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10 Facts About the Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

10 Facts About the Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

On August 6 1945, an American B-29 bomber dubbed Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. It was the first time a nuclear weapon had been deployed in warfare and the bomb immediately killed 80,000 people. Tens of thousands more would later die of radiation exposure.

Three days later, another atomic bomb was dropped on the Japanese city Nagasaki, instantly killing a further 40,000 people. Again, over time the number of fatalities increased considerably as the devastating effects of a nuclear fallout were played out for the world to see.

The bombings are widely believed to have played a decisive role in convincing Japan to surrender and bringing about an end to World War Two – though this is an assertion that has been much debated. Here are 10 facts about the bombings.

1. There were five Japanese cities on the US’s initial hit list and Nagasaki was not one of them

Some historians say that Stimson honeymooned in Kyoto. Credit: Reginald Pentinlo / Commons

The list included Kokura, Hiroshima, Yokohama, Niigata and Kyoto. It’s said that Kyoto was ultimately spared because US Secretary of War Henry Stimson was fond of the ancient Japanese capital, having spent his honeymoon there decades earlier. Nagasaki took its place instead.

2. The Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs were based on very different designs

The “Little Boy” bomb dropped on Hiroshima was made of highly enriched uranium-235, while the “Fat Man” bomb dropped on Nagasaki was made of plutonium. The Nagasaki bomb was regarded as the more complex design.

The different assembly methods for atomic bombs using plutonium and uranium-235 fission.

3. The codename for at least one of the bombs was taken from the film noir movie The Maltese Falcon

The bombs’ codenames, Little Boy and Fat Man were chosen by their creator Robert Serber, who apparently drew inspiration from John Huston’s 1941 film The Maltese Falcon.

In the movie, Fat Man is a nickname for Sydney Greenstreet’s character, Kasper Gutman, while the name Little Boy is said to derive from the epithet that Humphrey Bogart’s character, Spade, uses for another character called Wilmer. This has since been discredited, however – Spade only ever calls Wilmer “boy”, never “little boy”.

4. The most destructive World War Two bombing attack on Japan was neither Hiroshima nor Nagasaki

Dan talks to Hirata San, a survivor of the Hiroshima attacks, and one of the few remaining survivors who speak English, about the Hiroshima bombing.

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Operation Meetinghouse, the US firebombing of Tokyo on 9 March 1945, is considered the deadliest bombing raid in history. A napalm attack carried out by 334 B-29 bombers, Meetinghouse killed more than 100,000 people. Several times that number were also injured.

5. Before the atomic attacks, the US Air Force dropped pamphlets in Japan

It’s sometimes argued that this constituted a warning to the Japanese people but, in truth, these pamphlets didn’t specifically warn of an impending nuclear attack on either Hiroshima or Nagasaki. Instead, they only promised “prompt and utter destruction” and urged civilians to flee.

6. Haunting shadows were imprinted into the ground when the atomic bomb hit Hiroshima

The bomb blast in Hiroshima was of such intensity that it permanently burned the shadows of people and objects into the ground. These became known as “Hiroshima shadows”.

7. Some argue with the popular contention that the bombs ended World War Two

Recent scholarship, based on the minutes of meetings held between Japanese government officials in the lead up to surrender, suggest that the Soviet Union’s unexpected entry into the war with Japan played a more decisive role.

8. The bombings led to the deaths of at least 150,000-246,000 people

Between 90,000 and 166,000 people are estimated to have died as a result of the Hiroshima attack, while the Nagasaki bomb is thought to have caused the deaths of 60,000-80,000 people.

The Kokoda campaign would last four months and has left a deep impression in the hearts and minds of the Australian people to this day.

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9. The oleander is the official flower of the city of Hiroshima…

…because it was the first plant to blossom again after the atomic bomb blast.

10. In Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park, a flame has burned continuously since it was lit in 1964

The “Peace Flame” will remain lit until all nuclear bombs on the planet are destroyed and the planet is free from the threat of nuclear destruction.

American bomber drops atomic bomb on Hiroshima

On August 6, 1945, the United States becomes the first and only nation to use atomic weaponry during wartime when it drops an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Approximately 80,000 people are killed as a direct result of the blast, and another 35,000 are injured. At least another 60,000 would be dead by the end of the year from the effects of the fallout.

