On this day in history, during World War II, the United States dropped a uranium atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. Between 70,000 and 80,000 people were killed immediately, with approximately an equal number dying within months after the American B-29 “Enola Gay” bombed Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945.
Three days later, another 45,000 people died immediately after the United States bombed Nagasaki, this time with a plutonium implosion-type bomb. Again, more deaths occurred later from the injuries and effects of radiation.
In both cities, most of the dead were civilians, although Hiroshima had a sizeable garrison.
On August 15, just days after the bombing of Nagasaki and the Soviet Union’s declaration of war, Japan announced its surrender to the Allies. On September 2, it signed the instrument of surrender, ending World War II. The bombings’ role in Japan’s surrender and their ethical justification are still debated.
The Japanese had already sustained far greater civilian casualties from the firebombing of some 67 Japanese cities. For example, the firebombing of Tokyo on March 9–10, 1945 was later estimated to be the single most destructive bombing raid in history, killing an estimated 100,000 people and destroying 16 square miles of the city and 267,000 buildings in a single night.
You can see additional pictures of the damage wreaked in Hiroshima and Nagasaki here.