In Memory Of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Posted by M ws On Saturday, August 6, 2011 8 comments
On August 6, 1945, the United States used a massive, atomic weapon against Hiroshima, Japan. This atomic bomb, the equivalent of 20,000 tons of TNT, flattened the city, killing tens of thousands of civilians. While Japan was still trying to comprehend this devastation three days later, the United States struck again, this time, on Nagasaki.


At 2:45 a.m. on Monday, August 6, 1945, a B-29 bomber, the Enola Gay, took off from Tinian, a North Pacific island in the Marianas, 1,500 miles south of Japan. The twelve-man crew (picture) were on board to make sure this secret mission went smoothly. Colonel Paul Tibbets, the pilot, nicknamed the B-29 the "Enola Gay" after his mother. Just before take-off, the plane's nickname was painted on its side.

The Enola Gay was a B-29 Superfortress (aircraft 44-86292), part of the 509th Composite Group. In order to carry such a heavy load as an atomic bomb, the Enola Gay was modified: new propellers, stronger engines, and faster opening bomb bay doors. (Only fifteen B-29s underwent this modification.) Even though it had been modified, the plane still had to use the full runway to gain the necessary speed, thus it did not lift off until very near the water's edge.1

The Enola Gay was escorted by two other bombers that carried cameras and a variety of measuring devices. Three other planes had left earlier in order to ascertain the weather conditions over the possible targets.

On a hook in the ceiling of the plane, hung the ten-foot atomic bomb, "Little Boy." Navy Captain William S. Parsons ("Deak"), chief of the Ordnance Division in the "Manhattan Project," was the Enola Gay's weaponeer. Since Parsons had been instrumental in the development of the bomb, he was now responsible for arming the bomb while in-flight. Approximately fifteen minutes into the flight (3:00 a.m.), Parsons began to arm the atomic bomb; it took him fifteen minutes. Parsons thought while arming "Little Boy": "I knew the Japs were in for it, but I felt no particular emotion about it."2

"Little Boy" was created using uranium-235, a radioactive isotope of uranium. This uranium-235 atomic bomb, a product of $2 billion of research, had never been tested. Nor had any atomic bomb yet been dropped from a plane. Some scientists and politicians pushed for not warning Japan of the bombing in order to save face in case the bomb malfunctioned.

There had been four cities chosen as possible targets: Hiroshima, Kokura, Nagasaki, and Niigata (Kyoto was the first choice until it was removed from the list by Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson). The cities were chosen because they had been relatively untouched during the war. The Target Committee wanted the first bomb to be "sufficiently spectacular for the importance of the weapon to be internationally recognized when publicity on it was released."3

On August 6, 1945, the first choice target, Hiroshima, was having clear weather. At 8:15 a.m. (local time), the Enola Gay's door sprang open and dropped "Little Boy." The bomb exploded 1,900 feet above the city and only missed the target, the Aioi Bridge, by approximately 800 feet.

Staff Sergeant George Caron, the tail gunner, described what he saw: "The mushroom cloud itself was a spectacular sight, a bubbling mass of purple-gray smoke and you could see it had a red core in it and everything was burning inside. . . . It looked like lava or molasses covering a whole city. . . ."4 The cloud is estimated to have reached a height of 40,000 feet.

Captain Robert Lewis, the co-pilot, stated, "Where we had seen a clear city two minutes before, we could no longer see the city. We could see smoke and fires creeping up the sides of the mountains."5 Two-thirds of Hiroshima was destroyed. Within three miles of the explosion, 60,000 of the 90,000 buildings were demolished. Clay roof tiles had melted together. Shadows had imprinted on buildings and other hard surfaces. Metal and stone had melted.

Unlike many other bombing raids, the goal for this raid had not been a military installation but rather an entire city. The atomic bomb that exploded over Hiroshima killed civilian women and children in addition to soldiers. Hiroshima's population has been estimated at 350,000; approximately 70,000 died immediately from the explosion and another 70,000 died from radiation within five years.

A survivor described the damage to people:

The appearance of people was . . . well, they all had skin blackened by burns. . . . They had no hair because their hair was burned, and at a glance you couldn't tell whether you were looking at them from in front or in back. . . . They held their arms bent [forward] like this . . . and their skin - not only on their hands, but on their faces and bodies too - hung down. . . . If there had been only one or two such people . . . perhaps I would not have had such a strong impression. But wherever I walked I met these people. . . . Many of them died along the road - I can still picture them in my mind -- like walking ghosts.6


While the people of Japan tried to comprehend the devastation in Hiroshima, the United States was preparing a second bombing mission. The second run was not delayed in order to give Japan time to surrender, but was waiting only for a sufficient amount of plutonium-239 for the atomic bomb. On August 9, 1945 only three days after the bombing of Hiroshima, another B-29, Bock's Car (picture of crew), left Tinian at 3:49 a.m.

The first choice target for this bombing run had been Kokura. Since the haze over Kokura prevented the sighting of the bombing target, Bock's Car continued on to its second target. At 11:02 a.m., the atomic bomb, "Fat Man," was dropped over Nagasaki. The atomic bomb exploded 1,650 feet above the city.

Fujie Urata Matsumoto, a survivor, shares one scene:

The pumpkin field in front of the house was blown clean. Nothing was left of the whole thick crop, except that in place of the pumpkins there was a woman's head. I looked at the face to see if I knew her. It was a woman of about forty. She must have been from another part of town -- I had never seen her around here. A gold tooth gleamed in the wide-open mouth. A handful of singed hair hung down from the left temple over her cheek, dangling in her mouth. Her eyelids were drawn up, showing black holes where the eyes had been burned out. . . . She had probably looked square into the flash and gotten her eyeballs burned.7

Approximately 40 percent of Nagasaki was destroyed. Luckily for many civilians living in Nagasaki, though this atomic bomb was considered much stronger than the one exploded over Hiroshima, the terrain of Nagasaki prevented the bomb from doing as much damage. Yet the decimation was still great. With a population of 270,000, approximately 70,000 people died by the end of the year.