Though the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan marked the end of World War II, many historians argue that it also ignited the Cold War.

Since 1940, the United States had been working on developing an atomic weapon, after having been warned that Nazi Germany was already conducting research into nuclear weapons. By the time the United States conducted the first successful test (an atomic bomb was exploded in the desert in New Mexico in July 1945), Germany had already been defeated. The war against Japan in the Pacific, however, continued to rage. President Harry S. Truman, warned by some of his advisers that any attempt to invade Japan would result in horrific American casualties, ordered that the new weapon be used to bring the war to a speedy end. 

On August 6, 1945, the American bomber Enola Gay dropped a five-ton bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima. A blast equivalent to the power of 15,000 tons of TNT reduced four square miles of the city to ruins and immediately killed 80,000 people. Tens of thousands more died in the following weeks from wounds and radiation poisoning. Three days later, another bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki, killing nearly 40,000 more people. A few days later, Japan announced its surrender.

Facts about Atomic Bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki 3: the fuel of Little Boy

The Uranium-235 is used to fuel the Little Boy. This bomb is equal with 15,000 tons of TNT. It has 15 kilotons destructive force.

Facts about Atomic Bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki 4: Fat Man

Fat Man has more power. It was fueled by plutonium with the force of 22 kilotons. The high explosive wires were located around a plutonium core of this bomb.

Atomic Bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki Victims

Hiroshima Day is observed on 6th August annually. It marks the anniversary of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The primary purpose of keeping this day is to promote peace politics. The United States of America dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima’s city on 6th August in 1945 three days later, on 9th August, another nuclear bomb was dropped on Nagasaki.

The bombing on these two cities made Japan surrender unconditionally, and hence World war II came to an end. This was the first time any country had used a nuclear weapon to wipe out an entire city, and its repercussions were massive. The bombing on these two cities showed the devastating power of atomic weapons to the world.

Hiroshima Day 2021 – History

During World War II, on the 6th of August 1945, the United States of America dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima’s city in Japan using an American B-29 bomber. The nuclear bomb explosion wiped out almost 90 percent of the city, killing close to 80,000 people instantly. The people who survived this attack were seriously injured. Say another 15,000 people survived with serious injuries.

Despite the bombing on the city of Hiroshima, Japan did not surrender. Hence, after three days, another atomic bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki in Japan. The effect of bombing on these cities was severe, as a result of Emperor of Japan Hirohito announced unconditional surrender in World war II. This announcement was made on the radio on 15th August.

The statement also informed the devastating power of nuclear weapons and the after-effects of the new and most cruel bombing. The radiation had an effect on the people of these two cities for the next generations as well. People of these two cities suffered the after-effects for many years. This bombing showed that it’s a brutal way of ending a war.

Hiroshima City

Hiroshima was a small fishing village. It was founded in 1589 on the banks of the Ota River. During the Meiji Restoration in 1868, Hiroshima’s growth was speedy, and it soon transformed into a significant urban centre and industrial hub. Hiroshima officially became a city in the year 1889. In the imperial era, Hiroshima was a centre of military activities playing significant roles during the Sino – Japanese war, Russo – Japanese war and the two World wars.

Hiroshima is best remembered in history as the first city attacked by a nuclear weapon towards the end of World War II. The United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, destroying the entire city. The most affected by the bombing were the civilians of this city. The infrastructure, vegetation and economy of this city all destroyed in a wink. The radiation effect was so detrimental that they could not cultivate anything for many years after the bombing.

Also, people suffered from different kind of diseases for many generations due to radiations. Hibakusha is the Japanese name for the people exposed to radiation. The city of Hiroshima was rebuilt after World war II with the help of the Japanese government. The national government helped the cause through the Hiroshima Peace Memorial City Construction Law passed in 1949.

Aftermath of Hiroshima Bombing

After the bombing of this city, it did not take a longer time for this city to start functioning. The broken water pipes were repaired, and the water supply began four days after the bombing electricity was restored to the 30 percent of the homes in Hiroshima that escaped the fire damage and all households by the end of November 1945.

