This Day in History: 1945: Hiroshima Nuclear Strike

Today marks the 68th anniversary of the United States’ attack on Hiroshima with the nuclear weapon dubbed “Little Boy.” This, along with the strike of “Fat Man” over Nagasaki three days later are the only two uses of Nuclear weapons to date, and catalyzed the end of the War in the Pacific.

The Emperor Showa (a wartime photograph).

The Emperor Showa

Following the signing of the Potsdam Declaration by the United States, the United Kingdom and the Republic of China which called for the surrender of the Empire of Japan on 26 July 1945, the Empire refused the order by the allies and vowed to continue forward.

A few days later, the first bomb was dropped — on Hiroshima. The equivalent of 50,000 pounds of TNT blasted above the city, killing over 100,000. Three days later, with the Japanese licking their figurative wounds from the first strike, the United States Air Force dropped the next weapon on Nagasaki, killing an estimated 50,000.

With further strikes of the weapons of mass destruction possible, including the fact that the Imperial Japanese Navy now devastated to such a point it was unable to function effectively as well as plans to initiate Operation: DOWNFALL, an allied-planned and manned invasion of Japan, AND now a declaration of war by the Soviet Union, the Emperor of Japan, Hirohito (now Showa) ordered the immediate surrender of the Imperial Japanese Forces and unconditionally accepted the terms of the allied forces in the Potsdam Declaration, bringing the War in the Pacific and World War II to an end.

Signing the Instrument of Surrender on behalf of the Emperor was the Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu, aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

Japanese Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu si...

Japanese Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu signs the Instrument of Surrender on behalf of the Japanese Government, on board USS Missouri (BB-63), 2 September 1945.

Afterward, the United States Military Occupation of Japan, which took effect immediately, lasted until 1952. The level of military devastation to the Japanese islands weren’t completely apparent until after the fighting stopped. Devastated infrastructure made caring for the Japanese nation very difficult, but was rebuilt by the efforts of the Occupation and the strong will of their new Japanese friends.

Today, the day is celebrated in Japan as a remembrance to those who died at Hiroshima, and to the valiant efforts to everyone, not just Japanese, who gave their lives to the battles that brought an end to World War on the planet.

In an age where just a few small weapons can destroy the world dozens of times over, those weapons brought about calls for global peace and calls for cooperation never before seen, so their usage would never again be necessary.

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