As this year of major First and Second World War anniversaries marches on, we find ourselves in solemn observance of the seventy years since the atomic bombing of the Japanese city of Hiroshima tomorrow, 6 August. In the time since this day quite literally shattered human history as we knew it, countless historians have weighed in on the numerous political, racial, ethical, and military issues it simultaneously presented. Having explored a few of these myself, I have decided that the post for this week will focus on real accounts and experiences rather than a discussion on the endless theories and arguments out of respect for those who still remember that day with horror.
Part One: Background
As the Second World War entered its sixth year, it saw the official surrender of Nazi Germany on 8 May following a lengthy and dramatic political and military downfall. This meant that the Allies' attention could be entirely focused on the theater of war which still raged on: the war in the Pacific against Japan. As a dangerous invasion of the Japanese mainland was being discussed, a massive firebombing campaign was directed against the people of Japan with no change in their refusal to surrender. Together with the United Kingdom and China, the United States called for the unconditional surrender of the Japanese armed forces in the Potsdam Declaration on 26 July, 1945; this was buttressed with the threat of "prompt and utter destruction". By August, the $2 billion Manhattan Project had yielded the successful detonation of an atomic device in the New Mexico desert. On 6 August, the Boeing B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay dropped a uranium gun-type atomic bomb code-named "Little Boy" over the Japanese city of Hiroshima. 2,000 feet above the city, in a blast equal to 12-15,000 tons of TNT, five square miles were completely destroyed. Around half of deaths occurred on the first day, but within the first two to four months the acute effects of the bomb killed 90,000-166,000 people. In the months that followed, large numbers of civilians continued to die from the effects of burns, radiation sickness, other injuries, illness, and malnutrition.
|The Enola Gay and her crew|
|A man sitting on a step was instantly vaporized by the blast|
|A child jumping was also vaporized|
Part Two: Resilience
I recently came across a pretty unbelievable story related to the bombing of Hiroshima that I thought would be interesting to include, courtesy of Smithsonian.com:
On August 6, 1945, at a quarter-past 8 a.m., bonsai master Masaru Yamaki was inside his home when glass fragments hurtled past him, cutting his skin, after a strong force blew out the windows of the house. The U.S. B-29 bomber called the “Enola Gay” had just dropped the world’s first atomic bomb over the city of Hiroshima, at a site just two miles from the Yamaki home. But besides some minor glass-related injuries, Yamaki and his family survived the blast, as did their prized bonsai trees, which were protected by a tall wall surrounding the outdoor nursery.