By Rittul Arya
New Delhi: August 6 marks the 77th anniversary of the tragic incident of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings in 1945, during the end of World War 2. The catastrophic event, which claimed the lives of more than 1,40,000 people and more after years due to radiation effect, still continues to affect the lives of natives, both mentally as well as physically. Hiroshima Day is observed to remember those who got killed and to promote world peace and create awareness against the use of nuclear weapons.
During World War II, the United States had dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, which winded up the war, but at a horrific cost to the civilians of Japan, marking the advent of the nuclear era. The devastation and fallout were so severe for the citizens, especially children that it annihilated civilian communities.
Why did US bomb Japan?
Years before the bombings, war was at its full fledge, with the Allies, consisting of the US, UK, and most European countries on one hand, and the Axis powers- Italy, Germany, and Japan on the other hand. What triggered the US-Japan confrontation occurred in 1941 when Japan began advancing its fleet into the central and southwest Pacific, which included the US territory in the Philippines.
In the early hours of December 7, 1941, Japan attacked US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbour, in the hope to counter the danger of US power. Before this attack, the US was a neutral country and was not participating directly in World War II. But this incident compelled them to step in and led to its formal entry into the war. Though this event did not affect the US Navy by a huge margin, it formally led to the declaration of war against Japan.
In 1945, Italy had already surrendered and the Allies were invading the German capital. In April, Adolf Hitler committed suicide and by May, Germany surrendered, but Japan refused to give up and continued to fight, unabated. The allies were figuring out how to end the war, without causing further casualties. The first plan was to conduct “Operation Downfall” an attempt to invade the Japanese mainland. However, the operation could not eventuate due to Japan’s unique geography, which suggested that there was only one predictable entry point, which would kill around three million people.
In July, the Allied called for Japan to surrender, promising to bring “prompt and utter destruction” if they refused. Japan ignored their warning which led to a combined decision by the US and the UK to drop the secret atomic bomb, called the “little boy” on one of Japan’s industrial and military strongholds, Hiroshima. The US officials noted that the bomb would serve as a significant display of power in post-war relations with the Soviet Union.
During the morning hours of August 6, 1945, a bomber plane dropped the 15-kiloton bomb, killing almost 30% of Hiroshima’s population instantly. In the following days, the Allies again asked Japan to surrender, warning them of more destruction, but they still did not respond.
On August 9, the Soviet Union surprised Japan by declaring war and invading the Japanese-held city, Manchuria. This shook Japan as they did not expect the Soviet Union to violate their neutrality agreement. The Allies’ inability to invade Japan’s only entry point was also questioned by Japan after this deception.
Several hours later, the US dropped another atomic bomb on Nagasaki, killing nearly 80,000 people. After six days of contemplation, Japan officially announced its unconditional surrender on August 15, ending World War II.
Today, after many decades, the lasting effects of the bombings can still be seen throughout the cities. Despite repairing the physical damage and rebuilding the relationship between the US and Japan, the events continue to weigh heavily in the history of both countries. Over the past 77 years, the moral excuse for dropping nuclear weapons has been widely challenged and debated.