The Bomb that shocked the entire world: Little Boy (August 6, 1945) - History Key

The Bomb that shocked the entire world: Little Boy (August 6, 1945)

This day in history, on August 6, 1945, the United States dropped the atomic bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Three days later, the city of Nagasaki had the same fate. It is probably one of the most famous events of the 20th century. Also it was for the first time (and we’re hoping the last time) when an atomic bomb was used in a conflict.

Left picture : At the time this photo was made, smoke billowed 20,000 feet above Hiroshima while smoke from the burst of the first atomic bomb had spread over 10,000 feet on the target at the base of the rising column. Right picture : Atomic bombing of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, taken by Charles Levy
Left picture : At the time this photo was made, smoke billowed 20,000 feet above Hiroshima while smoke from the burst of the first atomic bomb had spread over 10,000 feet on the target at the base of the rising column. Right picture : Atomic bombing of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, taken by Charles Levy © CC BY-SA 3.0/Image Source: Wikipedia

How it all started?

At the beginning of the 20th century, the US and Japan were in very good relations. For instance US supported the Japan at the end of the Russo-Japanese War, but they were also allies in WWI. However, the relations between the two countries started to deteriorate when Japan invaded Manchuria, a policy that was attacked by US President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Roosevelt ordered to stop all the iron and steel exports and later on, he limited the oil exports. This may be considered a first attack against Japan, because the Asian country was economically affected by those measures. For instance, the oil export was reduced from 6-7 million barrels to 1-2 million barrels annually.

Roosevelt signing the declaration of war against Japan
Roosevelt signing the declaration of war against Japan © Abbie Rowe /Image Source: Wikipedia

By 1941, the oil exports to Japan were completely stopped by the Americans. Due to this action, Japan planned the invasion of Malaysia, the Philippines, Hong Kong and eventually United States. Being aware of the American’s vulnerability in the Pacific, many military leaders asked Roosevelt to postpone the export-restricting measures, but it was in vain. Roosevelt believed that Japan will attack only Malaysia or the Dutch Indies.

Pearl Harbor

Desperate by the measures taken by the Americans, the Japanese attacked US at the military base from Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Despite the fact that the attack is considered by the Americans one of the biggest tragedies, the Pearl Harbor attack caused less than 3,000 deaths. In other words, the Americans were lucky because most of their aircraft (which was their most powerful unit) were not in the base at that moment.

USS California sinking in Pearl Harbor
USS California sinking in Pearl Harbor © U.S. Navy/Image Source: Wikipedia

This was the perfect pretext for Americans to attack Japan.

Hiroshima Bombing

In 1945, the Japanese were aware that their country will be invaded and they prepared 2.3 million soldiers to defend the country. On the other side, the Americans estimated that the human losses resulted from the invasion will reach 800,000 people, which is why they looked for a method to reduce the number.

Coincidence or not, the “Project Manhattan” was a scientific success destined to create the atomic bomb. Therefore, the bombs dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki were built inside the “Project Manhattan”.

On August 6, 1945, the 393d B-29 Squadron piloted by Paul Tibbets, took off from Tinian base having its destination the city of Hiroshima. The bomb was armed in the air for safety reasons and 30 minutes before the arrival, its safety devices were completely removed.

Colonel Paul Tibbets, pilot of the Enola Gay, waving from its cockpit
Colonel Paul Tibbets, pilot of the Enola Gay, waving from its cockpit © Armen Shamlian/Image Source: Wikipedia

The odd thing is that the Japanese radios have detected the approach of three US aircraft, but because of their small group, they decided not to attack them. At 8:15 AM local time, the bomb called “Little Boy”, containing 64 kg of Uranium was dropped above Hiroshima. It took 43 seconds to hit the earth and right after the impact about 80,000 people were killed instantly and 70,000 were injured.

Little Boy unit on trailer cradle in pit on Tinian, before being loaded into Enola Gay's bomb bay
Little Boy unit on trailer cradle in pit on Tinian, before being loaded into Enola Gay’s bomb bay © Image Source: Wikipedia

By 9 August, the bomb called “Fat Man” also reached its target: Nagasaki.

WWII ended tragic for Japan, not only because of its losses during the war, but also because of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki tragedies. It is estimated that the total losses after the bombings reached 220,000 deaths, but the exact number is not certain.

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