The central telephone was destroyed and all the employees killed, yet the essential equipment was retrieved and repaired by August 14, the experimental lines were back in operation. The Hiroshima branch of the Bank of Japan reopened two days later. It was one of the concrete buildings that survived the bombing.

It offered floor space to other banks in the building to start operations. This city is the best example of human cruelty and human grit. The restoration work would not have been possible for the government alone. It was a combined effort of the civilian and the government to restore the essential services as early as possible.

Anti-Nuclear Day 2021

The International Day against Nuclear Tests is observed on 29th August annually around the globe. The United Nations General Assembly declared the day at the 64th session on 2nd December 2009. There was a resolution 64/35 passed for the same and was adopted unanimously by all the member nations. Anti-Nuclear Day’s goal is to increase awareness about the Nuclear test and explosion the need to stop them.

This is the only way to achieving the goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world. Kazakhstan initiated the resolution and others to commemorate the closure of the Semipalatinsk Nuclear test site on 29th August in the year 1991. In 2010, all the member nations signed a treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear weapons.

The member nations have committed to achieving peace and security of a nuclear-weapon-free world. So this Hiroshima Day or Anti-Nuclear Day, lets all promise to make all possible efforts to stop the Nuclear tests and work towards achieving a peaceful world for ourselves.

Need for the Atomic Bomb

The top military commanders of the U.S. were continuously in favor of the conventional aerial strikes on Japan. In the coming days, the strikes were to be followed by Operation Downfall which was supposed to be a massive invasion of Japan by the Allied forces.

The invasion though had its repercussions. It was predicted that such an invasion could lead to 1 million U.S. casualties. The President of the U.S., Harry S. Truman after talks with the Secretary of War, few top military commanders, and the scientists of the Manhattan Project was convinced that a nuclear bombing would severely cripple Japan and bring the war to an immediate end.

The U.S. never aimed to target Japanese civilians. They chalked out the plan to attack the major cities of Japan with military and industrial importance.

Some experts say that the plan for the atomic bombing of Japanese cities was not only restricted to ending the war but was also aimed at creating a dominating image of the U.S. in the world.

20 Fascinating Facts About Hiroshima Atomic Bombing!

Here are 20 facts about the hellish nuclear attack on Hiroshima, Japan on , August 1945:

#1. There was a warning sign for the bombing.

The US Airforce before dropping the A-bomb dropped pamphlets in Hiroshima warning people of the bombing.

#2. The Mayor of Hiroshima protested the nuclear tests in Hiroshima.

For decades, the mayor of Hiroshima, Tadatoshi Akiba wrote letters of protest each time a nuclear test was conducted, as a plea to end the use of nuclear weapons.

#3.The code name for the bombs was taken from the movie ‘The Maltese Falcon’

The bomb dropped over Hiroshima was a uranium gun-type atomic bomb with codename ‘Little Boy’ while the one dropped on Nagasaki was a plutonium implosion-type atomic bomb with codename ‘Fat Man’. The bomb designs were created by Robert Serber who chose the codenames according to the design shapes of the bombs. The ‘Fat Man’ was round and fat, and was named after Sydney Greenstreet’s ‘Kasper Gutman’ character in The Maltese Falcon. ‘Little Boy’ was named after Elisha Cook, Jr.’s character in the same film, as referred to by Humphrey Bogart.

#4.About 12 cyanide pills were kept in the cockpit of the Enola Gay (plane carrying A-bomb).

The pilots were instructed to take them if the mission was compromised during the bombing of Hiroshima.

#5.Only 3 of the 12 people on board the Enola Gay actually knew the real purpose of their mission to Hiroshima.

#6. The radiation from the explosion created permanent shadows

Hiroshima shadows”: When the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, the blast was of such intensity that it permanently burned shadows of people and objects into the ground.

#7. Japanese radars had detected the plane carrying the bomb.

In 1945, Japanese radar operators detected a small number of incoming US planes (one of which carried the nuclear bombs to be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki), but decided not to intercept them as the small number of planes were not seen as a threat.

#8. It took Tokyo about 3 hours before they realized Hiroshima had been bombed.

