The official bombing order for the use of the atomic bomb against Japanese cities was drafted by General Groves, the military director of the US bomb laboratory. President Truman and Secretary of War Stimson approved the order at the Potsdam Conference in July 1945.

The order made no mention of targetting military objectives or sparing civilians. The cities themselves were the targets. The order was also open-ended. "Additional bombs" could be dropped "as soon as made ready by the project staff."

On August 6th, 1945, at 8:15 A.M., Japanese time, a B-29 heavy bomber flying at high altitude dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. More than 4 square miles of the city were instantly and completely devastated. 66,000 people were killed instantly. Thousands more died of injuries in the following weeks and in later years as a result of radiation injuries.

The atomic bomb exploded close to the centre of the city; as 85% of the buildings were within 3 km of the hypocentre, destruction to the city was nearly complete. 90% of buildings collapsed or burned.

Target cities were carefully chosen to illustrate the power of the bomb.

The photograph was taken by the US Air Force to see how 'well' their bomb performed.

On August 9th, three days later, at 11:02 A.M., another B-29 dropped the second bomb on the city of Nagasaki, totally destroying 1.5 square miles of the city and instantly killing 39,000 people.

"Sixteen hours ago an American airplane dropped one bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, and destroyed its usefulness to the enemy. That bomb had more power than 20,000 tons of TNT. It had more than two thousand times the blast power of the British Grand Slam, which is the largest bomb ever yet used in the history of warfare".

With these words on August 6th, 1945, US President Truman marked the first public announcement of what some call the greatest scientific achievement in history and which others call the greatest single act of barbarism.

Estimates of Casualties Hiroshima Nagasaki

In Hiroshima, within a radius of half a mile of the epicentre the only remains of the people caught in the open were their shadows burnt into stone.

Pre-raid population 255,000 195,000
Dead 192,000 73,884
Injured 69,000 74,909
Total Casualties 216,000 148,793

Aside from physical injury and damage, the most significant effect of the atomic bombs was the sheer terror which it struck into the peoples of the bombed cities. This terror, resulting in immediate hysterical activity and flight from the cities, had one especially pronounced effect: people who had become accustomed to mass air raids had stopped taking much notice of single planes or even small groups of planes, but after the atomic bombings the appearance of a single plane caused more terror and disruption of normal life than the appearance of many hundreds of planes had. We can only guess at the fear people round the world would feel in any future war: one bomber could carry nuclear bombs capable of killing many millions.

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