Remembering the Atomic Bombing of Japan

On August 6, 1945, during World War II, an American bomber dropped the world’s first atomic bomb over Hiroshima, a city in Japan. Three days later, another was dropped on the city of Nagasaki. The U.S. was the first, and remains the only, nation to use atomic bombs during wartime.

Before the war began in 1939, a crew of American scientists became worried that Germany was researching how to make nuclear weapons. In 1940, the U.S. government started its own atomic weapons development program over which the OSRD (Office of Scientific Research and Development) and the War Department later took control of. This was a top-secret program, codenamed “The Manhattan Project.”

Over the years, the program’s scientists worked on creating the main materials for nuclear fission, uranium-235 and plutonium-239. The materials were sent to New Mexico, where a team continued the research to create a working atomic bomb. On July 16, 1945, the Manhattan Project successfully tested a plutonium atomic device at the Trinity site in New Mexico.

President Harry S. Truman ordered that the bomb be used in an attempt to end the war, as his advisers warned that attempting to invade Japan would result in shocking American casualties. Hiroshima, a city of 350,000 people, was selected as the first target for the bomb. When it arrived at the U.S. base on the Pacific Ocean, the 9,000-pound uranium-235 bomb was loaded aboard the Enola Gay bomber. The plane dropped the bomb (Little Man), which exploded 2,000 feet above Hiroshima in a blast as strong as 12-15,000 tons of TNT, destroying five square miles of the city. Hiroshima’s chaos did not make Japan surrender, as the U.S. had hoped. The explosion wiped out 90 percent of the city and 80,000 civilians died immediately; tens of thousands more died from the radiation poisoning, exposure, and injuries.

Three days later, on August 9th, another bomber, Bockscar, meant to bomb Kokura, but thick clouds covered the city. Because the Japan military did not surrender, the U.S. then dropped the plutonium bomb (Fat Man) on the secondary target, Nagasaki. Even more powerful than the one dropped on Hiroshima, it weighed 10,000 pounds and was designed to make a 22-kiloton blast. Nagasaki’s topography decreased the bomb’s effect and it only destroying 2.6 square miles of the city. Even though the explosion was not as powerful as intended, 40,000 civilians still died from its effects.

Many people believe the bombing in Japan was not the way to end the war as it killed thousands of innocent lives. The effects of the bomb are still seen today. Every 6th of August, civilians gather at Peace Memorial Park to honor the lives lost from the bombing.