The World remembers Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombing

By Shruti Datt and Priya Chetty on August 7, 2015

During the World War II, August of 1945, the United States of America dropped two atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki which are in Japan (Shuk-ting and Qiu 2013). These were the first and only atomic bombs to have ever been used in a war. The atomic bombs were an equivalent of 20,000 tons of TNT, which is an explosive made of yellow crystalline compound a derivative of toluene. In Hiroshima, the bomb destroyed all the buildings within 2.5 kilometers of the blast’s radius. Nagasaki is hilly and hence the destruction of the explosion was less felt. The two killed a total of 140,000 people of which 70,000 died immediately while the rest died due to radiations and injuries caused by the bombs in weeks, months and years that followed. The effects in the two cities were experienced differently as shown in the charts below:

Casualties in Nagasaki bombing
Casualties in Nagasaki

Staff Sergeant George Caron, who was the tail gunner, described the blast as; “I saw a mushroom cloud of purple-gray smoke with a red core that burned everything inside”. The cloud reached heights of up to 40,000 feet above the ground (Perrow 2013).  Captain Robert Lewis, who was the co-pilot, explained it as; “What had been seen as a clear city two minutes before was now smokes, and the fires were creeping up the mountains sides” (Perrow 2013).

My grandfather, grandmother, father and aunt all died due to the bomb. Tears well up my eyes whenever I hear the word “A-bomb”. –Junya Kojima from Tokyo

What led America to such a devastating extent?

Japan was at war with America and its allies Russia and Britain. Japanese forces had been pushed back from many locations after America and its allies won battles. However, the war still continued which led to the death of civilians and soldiers everyday day. The American president at the time, Harry S Truman wanted Japan to surrender as soon as possible in order to save lives (Keenan 2013). In the year 1945, atomic bombs were new and deadly weapons. With the destructive effects as a result of the atomic bombs, Truman hoped to shock Japan to a point of realization that Japan to surrender.

No country should wage war. It is my hope that the next generation maintains peace in regards to political approach and all countries in the world should work together to achieve this peace. –Izumi Shirosawa from Yamanishi.

President Truman also wanted to avoid a land invasion of Japan. Japan had 2.5 million soldiers, Truman’s staff estimated that defeating the Japanese troops would cost the lives of 250,000 US soldiers. It is also speculated that the US wanted to avoid Japan from being occupied by Russian soldiers though America and Russia were allies, they did not trust each other.

The two bombs resulted in deaths of civilians amounting to an approximate of 70,000. This was shortly followed by surrender of Japan and thus an end to the World War II (Selden 2013).

Years that followed after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

The effects of the A-bomb were deeply felt in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Towns that had significantly developed were burnt to ashes. The after-effects were felt by both the government and its people. The survivors had a hard time coping with the loss of their loved ones and most of them had injuries that needed emergency healthcare but Japan did not have enough health care to cater for the dreaded attack (Miller 2014).

In November 1946, President Truman of the United States formed a commission to carry out a study on the areas affected by the attacks. The commission was known as the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission (ABCC) (Hirose and Nakamura 2015).

In 1952, a Research Council was set up by the Japanese health officials to enhance medical treatment to the casualty of the two cities. In the early 1953, independent citizen’s movement arose and its main agenda was to raise funds so that they can provide free health care to the victims of the event. The Fundraiser was successful and by August 1953, they had managed to raise over five million yen (Woolbright 2014). Up to date, the memories of those two dreadful days have remained fresh and are passed from one generation to the other (Benezra et al. 2012).

Plans to rebuild the city started in November 1945. The national government came up with a war disaster reconstruction plan that was meant to rebuild the 119 war devastated cities. This included Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Ben-Ezra, Shigemura, and Palgi 2014). Hiroshima’s main restoration plan was to restore its central area that is about 1.3 million square meters. The areas could accommodate about 350,000 people. On the other hand, Nagasaki wanted to venture into activities that would help its fast growth. It decided to abandon old war industries and focus on revival of foreign trade, shipbuilding and fishing industries. The national parliament in May 1949 passed the Hiroshima Peace Memorial City Reconstruction Law and the Nagasaki International Culture City Reconstruction Law. August 6 and August 9 were also marked as the bombing anniversary dates for Hiroshima and Nagasaki respectively (Miller 2014).

The Government under pressure from public protests, the national parliament (Diet) in 1955 decided to allocate 12,442,000 yen and in 1956, 25,682,000 yen to the A-bomb victims. This later led to a heated debate in the national parliament over the increase of funds to the victims (Wright 2015). The debate later resulted in the passage of the National A-bomb victims medical care law in 1957 with the initial allocation of 267,493,000 yen that was later cut to 174, 589,000 yen. The passage of the law was a new dawn to victims of the A-bomb. The funding was used to provide livelihood relief, welfare measures and surgery to those that needed them. It was a significant step that helped the people to reconstruct their lives once again (Ben-Ezra, Shigemura, and Palgi 2014).

The World remembers it as the darkest days

70 years have past since, however, the world still remembers the nuclear attack as the most devastating incidents of all time. Neither the Japanese, nor the world has forgotten the miseries brought to the lives of people. Although rebuilding efforts have been fruitful, with Hiroshima having high-rise buildings, shopping centers and people coming back to enjoying a normal life, however, aftermaths can never be forgotten especially among those who are still confined to their hospital rooms remember those darkest days. 

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