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Hiroshima and Nagasaki: When Hell Came To Earth

On August 6, 1945, the United States used a massive, atomic weapon against Hiroshima, Japan. This atomic bomb, the equivalent of 20,000 tons of TNT, flattened the city, killing tens of thousands of civilians. While Japan was still trying to comprehend this devastation three days later, the United States struck again, this time, on Nagasaki.


* The United States wanted to force Japan's surrender as quickly as possible to minimize American casualties.
* The United States needed to use the atomic bomb before the Soviet Union entered the war against Japan to establish US dominance after the war against Japan and to secure Japanese surrender to the US.
* The United States wanted to use the world's first atomic bomb for an actual attack and observe its effect.


At 2:45 a.m. on Monday, August 6, 1945, a B-29 bomber, the Enola Gay, took off from Tinian, a North Pacific island in the Marianas, 1,500 miles south of Japan. The twelve-man crew were on board to make sure this secret mission went smoothly. Colonel Paul Tibbets, the pilot, nicknamed the B-29 the "Enola Gay" after his mother. Just before take-off, the plane's nickname was painted on its side.

 'Little Baby' being painted

The Enola Gay was a B-29 Superfortress (aircraft 44-86292), part of the 509th Composite Group. In order to carry such a heavy load as an atomic bomb, the Enola Gay was modified: new propellers, stronger engines, and faster opening bomb bay doors. (Only fifteen B-29s underwent this modification.) Even though it had been modified, the plane still had to use the full runway to gain the necessary speed, thus it did not lift off until very near the water's edge.

 Hiroshima after Little Baby fell on it

The Enola Gay was escorted by two other bombers that carried cameras and a variety of measuring devices. Three other planes had left earlier in order to ascertain the weather conditions over the possible targets.

On a hook in the ceiling of the plane, hung the ten-foot atomic bomb, "Little Boy." Navy Captain William S. Parsons ("Deak"), chief of the Ordnance Division in the "Manhattan Project," was the Enola Gay's weaponeer. Since Parsons had been instrumental in the development of the bomb, he was now responsible for arming the bomb while in-flight. Approximately fifteen minutes into the flight (3:00 a.m.), Parsons began to arm the atomic bomb; it took him fifteen minutes. Parsons thought while arming "Little Boy": "I knew the Japs were in for it, but I felt no particular emotion about it."


"Little Boy" was created using uranium-235, a radioactive isotope of uranium. This uranium-235 atomic bomb, a product of $2 billion of research, had never been tested. Nor had any atomic bomb yet been dropped from a plane. Some scientists and politicians pushed for not warning Japan of the bombing in order to save face in case the bomb malfunctioned.

There had been four cities chosen as possible targets: Hiroshima, Kokura, Nagasaki, and Niigata (Kyoto was the first choice until it was removed from the list by Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson). The cities were chosen because they had been relatively untouched during the war. The Target Committee wanted the first bomb to be "sufficiently spectacular for the importance of the weapon to be internationally recognized when publicity on it was released."

On August 6, 1945, the first choice target, Hiroshima, was having clear weather. At 8:15 a.m. (local time), the Enola Gay's door sprang open and dropped "Little Boy." The bomb exploded 1,900 feet above the city and only missed the target, the Aioi Bridge, by approximately 800 feet.

Staff Sergeant George Caron, the tail gunner, described what he saw: "The mushroom cloud itself was a spectacular sight, a bubbling mass of purple-gray smoke and you could see it had a red core in it and everything was burning inside. . . . It looked like lava or molasses covering a whole city. . . ." The cloud is estimated to have reached a height of 40,000 feet.

Captain Robert Lewis, the co-pilot, stated, "Where we had seen a clear city two minutes before, we could no longer see the city. We could see smoke and fires creeping up the sides of the mountains." Two-thirds of Hiroshima was destroyed. Within three miles of the explosion, 60,000 of the 90,000 buildings were demolished. Clay roof tiles had melted together. Shadows had imprinted on buildings and other hard surfaces. Metal and stone had melted.

