Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki - 1945 - Atomic Museum (2023)

After the Interim Committee decided to drop the bomb, the Target Committee determined the target locations, and President Truman issued the Potsdam Proclamation as Japan's final warning, the world soon learned the meaning of "utter and utter destruction". The first two atomic bombs ever used were dropped on Japan in early August 1945.

For a detailed timeline of the attacks, seeTimeline of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima. The bomb was known as the "Little Boy", a uranium gun bomb that detonated with a force of about thirteen kilotons. At the time of the bombing, between 280,000 and 290,000 civilians and 43,000 soldiers lived in Hiroshima. Between 90,000 and 166,000 people are believed to have been killed by the bomb in the four months following the explosion. The US Department of Energy estimated that after five years there were perhaps 200,000 or more deaths from the bombing, while the city of Hiroshima estimated that 237,000 people died directly or indirectly from the effects of the bomb, including burns, radiation sickness and cancer.

The bombing of Hiroshima, codenamed Operation Centerboard I, was authorized by Curtis LeMay on August 4, 1945. The B-29 plane that transported Little Boy from Tinian Island in the western Pacific to Hiroshima was known as the Enola Gay in honor of to the pilot, Paul Tibbets. ' Mother. Joining Tibbets were co-pilot Robert Lewis, bomber Tom Ferebee, navigator Theodore Van Kirk and tail gunner Robert Caron aboard the Enola Gay. Below are his eyewitness accounts of the first atomic bomb dropped on Japan.

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Piloto Paul Tibbets:“We turned to see Hiroshima. The city was obscured by this horrible cloud... churning like mushrooms, terribly, impossibly high. No one spoke for a moment; then everyone spoke. I remember Lewis (co-pilot Robert) tapping me on the shoulder and saying, 'Look at that! I hear! Look at this!" (Bombardier) Tom Ferebee wondered if radioactivity would make us infertile. Lewis said he could prove the fission of the atom. He said it tasted like lead.

Navigator Theodore Van Kirkrecalls the shock waves from the explosion: "[It was] like you were already sitting on a garbage can and someone hit it with a baseball bat ... The plane bounced and bounced and there was a sound like a broken piece of sheet metal metallic. Those of us who had flown a lot over Europe thought it was anti-aircraft fire that had exploded very close to the plane.” On seeing the nuclear fireball: "I don't think anyone expected to see something like this. Where we had seen a bright city two minutes ago, we could no longer see the city. We could see smoke and fire rising up the slopes of the mountains."

Tail Gunner Robert Caron:"The mushroom itself was a spectacular sight, a bubbling mass of purple-grey smoke and you could see it had a red core and everything inside was on fire. As we moved forward we could see the base of the mushroom and underneath we could see what appeared to be a layer of several hundred feet of debris and smoke and what... I saw fires starting in several places, like flames shooting over a bed of embers."

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Six miles below the crew of the Enola Gay, the people of Hiroshima were waking up and getting ready for their daily lives. It was 8:16. m. Up until this point, the city had been largely spared the rain of conventional air attacks that devastated many other Japanese cities. There were many rumors as to why, from the fact that many Hiroshima residents had immigrated to the United States to the alleged presence of President Truman's mother in the area. However, many citizens, including schoolchildren, were recruited to prepare for future bombings by demolishing houses to create firebreaks, and many were working on the assignment or preparing for work on the morning of 6 August. Just an hour earlier, air raid sirens had gone off as a lone B-29, the Little Boy mission's weather plane, approached Hiroshima. A radio broadcast announced the sighting of the Enola Gay just after 8am.

The city of Hiroshima was destroyed by the explosion. 70,000 out of 76,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed, of which 48,000 were completely demolished. Survivors recalled the indescribable and incredible experience of seeing the city disappear.

A college professor of history:“I climbed Hikiyama Hill and looked down. I saw that Hiroshima was gone... I was amazed at the sight... What I felt then and still feel, I cannot put into words. Of course I saw many horrible scenes afterwards, but this experience of looking down and not finding anything of Hiroshima was so shocking that I simply cannot express what I felt... Hiroshima didn't exist, that's mostly what I saw. Hiroshima simply did not exist."

