Hiroshima

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Hiroshima Cloud

This page contains graphic descriptions and photographs of the aftermath of the Hiroshima bombing. Discretion is advised.

On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped its first atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima. The bomb was known a "Little Boy", a uranium gun-type bomb that exploded with about thirteen kilotons of force. At the time of the bombing, Hiroshima was home to 280,000-290,000 civilians as well as 43,000 soldiers. Between 90,000 and 166,000 people are believed to have died from the bomb in the four-month period following the explosion. The U.S. Department of Energy has estimated that after five years there were perhaps 200,000 or more fatalities as a result of the bombing, while the city of Hiroshima has estimated that 237,000 people were killed directly or indirectly by the bomb's effects, including burns, radiation sickness, and cancer.

Contents

The Bombing

The bombing of Hiroshima, codenamed Operation Centerboard, was approved by Curtis LeMay on August 4, 1945. The B-29 plane that carried Little Boy from Tinian Island in the western Pacific to Hiroshima was known as the Enola Gay, after pilot Paul Tibbets' mother. Along with Paul Tibbets, copilot Robert Lewis, bombardier Tom Ferebee, navigator Theodore Van Kirk and tail gunner Robert Caron were also on board the Enola Gay. Below are their eyewitness accounts of the first atomic bomb dropped on Japan.

The Enola Gay on Tinian Island

For a precise account of the bombing, see the Hiroshima Mission Timeline.

Only a few structures remained after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945

Six miles below the crew of the Enola Gay, the people of Hiroshima were waking up and preparing for their daily routines. It was 8:16 A.M. Up to that point, the city had been largely spared by the rain of conventional air bombing that had ravaged many other Japanese cities. Rumors abounded as to why this was so, from the fact that many Hiroshima residents had emigrated to the U.S. to the supposed presence of President Truman's mother in the area. Still, many citizens, including schoolchildren, were recruited to prepare for future bombings by tearing down houses to create fire lanes, and it was at this task that many were laboring or preparing to labor on the morning of August 6. Just an hour before, air raid sirens had sounded as a single B-29, the weather plane for the Little Boy mission, approached Hiroshima. A radio broadcast announced the sighting of the Enola Gay soon after 8 A.M.

Destruction

Hiroshima after the bombing

The city of Hiroshima was annihilated by the explosion. 70,000 of 76,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed, and 48,000 of those were entirely razed. Survivors recalled the indescribable and incredible experience of seeing that the city had ceased to exist.

Those who were close to the epicenter of the explosion were simply vaporized by the intensity of the heat. One man left only a dark shadow on the steps of a bank as he sat. The mother of Miyoko Osugi, a 13-year-old schoolgirl working on the fire lanes, never found her body, but she did find her geta sandal. The area covered by Miyoko's foot remained light, while the rest of it was darkened by the blast.

Many others in Hiroshima, farther from the Little Boy epicenter, survived the initial explosion but were severely wounded, including injuries from and burns across much of their body. Among these people, panic and chaos were rampant as they struggled to find food and water, medical assistance, and friends and relatives and to flee the firestorms that engulfed many residential areas.

Reaction

The thermal radiation from atomic blast at Hiroshima was so hot that it burned the cloth pattern of this victims shirt into her flesh

Having no point of reference for the bomb's absolute devastation, some survivors believed themselves to have been transported to a hellish version of the afterlife. The worlds of the living and the dead seemed to converge.

Many people traveled to central places such as hospitals, parks, and riverbeds in an attempt to find relief from their pain and misery. However, these locations soon became scenes of agony and despair as many injured and dying people arrived and were unable to receive proper care.

Resources

For a detailed account of the bombing of Hiroshima from the Japanese perspective, please refer to John Hersey's Hiroshima and Fred J. Olivi's Decision at Nagasaki: The Mission That Almost Failed

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