65 Years Ago, The U.S. Dropped a Bomb on Hundreds of Thousands of People

Alex Pasternack writes on Motherboard:

In the early morning hours of July 16, 1945, some of the greatest scientific minds of a generation gathered in the New Mexican desert to watch the results of their unprecedented, world-changing experiment: to build the most powerful weapon in the world. But when they pressed the button on their bomb, nicknamed “Gadget,” they weren’t quite sure what would happen.

The general consensus was that the bomb would yield energy equivalent to 5,000 tons of TNT (the actual result as it was finally calculated was 21,000 tons). Robert Oppenheimer, the director of the Manhattan Project, had bet ten dollars against scientist George Kistiakowsky’s wager, with his entire month’s pay, that the bomb would not work at all. Enrico Fermi offered a wager on “whether or not the bomb would ignite the atmosphere, and if so, whether it would merely destroy New Mexico or destroy the world.”

Three weeks later — sixty-five years ago on August 6 — the world’s second atomic bomb, nicknamed Little Boy, would be detonated over Hiroshima, Japan, devastating the city and killing as many as 130,000 citizens. Three days later on August 9, a third atomic bomb, Fat Man, destroyed the city of Nagasaki and killed approximately 45,000 more Japanese.

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  • Your Mom

    Boo-fucking hoo, let's shed a tear for one of the most brutal nations in recent history.

    In 1941, Japan attacked the United States without a formal declaration of war.

    Starting in 1932, the Japanese invaded and occupied many countries, including Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indochina, Thailand, Burma, Taiwan, dozens of Pacific Islands and parts of China — and the tried to invade Australia, too. In many cases, the Japanese were overthrowing democratically-elected governments.

    Between 1937 and 1945, the Japanese deliberately and directly killed between 3 and 10 million civilians.

    Unit 731 of the Japanese Army conducted gruesome medical experiments on over 10,000 civilians and prisoners of war.

    In the late 1930s and early '40s, the Imperial Japanese caused the death by starvation of millions of civilians in Indochina.

    The Japanese Army forced thousands of women into prostitution as “comfort women,” where they were subjected to rape, unwanted pregnancy and untreated venereal diseases.

    After the first bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japanese leaders refused to surrender despite warnings that another devastating attack would destroy a different Japanese city.

    Japanese policy and behavior was evil. And one of America's finest hours was helping stop one of the most evil, cruel and brutal nations in recent history.

    • Hadrian999

      so terrorism is ok as long as you have a problem with the nation that is targeted, good to know.

      • Gemmarama

        is “yourmom” a synonym for “bitter, twisted, hawkish misanthrope” then? the evidence so far would suggest it…

        • tonyviner

          It's probably an acronym for something too, I am just not gonna divulge the energy to make something up.

    • Chris

      killing innocents to stop what YOUR country judges as the evil and in a place far away from YOUR country is just the most egocentric, foolish, cruel and evil way to see things. and never apologizing about it is too

      • Haystack

        When another country tries to take over your country, you're entitled to pass judgement upon their actions.

        • tonyviner

          Or you could just let them attack you in an effort to open widely the gates of war. $

          • Haystack

            Yes, that's what happened. We tempted the innocent Japanese into bombing us against their inclinations.

        • Hadrian999

          the idea that a military attack on a military target during a war we were involved in is an “infamous” act is just silly, we were very actively participating in the conflict, acting like the innocent victim is hypocritical.

    • A Bad Joke

      My grandfather was in one of their torture camps. Personally, I don't think we did enough.

      • Hadrian999

        ah the American way,
        murdering civilians because of things the government does.
        that pretty much endorses every act of every terror organization,
        using that logic9/11 would be totally justified.

      • Connie Dobbs

        “My grandfather was in one of their torture camps. Personally, I don't think they did enough.”

      • Anarchy Pony

        Right, because violence can only go one way on the perceived hierarchy, towards everyone that you don’t like. Christ forbid they fight back against you.

