What happened on August 6, 1945?
- Why Hiroshima was the target?: The city of Hiroshima used to play a significant role as the center of economy, education, culture and military besides being the capital of a prefectural government. A number of military camps were located nearby, including the headquarters of the Fifth Division and Field Marshal Shunroku Hata's 2nd General Army Headquarters, which commanded the defense of all of southern Japan. Besides these facts, one more significant reason was that Hiroshima was believed to be the only city without prisoner of war (POW) camps, so Washington decided to allot it highest priority for bombing.
- The bombing: August 6 was chosen because there had previously been cloud cover over the target. The dropping of A-bomb "Little Boy" at 08:15 (local time) took 57 seconds to fall from the aircraft to the predetermined height about 580 meters above the city. An immense shock wave traveled from the blast. At the hypocenter, the blast reached a speed of 440 meters per second. A fireball with a radius of 200 meters was generated whose surface temperature reached about 8000 degree centigrade. In addition, the A-bomb released tremendous amount of radiation.
- The clock stopped ticking: All the watches found in the ground zero were stopped at 8:15 am, the time of the explosion.
- Hiroshima was burnt to ashes: Due to the bombing, 90% of the Hiroshima's buildings were either damaged or completely destroyed. The building in the picture below was the former Hiroshima Prefecture Industrial Promotion Hall which was built in 1915 in European style design and used for promotion of the regional specialty products. The A-bomb exploded almost right over the building. Everything at an angle to the force of the explosion was knocked over.The burned area reached about 13,250,000 sq. meters.
- People burned to death: The casualty in Hiroshima was beyond imagination. "Practically all living things, human and animal, were literally seared to death," the Japanese radio broadcaster reported.
A wounded person who was brought to a naval hospital described, "I heard the sound of a car's horn in the darkness, then a military transport vehicle and a truck arrived. The wounded were crammed in the transport vehicle, but the truck was worse. On the open top loading space, as many people as possible had been piled up on top of each other. I couldn't tell if they were dead or alive. All the people's hair was burned and crimped.Their clothing was ragged and their exposed skin was terribly burned and soaked with blood. As I shined my flashlight over them, I could see countless pieces of wood chips, glass and metal shards stuck into their faces, backs and limbs. I couldn't believe they were human beings. A coal-tar like substance was oozing from every single person's face and body." (source: the book 'One Day in Hiroshima - An Oral History' by Nanao Kamada)
After August 6, 1945?
- The degree of family disintegration was unimaginable. Children lost their parents and were destined to live as street children. Many old people lost their spouse and children to live in loneliness.
- Many A-bomb survivors were exposed to radiation which caused 'acute radiation symptom'. Several types of diseases were reported including leukemia (a cancer of the blood), meningioma (a type of brain tumor) and the cancers of thyroid, breast, lung, stomach, colon, skin and others. Besides this, other illnesses were also seen even among people who were in their mother's womb when the A-bomb was dropped.
- The psychological burden borne by A-bomb survivors are far more than the physical diseases. Remorse and the feeling of guilt and an infinite fear made it extremely hard for the people to escape from the memories of the A-bomb experiences. A fear that radiation could affect their children when they married and had children, caused A-bomb survivors to be socially isolated.
Has the world learnt anything?
At the end, I am leaving you with a video film on the Hiroshima bombing on 6th August 1945.
update: please click here for a cyber tour to the Hiroshima peace memorial park and to have a look of the ceremony that marked the 64th anniversary (6th August 2009) of A-bombing on Hiroshima.
*Sources: 1, 2, 3.