been given and radio broadcasting stopped in many cities, among them Hiroshima.
The planes approached the coast at a very high altitude. At nearly 8:00 A.M., the radar operator in Hiroshima determined that the number of planes coming in was very small - probably not more than three - and the air raid alert was lifted. The normal radio broadcast warning was given to the people that it might be advisable to go to shelter if B-29's were actually sighted, but no raid was expected beyond some sort of reconnaissance.
At 8:16 A.M., the B-29 Enola Gay dropped the atomic bomb called "Little Boy" over the central part of the city and the bomb exploded with a blast equivalent to 12,000 tons of TNT, killing 80,000 outright.
At the same time, Tokyo control operator of the Japanese Broadcasting Corporation noticed that the Hiroshima station had gone off the air. He tried to use another telephone line to reestablish his program, but it too had failed. About twenty minutes later the Tokyo railroad telegraph center realized that the main line telegraph had stopped working just north of Hiroshima. From some small railway stops within ten miles of the city there came unofficial and confused reports of a terrible explosion in Hiroshima. All these reports were transmitted to the Headquarters of the Japanese General Staff.
Military headquarters repeatedly tried to call the Army Control Station in Hiroshima. The complete silence from that city puzzled the men at Headquarters; they knew that no large enemy raid could have occurred, and they knew that no sizeable store of explosives was in Hiroshima at that time. A young officer of the Japanese General Staff was instructed to fly immediately to Hiroshima, to land, survey the damage, and return to Tokyo with reliable information for the staff. It was generally felt at Headquarters that nothing serious had taken place, that it was all a terrible rumor starting from a few sparks of truth.
The staff officer went to the airport and took off for the southwest. After flying for about three hours, while still nearly 100 miles from Hiroshima, he and his pilot saw a great cloud of smoke from the bomb. In the bright afternoon, the remains of Hiroshima were burning.
Their plane soon reached the city, around which they circled in disbelief. A great scar on the land, still burning, and covered by a heavy cloud of smoke, was all that was left of a great city. They landed south of the city, and the staff officer immediately began to organize relief measures, after reporting to Tokyo.
Tokyo's first knowledge of what had really caused the disaster came from the White House public announcement in Washington, sixteen hours after the nuclear attack on Hiroshima. By the end of 1945, it is estimated that 60,000 more people died due to nuclear fallout sickness. However, this total does not include longer term casualties from radiation exposure.
Starting almost immediately after the conclusion of World War II, and continuing to the present day, the dropping of atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki has been questioned. Their use has been called barbarian since, besides destroying a military base and a military industrial center, tens of thousands of civilians were killed.
Some have claimed that the Japanese were already essentially defeated, and that use of the bombs was unnecessary. Some have also suggested that a demonstration of an atomic bomb in an uninhabited region should have been attempted.
In reply, defenders of the decision to use the bombs say that it is almost certain that the Japanese would not have surrendered without their use, and that hundreds of thousands - perhaps millions - would have perished in the planned U.S. invasion of Japan.
To support their argument, they point out that the Japanese agreed to surrender only after the second bomb was dropped, when it was evident that the first was not an isolated event, and future prospects were for a continuing rain of such bombs. Actually, the U.S. did not have another atomic bomb ready after the bombing of Nagasaki due the difficulty of producing fissile material. Regarding the suggestion of a demonstration, they maintain that, given the mind-set of the Japanese at the time, it is unlikely that any conceivable benign demonstration would have induced surrender.
Others contend that Japan had been trying to surrender for at least two months, but the US refused by insisting on an unconditional surrender—which they did not get even after the bombing, the bone of contention being retention of the Emperor.
Tens of thousands of people marked the 40th anniversary of the atomic bombing of the city on August 6, 1985.
The city of Nagasaki had been one of the largest sea ports in southern Japan and was of great war-time importance because of its many and varied industries, including the production of ordnance, ships, military equipment, and other war materials. The narrow long strip attacked was of particular importance because of its industries.
In contrast to many modern aspects of Nagasaki, the residences almost without exception were of flimsy, typical Japanese construction, consisting of wood or wood-frame buildings, with wood walls with or without plaster, and tile roofs. Many of the smaller industries and business establishments were also housed in wooden buildings or flimsily built masonry buildings.
Nagasaki had been permitted to grow for many years without conforming to any definite city zoning plan and therefore residences were constructed adjacent to factory buildings and to each other almost as close as it was possible to build them throughout the entire industrial valley.
Nagasaki had never been subjected to large scale bombing prior to the explosion of a nuclear weapon there. On August 1st, 1945, however, a number of high explosive bombs were dropped on the city. A few of these bombs hit in the shipyards and dock areas in the southwest portion of the city. Several of the bombs hit the Mitsubishi Steel and Arms Works and six bombs landed at the Nagasaki Medical School and Hospital, with three direct hits on buildings there.
While the damage from these few bombs were relatively small, it created considerable concern in Nagasaki and a number of people, principally school children, were evacuated to rural areas for safety, thus reducing the population in the city at the time of the nuclear attack.
At 11:02 am on August 9, 1945, the American B-29 Superfortress "Bockscar," in search of the shipyards, instead spotted the Mitsubishi Arms Works through a break in the clouds. On this target, it dropped the nuclear bomb Fat Man, the second nuclear weapon to be detonated over Japan. Even though the "Fat Man" missed by over a mile and a half, it still leveled nearly half the city. 75,000 of Nagasaki's 240,000 residents were killed, followed by the death of at least as many from resulting sickness and injury.
However another report issues a different residental number, speaking of Nagasaki's population which dropped in one split-second from 422,000 to 383,000, thus 39,000 were killed, over 25,000 were injured.
If taken into account those who died from radioactive materials causing cancer, the total number of casualties is to be believed at least 100,000 killed residents. Estimates from physicists who have studied each atomic explosion state that the bomb that was used had utilized only 1/10th of 1 percent of their respective explosive capabilities.
The city was rebuilt after the war, albeit dramatically changed, as any city would be after such colossal damage. New temples were built, and new churches as well, since the Christian presence never died out and even increased dramatically in numbers after the war.
Some of the rubble was left as a memorial, like the one-legged torii gate and a stone arch near ground zero. New structures were also raised as memorials, such as the Atomic Bomb Museum. Nagasaki remains first and foremost a port city, supporting a rich shipping industry and setting a strong example of perseverance and peace.
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