    • Gemmarama

      hmm, actually after further consideration…

      1) attacking a country without a formal declaration of war (or a UN mandate),
      2) invading and occupying various countries (pick your favourite!),
      3) deliberately killing civilians (vietnam anyone?),
      4) gruesome experiments (MKULTRA?),
      5) causing death by starvation (sanctions?),
      6) using rape as a weapon of war (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3w2mGQ7V3Q)

      who does this sound like? let's nuke washington!

      • Hadrian999

        throw Tuskegee in there too,
        as well as most of “manifest destiny”
        every government has loads of dirty laundry

    • 5by5

      “In 1941, Japan attacked the United States without a formal declaration of war. “

      And between 1898 and 1934, the U.S. Marines invaded:

      Cuba FOUR times,
      Nicaragua FIVE times,
      Honduras SEVEN times,
      the Dominican Republic FOUR times,
      Haiti TWICE,
      Panama TWICE,
      Guatemala ONCE,
      Mexico THREE times, and
      Columbia FOUR times.

      So what are we? Better? Gimme a fracking break. That moral high ground was lost DECADES ago.

    • rtb61

      So the reason the atomic bond had to be dropped on Japanese children, toddlers, babies and even unborn children, because they attacked and launched wars on others countries, gees, the must breed them tough in Japan, to go to war at birth. Perhaps the Japanese even had cadres of attack puppies and kittens because they had to be targeted as well. How about the ninja grannies and grandpa samurai, they were also have been a real threat. It was an act of evil driven by a need for revenge and valuing of all innocent life as less than nothing.

  • Haystack

    I think Hiroshima and Nagasaki look a lot worse in hindsight than they do within the context of WWII. You can make a reasonable argument that using the bomb to force a Japanese surrender saved lives in the long run by sparing us a land invasion. Also keep in mind that the a-bomb wasn't that much worse than the conventional bombing of European cities that had already taken place. For example, the bombing of Hamburg in 1943 caused about 50,000 civilian casualties–slightly more than Nagasaki–and practically destroyed the entire city. This was a war where people people were dying by the hundreds of thousands, even millions, in some cases. Given the prospect of bomb ending that war without any further American casualties, I don't think the decision to use it was as black and white as it appears to us now.

    Perhaps the strongest argument against using the bomb is that it helped to trigger the arms race with the Soviets–something which very nearly led to global nuclear war.

    • Hadrian999

      morality and honor have nothing to do with the outcome,
      if it did nothing would be off the table. but then most of the reasons we were in world war 2 have nothing to do with the pr fantasy we teach as fact

    • 5by5

      “You can make a reasonable argument that using the bomb to force a Japanese surrender saved lives in the long run by sparing us a land invasion.”

      You could make that argument if it were true, but the truth was that the Japanese were in the process of surrendering, and had made overtures to begin that process before the first bomb, and there was no excuse for the second one.

      But even if you could make that case, the real tactical problem with dropping the things had nothing to do with the Japanese at all, and everything to do with the Russians. The Soviets were playing around with the idea themselves, but the only way Stalin would commit to spending enough to really pursue it with any sort of vigor, is if he knew it would work — and we provided him with that answer — thereby leading him to get weapons of his own, thus making the entire earth a far more dangerous place.

      And now that the Soviet Union is defunct thanks to THEIR little adventure in Afghanistan (that we learned exactly nothing from), their old nukes can be purchased on the black market for the price of a ham sandwich.

      So let's keep cheering this idiot waste of life…. and maybe, we can waste some more!

      • Haystack

        The Japanese were making overtures toward conditional surrender. I believe the main issue was whether the imperial government should be allowed to remain in power. Terms of surrender matter–WWII might not have happened at all had WWI ended on different terms.

        I agree with you about the Soviets and the far-reaching implications of dropping the bomb.

