Fifty four years ago, the detonation of the first atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima (and later on Nagasaki) ushered to the Nuclear Age. It was a moment full of horror, in which the eyes of the whole world were opened to the unimaginable possibility of nuclear holocaust. The experience on what happened to those cities and what is still happening to many of the survivors there, leads to explore what happened to America as a consequence of Hiroshima; both the bomb’s existence in the world, and the United States having used it.
The dropping of the bomb was born out a complex abundance of military, domestic and diplomatic pressures and concerns. The popular tradition view that dominated the 1950s and 60s, put by President Harry Truman and Secretary of War Henry Stimson, was that the use of the bombs was a solely military action that avoided the loss of as many as a million lives in the upcoming invasion of the Island of Kyushu. But while the attacks brought peace, they were also two of the worst-caused disasters. United States was willing to use nuclear weapons at whatever expense to enemy forces, civilians, infrastructure, or, indeed, the global environment.
Many issues have been unresolved and have created a debate on the proliferation and use of the nuclear arms as a result of this. Hiroshima marks a powerful psychological turning point in our attitude toward our own science and technology, because it not only exceeded all previous limits in destruction but had, in effect, declared that there were no limits to destruction. On December 7, 1941 the Japanese attacked the American fleet at Pearl Harbor. Taking the Americans by surprise 19 ships were sunk and about 2,400 American soldiers and sailors were killed.
Four years later, on August 6 and August 9, 1945 the Americans would take the Japanese by surprise by destroying the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with two atomic bombs. The attack on Pearl Harbor four years earlier was one of the justifications President Truman gave for his decision. Over 240,000 Japanese civilians died–the attack on Pearl Harbor was returned 100 times over. At 2:45 A. M. local time, August 6, 1945, a B-29 bomber named Enola Gay left the Pacific island of Tinian on a bombing mission.
The target: Hiroshima. At 8:15 A. M. Japan time, the first atomic bomb dropped in history The Little Boy (made of uranium) exploded a minute later after being released, at approximately 580 meters above the center of Hiroshima. The temperature of the air at the point of explosion reached several million degrees Celsius. At the moment of explosion, intense heat rays and radiation were released in all directions, and a blast erupted with incredible pressure on the surrounding air. As the unimaginable blast subsided after the blowing from the hypocenter toward the outlying areas, a vacuum of air and pressure was generated in the center.
The wind reversed direction and began blowing towards the center from the outlying areas with the intensity of another blast. The shock wave traveling directly from the center of the explosion and the shock waves reflected from the ground and buildings affected each other, creating a variety of significant damage on the ground. After ten seconds, the shock wave had traveled approximately 3. 7 km from the hypocenter. The cloud generated by the disturbed air resulting from the explosion was lifted upward by strong currents.
As the pillar of radiation-laden smoke reached the bottom of the stratosphere, it spread out horizontally to a diameter of several kilometers, forming the shape of a mushroom cap. The top of the atomic cloud reached an altitude of 17,000 meters. After developing into its final stage, the mushroom cloud was dispersed by the wind and dissipated into the surrounding air. In an instant, the explosion reduced the city to a scorched plain, wiping out countless precious lives and inflicting devastation on all city functions. Anyone within a mile of the explosion from the atom bomb became a bundle of smoking black charcoal within seconds.
The intense heat that came together with the explosion caused houses and all combustible material in the downtown area to spontaneously combust. As the downtown area erupted in huge fires after the explosion, intense firestorms and whirlwinds developed. After 20-30 minutes, radioactive debris was deposited by Black Rain (which was oily and sticky) that fell heavily for over an hour over a wide area. Large amounts of fallout, referred to as Ashes of Death were contained in the rain in the form of radioactive soot and dust and caused contamination even in areas remote from the hypocenter.
