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Why did The United States of America choose to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

Isabel Casso (2008-2009)

Warning: This page contains many graphic picture and videos

Why Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

After the Japanese had attack Pearl Harbor, Hawaii The United States issued The Potsdam Declaration, which ask Japan to surrender and have them follow a list of peace terms. The Japanese rejected the Declaration giving President Truman the authority to use atomic bombs on Japanese soil. The United States wanted to choose area where Japan would be most impacted. Hiroshima was chosen because it was Japan's seventh largest city and it was "an important army depot". The second bomb, Fat Man, was designated to be dropped on Kokura but when the Americans arrived there they left due to smoke cover. Nagasaki being there secondary target because of its natural harbor was bombed instead.
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The Manhattan Project

The Manhattan Project was a group of scientist funded by The United States Government to research weapons of mass destruction primarily during World War II. Under the control of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, The Manhattan Project operated in secret. There the first atomic bomb was born, prompting the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

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The Enola Gay

The Enola Gay was the 8-29 Superfortress bomber that dropped the first atomic bomb, Little Boy, August 6th 1945 on Hiroshima, Japan. The Enola Gay was also followed by two other planes, Necessary Evil, who photographed the explosion, and The Great Artiste which was measured the blast. Enola Gay's crew consisted of 12 men, Colonel Paul W. Tibbets, Jr., Captain Robert A. Lewis, Major Thomas Ferebee, Captain Theodore Van Kirk, Captain William S. Parsons, Lieutenant Jacob Beser, Second Lieutenant Morris R. Jeppson, George R. Caron, Wyatt E. Duzenberry, Sergent Joe S. Stiborik, Dergeant Robert H. Shumard, and Christian Fredrick Norloeff.

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Little Boy and Fat Man

Fat Man at Tinian Island, August 1945
Fat Man at Tinian Island, August 1945
Little Boy
Little Boy
Little Boy and Fat Man were the code names for the bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Both nick names were created by Robert Serber, who was one of the many men who worked in the Manhattan Project. Little Boy was released on Hiroshima, Japan August 6th 1945; three days later on August 9th 1945 Fat Man bombed Nagasaki, Japan. Both nuclear weapons were created by the Manhattan Project. Little Boy was 10 feet in length and weighed 8,900 lbs and Fat Man was 10.6 feet in length and weighed 10,200 lbs. Over all the creation and handling of the weapons was a very rigorous; the delivery of the bombs was also a very difficult because any firing of explosives would result in a nuclear chain reaction.
Fat Man
Fat Man

Tuman's Involvement

This is an excerpt from President Truman's speech informing the American public of the first atomic bomb being dropped in Hiroshima, Japan.

Here is a top secret letter written to General Carl Spaatz approving the bombing of Hiroshima.

                                        25 July 1945
TO:   General Carl Spaatz
      Commanding General
      United States Army Strategic Air Forces
     1. The 509 Composite Group, 20th Air Force will
deliver its first special bomb as soon as weather will
permit visual bombing after about 3 August 1945 on one of the
targets:  Hiroshima, Kokura, Niigata and Nagasaki. To
carry military and civilian scientific personnel from the
War Department to observe and record the effects of the
explosion of the bomb, additional aircraft will accompany
the airplane carrying the bomb.  The observing planes will
stay several miles distant from the point of impact of the
     2. Additional bombs will be delivered on the above
targets as soon as made ready by the project staff. Further
instructions will be issued concerning targets other than
those listed above.
     3. Discussion of any and all information concerning
the use of the weapon against Japan is reserved to the
Secretary of War and the President of the United States.
No communiques on the subject or releases of information
will be issued by Commanders in the field without specific
prior authority.  Any news stories will be sent to the War
Department for specific clearance.
4. The foregoing directive is issued to you by direc-
tion and with the approval of the Secretary of War and of
the Chief of Staff, USA.  It is desired that you personally
deliver one copy of this directive to General MacArthur and
one copy to Admiral Nimitz for their information.
                       (Sgd) THOS. T. HANDY
                           THOS. T. HANDY
                           General, G.S.C.
                           Acting Chief of Staff

Here is one of President Truman's dairy entries relating to the bombing of Japan:

We have discovered the most terrible bomb in the history of the world. It may be the fire destruction prophesied in the Euphrates Valley Era, after Noah and his fabulous Ark.
Anyway we "think" we have found the way to cause a disintegration of the atom. An experiment in the New Mexico desert was startling - to put it mildly. Thirteen pounds of the explosive caused the complete disintegration of a steel tower 60 feet high, created a crater 6 feet deep and 1,200 feet in diameter, knocked over a steel tower 1/2 mile away and knocked men down 10,000 yards away. The explosion was visible for more than 200 miles and audible for 40 miles and more.
This weapon is to be used against Japan between now and August 10th. I have told the Sec. of War, Mr. Stimson, to use it so that military objectives and soldiers and sailors are the target and not women and children. Even if the Japs are savages, ruthless, merciless and fanatic, we as the leader of the world for the common welfare cannot drop that terrible bomb on the old capital or the new.
He and I are in accord. The target will be a purely military one and we will issue a warning statement asking the Japs to surrender and save lives. I'm sure they will not do that, but we will have given them the chance. It is certainly a good thing for the world that Hitler's crowd or Stalin's did not discover this atomic bomb. It seems to be the most terrible thing ever discovered, but it can be made the most useful...

Truman quoted in Robert H. Ferrell, Off the Record: The Private Papers of Harry S. Truman (New York: Harper and Row, 1980) pp. 55-56. Truman's writings are in the public domain.

The Effects

Warning: Please take notice that the video and pictures in the area are very graphic

Casualties in a makeshift hospital, Hiroshima
Casualties in a makeshift hospital, Hiroshima
The Effects of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were devastating. Fat Man killed an estimated 39,000 people and 25,000 were injured. Little Boy killed approximately 140,000 people. Both attacks resulted in the radiation illnesses which later killed thousands more people. Radiation illness, also known as radiation poising, sickness, or "creeping dose. " increase and usually result in cancer, tumors, and genetic damage. Within minutes after the blast nine out of ten people were dead. The bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki have the 2nd and 3rd highest fatality rates in World War II.

Victim of atomic attack with the pattern of her clothing burned into her back.
Victim of atomic attack with the pattern of her clothing burned into her back.
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