I saw the atom bomb. I was four then. I remember the cicadas chirping. The atom bomb was the last thing that happened in the war and no more bad things have happened since then, but I don't have my Mummy any more. So even if it isn't bad any more, I'm not happy.
--- Kayano Nagai, survivor8



1. Dan Kurzman, Day of the Bomb: Countdown to Hiroshima (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1986) 410.
2. William S. Parsons as quoted in Ronald Takaki, Hiroshima: Why America Dropped the Atomic Bomb (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1995) 43.
3. Kurzman, Day of the Bomb 394.
4. George Caron as quoted in Takaki, Hiroshima 44.
5. Robert Lewis as quoted in Takaki, Hiroshima 43.
6. A survivor quoted in Robert Jay Lifton, Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima (New York: Random House, 1967) 27.
7. Fujie Urata Matsumoto as quoted in Takashi Nagai, We of Nagasaki: The Story of Survivors in an Atomic Wasteland (New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1964) 42.
8. Kayano Nagai as quoted in Nagai, We of Nagasaki 6.


Hersey, John. Hiroshima. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985.

Kurzman, Dan. Day of the Bomb: Countdown to Hiroshima. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1986.

Liebow, Averill A. Encounter With Disaster: A Medical Diary of Hiroshima, 1945. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1970.

Lifton, Robert Jay. Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima. New York: Random House, 1967.

Nagai, Takashi. We of Nagasaki: The Story of Survivors in an Atomic Wasteland. New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1964.

Takaki, Ronald. Hiroshima: Why America Dropped the Atomic Bomb. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1995.

written by Jennifer Rosenberg @ ABOUT.COM

For more on Hiroshima, CLICK HERE.

For more on Nagasaki, CLICK HERE

8 comments to In Memory Of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

  1. says:

    Cat-from-Sydney No matter how they justify it now, that bomb shouldn't have built in the first place, let alone dropped on civilians. Yes, the Japs struck Pearl Harbour first, but it was a military target. I'm sick of war, esp when Uncle Sam is involved. What if the rest of the world invade them to look for WMD? purrrrrrr *sick*

  1. says:

    stephen Sorry but seeing the atrocities committed by the Japanese during the second world war and their refusal to accept their crimes and even having the gall to gloss over the facts in their school textbooks doesn't warrant any sympathy from me. I have been to the Hiroshima war memorial and the way they described the war was like they were the victims. The soldiers who committed the most heinous crimes came from Hiroshima. Killing and butchering innocent people without regard and even subjecting their victims to live vivisection , I think the bombs were the only way to kick them into submission.
    I am sorry for the loss of lives but they started the genocide thinking they were the superior race. It was a necessary evil to stop a greater evil.

  1. says:

    masterwordsmith Dear Angelina

    The fact that innocent victims lost their lives and limbs because of the arrogance and selfishness of both sides and have had to pay the price for decades is most distressing.

    That years down the road, conflicts cannot be resolved amicably is another daunting fact which should rock us to the need for peace via non-violent channels.

    Sighs...You have brought up very valid points.

    Take care and thanks for sharing, dear Angelina.

    Have a wonderful day.

    Selamat berpuasa.


  1. says:

    masterwordsmith Dear Stephen

    My grateful thanks to you for sharing from your heart. Much as I feel sympathy for the innocent victims, like you, I remain indignant for the horrible atrocities committed during WW2. I have read widely on this and seen the terrifying pictures of what they did.

    Without the bombing, one wonders what might have happened next. It is tragic that such a move had to be executed for the greater good of mankind.

    And you summarised it beautifully:

    It was a necessary evil to stop a greater evil.

    Man should be reminded of the horrors of war and conflict. Sadly, from the way things are moving, selfishness and greed remain.

    Thank you so much for sharing.

    Take care and have a lovely day.

    Warmest regards

  1. says:

    Bunny there's no such thing as "a necessary evil."

    how can anyone with a sane mind justify 140,000 deaths?

  1. says:

    ahoo Only those who had gone through those horrifying time can relate about it. Heard so many stories about the evil of those BAD Japanese soldiers that came to plunder and rape etc. etc. For record I'd no trouble working or even having business dealing with Japanese people.

    In war, the great evil in each men are manifested and the one laughing like hell is the devil himself that had has causes men to fight with each other instead of loving each other as human.

    There is no special race on earth except that of human race and if we can't even comprehend this simple fact then we are not fit to be on earth.

    The journey of a man is not measured by the years he had has lived on earth but by the number of days he had had contributed to society at large for the betterment of the next generation.

  1. says:

    Bunny to condemn the japanese people in hiroshima and nagasaki for what the japanese soldiers did during the war is akin to roastmah blaming the tsunami on them.

    why wasn't the bomb dropped on germany? ......... considering the number of jews who were killed in the holocaust?
    the atrocities committed were just as bad.

  1. says:

    masterwordsmith Dear Bunny

    Thank you for your compassion for the victims. I feel for them too. The effects and horrors live on and the victims tell a story that is too horrible to repeat.

    There is no end to the debate but like you, I do feel for the victims. Still, there are both sides to the coin. We can only hypothesize as to the what-ifs wrt the possibilities if the bomb had not been dropped.

    The past is past. We have to learn from it and let our present and future be better than those atrocities.

    In sincerity, I pray that man will truly seek harmony and put to death greed but then again, that is the dreamer in me speaking.

    Thanks so much for airing your views so honestly.

    Take care and please keep in touch.

    Best wishes

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