        I am by no means cheering for any loss of life. I did not even say that I support what we did. My point is simply that 65 years later it looks more clear cut than it does if you consider it in the context of WWII, what issues the decision makers had to consider, and what we did and did not know about the effects of the bomb and the implications of using it upon future geopolitics. Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20.

      • guest51

        The argument that the bomb would have prevented huge causalty is right up there with Iraq having WMD's and we saw how that turned out.

        The causalty figure could have been hyped to justify the dropping of the atom bomb.

        The atomic diplomacy argument is valid as well, the bomb was dropped to intimidate the Soviets and had nothing to do with Japan.

        If we didn't drop the bomb on Japan and the war is over that opportunity to drop the bomb is lost. The only to bring back the opportunity was during the cold war. The United States could reduce their military to a few people, few enough to where if the U.S was getting clobbered the rational to drop the bomb as a last resort would be there. This is why Eisenhower knew the military defense budget increase is bs. Because a reduction would make the rational to drop the bomb come sooner, but an increase would make the industrialists rich and the U.S less dangerous because a long drawn out war would have to occur before a rational to drop the bomb could be made.

        • Haystack

          “The argument that the bomb would have prevented huge causalty is right up there with Iraq having WMD's and we saw how that turned out.

          The causalty figure could have been hyped to justify the dropping of the atom bomb.”

          I don't find it all that controversial that an invasion of mainland Japan would have been costly. Does every issue have to be all one way or the other, or can we admit some nuance into our worldviews?

      • Michael

        the Japanese were in the process of surrendering, and had made overtures to begin that process before the first bomb, and there was no excuse for the second one

        Process of surrendering… ??

        You're serious? Did the first bomb prevent the emperor from picking up the phone – sending smoke signals or perhaps tweeting surrender?? They killed lots of people in the middle of the night. There was no excuse for THAT. What about the WTC? Do you think that there was an excuse for that?

        Let's drop a bomb already…

    • Theodore (Ted) Sumrall

      Actually the firebombing of Toky took more lives than the immediate deaths of the Atomic Bomb. On the night of 9–10 March, B-29s dropped around 1,700 tons of bombs. Approximately 16 square miles (41 km²) of the city were destroyed and some 100,000 people are estimated to have died in the resulting firestorm, more than the immediate deaths of either the Hiroshima or Nagasaki atomic bombs.

      Wars are started by evil men and in this case the Japanese militarists were the ones who started it and it was (as usual) the innocent civilians who bore the brunt of the carnage, just as in Europe. I am grateful that the US has and continues to have war crime trials to hold accountable those who are responsible for such crimes against humanity. Theodore (Ted) Sumrall

      Theodore Sumrall

      • emperorreagan

        You mean that you're grateful that the US continues to hold other people to standards that it refuses to meet in its own conduct?

      • Hadrian999

        the US has war crimes trials????

  • jonm

    When you talk about the bombs killing 130,000 in Hiroshima and 45,000 in Nagasaki you are leaving out a lot other victims who got to live on with Radation sickness, cancer etc.

    Comparing it to other bombings on European cities is forgeting how these bombs actually functioned and the mechanisms they used to kill people; from the people who were vaporised at the epicentre up to the people who survived the blast but who went on to drink the black rain.

    The idea of the use of an Atom bomb being justified is jut completely alien to me.

  • Michael

    the Japanese were in the process of surrendering, and had made overtures to begin that process before the first bomb, and there was no excuse for the second one

    Process of surrendering… ??

    You’re serious? Did the first bomb prevent the emperor from picking up the phone – sending smoke signals or perhaps tweeting surrender?? They killed lots of people in the middle of the night. There was no excuse for THAT. What about the WTC? Do you think that there was an excuse for that?

    Let’s drop a bomb already…

  • ted

    Many people here brought up 2 issues about the use Atomic bomb
    which are only partly true.

    1. Japanese Gov’t was in the process of negotiating a surrender through the Russians prior to
    Hiroshima.

    This is true, but what they ignore is that the Japanese Gov’t was and had been split even
    before WW2, between the Peace faction and War faction. By that time the Peace faction headed by
    Prime Minister Suzuki had no authority or control over the military which was controlled by Army Minister
    Gen Anami.

