15 Photos Of The Hiroshima Aftermath That Reveal The Bombing’s True Devastation

15 Photos Of The Hiroshima Aftermath That Reveal The Bombing’s True Devastation

In early August 1945, warfare changed forever when the United States dropped two atomic bombs on Japan, devastating the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and killing more than 100,000 people. America’s immediate goal was to hasten Japan’s surrender, ending World War II and avoid further Allied casualties. But it also wanted to showcase to the world—the Soviet Union in particular—the hugely destructive power of its new technology. The images of Hiroshima and Nagasaki below illustrate that power: what Japan’s Emperor Hirohito called in his statement of surrender “a new and most cruel bomb.”

On August 6, 1945, at 8:15 a.m., the crew of the B-29 bomber Enola Gay dropped the first wartime atomic bomb over Hiroshima, Japan, a bustling regional hub that served as an important military communications center, storage depot and troop gathering area. The bomb, code-named "Little Boy," detonated with an estimated 15,000 tons of TNT, destroying five square miles of the city and directly killing some 70,000 people. Final casualty numbers remain unknown; by the end of 1945, injuries and radiation sickness had raised the death toll to more than 100,000. In subsequent years, cancer and other long-term radiation effects steadily drove the number higher.

The downtown Hiroshima shopping district, c. 1945. After the bombing, only rubble and a few utility poles remained.

Aerial images of Hiroshima before and after the bombing. Ground zero, or the hypocenter, is noted by the bullseye.

A man wheels his bicycle through Hiroshima, days after the city was leveled by the atomic bomb blast. The view here is looking west/northwest, about 550 feet from where the bomb hit.

Looking upriver on the Motoyasu-gawa River, circa 1945.

View of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial with the Atomic Bomb Dome (Genbaku Dome), seen from the bank of the Ota River in Hiroshima, Japan in 1965, 20 years after the atomic bomb blast that destroyed the city center.

The harbor at Nagasaki, Japan, c. 1920. A Christian church can be seen in the foreground.

Among the few buildings that survived after the plutonium bomb decimated Nagasaki was the same Christian church as above.

A street in Nagasaki, Japan, c. 1940.

Hiroshima city officials meet in the destroyed city hall to discuss how to repair their homes.

The shape of a victim burned into the steps of a bank. The heat and light generated by the bomb was so intense that it changed the shades of roads and buildings, leaving areas "protected" by human bodies closer to their original shades.

Only the skeletons of a few buildings fortified for earthquakes remained standing.

This image is often confused as the mushroom cloud that appeared over Hiroshima as the bomb exploded, but it's actually the smoke from the myriad fires raging in the city's center in Hiroshima's aftermath.

Everything within a one-mile radius of the bomb's impact site was reduced to rubble.

Children wear masks to combat the pervasive odor of death in the air following the bombing.

The ruins of Nagasaki after the dropping of the atomic bomb, seen from street level.

As one minister who was witness to the explosion and the aftermath in Hiroshima recalled, "The feeling I had was that everyone was dead. The whole city was destroyed... I thought this was the end of Hiroshima — of Japan — of humankind... This was God's judgment on man."
15 Photos Of The Hiroshima Aftermath That Reveal The Bombing’s True Devastation
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