The everlasting legacy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

by Saori Tonomura



What happened in August 1945?

Radiation damage

2015: Learn from experiences




Looking back on the history about nuclear weapons, it is inevitable to ignore what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan in 1945. This article aspires to elaborate on the consequences of the atomic bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and share some resources to learn more about the experiences of survivors.

What happened in August 1945?

On 6th August 1945, the first atomic bomb was detonated above Hiroshima, Japan. At 8:15 in the morning, it was dropped and exploded 43 seconds later about 600 meters above the ground, generating a strong blast. This explosion created an extremely high pressure of hundreds of thousands of atmospheres at its epicenter.

The exact number of the victims of Hiroshima is not clear till today. There were about 350,000 people in Hiroshima including those who were from colonized places such as China, Korea and Taiwan. It is estimated that about 140,000 million people passed away till the end of December 1945.

Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall after the atomic bomb explosion

Photographed by the American Military

Three days after Hiroshima, on 9th August at 11:02, the second atomic bomb targeted Nagasaki. As was the case in Hiroshima, people suffered severely due to flash burns caused by instantaneous radiation.

All human and animal beings within one kilometer of the bomb’s epicenter were killed instantly. Within two kilometers almost all people were injured seriously. According to the city of Nagasaki, the death toll reached approximately 140,000 in September 1945.

Mushroom cloud caused by Atomic Bomb in Nagasaki

Source: by “the pangalactic gargleblaster and the heart of gold” on Flickr

Please see the chart below for more details about the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki:

Comparing the Hiroshima and Nagasaki Bombings

Nagasaki Hiroshima
Time of Explosion 11:02 a.m., 9th August, 1945 8:15 a.m., 6th August, 1945
Type of Material Plutonium-239 Uranium-235
Name of Atomic Bomb Fat Man Little Boy
Explosive Force 21kt of TNT 16kt of TNT
Population at Time of Bombing Approx. 240,000 Approx. 350,000
Estimated Death Toll 73,884 140,000 (±10,000)
Number of Injured 74,909 79,130
Number of Victims 148,793 219,130 (±10,000)
Ratio of Victims to Population Approx. 62% Approx. 63%
Total Area Consumed by Fire 6.7sqkm 13.2sqkm

Source: Table by the author following the Brochure “Mini Atomic Bomb Exhibition by the City of Nagasaki”

Radiation damage

Soon after the atomic bomb attacks, people of the region suffered the consequences caused by radiation, which is one of the biggest differences between the damage of atomic bombs and conventional explosive devices. Both cities and their inhabitants were exposed to high radiation which remained after the explosion. This radiation also affected those who visited Hiroshima or Nagasaki in order to find their families or help injured people.

People affected by radiation were severely hurt from the inside of their bodies. This scope of damage depended on where they were at the moment of the explosion. However, most people who were within one kilometer of the epicenter of the explosion died in a few days due to its radioactive damage. In some cases, people who suffered no obvious external injuries passed away due to the internal damage of radiation.

2015: Learn from experiences

In 2015, it will be 70 years after the atomic bombs were used in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And it is getting harder and harder to hear personal experiences from “Hibakusha” (Atomic Bomb survivors) because of their advanced age. Now, the average age of Japanese survivors is 78 years and there are less than 200,000 survivors according to research in 2013. Recently, four groups of survivors quit their activities because of their advanced age such as the Association of Atomic Bomb survivors in Iiduka-City, Fukuoka, Japan.

Therefore, some organizations such as Non-Profit Organizations (NPOs) or the United Nations are trying to leave behind experiences for next generations by sharing information on the internet. Herewith, please find some useful websites where you can read some experiences of nuclear survivors in English and other languages:


Understanding what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, one gains a better idea of the serious consequences which nuclear weapons can cause. It is noteworthy that the nuclear weapons currently existing in the world have much more power than the ones used in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

With the passage of time, it is important to hand down experiences from generation to generation. The younger generations should be incentivized to learn more about what happened by hearing experiences of survivors and remember these lessons well. Thanks to the Internet, these experiences are available now no matter where you are.

Watch frozen at 8:15 am in Hiroshima

Source:; “Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum: stopped clock” by Fidel Ramos



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