The year 1945 was an eventful one as the world was at war. Axis powers and the Allied nations were wrestling against each other. World affairs were being dominated by two main sides; Germany, Italy, and Japan on one and France, Great Britain, the United States of America, and the Soviet Union on the other.
The Second World War was fought from 1939 till 1945. It came to a halt with the devastating event in human history – The atomic bombing of Japanese cities – Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Scores of people died in the bombings and the death toll was palpably high. It was the first time any city in the world went through a nuclear attack. And, the impact of atomic bombings was far greater. Fatalities continued in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki due to the after-effects of nuclear radiation. People died due to burns, and the effects of radiation sickness for the next 3-4 months. While the rate of cancer and other diseases rose high for years to come.
Cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Hiroshima town was founded in 1598 and it was amongst the biggest urban center and industrial hub, starting the imperial era in Japan. Hiroshima was a focal point of Japan’s Imperial Era, under which it progressed to leaps and bounds. Back in 1945, Hiroshima was the major army base and hosted the southern side port of Japan. It also served as the communication center for Japan’s 5th division and 2nd headquarter of the Japanese army.
Nagasaki, another port city of Japan and known for its shipbuilding capacity, it was a thriving trading center of the country. It became a major ammunition hub and military center during the Meiji period. Nagasaki had munitions’ factories of Mitsubishi Company. The Mitsubishi Arms Plant, and Akunoura Engine Works were famous industrial establishments in Nagasaki. Manufacturing of ports storage and shipping facilities and equipment, paved the way for the doomsday. And during the Second World War, it became the target for the dropping of the infamous atomic bombs by America.
Day of nuclear bombings
Two bombings that changed the course of the Second World War, took place between 6-9 August 1945. Both Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed by the American bomber planes in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
On the day bombings, the Japanese radar detected three American bomber planes an hour before they enter the Hiroshima skyline. Although the raid warnings were sounded by the army, however, alarms were lifted, contemplating military reconnaissance activity by the Japanese army. They failed to perceive the death threat posed by the three bomber planes, proving fatal for the Japanese.
From an altitude of 9855 meters, American bombers dropped the atom bomb ‘Little Boy’ over the Hiroshima city, and over the Shima Surgical Clinic, the bomb got detonated. Around 70,000-80,000 were immediately killed, while thousands continue to die due to the repercussions of the atom bomb. Within ten nanoseconds, the first gamma rays released by the detonation of Uranium 235 containing bombs turned large portions of the city in ashes. The impact of the atom bomb was so deep that within 91 milliseconds, balls of fires reached the buildings and destroyed them. While the shockwave of the detonation was too extortionate for the human nervous system and most people vanished even before they could see it coming. Those who came in contact suffered severe burns and died, immediately. The temperature due to radiation reached 4000 degrees Celsius was high enough to vaporize life in nanoseconds.
On the day of the bombing in Nagasaki, there was an estimated city population of 263000. Nagasaki was planned to be bombed on the 10th of August, however, destiny had a different date for its destruction. As the weather was clear to detonate atomic bombs, US planes decide to unleash the destruction by dropping ‘Fat Man’ containing vast amounts of plutonium over the city. When Nagasaki was bombed on 9th August, within nanoseconds, 34000 people were killed. Scores of people died in the coming few weeks due to exposure to radiation and burns. There was 70-80% recorded damage to the industries, which deeply impacted the production.
Hiroshima and Nagasaki were reduced to rubbles of ashes. With thousands of civilian population killed and houses, shops, factories, offices, hospitals, and schools were destroyed beyond apprehensions. Quoting on the horrifying event, Japanese writer Yoko Ota said that – It was impossible to figure out why the surrounding changed within seconds. It did not seem like as there was a war but as if the end of the world has arrived and the earth has collapsed.
Why America bombed Japan
The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were motivated by these main factors.
To bring Japan to surrender unconditionally during the second world war.
Destroy military might and ammunition industries of Japan.
Display the atomic power of the United States of America.
Avenge the attack on the Pearl Harbor attack by Japan.
Japan, along with the Axis powers, was determinedly fighting the Second World War. The country was not ready to surrender unconditionally and was firm on its stand for over four years. While, America was attacking Japan intermittently, yet Japan’s massive army of two million soldiers were guarding the nation and were successfully preventing every attack.
After repeated surrender demands from the United States, President Harry S Truman was in the dock for initiating the action against Japan. Several debates took place over the usage of weapons of mass destruction to put an end to the Second World War. As Japan continued to reject the proposal for unconditional surrender. It was decided by the United States to use atomic bombs over some prominent cities of Japan. Included in the list of targets were cities – Kyoto, Kokura, Yokohama, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki. But the Allied power was exerting on unleashing the destruction of cities that were strategically important to Japan’s military might. Hence, the supreme commander decided on Hiroshima and Nagasaki for the fateful event.
Consequences of the bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki
By the end of 1945 summer, Japan surrendered as the navy and air forces bases were completely destroyed in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings. Japanese emperor Hirohito accepted The Potsdam Declaration, which didn’t compromise the sovereign authority of the ruler. However, the United States insisted to keep the emperor and the Japanese government under the supreme commander of allied powers. The proposal was finally accepted by the emperor, who declared surrender and endorsed peace after the devastating tragedy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
When Japan decided to surrender, appointed by US President Truman, the supreme commander from allies’ side, MacArthur was instructed to oversee the surrender at the battleship USS Missouri. When Japanese Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu signed the documents of surrender, about 250 warships were present near the area. Soon after the documents were signed and surrender was declared by Japan, the United States accepted it and it brought to an end to the most devastating wars in human history.
Aftermath of the bombings
Bombs made of uranium and plutonium were detonated over the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6th and 9th August 1945. While it destroyed 70% of both the cities and killed 1,40,000 and 74,000 civilian population. The aftermath of bombings was so destructive that for months people died of exposure to radiation. The bombings also lead to a rise in cases of cancer and other chronic diseases.
Though, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki brought an end to the Second World War. Yet, there was destruction on a humongous scale. Almost 90% of the city’s medical staff succumbed to the destruction and most people died instantly after the detonation. Those who were burnt died without any medical care, while people who went help the survivor, died of radiation. Following the event, subsequent generations experienced an increase in the rate of diseases like thyroid, lung cancer, breast cancer, and other chronic issues. While pregnant women suffered from an increased rate of miscarriages and the birth of children in the cities was reported with neurological impairment or physical disabilities, for many years post the event.
Measures for Peace
The Hiroshima Peace Memorial, now called the Genbaku Dome, is dedicated to the victims of the atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum was built for the same cause and signifies the start of a nuclear age and the world’s firm resolution for peace. It depicted the ruins of Nagasaki city through victim artifacts’ and other heart-wrenching paintings.
Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum displays photographs displaying the life before the atomic bombings, and the destruction caused by the attack. There are elaborate scenes of destroyed buildings, paintings stories by survivors of the attack, and additionally, the artifacts of the deceased victims. The mayor of Nagasaki prepared the Nagasaki Peace Declaration, which conveyed the resolve of the city of Nagasaki towards peace and curtailment of nuclear weapons. This declaration was also observed by UN countries. All other nations around the world deemed it as symbolic to the horror of nuclear warfare.
The atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki has remained the only event of nuclear bombings on mankind, so far. The United States is the only nation that used a nuclear weapon in human history ever.