On this day in 1945 the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima, Japan. It was the first time that a nuclear weapon was ever used in warfare, and the second time that a nuclear weapon had ever been exploded. “Little Boy” was dropped over Hiroshima at 8:15 in the morning. It exploded 1,900 feet above the ground. Captain Robert Lewis watched the explosion from his cockpit and wrote in his journal, “My God, what have we done?” Three days later, on August 9, American airmen dropped the atomic bomb nicknamed “Fat Man” on the city of Nagasaki.
Hundreds of thousands of people died, with roughly half the deaths in each city occurring on the day of explosion.
President Harry S. Truman, on the day the second bomb was dropped (August 9): “I realize the tragic significance of the atomic bomb…It is an awful responsibility which has come to us…We thank God that it has come to us, instead of to our enemies; and we pray that He may guide us to use it in His ways and for His purposes.”
There were plans for successive atomic attacks on Japan; two more Fat Man assemblies were readied; Robert Bacher was packaging the third core of plutonium when he received word that the shipment was suspended.
On August 14, Emperor Hirohito recorded his capitulation announcement which was broadcast to the Japanese nation the following day:
“…Moreover, the enemy now possesses a new and terrible weapon with the power to destroy many innocent lives and do incalculable damage. Should we continue to fight, not only would it result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization. Such being the case, how are We to save the millions of Our subjects, or to atone Ourselves before the hallowed spirits of Our Imperial Ancestors? This is the reason why We have ordered the acceptance of the provisions of the Joint Declaration of the Powers.”