Disclaimer - I will not be including any graphic images of the injuries caused by the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, nor any close-ups of the large amounts of dead that were photographed in the city immediately after the bombing. However, I urge you to look at some of these yourselves along with my descriptions, in order to fully understand the level of horror, pain and suffering which the inhabitants of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki suffered.
Note - I will mostly be talking about Hiroshima in this post, as it is the anniversary of that bombing today, and also because if I were to include the same amount of information about Nagasaki, this post would be much longer than it is now. However, understand that I am not belittling the Nagasaki bombings, they deserve as much attention as the Hiroshima bombings, as these are the only two cities in the world to have nuclear weapons dropped on them.
On this day, 70 years ago, at 8.15 in the morning, the first atomic weapon dropped in anger detonated 600 meters above the city of Hiroshima, a large military and industrial hub with a population of 350,000, located on the coast of the Seto Inland Sea, in southern Japan.
The weapon, nicknamed 'Little Boy', exploded with a force roughly equal to 15 kilotons of TNT, missed its intended target, the Aioi Bridge, by 250m and detonated directly overhead the Shima Surgical Clinic.
Immediately, a massive blast-wave completely destroyed everything within a 1.6 kilometer radius of the hypocenter, barring heavily-reinforced and earthquake-resistant concrete buildings, of which only their shells remained standing, such as the famous 'A-Bomb Dome', what was previously the Prefectural Industry Promotion Building, which has been conserved and remains standing today in the Peace Park.
Severe blast damage radiated from the hypocenter, ranging from very serious damage and collapses of almost all buildings within a 2-3 kilometer radius, to light damage as far as 5 kilometers away.
A massive, blinding fireball 370 meters in diameter, reaching temperatures in excess of 6000 degrees celcius, caused fires to break out everywhere, resulting in a massive firestorm twenty minutes after the initial blast. Roughly 3 kilometers in diameter, it was fueled by the damaged and collapsed buildings due to the blast, completely razing them to the ground. People became trapped in their predominantly wooden houses, screaming for help to no avail as they burned alive. The fires only started to die down after reaching the edge of the blast-zone, where there was less fuel.
Upon detonation, a huge amount of neutron and gamma radiation was emitted, resulting in a lethal radiation dose within a 1.3 kilometer radius, roughly half of the firestorm-affected area. This radiation reached dozens of kilometers, causing many people that were relatively unharmed by the blast or fires to suffer acute radiation syndrome in the period after the bombing, some causing life-long health complications and increased chances of cancer.
Many would succumb to injuries from the blast and fires; with water being in such low supply due to mains being burst and rivers being either inaccessible or contaminated, the last word on many of the dying's lips were 'Water', their thirst arising from the heat which had enveloped the city.
In total, the blast resulted in ~80,000 direct deaths, approximately 70% of the city's buildings destroyed, with another approximate ~80,000 deaths by the end of the year due to injuries or acute radiation syndrome.
Why the news post?
Now you may be asking yourselves, why are you telling me this Cain? I already know about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, maybe not all the details as you've laid out, but the general impression of the event.
The answer is, because it's the 70th anniversary of the bomb being dropped on Hiroshima, with Nagasaki's being on the 9th of August.
Also, because last month I visited Japan on holiday, and went to the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, visiting the memorials, museums and everything else dedicated to the bomb and the victims of it. I feel quite strongly about this, and as such I wanted to share it on this forum.
My trip to Hiroshima & Nagasaki
Personally, I had always been on the fence about the usage of the atomic bombs to 'end' the war in the Pacific. I'm an avid historian, and whilst I thought I understood that the dropping of the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a horrible act, I believed it was necessary to finally bring about the closure of the Second World War; as it was likely that many more lives of both sides would have been lost in the brutal and bloody Pacific fighting, especially if the USA were to attempt a mainland invasion of Japan to finally force a surrender.
And this was the impression and viewpoint I had when I visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki. When I left both cities, I had completely changed my view. As to why that's the case, allow me to expand a little on my trip.
Hiroshima and Nagasaki, both quite nice cities, of course have a lot dedicated to memorials and museums of the atomic bombs dropped. In fact you could say that if you are visiting either of the two cities to do some tourism, you are likely going to spend most of your time learning about the atomic bombs, and visiting memorials to the victims. All of these are very well done, in particular the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and the Peace Park in which it is situated in (which contains several dozen monuments and memorials, as well as the famous A-Bomb dome I linked a picture of earlier); and also Nagasaki's equivalent Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum and Nagasaki Peace Park.