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Physician and Medicine Michihiko Hachiya:"There was nothing left but a few reinforced concrete buildings... Acre after acre, the city was like a desert, except for scattered mounds of brick and tile. I had to check the meaning of the word destruction or choose another word to describe what it meant. I was seeing it. Devastation might be a better word, but really, I don't know a word or words to describe the sight."

Author Yoko Ota:"I came to a bridge and saw that Hiroshima Castle had been completely destroyed, and my heart shook like a great wave... the pain of stepping on the corpses of history crushed my heart."

Those close to the explosion's epicenter were simply vaporized by the intensity of the heat. A man, seated, left only a dark shadow on the steps of a bank. Miyoko Osugi's mother, a 13-year-old student who works on the fire roads, never found her body, but she did find her Geta sandal. The area covered by Miyoko's foot remained lit while the rest was obscured by the explosion.

Many others in Hiroshima, further away from Little Boy's epicenter, survived the initial explosion but suffered serious injuries, including bruises and burns on many of their bodies. Panic and chaos reigned among these people as they struggled to find food and water, medical attention, friends and relatives, and to flee the firestorms that devastated many residential areas.

Having no point of reference for the bomb's utter devastation, some survivors believed they had been transported to a hellish version of the afterlife. The worlds of the living and the dead seemed to grow together.

An evangelical pastor:"I felt like everyone was dead. The whole city was destroyed... I thought it was the end of Hiroshima, Japan, humanity... It was God's judgment on man."

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A six-year-old child:“There were many dead people near the bridge… Sometimes people came to ask for water. They bled from their faces and mouths and had crystals embedded in their bodies. And the bridge itself burned terribly... The details and scenes were hellish.”

A sociologist:"My first thought was that this was like the hell I had always read about... I had never seen anything like it before, but I thought if there is a hell, this is it: the Buddhist hell, where people do this. salvation, he always left... And I imagined that all these people I saw were in the hell I had read about”.

A fifth grader:"I felt like every single person on Earth was killed and only the five of us (his family) were left in an alien world of the dead."

A shopkeeper:"The appearance of the people was... well, they all had burnt blackened skin... They had no hair because their hair was burned and at first glance you couldn't tell if you were looking at them from the front or the back. ... Many of them died at the same time, I can still imagine them along the way, like walking spirits... They didn't look like people of this world.

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Many people traveled to central places like hospitals, parks and riverbeds to find relief from their pain and misery. However, these places soon became scenes of anguish and despair, as many wounded and dying arrived and could not be treated properly.

A sixth-grade girl:“Bloated corpses floated on these seven once-beautiful rivers; The peculiar smell of burnt human flesh, cruelly breaking the girl's childhood pleasure, hung over the entire city of Delta, which turned into a scorched earth desert.

A fourteen year old boy:“Night fell and I could hear many voices crying and moaning in pain and asking for water. Someone shouted, "Damn it! The war is tormenting so many innocent people!" Another said: 'It hurts! Give me water!' This person was so burned that we didn't know if he was male or female. The sky was red with flames.

For more testimonials from survivors, seevoices from japan.


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On August 9, three days after the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, a second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki: a 21-kiloton plutonium device known as the "Fat Man". On the day of the bombing, approximately 263,000 people were in Nagasaki, including 240,000 Japanese residents, 9,000 Japanese soldiers, and 400 POWs. Prior to 9 August, Nagasaki had been the target of small-scale bombing by the United States. Although the damage from these bombings was relatively minor, it caused considerable concern in Nagasaki, and many people were evacuated to rural areas for safety, reducing the city's population at the time of the nuclear attack. An estimated 40,000 to 75,000 people died immediately after the nuclear explosion and another 60,000 people suffered serious injuries. The total death toll at the end of 1945 may have been as high as 80,000.

The decision to use the second bomb was made on August 7, 1945 in Guam. Its use was calculated to indicate that the United States had an endless supply of the new weapon to use against Japan and that the United States would continue to drop atomic bombs on Japan until the country unconditionally surrendered.

However, the city of Nagasaki was not the main target of the second atomic bomb. Instead, the authorities chose the city of Kokura, where Japan had one of its largest munitions factories.

The B-29 "Bockscar", piloted by Major Charles Sweeney, was assigned to deliver the "Fat Man" to Kokura City on the morning of August 9, 1945. Accompanying Sweeney on the mission were co-pilots Charles Donald Albury and Fred J. Olivi, gunsmith Frederick Ashworth and bomber Kermit Beahan. At 03:49, "Bockscar" and five other B-29s left Tinian Island and headed for Kokura.