    The War faction had no intention of surrendering, and US intelligence of Japanese continued defensive preparations in Southern Japan clearly showed that.

    In fact had the PM secured a surrender agreement with the Allies he and other of the Peace faction
    would not have lived to enforce it. There was in the works a plot by Jr. Army officers to murder members of the Peace faction incld the PM and the Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal.
    Gen Anami was aware of this plot and although he took no active part he did nothing to prevent it.

    Even after both bombs were dropped and the Soviets declaration of war, the War faction
    Army Minister Gen Anami, Chief of Army General Staff Gen Umezu, Chief of Navy Gen. Staff
    Admiral Toyoda all refused to consider surrender.

    “Army Minister Anami”
    “I especially cannot agree with an idea we will make a unilateral
    proposition to an immoral nation like the Soviet Union. We should live
    up to our cause even if our hundred million people have to die side
    by side in battle. We have no choice other than to continue the war
    by all means.”

    “I am confident we are prepared for a decisive battle on our
    mainland against the United States.”

    Chief of Army General Staff Umezu

    “Although the Soviet entry into the war is disadvantagous to us, we are
    still not in a situation where we should be forced to agree to an unconditional surrender”

    By now the Americans had experienced 2 years of bitter fighting against Japanese
    who subbornly refused to surrender time and time again, why would Japan be any different,
    especially as not a single Allied soldier had yet stepped foot on Japanese soil.

    Only the personal intervention by the Emperor himself forced the war faction to accept surrender
    on the morning of Aug 10, it was the only time he had intervened during the entire war.

    2. The bomb was used to scare the Soviets or end the war before they could get in.

    Well if that was the case why did Truman tell Stalin about the bomb at Potsdam
    why not just drop it without warning, would not that have been more of a shock?

    Truman also went to Potsdam with the intent of getting a firm commitment from Stalin
    to send troops into China.

    Reporters who accompanied the President saw he was very happy upon his return
    that he had finally secured a promise from Stalin to declare war on Japan.

    Remember the Soviets had promised at Yalta Conference to send troops
    within 3 months of Germany’s surrender, this they could have done much sooner
    that the 88 days it took them as they had a huge advantage of 10-1 in men even
    before they invaded Germany back in April.

    At any rate if the US believed it could end the war by using the Atomic bomb
    then why even ask the Soviets to declare war on Japan to begin with?

    The Soviet had no real Naval presence or long rang bombers, and although
    they could take Manchuria that would have little real effect on Japan as
    the US would have effectively blocked the island nation by then.

    Inviting the Soviets into the war would only officially give them seat at negotiating table.

  • ted

    Many people here brought up 2 issues about the use Atomic bomb
    which are only partly true.

    1. Japanese Gov’t was in the process of negotiating a surrender through the Russians prior to
    Hiroshima.

    This is true, but what they ignore is that the Japanese Gov’t was and had been split even
    before WW2, between the Peace faction and War faction. By that time the Peace faction headed by
    Prime Minister Suzuki had no authority or control over the military which was controlled by Army Minister
    Gen Anami.

    The War faction had no intention of surrendering, and US intelligence of Japanese continued defensive preparations in Southern Japan clearly showed that.

    In fact had the PM secured a surrender agreement with the Allies he and other of the Peace faction
    would not have lived to enforce it. There was in the works a plot by Jr. Army officers to murder members of the Peace faction incld the PM and the Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal.
    Gen Anami was aware of this plot and although he took no active part he did nothing to prevent it.

    Even after both bombs were dropped and the Soviets declaration of war, the War faction
    Army Minister Gen Anami, Chief of Army General Staff Gen Umezu, Chief of Navy Gen. Staff
    Admiral Toyoda all refused to consider surrender.

