Second World War

Declassified photos show the US’s final preparations for the only nuclear weapons attacks in history

On August 6th and 9th of 1945, the United States dropped atomic bombs over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, causing significant death and destruction in both places. To this day, the bombings remain history’s only acts of nuclear warfare.

A lot has been established about the immediate preparations for the dropping of the bombs, known as “Little Boy” and “Fat Man,” which were loaded onto airplanes on the North Field airbase on Tinian Island, part of the Northern Mariana Islands to the south of Japan.

Until recently few photographs were available of the final hours before the bombings. But newly declassified pictures shed additional light on the procedures leading up to the nuclear attacks, giving a chilling glimpse into how and where the most destructive bombs ever used in warfare were loaded.

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What if the 1945 Hiroshima bomb had been dropped on Tokyo instead?

On Wednesday of last week, the city of Hiroshima marked the 69th anniversary of the atomic bombing. When the bomb detonated in the air above Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, it destroyed the city and killed up to 140,000 people. Almost everything in a one-mile radius of the target site was immediately razed to the ground. On August 9, a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, killing a further estimated 70,000.

Hiroshima was chosen as the primary target for a number of reasons. The US wanted a target city with an urban area of at least three miles diameter. It also had to have been untouched by other air raids, so that the weapon’s impact could be accurately observed. Hiroshima was also thought to be the only potential target city that did not have any Allied prisoner-of-war camps.

But what if the A-bomb had been detonated over Tokyo instead? Or Osaka? Using statistics collated by Dr. Mark A. Carlson at the University of Nebraska, the Japanese Huffington Post has produced this interactive Google map answering just that question.

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