We know Japan as an entertaining, a tourist-friendly country with an impressive and beloved culture. But there were also events in the past that changed the whole country in a single day. A major event was the nuclear attack on Hiroshima in 1945.
The war in the Pacific continued and the American troops were, after encountering massive defence on Guadalcanal, Peleliu and Okinawa, able to invade the Japanese mainland. U.S. President Harry S. Truman knew that the Japanese Army would bring severe losses to the Americans if the tried to invade. Since 1942 “Project Manhattan” was developed, the code name for the building of atomic bombs. Truman decided to use the in 1945 finished bombs on Japan in the hope that it would surrender in front of this inhuman measure of destruction. This would completely end the 2nd World War after Germany already surrendered on the 8th of May 1945. Hiroshima was chosen as a target because of its military importance with parts of the Japanese Army stationed as well as storages filled with important military goods. Besides that, the city wasn’t destroyed by air raids such as Tokyo was. With this simple reason, Truman made one of most tragic events in human history happen.
In the early morning of the 6th of August 1945, a B-29 bomber plane called “Enola Gay” started from Tinian Airfield, southwest of Japan. On board was a small crew and the active atomic bomb “Little Boy”. After six hours flight, pilot Paul W. Tibbets released the bomb over the center of Hiroshima at 8.15 in the morning. Down in the city life was going on as usual.
The two mushroom clouds caused by the atomic bomb, Hiroshima on the left, Nagasaki on the right
The original target was missed by 240 meters and the bomb detonated in 580-meter height with a power of 16 kilotons of TNT, directly over the Shima Surgical Clinic. The flash of the blast was so bright that it burned shadows into the walls, many of them are still visible today. On an instant 70.000 – 80.000 people were killed, 70.000 more were injured of which many passed due to their injuries or radiation sickness.
Hiroshima was destroyed on an area of 12.6 km and fires spread rapidly, making rescue missions and evacuations extremely difficult.
Japan recognized that something was wrong when the telephone and telegraph lines didn’t work anymore. This was an unusual situation hence an officer was sent to Hiroshima by plane. After his return, he approved the shocking event which was only a rumour shortly before. Immediately Japan sends forces to help.
A few days later – in the meantime Nagasaki was also hit by a second nuclear bomb – Emperor Hirohito decided that surrender was inevitable to save his own nation and also the human civilisation because in his opinion the further use of nuclear devices would end human life on earth. Japan surrendered on the 15th of August 1945. With this act, the World War II had ended completely.
The Hiroshima Peace Memorial today
Emperor Hirohito stated three main reasons for surrender: the unready defence of Tokyo in case of an American invasion, the possible loss of Ise Shrine and the possible wipeout of the Japanese nation if America would continue to use nuclear bombs. After the war Japan nearly instantly began to rebuild itself and even with the catastrophe of Hiroshima it became a land of peace and a reminder of human cruelty.