Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Operation Centerboard
Part of the Pacific War of World War II
Two aerial photos of atomic bomb mushroom clouds, over two Japanese cities in 1945
Atomic bomb mushroom clouds over Hiroshima (left) and Nagasaki (right)
TypeNuclear bombing
Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan
Date6 and 9 August 1945
Executed by
  • 70,000–126,000 civilians killed
  • 7,000–20,000 soldiers killed
  • 12 Allied prisoners of war
  • 60,000–80,000 killed (within 4 months)
  • 150+ soldiers killed
  • 8–13 Allied prisoners of war
Total killed:
  • 129,000–226,000

On 6 and 9 August 1945, the United States detonated two atomic bombs over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki respectively. The bombings killed between 129,000 and 226,000 people, most of whom were civilians, and remain the only use of nuclear weapons in an armed conflict. Japan surrendered to the Allies on 15 August, six days after the bombing of Nagasaki and the Soviet Union's declaration of war against Japan and invasion of Japanese-occupied Manchuria. The Japanese government signed the instrument of surrender on 2 September, effectively ending the war.

In the final year of World War II, the Allies prepared for a costly invasion of the Japanese mainland. This undertaking was preceded by a conventional bombing and firebombing campaign that devastated 64 Japanese cities. The war in the European theatre concluded when Germany surrendered on 8 May 1945, and the Allies turned their full attention to the Pacific War. By July 1945, the Allies' Manhattan Project had produced two types of atomic bombs: "Little Boy", an enriched uranium gun-type fission weapon, and "Fat Man", a plutonium implosion-type nuclear weapon. The 509th Composite Group of the United States Army Air Forces was trained and equipped with the specialized Silverplate version of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, and deployed to Tinian in the Mariana Islands. The Allies called for the unconditional surrender of the Imperial Japanese armed forces in the Potsdam Declaration on 26 July 1945, the alternative being "prompt and utter destruction". The Japanese government ignored the ultimatum.

The consent of the United Kingdom was obtained for the bombing, as was required by the Quebec Agreement, and orders were issued on 25 July by General Thomas Handy, the acting chief of staff of the United States Army, for atomic bombs to be used against Hiroshima, Kokura, Niigata, and Nagasaki. These targets were chosen because they were large urban areas that also held militarily significant facilities. On 6 August, a Little Boy was dropped on Hiroshima. Three days later, a Fat Man was dropped on Nagasaki. Over the next two to four months, the effects of the atomic bombings killed between 90,000 and 146,000 people in Hiroshima and 60,000 and 80,000 people in Nagasaki; roughly half occurred on the first day. For months afterward, many people continued to die from the effects of burns, radiation sickness, and injuries, compounded by illness and malnutrition. Though Hiroshima had a sizable military garrison, most of the dead were civilians.

Scholars have extensively studied the effects of the bombings on the social and political character of subsequent world history and popular culture, and there is still much debate concerning the ethical and legal justification for the bombings. Supporters claim that the atomic bombings were necessary to bring an end to the war with minimal casualties; critics believe that the bombings were unnecessary for the war's end and a war crime, and highlight the moral and ethical implications of the intentional nuclear attack on civilians.

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