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1945: US drops atomic bomb on Hiroshima

The first atomic bomb has been dropped by a United States aircraft on the Japanese city of Hiroshima.President Harry S Truman, announcing the news from the cruiser, USS Augusta, in the mid-Atlantic, said the device was more than 2,000 times more powerful than the largest bomb used to date.

An accurate assessment of the damage caused has so far been impossible due to a huge cloud of impenetrable dust covering the target. Hiroshima is one of the chief supply depots for the Japanese army.

The bomb was dropped from an American B-29 Superfortress, known as Enola Gay, at 0815 local time. The plane’s crew say they saw a column of smoke rising and intense fires springing up.

We found the Japanese in our locality were not eager to befriend us – after all, they had not long ago had the most fearful weapon of all time dropped on their doorstep

The President said the atomic bomb heralded the “harnessing of the basic power of the universe”. It also marked a victory over the Germans in the race to be first to develop a weapon using atomic energy.President Truman went on to warn the Japanese the Allies would completely destroy their capacity to make war.

The Potsdam declaration issued 10 days ago, which called for the unconditional surrender of Japan, was a last chance for the country to avoid utter destruction, the President said.

“If they do not now accept our terms they may expect a rain of ruin from the air the like of which has never been seen on Earth. Behind this air attack will follow by sea and land forces in such number and power as they have not yet seen, but with fighting skill of which they are already aware.”

The British Prime Minister Clement Attlee, who has replaced Winston Churchill at Number 10, read out a statement prepared by his predecessor to MPs in the Commons.

It said the atomic project had such great potential the government felt it was right to pursue the research and to pool information with atomic scientists in the US.

As Britain was considered within easy reach of Germany and its bombers, the decision was made to set up the bomb-making plants in the US.

The statement continued: “By God’s mercy, Britain and American science outpaced all German efforts. These were on a considerable scale, but far behind. The possession of these powers by the Germans at any time might have altered the result of the war.”

Mr Churchill’s statement said considerable efforts had been made to disrupt German progress – including attacks on plants making constituent parts of the bomb.

He ended: “We must indeed pray that these awful agencies will be made to conduce peace among the nations and that instead of wreaking measureless havoc upon the entire globe they become a perennial fountain of world prosperity.”

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barren landscape with burned out bus

The bomb has caused widespread devastation at Hiroshima


In Context
The Hiroshima bomb, known as “Little Boy” – a reference to former President Roosevelt, contained the equivalent of between 12 and 15,000 tons of TNT and devastated an area of five square miles (13 square kilometres). More than 60% of the buildings in the city were destroyed.Official Japanese figures at the time put the death toll at 118,661 civilians. But later estimates suggest the final toll was about 140,000, of Hiroshima’s 350,000 population, including military personnel and those who died later from radiation. Many have also suffered long-term sickness and disability.

Three days later, the United States launched a second, bigger atomic bomb against the city of Nagasaki. The device known as “Fat man”, after Winston Churchill, weighed nearly 4,050 kg (nearly 9,000lb).

Nagasaki is surrounded by mountains and because of this the level of destruction was confined to about 2.6 square miles or 6.7 square kilometres.

Nearly 74,000 were killed and a similar number injured.

The two atomic bombs, with the Soviet declaration of war against Japan on 8 August 1945, finally left the Japanese no choice.

Japan surrendered to the Allies on 14 August 1945.

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Hiroshima remembers atomic bomb: ‘abolish the evil of nuclear weapons’
The Japanese city falls quiet as it remembers the moment 70 years ago that the Enola Gay dropped a bomb that obliterated tens of thousands of lives
The Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abo, vows to introduce a nuclear disarmament proposal to the United Nations
Justin McCurry in Hiroshima
Thursday 6 August 2015 02.25 BST Last modified on Thursday 6 August 2015 09.42 BST
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Hiroshima has marked the 70th anniversary of the moment the city was flattened by an atomic bomb with prayers, a moment’s silence and vows to redouble efforts to halt nuclear proliferation.

On a sweltering day in the Japanese city, tens of thousands of people lowered their heads and stood in silence at 8.15am, the time the bomb was dropped on 6 August 1945, killing 80,000 people instantly and another 60,000 in the months that followed.

Doves were released into the morning sky and a Buddhist temple bell tolled as people across Japan marked the anniversary of the first nuclear attack in history.

On Sunday, a similar event will be held to remember the second atomic bomb, dropped on Nagasaki. More than 70,000 people died.

Thursday’s ceremony was attended by 40,000 people, including representatives of more than 100 countries.

