Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

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Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

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Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Part of the Pacific War, World War II

two photos of atomic bomb mushroom clouds, over two japanese cities in 1945.
Atomic bomb mushroom clouds over Hiroshima (left) and Nagasaki (right)


August 6 and 9, 1945


Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan


Allied victory

Belligerents United States United Kingdom Japan

Commanders and leaders

united statesWilliam S. Parsons
united statesPaul W. Tibbets, Jr.

empire of japanShunroku Hata

Units involved

Manhattan District
509th Composite Group

Second General Army

Casualties and losses


90,000–166,000 killed in Hiroshima
60,000–80,000 killed in Nagasaki
Total: 150,000–246,000+ killed


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Pacific War

The atomic bombings of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan were conducted by the United States during the final stages of World War II in 1945. The two events are the only use of nuclear weapons in war to date.

Following a firebombing campaign that destroyed many Japanese cities, the Allies prepared for a costly invasion of Japan. The war in Europe ended when Nazi Germany signed its instrument of surrender on May 8, 1945, but the Pacific War continued. Together with the United Kingdom and the Republic of China, the United States called on Japan to surrender in the Potsdam Declaration on July 26, 1945, threatening "prompt and utter destruction". The Japanese government ignored this ultimatum.

By August 1945, the Allied Manhattan Project had developed and tested atomic bombs, and the United States Army Air Forces 509th Composite Group was equipped with Silverplate Boeing B-29 Superfortress that could deliver them from Tinian in the Mariana Islands. A Little Boy atomic bomb was dropped on the city of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, followed by a Fat Man bomb on the city of Nagasaki on August 9. Within the first two to four months of the bombings, the acute effects killed 90,000–166,000 people in Hiroshima and 60,000–80,000 in Nagasaki, with roughly half of the deaths in each city occurring on the first day. During the following months, large numbers died from the effect of burns, radiation sickness, and other injuries, compounded by illness. In both cities, most of the dead were civilians, although Hiroshima had a sizeable garrison.

On August 15, six days after the bombing of Nagasaki, Japan announced its surrender to the Allies, signing the Instrument of Surrender on September 2, officially ending World War II. The bombings' role in Japan's surrender and their ethical justification are still debated.

Japanese realization of the bombing

Hiroshima before the bombing.

Hiroshima after the bombing.

The Tokyo control operator of the Broadcasting Corporation of Japan noticed that the Hiroshima station had gone off the air. He tried to re-establish his program by using another telephone line, but it too had failed.[108] About 20 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 16 km (9.9 mi) of the city came unofficial and confused reports of a terrible explosion in Hiroshima. All these reports were transmitted to the headquarters of the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff.[109]

Military bases repeatedly tried to call the Army Control Station in Hiroshima. The complete silence from that city puzzled the General Staff; they knew that no large enemy raid had occurred and that no sizable store of explosives was in Hiroshima at that time. A young officer was instructed to fly immediately to Hiroshima, to land, survey the damage, and return to Tokyo with reliable information for the staff. It was felt that nothing serious had taken place and that the explosion was just a rumor.[109]

The staff officer went to the airport and took off for the southwest. After flying for about three hours, while still nearly 160 km (99 mi) 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. They landed south of the city, and the staff officer, after reporting to Tokyo, began to organize relief measures.[109] Since Mayor Senkichi Awaya was dead (killed while eating breakfast with his son and granddaughter at the mayoral residence), Field Marshal Hata, who was only slightly wounded, took over the administration of the city, and coordinated relief efforts. Many of his staff had been killed, including a Korean prince of the Joseon Dynasty, Yi Wu, who was serving as a lieutenant colonel in the Japanese Army.[110][111]

Post-attack casualties

file:medical aspect, hiroshima, japan, 1946-03-23, 342-usaf-11034.ogv

Film footage taken in Hiroshima in March 1946 showing victims with severe burns

Around 1,900 cancer deaths can be attributed to the after-effects of the bombs. An epidemiology study by the Japanese Radiation Effects Research Foundation states that from 1950 to 2000, 46% of leukemia deaths and 11% of solid cancer deaths among the bomb survivors were due to radiation from the bombs, the statistical excess being estimated at 200 leukemia and 1700 solid cancers.[
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