Unlike many other bombing raids, the goal for this raid had not been a military installation but rather an entire city. The atomic bomb that exploded over Hiroshima killed civilian women and children in addition to soldiers. Hiroshima's population has been estimated at 350,000; approximately 70,000 died immediately from the explosion and another 70,000 died from radiation within five years.

 This is what an a-bomb does to the human skin. Survivor from Hiroshima

A survivor described the damage to people:

The appearance of people was . . . well, they all had skin blackened by burns. . . . They had no hair because their hair was burned, and at a glance you couldn't tell whether you were looking at them from in front or in back. . . . They held their arms bent [forward] like this . . . and their skin - not only on their hands, but on their faces and bodies too - hung down. . . . If there had been only one or two such people . . . perhaps I would not have had such a strong impression. But wherever I walked I met these people. . . . Many of them died along the road - I can still picture them in my mind -- like walking ghosts.

While the people of Japan tried to comprehend the devastation in Hiroshima, the United States was preparing a second bombing mission. The second run was not delayed in order to give Japan time to surrender, but was waiting only for a sufficient amount of plutonium-239 for the atomic bomb. On August 9, 1945 only three days after the bombing of Hiroshima, another B-29, Bock's Car, left Tinian at 3:49 a.m.

 Nagasaki after 'Fat Boy' fell on it

The first choice target for this bombing run had been Kokura. Since the haze over Kokura prevented the sighting of the bombing target, Bock's Car continued on to its second target. At 11:02 a.m., the atomic bomb, "Fat Man," was dropped over Nagasaki. The atomic bomb exploded 1,650 feet above the city.
Fujie Urata Matsumoto, a survivor, shares one scene:
The pumpkin field in front of the house was blown clean. Nothing was left of the whole thick crop, except that in place of the pumpkins there was a woman's head. I looked at the face to see if I knew her. It was a woman of about forty. She must have been from another part of town -- I had never seen her around here. A gold tooth gleamed in the wide-open mouth. A handful of singed hair hung down from the left temple over her cheek, dangling in her mouth. Her eyelids were drawn up, showing black holes where the eyes had been burned out. . . . She had probably looked square into the flash and gotten her eyeballs burned.


 Dazed Japanese soldiers stumble around in Nagasaki


The Hiroshima Meteorological Observatory reported that just after the flash, black smoke rose from the ground up to the sky reaching an altitude of several thousand meters, and covered the whole city. When the fireball disappeared, the angry clouds, like grey smoke, rose and reached an altitude of 8,000 meters in 5 minutes after the explosion.

One of the EnolaGay crew recorded in his flight diary, "9:00a.m.....Clouds were observed. Altitude of 12,000 meters or more." From a distance the cloud formation looked like a mushroom growing out of the ground, with white cloud at the top and yellowish clouds enveloping reddish-black clouds, creating a color that cannot be described as while, black, red or yellow.

In Nagasaki, from an observation point at the air-raid lookout post on Kouyagi Island located about 8 kilometers south of the city, just after the flash it appeared that a huge fireball covered the city, as if it were suppressing the city from the sky. Around the fireball there was a doughnut-shaped ring from the midst of which black smoke and flames rose up to the sky in an instant. The ring of the flames did not initially reach the ground. When the fireball scattered with a flash, the city was covered with darkness. The smoke rising from the midst of the ring, glittering in colors of red, white and yellow, reached an altitude of 8,000 meters in only 3 or 4 seconds.

After reaching an altitude of 8,000 meters, the smoke ascended more slowly and took about 30 seconds to reach an altitude of 12,000 meters. Then, the mass of smoke gradually discolored and scattered in wads of white clouds.


* An intense burst of high-energy radiation (the amount of energy that is released by an atomic bomb exceeds any other kind of weapon – e.g. biochemical weapons, conventional bombs…)

* An exploding fireball instantly inflicting burns and starting fires

* An enormously powerful shockwave

* A mushroom cloud propelling radioactive fission products into the upper atmosphere, from where they return as ‘radioactive fallout’

* Radioactive substances which remain millions of years after the explosion and emit harmful radiation that can damage living organisms

* At the hypocentre, everything is immediately vaporised by the high temperature (up to 500 million degrees Fahrenheit or 300 million degrees Celsius).

