August 6, 1945: The Bombing of Hiroshima

Tomorrow marks a notable anniversary. Shamelessly stolen from myself, from a few years ago…

Just a few weeks after the first atomic bomb was detonated by the Manhattan Project in the desert Southwest (on July 16, 1945) the US Army Air Force dropped an atomic bomb, code named “Little Boy” on the city of Hiroshima, Japan. Manhattan Project: The Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima, August 6, 1945

At 8:15 in the morning local time, a 15 kiloton uranium gun-trigger bomb was dropped on a city of 300,000 people.

The blast wave filled the air with broken glass. The flash from the detonation burned the shadows of people onto the walls left standing. 9 out of 10 people within half a mile of ground zero were dead.

The photo above is of the city center some weeks after the bombing. Click for a larger image.

In those areas most seriously affected virtually no one escaped serious injury. The numerous small fires that erupted simultaneously all around the city soon merged into one large firestorm, creating extremely strong winds that blew towards the center of the fire. The firestorm eventually engulfed 4.4 square miles of the city, killing anyone who had not escaped in the first minutes after the attack.

Those farther away had other problems as they thought their buildings had been bombed. Make-shift rescue parties started working shortly after the blast. Outside relief was slow to arrive, because the Japanese high command didn’t understand what happened. They couldn’t imagine destruction on that scale. It wasn’t until the US announcement 16 hours later that the true nature of what happened came to light.

While some things started to get back to normal in a few days, the effects of radiation sickness started to show itself.

Power in undamaged areas of the city was even restored on August 7th, with limited rail service resuming the following day. Several days after the blast, however, medical staff began to recognize the first symptoms of radiation sickness among the survivors. Soon the death rate actually began to climb again as patients who had appeared to be recovering began suffering from this strange new illness. Deaths from radiation sickness did not peak until three to four weeks after the attacks and did not taper off until seven to eight weeks after the attack.

The effects of radiation poisoning are truly hideous. A high enough exposure and you are dead – you are just waiting for the mechanics of dying to be complete. You can find descriptions of the gruesome details elsewhere. All I will say here is that I would not want to wait around for that end.