Japan · Political

The “Little Boy” atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima

August 6, 1945
Hiroshima, Japan
The first of two atomic bombs are dropped on Japan

The “Little Boy” exploded in Hiroshima which was the headquarters for the 2nd General Army and the Chugoku Regional Army. The bomb’s blast killed approximately 70,000 people (roughly 20,000 Japanese military personnel, 20,000 Korean slave laborers, and 30,000 civilians). By the end of the year, the death toll came to between 90,000 to 166,000 (between 25-47% of the original population) from injuries or radiation. Also, approximately 70% of the city’s buildings were completely destroyed.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki were chosen as targets because they met the criteria listed:

  • The target was larger than 3 mi (4.8 km) in diameter and was an important target in a large urban area.
  • The blast would create effective damage.
  • The target was unlikely to be attacked by August 1945.

The hope for choosing large urban areas was to inflict psychological damage to the country.

Kyoto was considered as a target due to its population, historic and academic significance, and military industry, but was spared by the Secretary of War Henry Stimson. Edwin O. Reischauer, a Japan expert in the U.S. Army Intelligence Service, wrote in his autobiography “the only person deserving credit for saving Kyoto from destruction is Henry L. Stimson, the Secretary of War at the time, who had known and admired Kyoto ever since his honeymoon there several decades earlier.”

Stimson was able to convince President Truman to avoid targeting Kyoto and Tokyo (Tokyo had historical significance and was the home of the Emperor but bombing it held very little other strategy) and Truman wrote in his diary:

This weapon is to be used against Japan between now and August 10th. I have told the Sec. of War, Mr. Stimson, to use it so that military objectives and soldiers and sailors are the target and not women and children. Even if the Japs are savages, ruthless, merciless and fanatic, we as the leader of the world for the common welfare cannot drop that terrible bomb on the old capital [Kyoto] or the new [Tokyo]. He and I are in accord. The target will be a purely military one.


An example of an atomic blast cataract. The cataract appears months to years after radiation exposure and worsens over time.


Fabrics exposed to an atomic blast would imprint darker patterns onto the skin of the wearer.


One of the many famous “shadows” left behind after the explosion. The shadows were left after a person or object blocked the intense heat and light of an atomic blast.


The ruins of the Prefectural Industry Promotion Building, later rebuilt into the Hiroshima Peace Memorial.


A survivor demonstrates burned arms.


The city in ruins, with a mostly intact Catholic cathedral in the foreground.


Survivors tend to their wounds.

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