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By the time the plane reached the town nearly seven hours later, thick clouds and plumes of smoke from fires started by a major bombing raid in nearby Yawata the previous day covered most of the area over Kokura, obscuring visibility. Pilot Charles Sweeney dropped three bombs over the next fifty minutes, but the Beahan bomber was unable to drop the bomb because he could not visually see the target. By the time of the third bombardment, Japanese anti-aircraft fire was closing in and 2nd Lieutenant Jacob Beser, who was monitoring Japanese communications, reported activity on the Japanese fighter's direction radio bands.

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With fuel running out, the crew aboard the Bockscar decided to head to the secondary destination of Nagasaki. When the B-29 reached the city twenty minutes later, the city center was also covered in thick clouds. Frederick Ashworth, the plane's gunsmith, suggested bombing Nagasaki with radar. At this point, a small gap in the clouds at the end of the three-minute bomb allowed bomber Kermit Beahan to identify the target's characteristics.

At 10:58 am local time, Bockscar visibly released Fat Man and detonated 43 seconds later with an explosive force equivalent to 21 kilotons of TNT at an altitude of 1,650 feet, approximately 1.5 miles northwest of the intended target point.

The total radius of destruction from the nuclear explosion was about one kilometer, followed by fires in the northern part of the city three kilometers south of where the bomb was dropped. Unlike many modern aspects of Hiroshima, almost all buildings in Nagasaki were of ancient Japanese construction, consisting of wooden or timber-framed buildings with wooden walls and tiled roofs. Many of the smaller industrial and commercial establishments were also in buildings made of wood or other materials not designed to withstand explosions. As a result, the nuclear explosion over Nagasaki destroyed nearly all structures within the blast radius.

Failure to drop Fat Man at the exact bomb site resulted in the nuclear explosion being confined to the Urakami Valley. This protected much of the city from the explosion. The Fat Man was launched above the city's Industrial Valley, midway between the Mitsubishi Steel and Arms Works to the south and the Mitsubishi-Urakami Ordnance Works to the north. The resulting explosion had a yield of 21 kilotons of TNT, about the same as the Trinity explosion. Almost half of the city was completely destroyed.

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Bockscar co-pilot Fred J. Olivi published a detailed account of the effects of the nuclear explosion on Nagasaki. These are some of his reactions:

Oliva:“Suddenly, the light of a thousand suns illuminated the cabin. Even with my sunglasses on, I shuddered and closed my eyes for a few seconds. I calculated that we were about 11 kilometers from "point zero" and went straight for the target, but the light blinded me for a moment. I have never experienced such an intense bluish light, perhaps three or four times brighter than the sun shining down on us."

"I've never seen anything like it! Biggest explosion I've ever seen... This cloud of smoke I'm seeing is hard to explain. A large mass of white flame boils in the white mushroom cloud. It has a pink, salmon color. The base is black and slightly decomposes the mushroom."

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“The mushroom cloud came straight for us. I looked up immediately and could see he was right, the cloud was closing in on the goat's scar. We were told not to fly through the nuclear cloud as it would be extremely dangerous for the crew and the plane. Knowing this, Sweeney had Bockscar dive full throttle to the right, away from the cloud. For a moment we couldn't tell if we were overtaking the ominous cloud or if it was heading our way, but we gradually pulled away from the dangerous radioactive cloud before it engulfed us, much to everyone's relief."

Tatsuichiro Akizuki:"Every building I could see was on fire... The posts were surrounded by flames like splinters... It looked like the earth itself was spewing fire and smoke, flames writhing and shooting up from underground. The sky was dark, the ground scarlet, and wisps of yellowish smoke hovered between them. Three kinds of colors, black, yellow, and scarlet, loomed menacingly over the people who scurried about like fleeing ants... It looked like the end of the world."

For more testimonials from survivors, seevoices from japan.


Japan surrendered on August 14. Journalist George Weller was the "first to reach Nagasaki" and described the mysterious "nuclear disease" (the onset of radiation sickness) that was killing patients who appeared to have escaped the bomb's impact. Controversial at the time and years later, Weller's papers were not allowed to be published until 2006.


o debateabout the bomb, whether there should have been a test demonstration, whether the Nagasaki bomb was needed, and much more continues to this day.


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