Little Boy exploded over Hiroshima at 8:15 A.M. of August 6, 1945. About an hour earlier, the Japanese radar net had detected American aircrafts heading towards southern Japan and an alert had been issued in many cities, including Hiroshima. However, at 8:00 A.M. the operator determined that the number of planes was very small, probably not more than three, and the air raid alert was lifted.via

#9. Policemen in Nagasaki were saved by using the ‘duck and cover’ method.

After the first Hiroshima atomic bombing in Japan, one Hiroshima policeman went to Nagasaki to teach police about ducking after the atomic flash. As a result of this timely warning, not a single Nagasaki policeman died in Nagasaki’s atomic blast.

#10. One Japanese man survived both Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In 1945, a man named Tsutomu Yamaguchi survived the atomic blast at Hiroshima, dragged himself into an air-raid shelter, spent the night there, in the morning caught a train so he could arrive at his job on time in Nagasaki, where he survived another atomic blast.

#11. The Gingko Biloba trees survived the Hiroshima bombing.

The Gingko Biloba species of three is 270 million years old. It rarely suffers disease or insect attack and was one of the only living things to survive the Hiroshima nuclear bombing. The trees healed quickly and are still alive today.

#12. The Japanese army planned to have every man, woman and child to fight America to the death Kamikaze style even after Hiroshima. They even attempted a coup when the Emperor gave word to surrender.

#13. After the bombing in Hiroshima, the survivors headed towards Nagasaki.

After the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, hundreds of people (many of them already injured), made their way towards Nagasaki. Of these, 165 survived, both the bombings and lived to tell the tale.

#14. Godzilla was conceived as a metaphor for the nuclear bombings.

Godzilla was created by Japan as a reaction to the bombings of Hiroshima, the monster itself spawning as a result of the nuclear detonations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

#15.The US dropped about 49 practice bombs nicknamed “pumpkin bombs” that killed 400 and injured 1,200 before nuking Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
#16. The Flower Oleander is now a symbol of Hiroshima.

Oleander was the first thing to bloom after the bombing in Hiroshima, so from that on this is the official flower of the city.

#17. “Horton Hears a Who” was an allegory about Hiroshima and the America’s occupation of Japan and may have been Dr. Seuss’s way of apologizing for his support of Japanese Internment.
#18.U.S.A Denied That The Bombing Is Radioactive.

The USA originally denied that atomic bombs caused any lingering radioactivity whatsoever, calling such claims as Japanese propaganda. Even New York Times ran an article with the headline “NO RADIOACTIVITY IN HIROSHIMA RUIN,” citing only military sources and ignoring eyewitness accounts of radiation sickness.

#19.The closest known survivor of the Hiroshima atomic bomb was in a basement only 170m (560 ft) from ground zero.
#20.Hiroshima Peace Flame will be lit till all nuclear bombs are destroyed.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park was built on the open field created by the explosion. It is dedicated to the legacy of Hiroshima being the first city on earth to experience the horrors of a nuclear attack, and to the memories of the direct and indirect victims of the bombing. One of its monuments is the Peace Flame which was lit in 1964 and will continue to do so until all nuclear weapons on the planet are destroyed.

16-20 Facts About Hiroshima and Nagasaki

16. “Horton Hears a Who” was an allegory about Hiroshima and the America’s occupation of Japan and may have been Dr. Seuss’s way of apologizing for his support of Japanese Internment. – Source

17. It took Tokyo about 3 hours before they realized Hiroshima had been bombed. – Source

18. The USA originally denied that atomic bombs caused any lingering radioactivity whatsoever, calling such claims as Japanese propaganda. Even New York Times ran an article with the headline “NO RADIOACTIVITY IN HIROSHIMA RUIN,” citing only military sources and ignoring eyewitness accounts of radiation sickness. – Source

19. The Japanese army planned to have every man, woman and child to fight America to the death Kamikaze style even after Hiroshima. They even attempted a coup when the Emperor gave word to surrender – Source

20. The closest known survivor of the Hiroshima atomic bomb was in a basement only 170m (560 ft) from ground zero. – Source

20 Interesting Facts About Hiroshima And Nagasaki Bombing

Whether you are a history buff or not you must be well aware of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki incidents. When the world was drawing towards the close of a long drawn out war, US bombed two cities of Japan with the deadliest weapon ever known to mankind. This changed the history of warfare forever, ushering the nuclear era. Let’s explore some interesting facts about the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, the first and last atomic bomb attack.

