On August 6, 1945, the US dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, and three days later, on August 9, it dropped another bomb on Nagasaki, killing hundreds of thousands of people and affecting many more who would suffer the effects of the radiation from the blast and the “black rain” that fell in the aftermath of the explosions.
The US War Department had said an “impenetrable cloud of dust and smoke” cloaked Hiroshima after the bomb exploded,
Last week, a district court in the city of Hiroshima recognised the survivors of “black rain” who proved to the court that they suffered medical conditions caused by the post-explosion rain and, therefore, were eligible to avail benefits, including free medical care, being given to survivors of the blasts who are known as “Hibakushas”.
Why did the US bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
After the conclusion of World War II in 1945, the relations between Japan and the US worsened, especially after Japan forces decided to take an aim at Indochina with the intention of capturing the oil-rich areas of the East Indies. Therefore, US president Harry Truman authorised the use of atomic bombs in order to make Japan surrender in WWII, which it did.
Harry S Truman, the US President of the time, had warned: “We are now prepared to obliterate more rapidly and completely every productive enterprise the Japanese have above ground in any city. It was to spare the Japanese public from utter destruction that the ultimatum of July 26 was issued at Potsdam. If they do not now acknowledge our terms they may expect a rain of ruin from the air.”
But there are other theories. One historian Gar Alperovitz argued in his 1965 book that the use of nuclear weapons on Japanese cities was “intended to gain a stronger position for postwar diplomatic bargaining with the Soviet Union, as the weapons themselves were not needed to force the Japanese surrender,” a US government website mentions.
What happened on August 6 and August 9, 1945?
On the morning of August 6, at 8:15 am local time, a B-29 bomber Enola Gay dropped the atomic bomb called “Little Boy” with a force of over 20,000 tonnes of TNT on the city of Hiroshima, when most of the industrial workers had already reported to work, many were en route and children were in school. The US Strategic Bombing Survey of 1946 notes that the bomb, which had exploded slightly northwest of the centre of the city, killed over 80,000 people and injured as many.
Three days later, another atomic bomb called “Fat Man” was dropped over Nagasaki around 11:00 am local time killing more than 40,000 people. The 1946 survey notes that due to the uneven terrain of Nagasaki, damage there was confined to the valley over which the bomb exploded and, therefore, “the area of nearly complete devastation” was much smaller, about 1.8 square miles.
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Why were Hiroshima and Nagasaki chosen?
Truman decided that only bombing a city would make an adequate impression and, therefore, target cities were chosen keeping in mind the military production in the area and while making sure that the target sites did not hold cultural significance for Japan, like Kyoto did. This was because the aim was to destroy Japan’s ability to fight wars.
Hiroshima was primarily a military target with a population of about 318,000 people. Hiroshima at the time was also the seventh-largest city of Japan and served as the headquarters of the Second Army and of the Chugoku Regional Army, making it one of the most important military command stations in Japan. It was also the site of one of the largest military supply depots and the foremost military shipping point for troops and supplies.
The atomic bomb was a result of British and American scientific knowledge and was built at two plants in the US, while a scientific laboratory was maintained separately, all of which came under the ambit of the Manhattan Project, which was the codename for this research effort.
Before Truman, President Franklin Roosevelt set up a committee to look into the development of a nuclear weapon after he received a letter from Albert Einstein in 1939, who warned him about the likelihood that Nazi Germany was developing a nuclear weapon.
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