    “Army Minister Anami”
    “I especially cannot agree with an idea we will make a unilateral
    proposition to an immoral nation like the Soviet Union. We should live
    up to our cause even if our hundred million people have to die side
    by side in battle. We have no choice other than to continue the war
    by all means.”

    “I am confident we are prepared for a decisive battle on our
    mainland against the United States.”

    Chief of Army General Staff Umezu

    “Although the Soviet entry into the war is disadvantagous to us, we are
    still not in a situation where we should be forced to agree to an unconditional surrender”

    By now the Americans had experienced 2 years of bitter fighting against Japanese
    who subbornly refused to surrender time and time again, why would Japan be any different,
    especially as not a single Allied soldier had yet stepped foot on Japanese soil.

    Only the personal intervention by the Emperor himself forced the war faction to accept surrender
    on the morning of Aug 10, it was the only time he had intervened during the entire war.

    2. The bomb was used to scare the Soviets or end the war before they could get in.

    Well if that was the case why did Truman tell Stalin about the bomb at Potsdam
    why not just drop it without warning, would not that have been more of a shock?

    Truman also went to Potsdam with the intent of getting a firm commitment from Stalin
    to send troops into China.

    Reporters who accompanied the President saw he was very happy upon his return
    that he had finally secured a promise from Stalin to declare war on Japan.

    Remember the Soviets had promised at Yalta Conference to send troops
    within 3 months of Germany’s surrender, this they could have done much sooner
    that the 88 days it took them as they had a huge advantage of 10-1 in men even
    before they invaded Germany back in April.

    At any rate if the US believed it could end the war by using the Atomic bomb
    then why even ask the Soviets to declare war on Japan to begin with?

    The Soviet had no real Naval presence or long rang bombers, and although
    they could take Manchuria that would have little real effect on Japan as
    the US would have effectively blocked the island nation by then.

    Inviting the Soviets into the war would only officially give them seat at negotiating table.

  • Chris Zaun

    dropping the bomb on japan was a horrible act of evil,america loves to say its about peace but i think we love war more.japan did some horrible things also but you dont justify bad behavior whith other bad behavior,look at americas many wars and the evil war on drugs that puts people in jail for no reason at all,america is not as great as the media and conservatives pretend it to be.

  • Chris Zaun

    dropping the bomb on japan was a horrible act of evil,america loves to say its about peace but i think we love war more.japan did some horrible things also but you dont justify bad behavior whith other bad behavior,look at americas many wars and the evil war on drugs that puts people in jail for no reason at all,america is not as great as the media and conservatives pretend it to be.

  • Prestonpeet

    NYC’s local NY! news channel has an upcoming news story about Japan’s “two” “nuclear” disasters, never mentioning until the actual news report ran that the first “disaster” was really two, Atomic bombs dropped upon them by the US. Up until that point, this new situation was just another in a string of “disasters.” Semantics is a great game for those in power, if they really know how to play the game.

  • Prestonpeet

    NYC’s local NY! news channel has an upcoming news story about Japan’s “two” “nuclear” disasters, never mentioning until the actual news report ran that the first “disaster” was really two, Atomic bombs dropped upon them by the US. Up until that point, this new situation was just another in a string of “disasters.” Semantics is a great game for those in power, if they really know how to play the game.

  • Prestonpeet

    NYC’s local NY! news channel has an upcoming news story about Japan’s “two” “nuclear” disasters, never mentioning until the actual news report ran that the first “disaster” was really two, Atomic bombs dropped upon them by the US. Up until that point, this new situation was just another in a string of “disasters.” Semantics is a great game for those in power, if they really know how to play the game.

  • Prestonpeet

    oops, that should read NY1 news channel

  • Prestonpeet

    oops, that should read NY1 news channel

  • Prestonpeet

    oops, that should read NY1 news channel

  • Anarchy Wolf

    Right, because violence can only go one way on the perceived hierarchy, towards everyone that you don’t like. Christ forbid they fight back against you.

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