iHist Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

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Hiroshima and Nagasaki Bombing

The United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, ending the Second World War.

In what would be final year of the war, the Allies prepared for what was anticipated to be a very costly invasion of the Japanese mainland. The war in Europe had concluded when Nazi Germany surrendered on May 8, 1945. The Japanese, facing the same fate, refused to accept the Allies’ demands for unconditional surrender and the Pacific War continued. Together with the United Kingdom and China, the United States called for the unconditional surrender of the Japanese armed forces in the Potsdam Declaration on July 26, 1945. The alternative being “prompt and utter destruction”. The Japanese response to this ultimatum was to ignore it.



In July 1945, the Allied Manhattan Project successfully detonated an atomic bomb in the New Mexico desert and by August had produced atomic weapons based on two alternate designs. The 509th Composite Group of the U.S. Army Air Forces was equipped with the specialized Silverplate version of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, that could deliver them from Tinian in the Mariana Islands.

On August 6 the U.S. dropped a uranium gun-type atomic bomb, Little Boy on Hiroshima. President Harry S. Truman called for Japan’s surrender 16 hours later, warning them to “expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth.” Three days later, on August 9, the U.S. dropped a plutonium implosion-type bomb, Fat Man on the city of Nagasaki.
In both cities, most of the dead were civilians, although Hiroshima had a sizable military garrison.

On August 15, six days after the bombing of Nagasaki and the Soviet Union’s declaration of war, Japan announced its surrender to the Allies. On September 2, it signed the instrument of surrender, effectively ending World War II. The bombings’ role in Japan’s surrender and their ethical justification are still debated.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Yoshitaka Kawamoto was thirteen years old when the bomb exploded over Hiroshima, in a classroom less than a half a mile away from Ground Zero

“One of my classmates, I think his name is Fujimoto, he muttered something and pointed outside the window, saying, “A B-29 is coming.” He pointed outside with his finger. So I began to get up from my chair and asked him, “Where is it?” Looking in the direction that he was pointing towards, I got up on my feet, but I was not yet in an upright position when it happened. All I can remember was a pale lightening flash for two or three seconds. Then, I collapsed. I don t know much time passed before I came to. It was awful, awful. The smoke was coming in from somewhere above the debris. Sandy dust was flying around. I was trapped under the debris and I was in terrible pain and that’s probably why I came to. I couldn’t move, not even an inch. Then, I heard about ten of my surviving classmates singing our school song. I remember that. I could hear sobs. Someone was calling his mother. But those who were still alive were singing the school song for as long as they could. I think I joined the chorus. We thought that someone would come and help us out. That’s why we were singing a school song so loud. But nobody came to help, and we stopped singing one by one. In the end, I was singing alone.”

Nagasaki

Nagasaki

The chief weather man for the Hiroshima District Weather Bureau named Isao Kita describes his experience

“Well, at that time, I happened to be receiving the transmission over the wireless. I was in the receiving room and I was facing northward. I noticed the flashing light. It was not really a big flash. But still it drew my attention. In a few seconds, the heat wave arrived. After I noticed the flash, white clouds spread over the blue sky. It was amazing. It was as if blue morning-glories had suddenly bloomed up in the sky. It was funny, I thought. Then came the heat wave. It was very very hot. Even though there was a window glass in front of me, I felt really hot. It was as if I was looking directly into a kitchen oven. I couldn’t bear the heat for a long time. Then I heard the cracking sound. I don’t know what made that sound, but probably it came from the air which suddenly expanded in the room. By that time, I realized that the bomb had been dropped. As I had been instructed, I pushed aside the chair and lay with my face on the floor. Also as I had been instructed during the frequent emergency exercises, I covered my eyes and ears with hands like this. And I started to count. You may feel that I was rather heartless just to start counting. But for us, who observed the weather, it is a duty to record the process of time, of various phenomena. So I started counting with the light flash. When I counted to 5 seconds, I heard the groaning sound. At the same time, the window glass was blown off and the building shook from the bomb blast. So the blast reached that place about 5 seconds after the explosion. We later measured the distance between the hypocenter and our place. And with these two figures, we calculated that the speed of the blast was about 700 meters per second. The speed of sound is about 330 meters per second, which means that the speed of the blast was about twice as fast as the speed of sound.”

Hiroshima

Hiroshima

Hiroshi Sawachika was an army doctor stationed at the army headquarters in the neighboring city of Ujina on that day

“I was told to go to the headquarters where there were lots of injured persons waiting. I went there and I started to give treatment with the help of nurses and medical course men. We first treated the office personnel for their injuries. Most of them had broken glass and pieces of wood stuck into them. We treated them one after another. Afterwards, we heard the strange noise. It sounded as if a large flock of mosquitoes were coming from a distance. We looked out of the window to find out what was happening. We saw that citizens from the town were marching towards us. They looked unusual. We understood that the injured citizens were coming towards us for treatment. But while, we thought that there should be Red Cross Hospitals and another big hospitals in the center of the town. So why should they come here, I wondered, instead of going there. At that time, I did not know that the center of the town had been so heavily damaged. After a while, with the guide of the hospital personnel, the injured persons reached our headquarters. With lots of injured people arriving, we realized just how serious the matter was. We decided that we should treat them also. Soon afterwards, we learned that many of them had badly burned. As they came to us, they held their hands aloft. They looked like they were ghosts.”