After orchestrating the world’s first nuclear explosion on 16 July 1945, the United States became “the first and only nation” to use a nuclear weapon during war.
On 06 August 1945, the American bomber Enola Gay dropped a nuclear bomb (“Little Boy”) on Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later, the US bombed Nagasaki (“Fat Man“). The emperor of Japan forced the military to surrender six days later, ending World War Two.
In the process, we “ignited the Cold War.”
Justification for bombing Hiroshima: it was “an important Japanese Army base.” President Franklin D. Roosevelt had died on 12 April 1945; Harry Truman had been Vice President for only 82 days. President Truman on the bombing of Hiroshima, less than four months after ascending to the presidency:
That bomb had more power than 20,000 tons of T.N.T. It had more than two thousand times the blast power of the British “Grand Slam” which is the largest bomb ever yet used in the history of warfare.
It was to spare the Japanese people from utter destruction that the ultimatum of July 26 was issued at Potsdam. Their leaders promptly rejected that ultimatum. If they do not now accept our terms they may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth. Behind this air attack will follow sea and land forces in such numbers and power as they have not yet seen and with the fighting skill of which they are already well aware.
But we didn’t just bomb a military facility. We killed and maimed tens of thousands of civilians.
We will never definitively know how many died as a result of the bombing of Hiroshima. Some 70,000 people are estimated to have perished as a result of the initial blast, heat, and radiation effects. This included about 20 American airmen who were held as prisoners in the city. By the end of 1945, because of the continuing effects of radioactive fallout and other after effects, including radiation poisoning, the Hiroshima death toll was likely over 100,000. The five-year death total may have even exceeded 200,000, as cancer and other long-term effects are considered.
The bomb we dropped on Nagasaki was 40 percent greater in strength than Little Boy. Almost everything up to half a mile from ground zero was completely destroyed; it affected an area of approximately 43 square miles. By the end of 1945, about 70,000 had died.
Here we are, 77 years later, tiptoeing around Russian’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine because of Putin’s threat to use nuclear weapons.
Russia is the first state to use nuclear threats as part of a war of expansion. Unless it loses in Ukraine, the world will become a far more dangerous place.
However, its introduction into society can lead to unintended consequences, both positive and negative. For example, nuclear energy is “clean” until it isn’t (waste, meltdowns) and has a very negative use case (as weapons).
If the bombing on Pearl Harbor by Japan on 07 December 1941 is “a date which will live in infamy” in the United States … what is 06 August 1945 in Japan? Do the Japanese people put the responsibility for those deaths on their own government? Or ours?