* Outward from the hypocentre, most casualties are caused by burns from the heat, injuries from the flying debris of buildings collapsed by the shock wave, and acute exposure to the high radiation.

* Beyond the immediate blast area, casualties are caused from the heat, radiation, and fires spawned from the heat wave.

* In the long-term, radioactive fallout occurs over a wider area because of prevailing winds. The radioactive fallout particles enter the water supply and are inhaled and ingested by people at a distance from the blast.


"I knew when I got the assignment it was going to be an emotional thing. We had feelings, but we had to put them in the background. We knew it was going to kill people right and left. But my one driving interest was to do the best job I could so that we could end the killing as quickly as possible."
Tibbets on Aug. 6, 2005, the 60th anniversary of the bomb.

“You’ve got to take stock and assess the situation at that time. We were at war. ... You use anything at your disposal.”

“I sleep clearly every night.”

"What they needed was someone who could do this and not flinch — and that was me"

"The next thing I felt was 9,400lbs of bomb leaving the aircraft - there was a huge surge and we immediately banked into a right hand turn and lost about 2,000 feet.
We'd been told that if we were eight miles away when the thing went off, we'd probably be ok - so we wanted to put as much distance as possible between us and the blast.
All of us - except the pilot - were wearing dark goggles, but we still saw a flash - a bit like a camera bulb going off in the plane.
There was a great jolt on the aircraft and we were thrown off the floor. Someone called out 'flak' but of course it was the shockwave from the bomb.
Within a minute of the blast a white cloud had reached 42,000ft
The tail-gunner later said he saw it coming towards us - a bit like the haze you see over a car park on a hot day, but moving forwards at great speed.
We turned to look back at Hiroshima and already there was a huge white cloud reaching up more than 42,000 feet. At the base you could see nothing but thick black dust and debris - it looked like a pot of hot oil down there." 
 Theodore "Dutch" Van Kirk, Navigator

"Everyone's thoughts turned to what devastation there would have been down below - we all had that thought on our mind because we had seen what the bomb could do."
Morris "Dick" Jepson, Weapons Test Officer

"My honest feeling at the time was that they deserved it, and as far as I am concerned that is still how I feel today.
People never look back to what led up to it - Pearl Harbour, Nanking - and there are no innocent civilians in war, everyone is doing something, contributing to the war effort, building bombs.
What we did saved a lot of lives in the long run and I am proud to have been part of it."
 Dr Harold Agnew, Scientist

Source: BBC 

Approximately 40 percent of Nagasaki was destroyed. Luckily for many civilians living in Nagasaki, though this atomic bomb was considered much stronger than the one exploded over Hiroshima, the terrain of Nagasaki prevented the bomb from doing as much damage. Yet the decimation was still great. With a population of 270,000, approximately 70,000 people died by the end of the year.


PERSONAL ACCOUNTS Takeharu Terao (Source)

We departed from Miyajima port and arrived at the shipyard of Eba a few minutes to eight o'clock as usual. It was hot and the sky was clear without any peace of clouds. Just before eight, an air raid siren sounded. We took a cover while complaining, because we were already accustomed to the siren. Soon the warning was canceled. The morning meeting was held as usual, and a roll call of the junior high school students was conducted as well. I went up to the second floor for desk work. I was checking the student attendance while directing my back was facing to the hypocenter. Suddenly, a bluish white light flashed like an electric welding spark, gas welding torch, or magnesium burning at a time. The world went white.

I instinctively thought that this was a big accident of the gas supply company in Kannon-district or in the transformer substation in Misasa. I rushed to the window widely open to the outside for ventilation. I saw the direction of the possible accident. I witnessed a yellowish scarlet plume rising like a candle fire high in the sky surrounded by pitch black swirling smoke. (As I had no idea of an A-bomb at that time, I never imagined that a mushroom cloud was about to rise). At the same moment, from apart, houses levitated a little and then crushed down to the ground like domino pieces. It was just like a white wave head coming toward me while standing on the beach. The wave steadily approached(This was later called blast shock wave). I felt terrible for the first time. I had to do something, the second floor I stayed would have soon crushed down. My friend near by Mr. Soma or Mr. Yoshikawa shouted something. I dashed under the desk and held my breath awaiting something to come. It was just a few seconds that I saw the flash and got beneath the desk.


