The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki


August 20, 2022

Hiroshima and Nagasaki are two Japanese cities that were both attacked by the United States with atomic bombs in August 1945 (Hiroshima on August 6 and Nagasaki on August 9). They are the only targets in human history against which a nuclear bomb has been used in war. The strikes are considered to have been a significant factor in ending World War II. The bombs were dropped from the B-29 Superfortress bombers of the 509th Bombardment and Transport Aviation Regiment (509th Composite Group), which was formed against each other. The regiment was stationed on the island of Tinian in the Marianas. Three planes always participated in the attack, the bomber itself, the survey plane and the photography plane. They were preceded by weather reconnaissance planes, because the bombs had to be dropped in clear weather. The first one was dropped on Hiroshima from a plane named Enola Gay, piloted by the commander of the aviation regiment, Colonel Paul Tibbets. Dropped from an altitude of 9,450 meters, the bomb exploded on 6 August 1945 at 8:15 AM (JST) after free-falling to an altitude of 550 meters. The power of the bomb was about 13 kilotons of TNT, which is quite small compared to today's nuclear weapons, but it instantly killed about 75,000 people. Named Little Boy, this bomb weighed 4,000 kilograms and used the uranium-235 isotope. A similar bomb had never been tested before. The bomb detonated over Nagasaki on August 9, 1945 (Fat Man) was completely different, as it used plutonium as a fissile material. This type of bomb had already been detonated once on July 16 at the Trinity experiment in New Mexico. The bomb weighed 4,545 pounds and was dropped from a B-29 named Bockscar piloted by Major Charles Sweeney. The power of the bomb was about 20 kilotons and the explosion height was the same 550 meters. The bomb exploded at 11:02 a.m. (JST). Thanks to Nagasaki's hilly terrain, the devastation was somewhat smaller than Hiroshima, but the bomb killed around 73,900 people. B-29 Superfortress bombers were used in the bombing because only they could fly from the Marianas to Japan and back. The drop height was lower than before (up to about 0.5 kilometers), as it was 8,800 meters. The US decision to use the atomic bomb has been criticized afterwards. Even President Dwight D. Eisenhower and General Douglas MacArthur later said that Japan had been effectively beaten. Japan would have negotiated an end to the war and its terms, but the Potsdam Declaration defined the conditions for accepting Japan's surrender, which also bound the United States. Supporters of the use of the bombs claim that lives were rather spared, as more people would probably have died in conventional bombing and the American landings. Similarly, it has been claimed that Japanese Prime Minister General Hideki Tōjō had also ordered 100,000 Allied POWs to be executed if a landing on the main Japanese islands took place; the claim is unproven because the Japanese systematically destroyed their wartime archives in August–September 1945. The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki showed how powerful a weapon the atomic bomb is: one bomber was able to destroy an entire city, while it previously required an attack by hundreds of planes and even more than 20 percent equipment and crew losses during its execution.

The flight to Hiroshima and the dropping of the atomic bomb

The Hiroshima bomb was dropped by a Boeing B-29 Superfortress, named the Enola Gay by Colonel Paul Tibbets after his mother, departing from the island of Tinian. The measuring machine was Great Artiste and the photography was handled by machine #91, Necessary Evil. The target city, Hiroshima, was an ordinary Japanese port city that had been an important garrison town in the past. There was also significant factory production related to military equipment. The Americans avoided bombing the city before using the atomic bomb, i.e