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Photos: Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Before and After the Bombs

July 28, 2020 in History

By Madison Horne

Before the 1945 atomic blasts, they were thriving cities—and virgin targets. In a flash, they became desolate wastelands.

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, end 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.”

WATCH: Hiroshima: 75 Years Later premieres Sunday, August 2 at 9/8c.

Hiroshima: Before and After

Satellite view of Hiroshima, Japan

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.

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.

Nagasaki: Before and After

Satellite view of Nagasaki, Japan

Three days after the destruction of Hiroshima, another American bomber dropped its payload over Nagasaki, some 185 miles southwest of Hiroshima, at 11:02 a.m. Not the original intended blast site, Nagasaki only became the target after the crew found that city, Kokura, obscured by clouds. The Nagasaki explosive, a plutonium bomb code-named “Fat …read more


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