Then, suddenly the floor fell down with a big sound. A massive cloud of dust rose up. I got frozen at that point. I felt the bomb exploded right in front of me. But no explosion took place. I felt beyond all doubt that the bomb was a blind shell and I crept out slowly. I found the floor fell down by the blast.

My friend shouted "Your right eye is hurt!" I touched my eye only to feel blood clot on my palm. But I didn't feel any pain at all. The blast shattered the window panes to smithereens and scattering pieces must have penetrated my eyelid. Flowing blood got into my eye and I lost eyesight. I leaned against the shoulder of my friend to hurry to the infirmary room of the office in staggering. Surprisingly, two to three hundreds wounded people were already in a queue. Almost all of them had suffered a burn. I later learned that many people in the queue were died. I was still lucky in a misfortune because I was not directly exposed to the flash. All the injuries were on my face. Any attempts to stop bleeding failed. Blood kept flowing. My clothes were stained by the shed blood that might have given an impression that I was seriously injured. I was pulled out to the front of the queue and was put in four stitches only after receiving a simple disinfection. How lucky I was. My eyeballs were fine. When my eyelid was cut, the skin hung down and blood entered my eye causing a temporary blind.

It was said that there was no other way to ease the burn victims only to apply white ointment. I was then put on a wooden board and laid down on the floor of a building that was slanted by the blast wind. On my chest was a paper tag on which my name, birthplace, age and blood type were written. Around me were many burn victims groaning of pain. Skins of the living people were decaying and releasing intolerable odor. People were agonizing and steadily dying under groaning "ouch, ouch, water, water." I was laid down among them. I was not sure what time it was, I saw once a blue cloudless sky covered by a pitch black cloud in the direction of Koi and it looked like a torrential rain. Around 3 p.m., the Enamimaru ferry came to pick us up. I returned to the quarters in Miyajima. On the next morning, the 7th of August, healthy people went to Hiroshima for cleaning the city. But the injured were left to rest in the quarters.

The 8th of August

Today, I went to the shipyard in Eba along with friends of mine. My face was almost completely wrapped by bandage except for my left eye. Then I went to central Hiroshima. As there was no means of transportation, I had to go all the way on foot. I first visited Mr. Matsuoka in the Minami Kan-non district where I had stayed at. Nothing was left behind. Blasted apart in the mid-air, or burnt up, I didn't know. Even a trace was not there. Of course, my belongings such as bed, books, and others did not remain in shape. I didn't know whether my uncle and aunt Matsuoka survived or not. Even today, I don't know their whereabouts. I had no choice except wandering down to the school in Higashisendamachi. As far as the eye could reach, all were completely incinerated down to ashes. Only the destroyed concrete walls dotted the landscape. On the left and right were countless corpses not to be taken away yet. Some people were checking the corpses to seek for their relatives. Others piled up half burnt wood of the houses to cremate the remains. I wandered around the town filled with death smells.

When I came down to a bridge, soldiers of the Akatsuki troops were picking up a tremendous number of corpses out of the river bottom using landing crafts. All corpses were completely naked. Some corpses remained their hands up, others twisted the legs in agony. They were bloated up by water in pale white. The scene was too eerie to recall even today.

I finally arrived at the college through Takano bridge. All wooden college buildings and dormitories were completely burned down to wreckage. Only the library on the right and the outer frame of the science laboratory buildings at the back were spared. At the side of the front entrance, a burnt corpse of a horse was left releasing intolerable stench.

Realizing nothing was left, I went to the burnt down site of the Hashimotos, my friend whose husband went to war and only the women were left. Since I had helped them by building an underground bomb shelter and put important things into it, I was worrying about them.

I was relieved to find evidence of the buried things dug out, because that was a sign that my friends survived.( Several years ago, I went to Hiroshima but there was no clue to ask whereabouts of Hashimoto's family.)

