広島 – Hiroshima
Hiroshima is the capital of Hiroshima prefecture and the largest city in the Chūgoku region in western Honshu. Its name means “Wide Island”. Hiroshima was the world’s first city to be targeted by a nuclear weapon.
Founded in 1589 by Mōri Terumoto, a powerful warlord, Hiroshima developed as a castle town during the Edo period (1600–1868). At the beginning of the Second World War, Hiroshima was the seventh-largest city of Japan and was an important military port. This and some other factors made it the target of the first atomic bombing in the history of mankind on August 6, 1945 at 8:15 a.m. local time.
During the process of decision whether to use the atomic bomb or not and, if it was to use, where, there were several targets. First of all, the Allied Forces had to decide wether to drop it on Germany or on Japan. They finally decided to drop it on Japan because, in case of failure, they did not believe the Japanese to be as apt as the Germans to analyze the bomb and then construct one themselves. To understand this reasoning, one has to bear in mind that, at the time, it was uncertain whether Germany already was in possession of a similar weapon or not, but it was not unlikely that the German military was at least developing one. Also, it was German scientists who discovered nuclear reaction and how to initiate and use it, but because many of them were of Jewish descent, they had flown from Germany and emigrated to the United States, enabling the US government to develop an atomic bomb itself.
After having decided to drop the bomb on Japan, several major cities between Tokyo and Nagasaki were selected as possible targets for this first atomic bombing, including, for example, Nagasaki (where the second atomic bomb was dropped on August 9), Fukuoka, Hiroshima, Kokura, Niigata, or Kyoto. The final decision to drop the bomb was not made entirely because the Allied Forces wanted to end the war by defeating Japan (which already showed willingness to end the war), but also because the American government had to justify the immense costs of the development of the two bombs by using them and showing the success of the development.
Thus the first clear day, which turned out to be August 6, was chosen to bomb Hiroshima without any prior warning. The bomb detonated approximately 500 meters above ground level, creating a massive fireball with the temperature at the epicenter being as high as several million degrees centigrade. This resulted in temperatures between 3,000° to 4,000°C which are about 5,400°F to 7,200°F at the hypocenter (the place on the ground being closest to the epicenter).
About 69 per cent of the city were destroyed immediately, with fires ravaging for hours after. An estimated 80,000 people were killed directly, with more people dying of the aftermath until the end of 1945.
Those who survived the bombings are known as hibakusha (被爆者; “Bombing victim”). Among them, the aftereffects of being exposed to the radiation and/or the heat caused by the explosion such as keloid scars, higher probability of development of leukemia and other types of blood cancer, were ascertainable.
Today, the government of Hiroshima, together with that of Nagasaki, has taken the lead for establishing special facilities for hibakusha, such as A-bomb hospitals and special nursing homes. Also, both cities are actively promoting world peace and the total abolition of nuclear weapons.