I visited Hiroshima first, and the first order of business was the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. I was astounded by how well done the museum is. First, there were some short summaries of Hiroshima's history, and what it was like before the bomb and even before the war itself. The exhibition then moved onto the dropping of the bomb, its immediate effects, then its long-term affects, then onto how the bomb actually worked and the various forms of damage, finally ending on survivors' stories, and images/messages left by various high-level dignitaries that have visited the Museum and Park. (There is another large wing of the museum, but it was currently closed for the first stage of a two-part renovation in which they are re-doing and upgrading the entire museum and exhibits, due to be completely finished in 2018 I believe. If you are thinking of visiting, make sure you check to see if the Museum is open!)
As to the exhibits themselves, its very hard to not get emotional. The museum has dozens of items which were from the blast; pieces of clothing, personal effects, etc, all from a wide variety of people who ultimately perished either on the day or soon afterwards. Bits of twisted glasses-frames, half-charred school-uniforms, battered and broken lunch-boxes, disfigured and damaged toys, the list goes on. The items all have descriptions of who they belonged to (if identified) as well as a short description of who they were, what they did, and how they ultimately perished.
The walls are lined of images of the injuries caused by the blast; horrific burns causing skin to literally be hanging off someone's flesh; lines and patterns of clothing burnt into the bare skin of people; large keloids (large bumpy and inflamed scars), again, the list goes on.
Included in the exhibition was the chunk of stone steps (image above) from the front of the Sumitomo bank, in which an ordinary, unidentified person had been sitting on whilst waiting for the bank to open at the time of the bombing, his/her shadow burnt into the stone by the fireball when the bomb detonated, leaving nothing else behind. Even despite the low-lighting in the museum and the fact that the shadow has somewhat faded, it is still clearly visible, and staring at such a stark reminder in your face is a very hard thing to tolerate.
The last section, hearing recordings of survivors giving interviews and reading their descriptions of the minutes, hours, and days immediately after the bombing were completely gut-wrenching. They leave out no details of the level of human suffering and despair which was experienced by the people of Hiroshima; the scenes of hell-like horror of fires, rubble, screams and bodies; and the stories of human strength in which people aided others. I would highly recommend you looking into some of the stories of survivors, some of the examples of human kindness and strength are absolutely astounding, given the situation they were in.
All this, I will willingly admit, left me teary, emotional, and struggling to handle with what I was being presented with. When I walked out of the museum, I had to sit down on a bench in the 25 degree heat in the middle of the park and just comprehend everything for a while. It was strikingly similar to the feeling I had when I visited the Auschwitz camps last year.
All this being said, I am not here to spark debate on whether the bombings were truly 'right' or 'justified', nor am I here to particularly attempt to educate you in what happened, however if you did learn some things and want to learn more, then I am grateful for that.
I will say that personally, my opinion of the bombings and nuclear weapons has been affirmed; I do not wish the level of human suffering in which the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki suffered upon anyone else in this world, and as long as nuclear weapons remain stockpiled by the thousands in the hands of many, there is a chance that it could happen again. As such, and this is probably the most preachy part, I would ask that you re-think about your stance on nuclear weapons. Do some research, have a deeper look at the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, and maybe come to the same realization that I have.
This is about what I experienced.
However, ultimately, I am asking for you to give remembrance to the victims of the bombings of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Remembrance for the pain, suffering, despair and everything else in which those people suffered, something that was not experienced anywhere else.
Remembrance of this act humanity committed upon itself.
Remembrance and understanding of the hope that this is something that should never be experienced by anyone in the world, and it is an utter tragedy that several hundred thousand people were killed, untold amount more injured and affected, had to go through this level of suffering.
I urge you to take part in your own little minute of silence or anything of the sort both today, and on the 9th, for the two respective bombings.
P.S For those that actually got through the whole thing, I congratulate and thank you. Hope you're not too depressed.
P.P.S I would highly, highly recommend that you visit both Hiroshima and Nagasaki at some point in your lives. What I've said and described here may be depressing enough, but I honestly think it is something everyone should do. Reading this post is one thing, but standing in the middle of the Peace Park, looking at the A-Bomb dome, and being only a few hundred meters away from the hypocenter of the blast; it is definitely a worthwhile experience. Especially considering how large and nice the cities have grown to become today. It's somewhat like a phoenix rising out of its ashes. Definitely a worthwhile experience.