The detonation of atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, three days apart at the end of the first week of August 1945, were fine examples of the brazen disregard for civilian suffering that characterises war of all kinds, and that is independent of nationality. Two years later Japan’s people would endorse a new constitution that prohibited war, and today are one of the world’s most forward-thinking cultures.
Reading in detail about the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki reveals a great tragedy to be more adorned with horror than we might dare to guess. The death toll of either event is split into two categories; immediate deaths and deaths after the fact, mainly from radiation poisoning, burns or cancer. Looking at Just Hiroshima, for example, the immediate death toll was 70,000 and estimates of total death toll suggest 100,000 – 200,000. What still lingers in my mind since I first read about these events is that ‘immediate’ includes a period of 24 hours after detonation.
The closest known survivor, to the point exactly under where the bomb was detonated, 600m above the city, was Eizo Nomura. Living on into his eighties, Eizo was in the basement of a concrete building just 170m from the point below the centre of the blast in Hiroshima.