75 Years Later: A look back at the atomic bombs dropped on Japan

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(WSYR-TV) — Warfare changed forever on August 6, 1945, when the United States dropped two atomic bombs on Japan.

The goal was to hasten Japan’s surrender, ending World War II and saving Allied lives. It was also a flex of power by the U.S. to show the Soviet Union the powerful new technology.

Images of Hiroshima and Nagasaki really demonstrate the destructive power of the atomic bombs. Japan’s emperor Hirohito called it “a new and most cruel bomb” in his statement of surrender.


FILE – This 1960 image released by the U.S. Department of Defense shows the Little Boy atomic bomb. (AP Photo/File)

During World War II, the first atomic bomb was built in Los Alamos, New Mexico under a top-secret U.S. government program called the Manhattan Project. The first test, code name “Trinity,” was dropped in Alamogordo, New Mexico, 120 miles south of Albuquerque, on July 16, 1945 at 5:29 a.m. The bomb, “Gadget,” was a plutonium-239 implosion bomb that had an equivalent of 21,000 tons of TNT.

Code name “Little Boy,” the atomic bomb that dropped on Hiroshima detonated with an estimated 15,000 tons of TNT. The bomb dropped on Nagasaki, nicknamed “Fat Man,” held 21,000 tons of TNT.


At 8:15 a.m. on August 6, 1945, the crew of the B-29 bomber Enola Gay flew over Hiroshima and dropped the first wartime atomic bomb. Hiroshima was targeted because it was a regional hub that was an important military communication center, storage depot, and a spot where troops gathered.


In this handout from the U.S. Air Force, the seaport city of Nagasaki, Japan, is shown almost completely destroyed.
(AP Photo/USAF)

Three days later, 185 miles southwest of Hiroshima, at 11:02 a.m., the second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, wiping out 30% of the city.

The original target, Kokura, was masked in cloud cover that morning making it difficult for the B-29 bomber, Bockscar, to find its aim. Pilots spent 45 minutes flying over Kokura before moving to its secondary target, Nagasaki.

Although more powerful than the one used at Hiroshima, Nagasaki’s topography, narrow valleys between mountains, reduced the bomb’s effect and limited the destruction to 2.6 square miles.


Hiroshima: 70,000 to 80,000 died from the initial impact of the atomic bomb. Final casualty numbers remain unknown but by the end of 1945 more than 30,000 people died from injuries and radiation caused by the bomb.

Nagasaki: Exact numbers are unknown but it’s estimated that 60,000 to 80,000 people died from direct exposure and longterm side effects of radiation.


Reconstruction began in 1950. Today Hiroshima is the largest industrial city in Japan’s Shikoku and western Honshu regions.

The city has become a spiritual center of the peace movement working to ban nuclear weapons. Peace Memorial Park, built at the epicenter, contains a museum and monuments dedicated to those who lost their lives from the bomb.

One of the few buildings not obliterated by the blast, the Atomic Bomb Dome, was designated a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization World Heritage site in 1996.

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