Then I walked down to Shiragamisha through the avenue of the Street Car to get a sufferer certificate in front of the municipal square. I didn't care at all my miserable feature wrapped in bandages because almost all people were injured and wandered around the streets like zombies in bandages, also. A street car burned down with only a steel frame remaining sat in the center of the street. Electric poles were tilted and burnt wires were swinging inside the window.

I turned left at the crossing of Kamiya block and walked down through the wreckage of Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall( later called A-bomb dome), the T-shaped bridge of Aioi, Dobashi, and the Fukushima district. I continued walking heading toward the Ibi district.

As far as the eye could reach, all the town was burnt down to ashes, dotted with outer concrete walls of what once were the buildings. Burnt tin plates were making creaky noises in the radioactive window. I passed the debris, wreckage avoiding rug-covered dead bodies.

I finally arrived at Ibi station through the death town where there was no sign of even a single life, filled with the smell of the corpses. I got on a Miyajima street car and went back to the inn. I strolled around the death town for eight days, several hours each day. How silly I was. I really regret my foolish behavior of wandering.

No more. I don't want to witness again such a hell on earth. I don't want to even recollect it. This is the limit of what I can post.

Let me say the last word: It is now the peaceful world. We live in affluent material and freedom of speech. I often feel strange why I am still alive? I may be probably "made alive." I only have the sense of gratitude, no complaint or dissatisfaction. I always appreciate the society. I wish I can give something back to the society.


Mr. Matsushige, who was a news cameraman then, wrote in the "Hiroshima Tokuho", issued on August 6, 1980, based on his experience,says...
" front of the police box of Senda township located at the west end of Miyuki Bridge, a policeman took off the lid of an oil can and started to give first aid treatment to the people with burns, but the number of the injured increased rapidly. I thought this must be photographed and held the camera in position. The scene Isaw through the finder was too cruel. Among the hundreds of injured persons of whom you cannnot tell the difference between male and female, there were children screaming 'It's hot, it's hot!' and infants crying over the body of their mother who appeared to be already dead. I tried to pull myself together by telling myself that I'm a news cameraman, and it is my duty and privilege to take a photograph, even if it is just one, and even if people take me as a devil or a cold-hearted man. I finally managed to press the shutter, but when I looked the finder for the second time, the object was blurred by tears."
SOME VICTIMS.....(Caution: The following images may seem distressing to many)

The photograph  shows the dark portion of the pattern of the clothing imprinted on the skin by the powerful heat rays. This is also called secondary burns, ins which the skin under the clothing received burns through the clothes scorched by the heat rays.


The photograph shows a woman who must have been exposed to the A-bomb less than 2 kilometers from the hypocenter, judging by the extent of the burns on her entire back. Though the affected part was medically treated, you can see that the degree of the burns differs according to the angle at which the heat rays were received: the burns on the left shoulder are most severe, and the burns on the right shoulder to the waist are relatively light.

Ninoshima Island, where this woman was evacuated to, is situated about 4 kilometers south of Ujina port; it has a circumference of about 14 kilometers. On this island there were several facilities, including the Army Quarantines. These facilities became emergency first-aid stations, and it is estimated that roughly 10,000 victims of the A-bomb were transported to this island by boat. Over 2,000 people breathed their last here.

The date of this photograph is unknown, but there are records indicating that it was taken in October 1945, and the patient was 17 years old then. Although the portion covered by the shoulder strap of a bag was left lmburned, traces of burns on the patient's back can be seen since the patient had light clothes on at that time. Heavy keloids started to show on both arms.

The cause of keloids is not clear yet, but it is consideretd to be caused by a combination of powerful heat rays and radiation. According to an observation record containing 200 entries, a clinical examination showing the sequence of protrusion from skin surface --> tone of color --> contraction of skin described the tramsition as follows:

December 1945 - protrusion started, red, contracted; May 1946 - protrusion becomes most noticeable, red, excessively contracted; July 1946 - partial flattening occurred, reddish purple, contraction continues but also some wrinkles; October 1946 - light keloids flattened, purple color takes on, contraction somewhat eases; January 1947 - heavy keloids shrink and wrinkles increase; purplish blue wrinkles occur.

