64 Years Ago Today


Hiroshima (August 6, 1945)

In the early morning hours of August 6, 1945, a B-29 bomber named Enola Gay took off from the island of Tinian and headed north by northwest toward Japan. The bomber’s primary target was the city of Hiroshima, located on the deltas of southwestern Honshu Island facing the Inland Sea. Hiroshima had a civilian population of almost 300,000 and was an important military center, containing about 43,000 soldiers.

The bomber, piloted by the commander of the 509th Composite Group, Colonel Paul Tibbets, flew at low altitude on automatic pilot before climbing to 31,000 feet as it neared the target area. At approximately 8:15 a.m. Hiroshima time the Enola Gay released “Little Boy,” its 9,700-pound uranium bomb, over the city. Tibbets immediately dove away to avoid the anticipated shock wave. Forty-three seconds later, a huge explosion lit the morning sky as Little Boy detonated 1,900 feet above the city, directly over a parade field where soldiers of the Japanese Second Army were doing calisthenics. Though already eleven and a half miles away, the Enola Gay was rocked by the blast. At first, Tibbets thought he was taking flak. After a second shock wave (reflected from the ground) hit the plane, the crew looked back at Hiroshima. “The city was hidden by that awful cloud . . . boiling up, mushrooming, terrible and incredibly tall,” Tibbets recalled. The yield of the explosion was later estimated at 15 kilotons (the equivalent of 15,000 tons of TNT).

On the ground moments before the blast it was a calm and sunny Monday morning. An air raid alert from earlier that morning had been called off after only a solitary aircraft was seen (the weather plane), and by 8:15 the city was alive with activity — soldiers doing their morning calisthenics, commuters on foot or on bicycles, groups of women and children working outside to clear firebreaks. Those closest to the explosion died instantly, their bodies turned to black char. Nearby birds burst into flames in mid-air, and dry, combustible materials such as paper instantly ignited as far away as 6,400 feet from ground zero. The white light acted as a giant flashbulb, burning the dark patterns of clothing onto skin (right) and the shadows of bodies onto walls. Survivors outdoors close to the blast generally describe a literally blinding light combined with a sudden and overwhelming wave of heat. (The effects of radiation are usually not immediately apparent.) The blast wave followed almost instantly for those close-in, often knocking them from their feet. Those that were indoors were usually spared the flash burns, but flying glass from broken windows filled most rooms, and all but the very strongest structures collapsed. One boy was blown through the windows of his house and across the street as the house collapsed behind him. Within minutes 9 out of 10 people half a mile or less from ground zero were dead.

People farther from the point of detonation experienced first the flash and heat, followed seconds later by a deafening boom and the blast wave. Nearly every structure within one mile of ground zero was destroyed, and almost every building within three miles was damaged. Less than 10 percent of the buildings in the city survived without any damage, and the blast wave shattered glass in suburbs twelve miles away. The most common first reaction of those that were indoors even miles from ground zero was that their building had just suffered a direct hit by a bomb. Small ad hoc rescue parties soon began to operate, but roughly half of the city’s population was dead or injured. 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. One postwar study of the victims of Hiroshima found that less than 4.5 percent of survivors suffered leg fractures. Such injuries were not uncommon; it was just that most who could not walk were engulfed by the firestorm.

Hiroshima mourns atomic bomb anniversary

Some 50,000 people gathered Thursday at the peace park in Hiroshima to mourn the 64th anniversary of the atomic bombing of the city by U.S. forces during the World War II.

Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba delivered a peace declaration, calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons by 2020.

“The hibakusha still suffer a hell that continues,” said Akiba.

“The Japanese government should support hibakusha, including those who were victims of black rain and those who live overseas,” he said.

It was reported Wednesday that the Japanese government aims to come to an agreement with all atomic bomb survivors who have sued the government for financial support to help them pay medical bills for illnesses related to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Akiba also said “The year 2020 is important as we want to enter a world without nuclear weapons with as many hibakusha as possible. We call on the world to join forces with us to eliminate all nuclear weapons by 2020.”

Referring to the movements such as the environmentalists, Akibasaid, “Global democracy that respects the will of the world and respects the power of the people has begun to grow.”

“We have the power. We have the responsibility. We are the Obamajority. And we can abolish nuclear weapons. Yes we can,” said the mayor.

On Wednesday, Akiba urged the people around the world to join the city’s efforts to abolish nuclear weapons in response to U.S. President Barack Obama’ s appeal for a world free of nuclear weapons.

During the 50-minute memorial ceremony, a moment of silence was observed at 8:15 a.m., the time the atomic bomb detonated over Hiroshima 64 years ago, killing nearly 100,000 people in a blink.

Also present at the ceremony was Prime Minister Taro Aso, who vowed to adhere to Japan’s three antinuclear principles and called for an end to nuclear weapons.

In a speech following that of Akiba, Aso said,” Japan will maintain its three non-nuclear pledges of not possessing, not producing and not allowing nuclear weapons.”

“The government will continue to do all it can to help survivors of the atomic bombings,” he said.

The U.S. bombing of Hiroshima, which took place on the morning of Aug. 6, 1945, led to the deaths of an estimated 140,000 people toward the end of World War II.

On Aug. 9, a second nuclear bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki, and six days later, Japan surrendered. In the years since the war, many people have developed diseases that are considered to be related to exposure to radiation created by the bombs.

See also:
Japan commemorates Hiroshima anniversary
Korean A-bomb survivors mark Hiroshima anniversary
Today Marks 64th Anniversary of the World’s First Atomic Bomb Attack, Local Vet Reflects
World War II Veterans remember the bombing of Hiroshima
Poll: Use of atomic bombs in WWII OK
The Hiroshima Rorschach Test
Hiroshima anniversary time to renew commitment to disarm – top UN officials

/and those who believe the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were cruel, unnecessary, or didn’t save lives on both sides, might want to read up on Operation Downfall

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