World War Two – Effects of an Atomic Bomb – Hiroshima


On August 6, 1945, President Truman gave the order to drop the first bomb known as “Little Boy”. Hiroshima was chosen as the location to drop the bomb after careful strategic consideration. The primary reasons why Hiroshima was chosen were because of it’s relatively small size, which would make it easier to study the effects of a bomb and because it was the Japanese city that had suffered the least amount of damage during World War 2 and a place where a high concentration of their military remained and also it has been said that there were no allied POW prisons there. At the time there were close to “300,000 civilians and 43,000 soldiers” (The Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima ).

The Enola Gay and “Little Boy”

The Enola Gay, B-29 Bomber, carried the bomb from Tinian Island located in the Central Pacific and dropped “Little Boy”, who was not so little, weighing approximately 8000 pounds consisting of Uranium. The moment the bomb was dropped at 8:15 AM, people up to 1640 ft were completely vaporized. Around 80,000 people including at least 12 American POWs were killed in an instant, those who were not killed instantly, within a half mile or less of the site were killed by a fire storm which quickly followed, in total around 135,000 perished (Total Causalities). Nearly every building within a mile from the blast was destroyed and buildings up to ten miles suffered some damage. Glass on buildings up to 12 miles away was shattered.

Water Contamination and Radiation

The water became so contaminated within the area from the nuclear fallout that had occurred and from the dead bodies floating in the river that some people died almost immediately after consuming. Many witnesses had noticed that after the water was consumed the unlucky survivors would cough up a yellow substance. While I have not been able to find out why so many died immediately after drinking the water and others managed to survive after consuming the same water, I can only assume that it must have been some sort of allergic reaction to the radiation (Doomsday For Hiroshima Came With A Blinding Flash ).

Black Rain and the Radioactive Fall-Out

One half hour after the bomb exploded, “black rain” began to fall. It has been describe as a tarry substance that stained anything that it fell upon, black. This rain carried the radio active fallout and spread it into areas past Hiroshima. Those affected by the black rain also were exposed to radiation which carried the same health effects-radiation poisoning.

Disease X

Many of the people who were not killed immediately upon the blast later died from radiation exposure, this has been shown for up to three miles from the bomb site. Vomiting, diarrhea, swollen mouth and throat including bleeding from these areas were the first symptoms that appeared within hours of the explosion. Strange bluish spots began to appear on survivors as well. Little was known about the full effects of radiation, but soon doctors began describing patients that showed no outside injuries started falling sick and showed many of the symptoms noted above, this strange disease became known as “Disease X” (Selden). The Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission was created in 1947 under the supervision of U.S. National Academy of Sciences. Their purpose was to study the short and long term effects of radiation exposure (Shigematsu ). Thus far, the Commission, now known as Radiation Effects Research Foundation, has studied over 75,000 Hiroshima survivors.

Infants and Radiation

Unborn children did not escape the wrath of the bomb. “One of the most conspicuous signs of the horror is the children whose mothers were hit while carrying them. Most of them perished before birth, but of those who survived some were born with heads abnormally small and are severely mentally –retarded” (After Effects). Miscarriages were common in women who were within the vicinity as well as carrying a baby to full term and then when they were born realizing that they literally had no brain. The babies that did survive after birth, those who were breastfed, succumbed to the radiation poisoning that was passed through the mother’s system.

Cancer and the Survivors

Those who have survived Hiroshima still fear for their lives as well as their offspring’s lives on a daily basis because of the lingering health effects. Many of them have suffered lung and liver cancer as well as breast cancer and Leukemia. The offspring of these survivors worry what cancer they will develop as their parents were exposed to such a vast amount of radiation. As of 2005, no proven links were found to show that offspring had any greater risk than those not born from radiation exposure, however, a full blown study involving survivors and their offspring started taking place in May 2005.

Hiroshima Today – Safe Zone

Hiroshima is apparently safe and thriving today with their main industries being automobile manufacturing, food processing and machinery with a population of close to one million. Due to the fact that the bombs exploded approximately 600 meters above the ground very little nuclear by product was deposited into the ground. A few weeks after the bomb was dropped, scientists went in to take radiation measurements and it was found that the radiation levels had fallen to a relatively safe zone.

Nagasaki and “Fat Man”

Hiroshima was not the only place to receive this horrific fate, three days after we dropped the bomb on them, we swiftly moved forward to Nagasaki, Japan, on August 9, 1945. The initial target for this mission was supposed to be Kokura, Japan because it was a heavily industrialized area but due to cloud coverage the mission was moved to the secondary target of Nagasaki chosen because it had a large “ship building industry and a large military port” (Nagasaki – August 1945 ) . The bomb for Nagasaki was called “Fat Man” and was made up of Plutonium and weighed about 10,000 pounds. Approximately 80,000 deaths, including those from radiation poisoning were recorded. After this second bombing, Japan finally surrendered.