Hiroshima in Ruins

Truman Library Photo: Hiroshima on Honshu Island lies in ruins as a result of the August 6,1945 atomic bombing.

When J Robert Oppenheimer, often called the “father of the atomic bomb,” witnessed the first test of the weapon he helped create in New Mexico on July 16, 1945, a phrase from the Bhagavad Gita entered his mind:

“Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

Undoubtedly the residents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki would agree.

On August 6th, 1945, less than two months after the successful test of the new and terrible weapon, the United States — facing a lengthy and costly invasion of the Japanese homeland to end the war in the Pacific — decided to use the atomic bomb against the Japanese to force their hand towards surrender.

With a blinding flash of light around a quarter after eight in the morning, Hiroshima time, some 70,000 to 80,000 people were killed instantly by an explosion equaling 20,000 tons of TNT, while every structure within one mile of ground zero was completely destroyed. It was the first use of nuclear weapons as an act of war in the history of the world.

While the morality and ethics of the use of a weapon of mass destruction, particularly against a heavily civilian target, continues to be debated to this day, there is no question that the bombing of Hiroshima — and three days later, the bombing of Nagasaki — brought about exactly what President Harry S Truman was hoping for: the complete and utter surrender of Japan.

By August 15th, the war in the Pacific was over, and the world once again knew peace for the first time in six years. – AJW

Abilene Reporter News August 7, 1945

Hiroshima Possibly Wiped Out

Hint Blinding Flash Vaporized Buildings

Reverberations of a single terrifying bomb which possibly obliterated a Japanese military city yesterday drowned out the roar of high explosives rained by 125 Superforts today on Toyokawa naval arsenal 175 miles southwest of Tokyo.

(Article continues below)

The Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima, August 6, 1945

At the time this photo was made, smoke billowed 20,000 feet above Hiroshima while smoke from the burst of the first atomic bomb had spread over 10,000 feet on the target at the base of the rising column. Two planes of the 509th Composite Group, part of the 313th Wing of the 20th Air Force, participated in this mission, one to carry the bomb, the other to act as escort. 8/6/1945

London predicted the Allies would hand Japan a new ultimatum packing the power of the atomic bomb that blasted Hiroshima. Hirohito’s advisers would have a choice between unconditional surrender within 48 hours or oblivion for their sacred islands.

Washington mentioned Tokyo itself, or another key Nipponese city, as the next probable target of the terrible atomic bomb.

Tokyo, in the cautious words of an imperial communique, admitted “considerable damage” was caused to Hiroshima by the “new type bombs.” Apparently destruction was so great the Nipponese war lords couldn’t believe it was a single bomb. Rail transportation to the city on the southern shores of Japan’s main island was cut off. “Details are now under investigation,” Nippon’s high command said.

Some sources in Washington suggested the “details” would show the city of more than 300,000 persons was just about wiped out by the single bomb.

Both sides exploited the propaganda value of war’s newest and most devastating weapon. American planes showered Japan with pamphlets on the destructiveness of the bomb. Tokyo said US “impatience at the slow progress of the projected invasion of the Japanese mainland drove the enemy to resort to such inhuman tactics.”

While a strict military censorship bottled up details of just what happened to Hiroshima, cryptic official reports and results of experiments with the atomic bomb indicated it was something like this:

The bomb burst with a blinding flash. Billowing clouds of smoke, debris and multi-colored gases blanketed the city. Some of the city simply vanished under atomic disintegration. Japan trembled for miles around as though shaken by one of the islands’ familiar earthquakes.

The bomb, which may be packed by the new B-32, was described as 2,000 times as destructive as any other bomb and carrying an explosive power equivalent to 20,000 tons of TNT. A pea sized amount of the atomic death can excavate a hole large enough to hold a house.

Unveiling of the atomic bomb perhaps explains why some commanders in the Pacific have hinted that the war against Japan might be won from the air. The Nipponese have no defense against threatened atomic bomb attack, described by President Truman as “a rain of ruin from the air the likes of which has never been seen.”


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About this story

Source publication: Abilene (TX) Reporter News

Source publication date: August 7, 1945

Notes: Photos courtesy of the US Library of Congress & the Truman Library

Filed under: 1940s, Events, Newspapers, War

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