On this day 75 years ago, the US had dropped the first of its two atomic bombs on Japanese cities — the first, in Hiroshima, killed more than 70,000 people instantly. A second bomb, which was dropped three days later over Nagasaki, killed 40,000 more. The nuclear warfare put paid to the World War II and a devastating chapter in world history. Here’s what you need to know about the Hiroshima and Nagasaki attacks.
What happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki
On the morning of August 6, at 8:15 am local time, a B-29 bomber Enola Gay dropped the atomic bomb, called “Little Boy”, with a force of over 20,000 tonnes of TNT on the city of Hiroshima. This was when most industrial workers had already reported to work, many others were en route and children were in schools. The US Strategic Bombing Survey of 1946 notes that the bomb, which had exploded slightly northwest of the centre of the city, killed over 80,000 people and injured as many. Three days later, another atomic bomb, called “Fat Man”, was dropped over Nagasaki around 11:00 am local time, killing more than 40,000 people. The 1946 survey notes that due to the uneven terrain of Nagasaki, damage there was confined to the valley over which the bomb exploded and, therefore, “the area of nearly complete devastation” was much smaller, at about 1.8 square miles.
Why was Hiroshima bombed?
Japan was a fierce enemy of the US and its allies — Britain, China and the Soviet Union — during the World War II.
After the conclusion of the World War II in 1945, the relations between Japan and the US worsened, especially as Japanese forces decided to take an aim at Indo-china with the intention of capturing the oil-rich areas of the East Indies. The Japanese had publicly stated their intent to fight to the bitter end, and were using tactics such as kamikaze attacks, in which pilots would suicide-dive against US warships. Therefore, the then US president, Harry Truman, authorised the use of atomic bombs in order to make Japan surrender, which it did.
Why was Hiroshima chosen for the attack?
Truman decided that only bombing a city would not make an adequate impression. The aim was to destroy Japan’s ability to fight wars. Hiroshima, the primary military target, with a population of about 318,000 people, was also the seventh-largest city of Japan at the time and served as the headquarters of the Second Army and the Chugoku Regional Army. This made it one of the most important military command stations in the country. It was also the site of one of the largest military supply depots and the foremost military shipping point for troops and supplies.
How many were killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki
The explosion killed 70,000 people instantly in Hiroshima, and 40,000 in Nagasaki; by December 1945, the death toll had risen to 140,000. Thousands more died from their injuries, radiation sickness and cancer in the years that followed, bringing the toll closer to 200,000, according to the Department of Energy’s history of the Manhattan Project.
Impact of nuclear attack on Hiroshima and Nagasaki
“The impact of the bomb was so terrific that practically all living things — human and animal alike — were literally seared to death by the tremendous heat and pressure set up by the blast,” Tokyo radio said in the aftermath of the explosion, according to a report by The Guardian in August 1945. But the damage did not end there. The radiation released from the explosion would cause further suffering in the times to come.