On August 6, 1945, a single American aircraft dropped an atom bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Three days later Nagasaki met the same fate. Japan surrendered within a week, ending World War Two. More than 120,000 of the 450,000 people in the two cities were killed, and a further 100,000 died from radiation-related illnesses in the following years.
The head of the project to create the atomic bombs was General Leslie R. Groves, and the head scientist working on it was Robert Oppenheimer (physicist).
- 1939 - President Roosevelt received a letter from Einstein encouraging him to further advance research in chain reactions and nuclear matters, as it could lead to powerful weapons.
- 1941 - The project was put under the responsibility of the Office of Scientific Research and Development along with the War office
- 1945 - July 16th: First successful atomic bomb detonated in Alamogordo, New Mexico - this named the 'Trinity Test'
Why were the atomic bombs dropped?
America wanted a rapid victory against Japan and followed policy of bombing of Japan's major cities to force Japan into surrendering. Despite continued air raids Japan refused to surrender. Scared that the Allies might settle for negotiated settlement with Japan, President Truman decided to use the atomic bomb.
- » The first bomb was dropped in Hiroshima on the 6th of August.
- » When Japan didn' t surrender after the 6th, Nagasaki was bombed
- » Finally on the 15th of August Japan surrendered to the Allies and on the 2nd of September signed unconditional surrender aboard the USS Missouri, docked at Tokyo Bay.
- » Another reason cited is that the US wanted to show off its might to its rival, the Soviet Union, and maintain its power over the region.
Aftermath of the bombings
Both cities were levelled to the ground completely, with barely any structures left standing. Over 90% of Hiroshima and over 40% of Nagasaki were destroyed. Despite the Nagasaki bomb being bigger, the geography of area prevented large scale destruction, as the hills around were able to contain the blast. More deaths due to exposure to high levels of radiation followed. Even today the effects of the radiation are visible with a high number of birth defects and cancer cases in these areas.
- » Total no. of casualties in both places is almost 150,000 people.
- » In Hiroshima, around a 100,000 died instantly.
- » In Nagasaki close to 50,000 people died instantly.
(Text: Deepika Narayan, Graphics: Eunice Dhivya)