- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 5, 2010

Sixty-five years ago Sunday, a giant cloud mushroomed over Hiroshima, and with it came the deaths of tens of thousands of Japanese. That cloud cast a dark shadow across a once-thriving city, the Japanese empire and the whole world, where it still lingers.

It was the first use of an atomic bomb as a weapon of war and only the second atomic explosion. The Trinity test at Alamogordo, N.M., on July 16, 1945, was the first nuclear explosion of any kind.

As the B-29 Enola Gay flew on its mission over the Pacific with Col. Paul Tibbets as pilot and a crew of airmen, scientists and experts, Hiroshima was a city of 350,000 of no particular military importance.

Unlike most other bombing raids, the goal this time was not a military installation but the destruction without warning of an entire city. When the “Little Boy” uranium-235 bomb went off, 70,000 women, children and soldiers died immediately from the explosion and another 70,000 died from radiation during the next five years.

Within three miles of the blast, 60,000 of 90,000 buildings were demolished. Metal and stone melted. The shadows of vaporized people were ghostly imprints on whatever flat surfaces still existed.

It was not enough, however, to drive the Japanese into surrender. Perhaps they thought this was a one-of-a-kind device and the United States had no more.

If that was the calculation, it was a mistake.

Three days later, during the next break in the weather over Japan, the industrial city of Nagasaki faced atomic destruction.

A bomb of different design but equally lethal - the plutonium “Fat Man” weapon - laid waste the second-choice target. It was Nagasaki’s bad luck that the primary target of Kokura had been obscured by smoke and haze.

It was estimated later that this bomb was 40 percent more powerful than the one that had annihilated Hiroshima.

A conventional bombing raid on Nagasaki on Aug. 1 had prompted a partial evacuation of the city, especially of schoolchildren, but almost 200,000 people still lived there. The best estimate is that 40,000 people died instantly and 60,000 more were injured. By January 1946, the number of deaths approached 70,000, with perhaps twice that number dead within five years.

Almost all homes within 1 1/2 miles of the explosion were destroyed. Of the 52,000 homes in the city, 14,000 were destroyed and 5,400 seriously damaged. The devastation to industrial and business structures was equally severe.

Five days later, the Japanese gave up.

For the first time, ordinary folk in the country heard the voice of their emperor - worshipped as a god - and it was telling them that Japan could fight no more.

There is some confusion about the proper date for V-J Day (Victory over Japan Day), the day of surrender. The Associated Press uses Aug. 15 because that was the Tokyo date of Emperor Hirohito’s broadcast. It was Aug. 14 in Washington, however, when President Truman announced the Allied victory in the Pacific.

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