Atomic bomb mushroom clouds over Hiroshima (left) and Nagasaki (right)

1. US warned the civilians before bombing

Before destroying the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with nuclear bombs U.S dropped fliers warning the civilians of a possible bombing at all the military centers of Japan so that the innocent civilians could evacuate and save their lives.
Source: damninteresting.com

2. Flame of peace to end nuclear threat

Since 1964 a flame of peace has been burning in Hiroshima, Japan to honor the victims of the nuclear bombing. This flame will be extinguished only when the nuclear threat has been completely eliminated from the face of the Earth.
Source: Wikipedia, image: flickr

3. Duck and Cover saved Nagasaki policeman

All thanks to the efforts of a brave policeman who survived the Hiroshima bombing, no policeman died in Nagasaki’s atomic blast. The policeman who survived Hiroshima episode went to Nagasaki to teach the police about the duck and cover technique that saved them from the attack.
Source: Wikipedia

4. The First thing to bloom after explosion

The oleander flower was the first thing to bloom after the atomic blast in 1945 therefore it is now the official flower of Hiroshima.
Source: Wikipedia, image: wikimedia.org

5. Enola Gay carried cyanide pills

Enola Gay carrying the A-bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima carried 12 cyanide pills. Incase anything went wrong during the mission the pilots were instructed to take the pills kept in the cockpit.
Source: thevintagenews.com, image: wikimedia.org

6. Little boy and Fat man were different

Little boy and Fat man dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were quite different from one another. US used these bombings to figure out the potential of each. Little Boy was based on enriched Uranium-235 and Fat Man on Plutonium-239.
Source: gizmodo.co.uk

7. Fat Man was supposed to be more fatal

Although Fat man that was dropped on Nagasaki was more powerful it led to 60,000-80,000 deaths as compared to 90,000-166,000 caused by little boy dropped on Hiroshima. The reason was Fat man missed its intended targeted location in Nagasaki by 3 km as a result of bad weather. The bombing was therefore confined to the narrow Urakami Valley and hillsides.
Source: learnodo-newtonic, image: wikimedia.org

8. Little boy used up all the Uranium

141 pounds of Uranium was used to make the little boy. This was basically all the processed Uranium available at that time.
Source: gizmodo.co.uk, image: wikimedia.org

9. Matter weighing a paper clip generated the Hiroshima explosion

Though 141 pounds of Uranium was used to make the bomb that hit Hiroshima, the huge explosion was caused just by 0.7g of Uranium. Most of the uranium had blown apart before the bomb reached its “supercritical” phase.
Source: gizmodo.co.uk

10. The bomb was armed and finally assembled in the air

Fat Man test unit being raised from the pit into the bomb bay of a B-29

In charge of the mission, Captain Parsons thought that if something went wrong or the plane crashed during the take-off it would wipe off entire US base and kill thousands of soldiers with it. To avoid this it was decided that the bomb will be finally assembled on the flight. The air crew had to arm the bomb while it was hanging from a hook in the plane while flying over enemy territory.
Source: gizmodo.co.uk, image: wikimedia.org

11. Dirty bomb

As the little boy was finally assembled on the flight, if it had been shot down or accidentally exploded due to some reason the effect would be known as a “dirty bomb”- a crude blast of radiation instead of a massive explosion.
Source: gizmodo.co.uk

12. The double Survivors

Yamaguchi is the first officially recognized person who survived both Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. It was found out that there were total 165 lucky double survivors.
Source: learnodo-newtonic.com, image: youtube.com

13. Hibakusha

Victim from atomic bombing

Hibakusha in Japanese translates to ‘explosion affected people’ in English. Due to ignorance Hibakusha and their children faced severe discrimination as people thought the effects of radiation was contagious.
Source: learnodo-newtonic.com, image: flickr

