It was a day in history that the world has never forgotten. Although it is 66 years later, nations are still establishing nuclear development policies and working to eliminate others as a result of the American attack on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.
World War II was drawing to a close, but the Japanese refused to surrender after nearly four years of fierce fighting. Despite six months of intense American firebombing of 67 Japanese cities, a call by the U.S., the UK and the Republic of China for Japan to surrender was ignored.
In Washington DC, it was decided that the time had come to end the war at all costs - even if it meant that innocent civilians had to die.
By executive order of then-President Harry S. Truman, the 393rd Bombardment Squadron B-29 Enola Gay flew over Hiroshima and dropped the “Little Boy” – the first nuclear weapon of mass destruction ever used in a war, an atomic bomb.
The residents were given no notice of the impending atomic bomb attack.
Three days later, the “Fat Man” – America's second atomic bomb – was detonated over Nagasaki. Tens of thousands died on the first day in each city, most from flash or flame burns, others from falling debris and other causes.
Six days later, on August 15, Japan announced its surrender and by September 2 it had signed the official document ending the Pacific War. Nazi Germany had signed the Instrument of Surrender on May 7, ending its part of the war in the European theater.
Within four months of the bombings, between 90,000 and 166,000 people died in Hiroshima as a result of their burns, from radiation sickness and from other injuries. At the time of the bombing, the city was home to approximately 350,000 residents.
In Nagasaki, between 60,000 to 80,000 died. Most of the dead were civilians in both cities.
In Hiroshima, the radius of total destruction was approximately 1.6 kilometers (1 mile), with fires that spread across 11 kilometers (4.4 miles), destroying a total of some 12 square kilometers (4.7 square miles).
First tested at Trinity Site on July 16 near Alamogordo, New Mexico, the atomic bomb used in the attack on Hiroshima contained 60 kilograms (130 lb) of uranium-235, produced in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. It was detonated at 580 meters (1,900 feet) above Hiroshima. The crew of the Enola Gay first felt the shock waves from the blast while flying at a distance 18.5 kilometers (11.5 miles) away.
As a target, Hiroshima was described as “an important army depot and port of embarkation in the middle of an urban industrial area.... a good radar target and such a size that a large part of the city could be extensively damaged.” The Target Committee added in its report that there were “adjacent hills which are likely to produce a focusing effect which would considerably increase the blast damage.” The committee also noted that the city was not a good incendiary target due to the rivers in the area.
The city was left deliberately untouched by American bombing in order to create a clear environment in which to determine the damage inflicted by the atomic bomb.
Today, more than half a century later, Iran is suspected of contemplating a similar attack on the State of Israel. Its drive to develop nuclear technologies and to enrich uranium has prompted intelligence agencies around the world, including those of the United States and Israel, to closely monitor its activities and to attempt to stymie its efforts.