The atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 wasone of the most tragic events in history. On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb known as “Little Boy” on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, followed by a second atomic bomb “Fat Man” two days later on Nagasaki. The bombings had a devastating effect, killing an estimated 140,000 people in total and leaving hundreds of thousands more with severe injuries and radiation sickness.
The decision to use these weapons was controversial for many reasons. For six months prior to the bombing, the United States had attempted to end the war through intense strategic fire-bombing of 67 Japanese cities. In July 1945, President Harry S. Truman issued a warning demanding that Japan surrender or face “prompt and utter destruction.” When Japan ignored this ultimatum, President Truman gave orders for the atomic bombs to be dropped.
The two cities targeted by the bombings had significant military importance; Hiroshima housed Japan’s Second Army Headquarters while Nagasaki served as an important communications center and storage depot. Many innocent civilians were victims of the bombings; 60% died from flash or flame burns during their first day while 30% died from falling debris and 10% from other causes. The long-term effects were equally devastating; 15-20% succumbed to radiation sickness while 20-30% suffered from flash burns and 50-60% experienced other injuries compounded by illness.
Six days after the bombing at Nagasaki, Japan announced its surrender thus ending World War II in both Europe and Asia Pacific theatres of war. Following their surrender, Japan adopted three non-nuclear principles which forbade them from further nuclear armament.
Today we commemorate this dark chapter in human history not only to honor those whose lives were lost but also as a reminder of how close we came to destruction during World War II. To learn even more about this event, we encourage you to watch documentaries such as “Hiroshima” (2005) or “White Light/Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima & Nagasaki” (2007). By doing so you will gain a greater understanding of why these disasters occurred as well as what can be done to avoid them happening again in future generations.