14. Weird injuries

Disturbingly, the thermal radiation from the explosions caused severe burns to those who were not killed. The severity of injury depended on the clothes as white and other light colored clothes reflected radiation whereas black absorbed it. Also the burn patterns matched the outfit, people wearing stripes had matching burns on their skin.
Source: gizmodo.co.uk, image: wikimedia.org

15. Gave birth to Godzilla

The movie Godzilla was inspired by Hiroshima atomic attacks and the creature Godzilla was used as a metaphor for nuclear weapons.
Source: gizmodo.co.uk, image: flickr

16. A tree that survived

A very old Bonsai tree that was planted in 1626 survived the explosion in Hiroshima. This Bonsai tree was gifted to United States by Japan and resides there in a museum ever since.
Source: factslides.com, image: wikimedia.org

17. Hiroshima Shadows

The disaster indeed left it shadows on the walls of Hiroshima. The atomic bomb had such great intensity that it permanently carved shadows of people and objects on the ground.
Source: neatorama, image: youtube.com

18. Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings weren’t the most destructive

Till date most people think that Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings were the most destructive incident mankind has ever witnessed. But as it turns out the Operation meetinghouse was even more destructive in which America firebombed Tokyo.
Source: Wikipedia, image: wikimedia.org

19. Pumpkin bombs

Pumpkin bombs were the nickname given to the 49 practice bombs dropped by US before nuking Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They killed 400 people and injured 1,200.
Source: Wikipedia

Nagasaki Day 2019: Causes, History and Facts

On 9 August every year, Nagasaki Day is observed because on this day US dropped atomic bomb on the Nagasaki city of Japan in 1945 during World War II. The first bomb was dropped on the city of Hiroshima and the second was dropped on Nagasaki on 9 August which killed around 74,000 people or more. After six days of Nagasaki bombing, the Japanese Emperor Gyokuon-hoso speech was broadcast to the nation, addressing about the surrender. The devastation caused due to the bombing led Japan surrender in World War II.

Reason behind dropping atomic bomb on Japan two cities

According to the sources reason behind dropping the atomic bomb on Japan two cities and according to the US President Truman is military. Dropping the bomb would end war quickly and effectively with the least amount of casualties on the U.S side. He also wants to justify the expenses of the Manhattan Project where bomb was created. Bombing impressed Soviet Union and created a response to Pearl Harbour. No doubt bombing forced Japan to surrender.

About Atomic Bomb

The bomb was uranium bomb. When it was dropped on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945, it had an explosive yield equal to 15,000 tonnes of TNT. While a slightly larger plutonium bomb exploded over Nagasaki just two days later on 9 August levelled 6.7 km square of the city and killed around 74,000 people by the end of 1945. The temperature of ground reached 4,000 degree Celsius and radioactive rain poured down.

Most of the physicians and nurses in Nagasaki were killed or injured, several hospitals were rendered non-functional, various people suffered from combined injuries and severe burns. Most of the victims died without any care to ease their suffering. In fact some of those who had entered after the bombings in the city also died due to radiation.

If we see long term effects of the bombing then:

Five to six years after the bombing the incidence of leukaemia increased among the survivors and after a decade the survivors began suffering from several other diseases like thyroid, breast, lung and other cancers at higher than normal rates. Also, for solid cancers the risk related to the radiation exposure continue to increase even today also after so many decades. Pregnant women when exposed to bombing experienced higher rates of miscarriage and death of their infants. And the children who were exposed to the radiation in their mother's womb experienced intellectual disabilities and impaired growth and also increased rate of developing cancer.

Bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki was known as “Fat Man”. On 9 August Major Charles Sweeney flew another B-29 bomber, Bockscar from Rinian. The primary target was thick clouds at the city of Kokura that drove Sweeney to a secondary target, Nagasaki, where the plutonium bomb "Fat Man" was dropped at 11:02 morning. This bomb was more powerful than used at Hiroshima. The weight of the bomb was nearly 10,000 pounds and was built to produce a 22-kiloton blast. Nagasaki topography played a crucial role as there are valleys between mountains which had reduced the effect of bombing and limited destruction to 2.6 square miles.

