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The bombing of hiroshima and nagasaki wasnt a proud moment to some americans

On August 6, 1945, lessons begin at the National Technical University on the outskirts of downtown Hiroshima, as always, at 8 a. Math is first up in the lesson-plan for the day, and Keijiro Matsushima is gazing out the window, bored. The lanky, fatherless 16 year-old is the only member of his family still in Hiroshima: His brothers are off with the Imperial Navy fighting the Americans and the British, and his mother is staying with her parents in the countryside.

She is afraid of an air attack, because Hiroshima, a city built mainly of wood, is one of the few major Japanese cities that hasn't been bombed to smithereens by the American air force. But Matsushima, who is studying mechanical engineering, must remain in the city.

Like all young Japanese men, he is required to help out in the country's munitions factories when not in school.

And so he's sitting in his chair by the stairwell wall, listening to the instructor discuss problems of differential calculus, when he suddenly sees the silvery-white bombers of the US Air Force appear in the clear blue summer sky. The boy is surprised not to hear air-raid sirens. Suddenly, a gleaming light fills the classroom. A "reddish-orange flash" bright "as the sun" prompts him to dive beneath his desk.

He places his hands over his eyes and his thumbs into his ears -- doing exactly what he has been told to do to protect himself in an air raid. But nothing can protect him against what happens next. Hot air singes the skin on his face and the pressure from the blast presses his body against the floor.

The roof of the building collapses into the classroom, hurtling shards of glass through the room like bullets. The young man calls for help. After a while -- he can't recall how long -- he pulls himself from the wreckage and goes outside.

70 years after Hiroshima, opinions have shifted on use of atomic bomb

It's as quiet as a graveyard. Matsushima, bleeding from multiple wounds, drags himself into the schoolyard under swirling, thick, dark clouds of dust. Many of his classmates are already lying outside, some spitting up dark blood. He sees grayish burn wounds through their torn clothing. Downtown Hiroshima is completely destroyed in the blast.

How the U.S. and Japan Became Allies Even After Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Horribly disfigured people emerge from the direction of the city, clumps of skin hanging detached from their swollen bodies, their reddish muscle tissue exposed. Many are covered by nothing but their underwear, and their hair -- made frizzy by the intense heat -- protrudes wildly from their heads. To keep their wounds from touching, the victims walk with their arms outstretched.

When Matsushima recalls the gruesome scene, he calls it a "procession of ghosts. The trains in a suburb of the city are still running, and he reaches his grandfather's house in the country by around midnight.

The teenager is tremendously fortunate, because he was only exposed to the radiation for a short time. After ten days of fever and diarrhea, he recovers sufficiently to return to Hiroshima to search for relatives. Upon arriving at the train station in the eastern section of the city, he's able to see houses sitting at the foot of the mountains rising up on the other side of Hiroshima.

All that remains between is a "gray, ash-covered wasteland. The Americans called the deadly monster "Little Boy," because the bomb, three meters long and weighing in at almost five tons, turned out to be substantially smaller than its designers had initially expected.

It was the first atom bomb to be used as a weapon in the history of mankind. The Atomic Plague The devastation caused by "Little Boy" surpassed everything that American scientists, military personnel and politicians had expected. The nuclear explosion left behind death and destruction within an area of 13 square kilometers, or about five square miles.


On August 6, there were about 350,000 people in the city, the country's eighth largest. Most were Japanese, but there were also tends of thousands of Korean and Chinese forced laborers, a few American prisoners of war and at least a dozen German Jesuits who had come to Hiroshima because they felt relatively safe there against US air attacks. AP Survivors in a destroyed Hiroshima. By the end of 1945, about 140,000 of those had died -- in horror-inspiring ways.

Still others were crushed by the debris from buildings collapsing as a result of the massive wave of pressure. Those at a somewhat greater distance from ground zero were killed by direct exposure to radiation. Many were poisoned when they drank the radioactive rain -- turned black by dust and debris -- that began falling about 20 minutes after the explosion. An Australian journalist visiting Hiroshima in September 1945 dubbed the disease he observed -- hair falling out, bodies covered in reddish-purple spots, victims dying of internal bleeding -- the "atomic plague.

The After-Effects of The Atomic Bombs on Hiroshima & Nagasaki

The exact number of victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki will never be known. What we do know is that thousands are still dying today from the delayed effects of malicious radiation. It's almost as if the punishment pronounced in the Second Commandment of the Old Testament, that of a jealous God punishing the unfaithful "to the third and the fourth generation," had been meted out by human hands. Even the children and grandchildren of the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki will suffer the consequences of their parents' and grandparents' exposure to radiation.

In many cases, their genetic material has been so severely damaged that they now suffer from leukemia, breast cancer and neurological disorders. The nuclear age began in the ruins of Hiroshima. The enormous destruction that nuclear energy can cause first became evident 60 years ago, in the delta of the Ota River on the southeastern coast of Japan's main island, Honshu. Lewis, had gazed down on the burning city and watched as a mushroom cloud rose into the sky.

Until 1945, it was generally believed that advances in weapons technology would lead to exponential increases in the numbers of dead and wounded in a subsequent war. Whether these advances related to gunpowder, bombers, submarines or tanks -- progress in the military arena was always synonymous with ever-growing fatality counts and ever-increasing physical devastation. More than 775,000 soldiers died in Napoleon's military campaigns between 1805 and 1815.

One hundred years later, World War I claimed almost 15 million lives. But it was the atom bomb, the biggest destructive force known to man, that ultimately put an end to this spiral of death and destruction.

It was the cosmic destructive force of the new nuclear weapons that forced the world's superpowers, for the first time in history, to deal with their rivalries with primarily peaceful means. Despite the fact that Soviet communism and Western democracy were diametrically opposed to one another, World War II wasn't followed by a third world war, but by the Cold War, which in fact was -- as US historian John Lewis Gaddis calls it -- a "long peace.

