Joseph Siracusa: ‘In One Terrible Moment, 60% of Hiroshima Was Destroyed’

Statues in front of the Catholic Urakami Cathedral in Nagasaki after nuclear attack.

Frida Berrigan wrote a moving article a few years ago on the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Here’s an excerpt from her longer essay:

In Hiroshima, Little Boy’s huge fireball and explosion killed 70,000 to 80,000 people instantly. Another 70,000 were seriously injured. As Joseph Siracusa, author of Nuclear Weapons: A Very Short Introduction, writes: “In one terrible moment, 60% of Hiroshima… was destroyed. The blast temperature was estimated to reach over a million degrees Celsius, which ignited the surrounding air, forming a fireball some 840 feet in diameter.”

Three days later, Fat Man exploded 1,840 feet above Nagasaki, with the force of 22,000 tons of TNT. According to “Hiroshima and Nagasaki Remembered,” a web resource on the bombings developed for young people and educators, 286,000 people lived in Nagasaki before the bomb was dropped; 74,000 of them were killed instantly and another 75,000 were seriously injured.

In addition to those who died immediately, or soon after the bombings, tens of thousands more would succumb to radiation sickness and other radiation-induced maladies in the months, and then years, that followed.

In an article written while he was teaching math at Tufts University in 1983, Tadatoshi Akiba calculated that, by 1950, another 200,000 people had died as a result of the Hiroshima bomb, and 140,000 more were dead in Nagasaki. Dr. Akiba was later elected mayor of Hiroshima and became an outspoken proponent of nuclear disarmament.–Frida Berrigan, Tom Dispatches 2009

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