Among them was the US ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy, and the US under-secretary for arms control, Rose Gottemoeller, the most senior US official sent from Washington to the annual memorial.
Hiroshima’s fate, 70 years ago this week, must not be forgotten
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Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, said that as the only country to have suffered a nuclear attack, Japan had an “important mission” to promote nuclear disarmament.

Abe said Japan would submit a new resolution to the UN general assembly this autumn calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons. He would “encourage world leaders to get firsthand accounts of the tragic reality of atomic bombings” during next year’s G7 foreign ministers’ meeting in Hiroshima.

As the Hiroshima service was taking place, the 10 members of the Association of South-east Asian Nations (ASEAN) and five of their large neighbours endorsed the nuclear deal negotiated last month between Iran and six world powers, including the US.


In a joint statement, the foreign ministers of the ASEAN countries, along with Australia, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea, said the deal would “ensure the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme”, which many believe has been used as a cover for atomic weapons development. Iran denies that charge.

ASEAN includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam. Also signing the statement were China, Russia and the US, which were involved in negotiating the agreement with Iran.

The mayor of Hiroshima, Kazumi Matsui, said that seven decades after the bombing, the proliferation of nuclear weapons posed a growing threat to global security.

“Our world still bristles with more than 15,000 nuclear weapons, and policymakers in the nuclear-armed states remain trapped in provincial thinking, repeating by word and deed their nuclear intimidation,” he said.

“We now know about the many incidents and accidents that have taken us to the brink of nuclear war or nuclear explosions. Today, we worry as well about nuclear terrorism.

“To coexist we must abolish the absolute evil and ultimate inhumanity that are nuclear weapons. Now is the time to start taking action.”

Doves were released over the Hiroshima peace memorial park during Thursday’s ceremony. Facebook Twitter Pinterest
Doves were released over the Hiroshima peace memorial park during Thursday’s ceremony. Photograph: Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images
Seven decades ago, the countdown to the first nuclear attack in history began when a US B-29 Superfortress bomber, escorted by two surveillance planes, took off from an airfield on the Pacific island of Tinian.
Hiroshima and the nuclear age – a visual guide
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The Enola Gay, named after the mother of the plane’s pilot, Brig Gen Paul Tibbets, was carrying a 16kiloton atomic bomb, nicknamed Little Boy. Its target was Hiroshima, a port and major army base in western Japan, six hours’ flying time away.

As dawn broke in Hiroshima, its 340,000 residents were recovering from another sleepless night of false alarms after radar had picked up a succession of US bombers flying overhead on missions further south.

Soon after 7am local time, a US weather surveillance aircraft escorting the Enola Gay triggered yet another air raid alert. The plane left the area and the all clear was sounded at 7.31am. Its message to the Enola Gay crew: “Weather good, possible to drop bomb.”

Forty-four minutes later the Enola Gay released its payload. Below, people were preparing for a day at work, young children set out for school and older ones set off to factories to help Japan’s faltering war effort.

The city, the site of a large military headquarters, had so far been spared the heavy conventional bombing that had destroyed much of Tokyo and Osaka. Hiroshima residents were beginning to suspect that their city was next.

The bomb exploded 580 metres (2,000ft) above a T-shaped bridge at the junction of the Honkawa and Motoyasu rivers, unleashing a blinding flash followed by a deafening boom.

As many as 80,000 people died instantly in the blast or from the firestorms that raged moments later. The death toll would rise to about 140,000 by the end of 1945. The explosion, equal to between 12,000 and 15,000 tonnes of TNT, destroyed more than two-thirds of Hiroshima’s buildings across 5 sq miles.

Students watch a video on Thursday of the 1945 atomic bombing in front of a photograph showing Hiroshima city after the bomb. Facebook Twitter Pinterest
Students watch a video on Thursday of the 1945 atomic bombing in front of a photograph showing Hiroshima city after the bomb. Photograph: Toru Hanai/Reuters
Within 45 minutes, nuclear fallout mixed with ash and smoke from the firestorms to create a radioactive black rain that soaked survivors and did not abate until the fires began to burn themselves out in the evening.

As people staggered among the dead and dying in search of water and medical treatment, news began to spread to the capital, Tokyo, that something unspeakable had occurred in Hiroshima.

But wartime leaders did not receive confirmation that the city had been destroyed by a nuclear weapon until the next day, when the US president, Harry S Truman, said: “Sixteen hours ago an American airplane dropped one bomb on Hiroshima. It is an atomic bomb.”

At 8.15am on Thursday Hiroshima remembered its dead. This year, as on every other anniversary, the names of survivors – the hibakusha – who died in the previous 12 months will be added to the peace park’s cenotaph. On the eve of the 70th anniversary, the total stood at 292,325.

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Japan Asia Pacific Nuclear weapons Second world war
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