Learn more about the devastation caused by the atomic bomb
Around 80,000 people were killed by the initial blast
More than 200,000 people have died from its aftereffects to date
Only two hospitals were left standing
On August 6, 1945, at 8.15 am, the Enola Gay, an American B-29 bomber plane, dropped a 16-kiloton atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Although World War II had ended in Europe, it was still continuing in the Pacific theater. The Quebec agreement allowed for the deployment of two atomic bombs. One fell on Hiroshima, and the other on Nagasaki three days later.
The world had never seen the use of such bombs. Hiroshima was devastated beyond belief. The city was flattened over 4.7 square miles, with around 69% of the city’s buildings being destroyed and many more damaged. 30 percent of the population were killed directly, estimated to be around 80,000 people, and another 70,000 were injured.
On August 15, 1945, Japan surrendered, bringing World War II to an end.
The human cost
The atomic bomb that fell on Hiroshima exploded 600 meters above Shima Hospital. The heatwave that spread out from the blast reached 3,000-4,000 degrees centigrade. Winds of up to 440 meters per second howled through the city, creating a firestorm. To those who were near the epicenter, death came swiftly.
Amazingly, Eizō Nomura survived being in the basement of a reinforced concrete building only 170 meters from the center of the blast. Akiko Takakura was in the Bank of Hiroshima 300 meters away and was also saved. They were the lucky ones.
Many that survived the initial impact had horrific injuries. Those that could, walked out of the city but collapsed and died from their burns and exhaustion. In the immediate aftermath of Hiroshima, care was given to the injured and dying, but there would be long-term consequences from the radiation they had been exposed to.
Radiation poisoning soon affected the survivors, causing their hair to fall out and their gums to bleed. Such exposure to high amounts of radiation also had continuing effects. Many of the population who survived would later die of cancer and other serious illnesses due to genetic damage. A recent study has estimated that over 200,000 deaths have occurred due to the effects of the bomb that fell on Hiroshima.
A city destroyed
Everything in a one-mile radius of the center of the blast was destroyed, except for a few heavily reinforced concrete buildings. Those that remained standing were gutted. Roof tiles melted, windows exploded and electricity poles burst into flames. Thousands of houses were obliterated, leaving the people of Hiroshima homeless and destitute.
Utilities were destroyed, with electricity, telephone and water pipes all damaged, but the city made an amazing recovery. By the end of November, 1945, power was restored. Some telephone lines were back in place by August 14, and water pumps were working again four days after the blast.
Out of 1000 government employees, only 80 survived. They had the unenvious task of re-organizing their city–from ensuring food supplies to cremating the dead and supplying medical treatment. Only two of Hiroshima’s hospitals were still standing, and over 90% of the city’s doctors and nurses had been killed or injured.
200,000 deaths have occurred due to the effects of the bomb that fell on Hiroshima.
Hiroshima suffered the most devastating event of World War II. Its people, buildings and landscapes were destroyed, but through perseverance and determination, the city rose again from the ashes. Today it is a thriving, bustling, modern city that remembers its past.
Visitors to the city can find out more at Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park, a UNESCO world-heritage site that honors the many victims of the atomic bomb and those that survived.
A deeper dive – Related reading from the 101
World War II ends with Japan’s surrender
The amazing story of a survivor of the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan.