Hiroshima is the capital of Hiroshima prefecture in the
Chugoku region of Japan.
As of 2003, the city has an estimated population of
1,136,684 and the density of 1,532.44 persons per km?.
The total area is 741.75 km?.The city gained a city
status on April 1, 1889.
The city was heavily damaged in World War II by the
nuclear weapon Little Boy, which was the second such
device to be detonated, and the first ever used in
military action. The nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and
Nagasaki were major factors leading to the surrender of
the Japanese Government several days later.
Hiroshima Prefectural Promotion Hall, the only building
standing after the blast.
After the nuclear attack, Hiroshima was rebuilt as a
"peace memorial city." The city government
continues to advocate for the abolition of nuclear
weapons, and more broadly for world peace.
World War II Bombing
During World War II, Hiroshima was a city of considerable
military importance. It contained the 2nd Army
Headquarters, which commanded the defense of all of
southern Japan. The city was a communications center, a
storage point, and an assembly area for troops. To quote
a Japanese report, "Probably more than a thousand
times since the beginning of the war did the Hiroshima
citizens see off with cries of 'Banzai' the troops
leaving from the harbor."
The center of the city contained a number of reinforced
concrete buildings as well as lighter structures. Outside
the center, the area was congested by a dense collection
of small wooden workshops set among Japanese houses; a
few larger industrial plants lay near the outskirts of
the city. The houses were of wooden construction with
tile roofs. Many of the industrial buildings also were of
wood frame construction. The city as a whole was highly
susceptible to fire damage.
Some of the reinforced concrete buildings were of a far
stronger construction than is required by normal
standards in America, because of the earthquake danger in
Japan. This exceptionally strong construction undoubtedly
accounted for the fact that the framework of some of the
buildings which were fairly close to the center of damage
in the city did not collapse. Another is that the blast
was more downward than sideways; this has much to do with
the "survival" of the Prefectural Promotional
Hall (pictured), which was only a few metres from the
aiming point. (The ruin was made a UNESCO World Heritage
site in 1996 over the objections of the US and
The population of Hiroshima had reached a peak of over
380,000 earlier in the war but prior to the atomic
bombing the population had steadily decreased because of
a systematic evacuation ordered by the Japanese
government. At the time of the attack the population was
approximately 255,000. This figure is based on the
registered population, used by the Japanese in computing
ration quantities, and the estimates of additional
workers and troops who were brought into the city may not
be highly accurate.
Hiroshima was the primary target of the first U.S.
nuclear attack mission. The mission went smoothly in
every respect. The weather was good, and the crew and
equipment functioned perfectly. In every detail, the
attack was carried out exactly as planned, and the bomb
performed exactly as expected.
The bomb exploded over Hiroshima at 8:15 on the morning
of August 6, 1945. About an hour previously, the Japanese
early warning radar net had detected the approach of some
American aircraft headed for the southern part of Japan.
The alert had been given and radio broadcasting stopped
in many cities, among them Hiroshima. The planes
approached the coast at a very high altitude. At nearly
8:00 A.M., the radar operator in Hiroshima determined
that the number of planes coming in was very small -
probably not more than three - and the air raid alert was
lifted. The normal radio broadcast warning was given to
the people that it might be advisable to go to shelter if
B-29's were actually sighted, but no raid was expected
beyond some sort of reconnaissance. At 8:16 A.M., the
B-29 Enola Gay dropped the atomic bomb called
"Little Boy" over the central part of the city
and the bomb exploded with a blast equivalent to 12,000
tons of TNT, killing 80,000 outright.
At the same time, Tokyo control operator of the Japanese
Broadcasting Corporation noticed that the Hiroshima
station had gone off the air. He tried to use another
telephone line to reestablish his program, but it too had
failed. About twenty minutes later the Tokyo railroad
telegraph center realized that the main line telegraph
had stopped working just north of Hiroshima. From some
small railway stops within ten miles of the city there
came unofficial and confused reports of a terrible
explosion in Hiroshima. All these reports were
transmitted to the Headquarters of the Japanese General
Military headquarters repeatedly tried to call the Army
Control Station in Hiroshima. The complete silence from
that city puzzled the men at Headquarters; they knew that
no large enemy raid could have occurred, and they knew
that no sizeable store of explosives was in Hiroshima at
that time. A young officer of the Japanese General Staff
was instructed to fly immediately to Hiroshima, to land,
survey the damage, and return to Tokyo with reliable
information for the staff. It was generally felt at
Headquarters that nothing serious had taken place, that
it was all a terrible rumor starting from a few sparks of
The staff officer went to the airport and took off for
the southwest. After flying for about three hours, while
still nearly 100 miles from Hiroshima, he and his pilot
saw a great cloud of smoke from the bomb. In the bright
afternoon, the remains of Hiroshima were burning.
Their plane soon reached the city, around which they
circled in disbelief. A great scar on the land, still
burning, and covered by a heavy cloud of smoke, was all
that was left of a great city. They landed south of the
city, and the staff officer immediately began to organize
relief measures, after reporting to Tokyo.
Tokyo's first knowledge of what had really caused the
disaster came from the White House public announcement in
Washington, sixteen hours after the nuclear attack on
Hiroshima. By the end of 1945, it is estimated that
60,000 more people died due to nuclear fallout sickness.
However, this total does not include longer term
casualties from radiation exposure.
Memorial cenotaph at Hiroshima Peace Park Starting almost
immediately after the conclusion of World War II, and
continuing to the present day, the dropping of atomic
bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki has been
questioned. Their use has been called barbarian since,
besides destroying a military base and a military
industrial center, tens of thousands of civilians were
killed. Some have claimed that the Japanese were already
essentially defeated, and that use of the bombs was
unnecessary. Some have also suggested that a
demonstration of an atomic bomb in an uninhabited region
should have been attempted.
In reply, defenders of the decision to use the bombs say
that it is almost certain that the Japanese would not
have surrendered without their use, and that hundreds of
thousands - perhaps millions - would have perished in the
planned U.S. invasion of Japan. To support their
argument, they point out that the Japanese agreed to
surrender only after the second bomb was dropped, when it
was evident that the first was not an isolated event, and
future prospects were for a continuing rain of such
bombs. (In actuality, the U.S. did not have another
atomic bomb ready after the bombing of Nagasaki due the
difficulty of producing fissile material.) Regarding the
suggestion of a demonstration, they maintain that, given
the mind-set of the Japanese at the time, it is unlikely
that any conceivable benign demonstration would have
Others contend that Japan had been trying to surrender
for at least two months, but the US refused by insisting
on an unconditional surrenderwhich they did not get
even after the bombing, the bone of contention being
retention of the Emperor.class="external">[1
Tens of thousands of people marked the 40th anniversary
of the atomic bombing of the city on August 6, 1985.
After the war
Hiroshima was rebuilt after the war, with new modern
buildings rising all over the city.
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