The atomic bomb was invented by J. Robert Oppenheimer and the Manhattan Project during WWII. Tests were done in July of 1945 in a remote place in New Mexico to see its destructive capabilities. The first one dropped on the Japanese civilian city of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, causing destruction and devastation. This event changed history—and Japan—forever.
The Imperial Empire of Japan joined the war in 1940, about a year after it started. Like Nazi Germany, they committed many atrocities and war crimes both before and during the war. (Here is an article talking about a few. Please note that the second article may be triggering due to descriptions (though brief) and images of torture, violence, death, etc., so read at your own risk.) I feel it is important to note that many Japanese civilians are unaware of most of their government’s heinous crimes. Even now, many do not because their textbooks and lessons do not include this information. Many Japanese civilians supported the war, but not for reasons the West thinks.
The war should have ended after Germany surrendered in July 1945. But Japanese leaders refused to accept the Potsdam Declaration, which prolonged the war, as they considered surrender unthinkable. As a result, President Harry Truman gave orders to drop the atomic bomb anytime after August 3, 1945. The Empire of Japan was determined to continue the war, refusing to bow to the West. And if America tried to invade Japan, they would kill all American prisoners. President Truman had apparently wanted to choose a military target instead, but he was advised to choose Hiroshima. There were two reasons: one, it was mostly untouched, so the bomb’s effects would be very noticeable and measured, and two, targeting a civilian city might make the Japanese people less supportive of the war.
August 6, 1945 Bombing and its Effects
At 8:15 a.m., the atomic bomb, nicknamed Little Boy, dropped from a plane called Enola Gay. It went off 1,800 feet above the city, and estimates say that between 90,000–146,000 civilians died. Most of them died immediately, and people, even miles away, were burned and badly injured, not to mention the damage to buildings, statues, the ground (which reached about 7,000 degrees Fahrenheit), etc. The city was destroyed just seconds after the bomb went off, and those who survived were left scrambling around afterward.
People suffered horrible burns from the bomb’s heat, some were buried in debris and rubble, and many died from other effects of the bomb. One deadly consequence that few knew about was radiation poisoning, which claimed the lives of many Japanese civilians. American officials concealed the effects of the bomb, and when Japanese doctors and scientists realized what was happening, American officials would say they were lying. They stole pieces of evidence that showed they were dealing with radiation poisoning, not wanting word to get out. When word did get out, they tried to make it seem less horrific than it was.
There are many books about what happened on August 6, 1945, as well as the effects of it. These include accounts from survivors, diary entries from survivors, photographs of the wreckage and aftermath, and more. One example is Hiroshima by John Hersey. Hersey was a journalist who interviewed survivors and put their memoirs together. Or Hiroshima Diary: The Journal of a Japanese Physician by Dr. Michihiko Hachiya. He writes about his encounters with patients after the bomb, including a strange illness killing them (later discovered to be radiation poisoning).
Here is a list of other books.
Hiroshima was eventually rebuilt and today has over 1.2 million people. Every building had to be rebuilt in the city, save for one: the Hiroshima Peace Memorial. It was the only one that still stood after the bomb went off and is still in the same condition thanks to the efforts of many people. Because the atomic bomb went off in the air rather than on the ground, there is no lingering radiation currently in Hiroshima.
However, there are still people living today who are affected by radiation poisoning from when the bomb went off. Radiation poisoning isn’t always immediate, and it can take years or decades to manifest in various ways, such as cancer and other major health concerns. Many of them, those who are still alive and who have since passed, have been involved in studies to try and measure and understand the dangers and risks of radiation poisoning.
Radiation poisoning and nuclear weapons are horrible and only cause devastation. These weapons aren’t being developed as much as they were, but several countries are still developing them. Namely, Russia with its tyrannical war against Ukraine. I can only hope we don’t see any more nuclear destruction.
For more on Japan, click here.