On 15 August, 1945, the Japanese Emperor announced the surrender and ‘Victory in Japan’ or ‘V-J Day’ celebrations broke out across the United States and other Allied nations.

So, we come to know that on 9 August, 1945 US dropped nuclear bomb on Nagasaki, Japan which further led to the surrender of Japanese Emperor in World War II.

Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki - Justified?

This past August marked the 75 th anniversary of the most ethically controversial decisions in the history of warfare.  On the 6 th of August 1945, and then again on the 9 th of August, the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. At least 150,000 civilians were immediately killed, and more would later die.  But on August 15 th , and arguably because of these bombs, the Japanese regime surrendered unconditionally, thus ending the Second World War.  An undeniably good consequence.

All the Midshipmen have learned from their favorite course, NE203, the in bello principles of discrimination and proportionality.  Discrimination requires that rights-bearing noncombatants never be intentionally targeted as ends or means.  Proportionality requires that the innocent lives saved by the use of force against a legitimate military target be greater than the innocent lives lost as unavoidable collateral damage.

Since 1945, public opinion about the ethics of the two bombs has shifted.  While the bombings were widely supported after the war, approval has waned over the years, especially in academia.  Obviously, the most common complaint is that Japanese civilians were intentionally targeted as a means of coercing the regime’s unconditional surrender—which is what terrorists do.

However, I would defend the morality of the two bombs, but not for the conventional reasons.  In fact, I don’t believe the bombings were defensible through standard just war in bello reasoning about proportionality and discrimination.  Regarding proportionality, although legitimate military targets existed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, their military value was not proportionate to the foreseeable collateral damage.  On the other hand, a military target that would have produced proportionate collateral damage was available and ignored: Japanese troops massing in the south around Kyushu.      

Regarding discrimination, the claim that civilians were not targeted—not intentionally used as means to a good end—seems dubious.  As mentioned, Kyushu was ignored.  More disturbingly, a proposal to drop a demonstration bomb on an uninhabited area was rejected.  The reasons given included: Japanese military leaders would be unconvinced of the bomb’s destructiveness against cities and even if impressive, a demonstration would eliminate the shock effect, especially the psychological impact on leaders, of any subsequent bombs.  Ultimately, the deaths of Japanese civilians were not desired as an end, but were intended as a means.                

Which brings us to this question: is it ever permissible to intentionally kill innocents as a necessary means to a good end?  In NE203, Midshipmen learn that it would be impermissible to intentionally harvest the organs of one healthy person in order to save five patients.  However, there are some rare situations in which an intentional necessary evil seems justified.  Consider the “Sophie’s Choice” case, for example.  If smothering a crying baby were necessary to save five other innocents from being discovered and murdered by the Gestapo, one could argue that this necessary evil would be permitted.  The baby will be unjustly killed anyway.  Similarly, consider philosopher Bernard Williams’ “Jim and the Indians” case.  If Jim’s choice is between shooting one innocent to save 19 or watching all 20 be murdered, then the former—while tragic—seems permissible.  In such special situations, a “necessary and lesser evil justification” seems valid. 

I would argue that Japan 1945 was one of these situations.  An unconditional surrender and occupation of Japan was necessary to defend innocent millions of Americans, Chinese and Koreans.  (Note: if this assumption is wrong, my argument fails.  In a subsequent post, David Luban will argue that unconditional surrender was unnecessary for defensive purposes.)  The only two available means of attaining an unconditional surrender were a land invasion or the two bombs.  A land invasion would have collaterally killed at least 500,000 Japanese civilians, a proportionate and therefore permissible number.  But the two bombs intentionally killed 150,000 Japanese civilians, thus saving at least 350,000 Japanese civilians who would have otherwise died collaterally during a land invasion.  (Not to mention the approximately two million Chinese and Koreans saved by acting in August, versus invading by land in November.)  Granted, many of the 150,000 who died at Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not the same people who would have perished in a land invasion, thus raising identity concerns.  But I think it’s fair to consider Japanese civilians as a group.  

So ultimately, Japan 1945 was one of those very rare and tragic situations in which a necessary and lesser evil justification permits the intentional killing of innocents.