August 6th, 2023 marked the 78th anniversary of the horrific bombing of Hiroshima.
Image Credit: Simon Lee, Unsplash
On the morning of August 6th, 1945, an American B-29 bomber plane named the Enola Gay released a nuclear bomb, descending onto the land of Hiroshima (a city on Japan’s Honshu Island). At an altitude of 2,000 feet, the bomb exploded over a surgical technology clinic with the force of over 15,000 tons of TNT. People as far as one mile from the explosion perished, with almost 80,000 immediate deaths and thousands of more to come.
Prior to the detonation of the bomb, World War II had turned in the favor of the Allied Powers (United States, Soviet Union and Great Britain). Germany had surrendered on May 7th, 1945, putting an end to the war in Europe. However, Japan had refused to surrender under the requirements of the Allied Powers Potsdam Declaration. As they continued their military activity in East Asia, the United States decided to take firm action against them. The atomic bomb, a newly introduced weapon of mass destruction successfully tested at the Trinity test site in New Mexico, became the key player in the effort to end Japan’s tyranny. While there where many sites to release the bomb, President Harry S. Truman and his staff agreed that the bomb had to:
Be released in an area that would scare and potentially force Japan to surrender
Show the potential of the bomb and its effects
Ultimately, instead of releasing the bomb on military sites or small islands located in Japan, the bomb was detonated on Hiroshima, using the fact that the new nuclear bomb would wipe the city “off the map.” In addition, Hiroshima had many factories and shops that produced military supplies for the Japanese Army.
The nuclear bomb, as mentioned before, destroyed all life within a one mile radius. Buildings collapsed one after the other, vegetation disintegrated, and around 80,000 people died instantly. However, as much as 2 miles of land soon caught fire, causing thousands to evacuate from their homes. Many witnesses of the bomb recall seeing a blinding flash, followed by a sound that knocked most of their feet. Because the nuclear bomb had been a foreign weapon to those in Hiroshima, no one knew what had caused the disaster.
As the days after the bombing passed, many health issues arose. Those who survived the bomb had no shelter, food, or clean sanitary areas due to the bomb’s destruction. Thousands of people had to reside in small, barely habitable places. The unsanitary conditions, along with radiation sickness caused by the bomb, caused health problems such as hemorrhoids, petechiae, hematemesis and anorexia. In addition, due to the bright flash and the fires caused by the bomb, many people suffered from deathly 2nd and 3rd degree burns, and with no medical equipment available, an estimated 10,000 people died after the first 10 days of the bomb’s detonation.
After word of the bombing spread, experts navigated to the area in hopes of studying the bomb’s effect on the city. Rumors arose that Hiroshima would be inhabitable for more than 75 years, with its structures destroyed and its vegetation singed.
Remembering Hiroshima Today:
While the city of Hiroshima has returned to its original standing, with normal radiation levels, rebuilt structures, and presence of nature arriving after many years, the bomb’s effects are still prevalent, seven decades later. The Hibakusha (survivors of the atomic bombings in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki) have told first hand of the horrors of the atomic bomb and its devastating effect on the people and environment. Many survivors participate in the movement to ban atomic weapons of mass destruction, stressing its negative effects. In addition, many survivors of the bomb have health related issues such as cancer due to radiation exposure, with their offsprings having a high chance of receiving these diseases as well.
There are many fragments of life that have been showcased in Hiroshima to remember the conditions and lives of people during and after the atomic bombing. It is important that we understand the destructive effects of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, and its effect both in the past, the present, and the future.