The horrors of World War II terrorized millions and caused unthinkable damage across the world. Nowhere and at no time was this more apparent than in Japan right at the end of the war. The detonation of two nuclear bombs on Japanese soil in August 1945 was unheard of and caused destruction that had rarely been seen before on Earth.
Little Boy and Fat Man were the two bombs dropped by American pilots over the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The funny-sounding names disguised the terrifying nature of the atomic bombs developed secretly by The Manhattan Project.
In the aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki's destruction, it was only a matter of time before Japan surrendered.
The war had ended elsewhere, but Japan had not yet given up the fight. To neutralize the Japanese military's threat, US President Truman resorted to this extreme and cruel measure. Six days after the explosion in Nagasaki, the Japanese emperor Hirohito officially surrendered.
September 2nd marked the end of the second world war, a day of celebrations in Europe and North America. However, the damage suffered by residents of Hiroshima was felt for generations after.
These harrowing photos give some idea of the chaos that unfolded in the aftermath of Hiroshima. Remember that it was once a vibrant city that was reduced to rubble.
Hiroshima Before & After The Attack
Hiroshima is about 500 miles away from the Japanese capital Tokyo and was, at that time, home to an estimated 350,000 people. It also contained key military headquarters. Add to this the city's population density and flat terrain, and you see why America chose Hiroshima for maximum destruction.
The 9000-pound Little Boy detonated near the river in the city center and wiped out everything within a mile radius. The total area destroyed was around 5 square miles.
Hiroshina Aftermath Photos: Frozen In Time
Lots of us are familiar with the haunting pictures of the Pompeii victims ― people who were instantly killed but discovered later in their original poses. Something similar happened in the aftermath of Hiroshima.
Anyone in the immediate blast zone was vaporized. Evidence was visible in the form of shadows on the sidewalk. Citizens going about their business disappeared in a flash.
Here you can see shadows inside a building where the window frames shielded the room from the blast.
Desolation Everywhere In The Aftermath Of Hiroshima
Here you can see a man gazing at one of the buildings very close to the center of the blast. Today it has been rebuilt and renamed the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, a reminder of the aftermath of Hiroshima.
Elsewhere, very little remained standing. Not even the frames of buildings. Some of the only structures intact in the aftermath of Hiroshima were those specially designed to withstand earthquakes, and even they took a severe beating.
The Magnitude Of The Blast: Hiroshima Aftermath In Pictures
The bomb blew up around 2,000 feet above the city and released a column of smoke that extended 20,000 feet into the sky.
The picture here does not show the cloud from the initial blast. Instead, this is smoke from the series of fires that broke out following the explosion. At the time of the blast, the ground temperature was a scorching 10,000° F.
Children Suffered In The Aftermath Of Hiroshima
One can only imagine the horror of growing up in a war as a child. Never mind in a wasteland with damaged infrastructure, economy, healthcare, and the threat of radiation poisoning.
This was a sight common throughout the war. Luckily for humanity, conflicts finally came to an end on September 2nd, 1945, when Japan surrendered to America in Tokyo.
Horrific Injuries In The Hiroshima Aftermath
In some ways, people who died immediately were the lucky ones. They suffered for a split second. Others, further away from the epicenter, survived, though many were unlucky to suffer severe burns in the aftermath of Hiroshima.
Here is a woman whose clothing stuck to her skin due to the heat of the blast.
This rare color photo shows gruesome burns to a man's legs. Though the detonation only lasted a few moments, the citizens of Hiroshima had to bear the resulting scars for a lifetime.
Healthcare Was In Ruins In Hiroshima Aftermath
The center of the explosion took place directly above a hospital, so numerous health workers were killed or injured. Temporary hospitals were built haphazardly to try and deal with the volume of injured and dying.
Here you can see injured people in squalid conditions. The precise death toll in the aftermath of Hiroshima is not known but was over 70,000.
Aside from the immediate fatalities and burn victims, another devastating effect of the atomic bomb was radiation poisoning.
People with no choice but to stay in Hiroshima were subjected to damaging radiation from nuclear material. This increased cancer rates and congenital disabilities for later generations.
Residents Did What They Could
In the photo above, a man pushes his bicycle amid piles of rubble and collapsed power cables. In the background, the (future) Hiroshima Peace Memorial is visible.
Here an older woman gets to work on the near-impossible task of clearing up some of the mess near her home.
In this scene, a few people walk across a junction as they would have done months earlier. The road layout was unchanged, only this time, every building in-between had been crushed.
It was not just hospitals that ceased to exist. The bomb wiped out other vital services too. Here is a fire truck that was completely torn to pieces.
Hiroshima Was Not The End Of Japan's Troubles
One cannot utter the word Hiroshima without immediately following it with Nagasaki. Even the shock of the Little Boy was not enough to force Japan to surrender.
About 75 hours after the bombing in Hiroshima, a second plane was ordered to transport an even bigger bomb, the Fat Man, above the skies of Japan.
Nagasaki was not the intended target for the 10,000-pound explosive. Its intended location was the city of Kokura, which is closer to Hiroshima. Due to overcast conditions in the area that morning, the pilot moved southwest toward Nagasaki.
The geography of this city is more mountainous, so this helped to somewhat limit the impact of the bomb. Still, 60,000+ died, and an area of 2.6 square miles was destroyed.
Hiroshima & Nagasaki Brought The War To An End
As we mentioned, the Japanese emperor surrendered on August 15th, but it was not until a few weeks later that an agreement was signed to bring the bloody conflict to a close.
The human impact of these nuclear bombs has been a talking point in the debate about nuclear power and weapons. Japan was struck by an atomic tragedy again in Fukushima in 2011.
Hence, even the devastation of two atomic bombs was not enough to deter countries from this powerful and dangerous energy source.
Hopefully, more tragedies are not needed for everyone to learn an important lesson seen in the photos in the aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.