Even the fathers of the Hiroshima bomb were fully conscious of crossing a boundary, and of there being no turning back.

In the summer of 1945, US General Leslie Groves, who headed the project that culminated in the atomic bomb, wrote: On January 30 of that year, Adolf Hitler becomes German chancellor, placing the Nazis dangerously at the helm of a country boasting some of the world's greatest scientific minds as its citizens.

Prominent scientists, including physicist Albert Einstein, promptly leave Germany, either simply because they abhorred its inhuman political system or to protect themselves against anti-Semitism. The burning topic on the minds of physicists at the time was the smallest chemical building block in the universe, the atom. Then, in December 1938, Hahn, a chemist, bombards uranium samples with neutrons, the electrically neutral elementary particles. To his astonishment, the reaction produces barium, whose atomic weight is less than that of uranium.

The tiny particles are still considered indestructible, or "atomos," a Greek word meaning indivisible. But Hahn doesn't dare voice his suspicion that the barium atoms could be parts of the destroyed uranium nuclei. The 60-year-old Meitner, a Jew, has already fled to Stockholm to escape Nazi persecution. As soon as Hahn's letter arrives from Berlin, Meitner immediately begins running calculations, and her interpretation of the results is confirmed in subsequent experiments.

Hahn has been the first to demonstrate "nuclear fission," the name these scientists give to the new reaction mechanism.

The scientific journals soon fill with speculations that this discovery could lead to the development of a "super bomb. Gigantic quantities of energy are tied up in the inconceivably tiny uranium atom, and this energy is released when the mass particles of the nucleus are converted into energy. When Hitler's army marches into what the Nazis call the Rest-Tschechei left-over Czechoslovakia in March 1939 and freezes the export of uranium ore from mines near the town of Joachimstal, the move quickly sets off alarms in the scientific community.

And when, a short time later, a young German scientist publishes an excellent article about the bombing of hiroshima and nagasaki wasnt a proud moment to some americans "uranium machine" in a scientific journal, many experts in America conclude that the Nazis must already have captured a significant lead in the field of atomic energy. Why else, they reason, would the Germans publish such an article, even though the research its describes relates to the peaceful use of atomic energy?

It's a serious mistake. Leading German physicist Heisenberg and his team are still a long way from developing the bomb, and will remain so until the war ends in 1945. Nevertheless, the Americans believe they are taking part in an arms race, despite the fact that the only scientists whose work on nuclear energy poses a serious threat are in the United States.

The emigrants who have fled to America to avoid persecution by the Hitler regime help fuel this miscalculation. A group of Hungarian-born scientists known among colleagues in Budapest as the "Hungarian conspiracy" -- physicists Leo Szilard, Edward Teller and Eugene Wigner -- are among the most vocal in warning the scientific community against what they perceive as the German dictator's mad rush to acquire dangerous weapons.

The Hungarians, who had been conducting their research in Germany, have fled to New York to escape Hitler. Szilard is the first to point out the spectre of a bomb emblazoned with the Nazi swastika.

In the summer of 1939, Szilard writes to Einstein, already considered the scientific superstar of the century. In response, Einstein invites the three Hungarians to his summer home on Long Island. Wigner is especially traumatized by the rise of the Nazis. Later, in 1942, he refuses to allow the FBI to take his fingerprints, fearing that the Germans could win the war and use the prints to track him down.

The four scientists speak The bombing of hiroshima and nagasaki wasnt a proud moment to some americans, and in the language of the enemy they write the first draft of a now-famous letter, signed by Einstein himself, to US President Franklin D. In the letter they describe "extremely powerful bombs of a new type" that could have devastating effects.

After all, in 1939 the United States is far behind other countries when it comes to military prowess. Most of its weapons and tanks are vintage World War I, and its relatively small armed forces are ranked only 17th in the world.

  1. Robert, donning his coat.
  2. In the summer of 1946, the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission held hearings on possible international control of fissile materials and nuclear energy, but these discussions foundered in the face of the growing Cold War. Even the fathers of the Hiroshima bomb were fully conscious of crossing a boundary, and of there being no turning back.
  3. His brothers are off with the Imperial Navy fighting the Americans and the British, and his mother is staying with her parents in the countryside. Schools, churches, and homes had simply disappeared.
  4. Buildings—even strong modern structures—had suffered significant damage, some pushed off their foundations, some gutted by fire, others utterly destroyed. An Australian journalist visiting Hiroshima in September 1945 dubbed the disease he observed -- hair falling out, bodies covered in reddish-purple spots, victims dying of internal bleeding -- the "atomic plague.
  5. A great scar on the land was still burning, covered by a heavy cloud of smoke. The War and Navy Departments prepared their own estimates, then there were also estimates from the Joints Chiefs of Staff and the Combined Chiefs of Staff, and other estimates came up from field commanders and every office that wanted a piece of the action.

But the president sitting in the White House at the time reacts with vision and decisiveness. Roosevelt meets twice with one of Einstein's emissaries, who is sent to Washington to explain the science behind atomic energy to the president.

Remembering Hiroshima: The Bomb that Was Meant for Hitler

In the first meeting, the president has trouble understanding what the scientists are talking about. But in the second meeting, on October 12, 1939, he finally comprehends the enormity of their warnings. But the German dictator thinks in Blitzkrieg scenarios. Both he and his armaments experts lack the patience for expensive, long-term arms projects. He convenes a meeting of advisors, and soon the government begins disbursing research funding to the country's top scientists.

The first reaction is one of skepticism -- among military officials, among the few politicians initiated into the project, and even among some physicists. Will a nuclear chain reaction actually work?