The Bombing of Hiroshima & Nagasaki: The End of WWII
In the early morning hours of Aug. 6, 1945, an American B-29 bomber took off from the island of Tinian in the South Pacific and headed toward Japan. The bomber, named the Enola Gay and piloted by Colonel Paul Tibbets, carried a new and powerful kind of weapon: an atomic bomb. Its target was the city of Hiroshima.
The Second World War had been raging since 1939 in Europe and for almost as long in the Pacific. Although Germany had surrendered to the Allied forces on May 7, 1945, Japan was determined to continue fighting. The Japanese refused to comply with the Potsdam Declaration, which was issued on July 26 by President Truman and other Allied leaders, outlining the terms of surrender for Japan. The declaration stated that unless Japan surrendered the Allies would launch an attack that would result in “the inevitable and complete destruction of the Japanese armed forces and ... utter devastation of the Japanese homeland.”
Article continues after this newspaper image from the Aug. 7, 1945, issue of the Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas)
The 9,700-pound uranium bomb, known as "Little Boy," was released at 8:15 a.m. over Hiroshima. It detonated roughly 2,000 feet above the city with a blast equivalent to 15 tons of TNT. Three days later, on Aug. 9, 1945, the B-29 Bock's Car dropped a second atomic bomb, "Fat Man," on the city of Nagasaki. Although more powerful than the first bomb the mountains surrounding Nagasaki helped to protect the city from the full force of the atomic blast. An estimated 70,000 people were killed in Hiroshima and 40,000 in Nagasaki. Tens of thousands were injured and many later died as a result of radiation poisoning.
Survivors of both explosions described a blinding light combined with a sudden and overwhelming wave of heat. The white light acted as a giant flashbulb, burning dark patterns of clothing onto victims' skin and the shadows of trees, fences, and bodies onto the ground and walls of remaining buildings. People farther from the points of detonation experienced first the flash and heat, followed seconds later by a deafening boom and the blast wave. All but the strongest structures within one mile of each ground zero were destroyed, and almost every building within three miles suffered some damage. The blast wave shattered glass in suburbs 12 miles away from Hiroshima.
On Aug. 15, 1945, Emperor Hirohito announced Japan’s surrender in a radio address to the Japanese people, and over the next two weeks Japan and the United States worked out the details. The formal surrender ceremony took place Sept. 2, 1945, on the deck of the USS Missouri, officially ending the Second World War.
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