This boy had thermal burns on more than one-third of his body, and his chest and the left side of his belly were seriously injured. He managed to leave the hospital after 3 years and 7 months. This person, who miraculously recovered, is now a father of two children, and recollects what happened then; "At that time I was riding a red bibycle on the streets of Sumiyoshi township (about 2 kilometers from the hypocenter). I was 16 years old, and it was my second year as a telegram messenger. The moment of face, I was blinded by the flash and thrown 3 meters away by the blast that came from my rear left, and my bicycle was twisted and bent. It was strange that I was not bleeding and did not feel any pain until I reached an underground shelter 300 meters away. The moment I reached the shelter, I felt severe pain in my back, which ran through my whole body. From then on, for three days and three nights, I kept on groaning in the shelter, and on the fourth day I was finally rescued and sent to a first-aid station."

"In the early stages, the only treatment I received for my burns was the application of a mixture of ash and oil as a substitute for medicine. I do not know how many times I yelled "kill me!" because of the severe pain and desperate feeling."

"Thereafter, as a result of the several operations I underwent, I escaped death and returned to work. Since I have once given up my life, I wish to dedicatemy new life to the struggle against atomic bombs."

He is continuing to devote his efforts to the prohibiton of atomic and hydrogen bombs. 

This boy, who was burned to death with his hands placed on his chest, leaving an impression of agony, is believed to have been a mobilized student exposed to the A-bomb in Iwakana township, which is about 700 meters from the hypocenter.

In those days, students who were in the 7th or 8th grade or in middle school were mobilized to munitions factories, farms, and national defense crews. They hardly did any learning at school. In the Urakami district of Nagasaki, there were several factories, including the Mitsubishi munitions, to which many students were mobilized. The death toll of mobilized students is unknown.

Regarding the disaster in Iwakawa township where this student was burned to death, the record of the Nagasaki A-bomb War Disaster reads as follows:

The instant the A-bomb exploded, almost all of the houses collapsed. The scattered pieces of wood and other debris covered the ground, and in some places they were heaped into drifts. Those who were outdoors all died, and those who were caught under the collapsed houses were screaming for help, and those who barely escaped frantically ran around. The town got dark, and, when visibility was regained, the collapsed houses started to smolder and then took fire. While there were mixed outcries of calls and for help, the town turned into a sea of flames."

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Unknown said...

I can certainly feel bad for the innocent people that were killed in the blast. I also feel terrible for the Chinese for the thousands of people that were massacered. War is terrible in all it's forms.

heyme said...

grinning when you are winning. moaning and seek for some mercy when you're losing.

japanese deserved it.

dawnatilla said...

heyme said...
grinning when you are winning. moaning and seek for some mercy when you're losing.

japanese deserved it"

you obviously have no ; Children, heart, brain..or class..."DESERVED" IT? why dont you show us all your brilliance and DESCRIBE why you said that. If you have such an opinion..surely you have reasons! lets hear it, genius!

tonyon said...

when aliens will come to Earth: goodbye religion and all its lies

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Snippets from History

This short but important battle played a key role in the decision to use atomic bombs when attacking Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The battle showed just how far Japanese troops would go to defend their country.

Snippets From History

Paulus didn't give the order to 6th Army to surrender, but his troops no longer had much fight left in them. Resistance faded out over the next two days, with the last die-hards finally calling it quits. One Red Army colonel shouted at a group of prisoners, waving at the ruins all around them: "That's how Berlin is going to look!


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Points to Ponder: Why Is China Unstable?

The aim of individuals in any society is money and power. Societies that give equal chance to all its members to get them will be the most stable. That is why democracies are more stable than other systems of governance.

China after Deng's reform gave the chance to get rich but power is in the hands of an elite; the Communist Party of China. Membership to the party is at the whims of the local party bosses. This leaves out many people who crave political power dissatisfied and disgruntled. There in lies the roots of instability. The Party suppressed these demands once at Tiananmen in 1989. But force is hardly the way to deal with things like these.

READ MORE: Tiananmen Square Massacre