All the ruins of the fires were melted together like lava and distorted due to intense heat. Furthermore, the large amount of radiation that instantly descended upon the Earth penetrated deeply into people’s bodies, destroying cells. At that time, there were fluctuations in Hiroshima’s population due to the presence of military personnel and evacuations, but it is believed that approximately 280,000-300,000 civilians lived in the city and approximately 40,000 military personnel were stationed there. Three days later, at 11:02 A. M. August 9, an even more powerful atomic bomb Fat Boy (made of plutonium) was unleashed on the city of Nagasaki. Though the amount of energy generated by the bomb dropped in Nagasaki was significantly larger than that of the Little Boy, the damage given to the city was slighter than that given to Hiroshima due to the geographic structure of the city. Radiation resulting from the atomic bomb explosion is roughly classified into two categories: initial radiation which was released within the first minute following the explosion, and residual which was released afterwards for a certain period.
This large amount of radiation had an extreme effect on the human body. Those exposed in the open to the direct heat rays were burned through the skin and into the tissues below. Babies with burns covering their entire bodies and men whose skin had melted from their heads were just some of the horrors suffered by the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Intense thermal heat emitted by the fireball caused severe burns and loss of eyesight. Four kinds of radiation are included in initial radiation: alpha rays, beta rays, gamma rays and neutron rays.
Those which had an effect on the ground were gamma rays and neutron rays. Alpha and beta rays have a low penetration power and are believed to have been absorbed in the air before reaching the ground. High levels of residual radiation were present on the ground for a certain period of time starting one minute after the explosion. It is quite likely that anyone entering the area within 100 hours after the explosion to search for people or help with relief efforts was affected by radiation coming from the soil and other such places due to the induced radioactivity.
In addition, soot and dust saturated with induced radiation from nuclear fission products and unfissioned uranium scattered at the time of the bombing were carried high into the atmosphere and later fell to the ground as radioactive fallout, giving rise to further possibilities for contamination. The potential effects of radiation continue to threaten the lives of the survivors even today and have caused considerable psychological damage. Long after the acute effects of radiation had subsided, radiation damage continued to produce a wide range of physical problems.
Aftereffects, including leukemia, cancer, and many others, appeared two, three, even ten years later. Exposure to radiation in 1945 continues to this day to threaten the health and well-being of the survivors. The issue of genetic effects of the bombs on human health after several generations has become a major problem when a person seriously thinks of marriage. Some (survivors or their descendants) are afraid that their children can have genetic problems and be born with malformations. This issue has caused discrimination against future generations.
Beyond the immediate damage to human beings and property, the atomic bomb destroyed an entire community. In a single instant, the city lost its businesses, factories, stores, schools, hospitals, fire stations, city government, nearly all normal societal functions. The unprecedented destruction of an entire city produced a profound pain utterly beyond verbal expression. Because the destruction was instantaneous, far-reaching, and painful, the social consequences have never been fully clarified.
The damage caused by the A-bomb failed to heal with the passage of time. Over the years and decades, the horrors of radiation grew ever more perceptible. Nonetheless, the fact that the now aging survivors still suffer from aftereffects can never be forgotten. This implies that talking about the A-Bomb is today a very sensitive and sometimes even political issue. The atomic bombs ended the deadliest war in history. More than 14 million men under arms, including more than 300,000 Americans, had died.
Another 25 million civilians had perished. Much of Asia and Europe had suffered terrible damage. The war had a profound impact on American life. Mobilization altered the structure of the economy; accelerated trends toward advancement in business, agriculture, and labor; and drastically enlarged the role of the military in many aspects of American life. The revolutionary advances in wartime science and technology raised both hopes for a healthier and better world and fears of and end to human life on earth.
Hence, the United States was a more powerful nation yet more insecure that ever before. The dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki pushed our world into the nuclear age. Today, many people question the wisdom of having used the atomic weapons against Japan. At that time, Americans felt both deep satisfaction and deep anxiety, and these responses have coexisted ever since. But by developing nuclear weapons, we are coming to realize the pain and devastation that these can cause.
The world must understand about the consequences of using nuclear arms of total destructive power that destroy nature, should have never been used but most importantly, the world should not rely on them to maintain peace. We need to face to diversity of the races in a country and have a balance between economic development and social development. Difference in economic developments among different countries triggers a war between them. We must learn from our past to be able to control the nuclear threat and strive towards maintaining peace in the world or we might destroy ourselves with the new technology.