Revisiting Nagasaki 75 Years After US Dropped Nuclear Bomb

The original target that morning of August 9 was supposedly the tree-lined city of Kokura in the Fukuoka Prefecture of Japan—where residents were already sheltering beneath the ground, awaiting their doom, carried by a plane that took off from a tiny Pacific island that cloudy Thursday 75 years ago.

But the city was spared from bombing.

Cloudy Kokura skies would led the B-29 bomber carrying a plutonium-core atomic bomb 30 minutes away to its next target, Nagasaki, also with overcast sky.

At 11 am by chance the crew found a crack in the sky and saw the stretch of Mitsubishi Steel Works, designating it as the bombing target.

The deadly cargo was dropped from a height of 9,600 meters—at 11:02 am, the clock stopped at the moment of explosion.

The shattered clock found one kilometer from the hypocenter or Ground Zero of the explosion. It stopped at 11:02 am, the moment of explosion.
This testament to the pandemonium greets the visitors into the main gallery of the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum. | Dreo Calonzo

In an instant the city of Nagasaki was annihilated with almost everything in it incinerated if not nearly destroyed because of the heat wave, fire and radiation—a total pandemonium.

The mushroom cloud during the detonation of the Plutonium bomb as seen from an American aircraft. | Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum
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Scenes of horror caused by flash of heat and fire 600 meters from the hypocenter. | Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum

The most powerful blast the world had ever seen reportedly killed around 74,000, mostly women and children, and injured another 74,000—destruction even more so than what the uranium bomb brought to Hiroshima three days earlier.

The Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum has registered:

In the area near the hypocenter, everything combustible burst into flames as a result of the tremendous flash of heat. Glass melted, ceramic roof tiles bubbled and rocks turned black, leaving permanent evidence of the ferocity of the flash. Although the temperature decreased with distance, clothing, telephone poles and trees as far as 2 kilometers from the hypocenter were burned or scorched.

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Scenes of horror caused by flash of heat and fire 600 meters from the hypocenter. | Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum
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#TodayinHistory in 1945, 75 years ago, at 11:02 am (10:02 Philippine time), a second atomic bomb was dropped in the Japanese city of Nagasaki by the US. Around 35,000 people are killed instantly. In July that year, in a meeting of the Allied leaders in Germany to organize the administration of post-war Germany, US, the UK and the Republic of China gave a joint statement, giving an ultimatum to Japan to surrender. The US had a criteria on what city to bomb. It should be (1) large (wider than 5 km), (2) it should not have been aerial bombed to show the extent of atomic devastation, (3) it had to have military installations. The bombings were also meant to have psychological impact. Nagasaki was initially included in the five candidate cities to be targeted. However it was dropped from the list in May 1945, since it had a POW camp and it was situated beside the mountain ranges which made it a difficult target. Five cities remained in the list, with Kyoto at the bottom. The capital, Tokyo, was not included. Kyoto was soon removed, as it was too culturally significant for Japan. On 24 July 1945, the bottom of the list was replaced by Nagasaki, as orders to bomb two of the five cities were received on 25 July. On 6 August 1945, at 8:15 am, Japan local time (7:15 am, Philippine time), the first atomic bomb was dropped in Hiroshima. The second bomb was intended to be deployed on 10 August, but due to typhoon signs, it was moved a day earlier. The B-29 plane named , Bockscar, carried the bomb named "Fat Man" and circled Kokura, but pilot Charles Sweeney reported, "Target was obscured by heavy ground haze and smoke." He went to the second-choice target near Kokura—Nagasaki. The bomb was more powerful than Hiroshima's. On 15 August, after Soviet Union's declaration of war against Japan, and against the Japanese military generals' wishes (who attempted to mount a coup prior), Emperor Hirohito was first heard on radio, announcing Japan's unconditional surrender.

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A black monolith now stands at the hypocenter of the Nagasaki nightmare—where US dropped the atomic bomb 500 meters above the ground in 1945.

In November 2019, Pope Francis visited the Nagasaki Hypocenter Park and paid tribute and gave prayers to the thousands of victims of the nuclear warfare. The Pope in his speech pointed out the importance of living in a world without nuclear weapons. | Toni Tiemsin
The annihilation brought about by the nuclear bomb dropped right above this spot reached more than 2 kilometers wide in diameter. | Row Cruz
Relics of the former Urakami Cathedral is preserved beside the monolith. | Toni Tiemsin
During springtime hundred of white flowers bloom in the Hypocenter Park. | Toni Tiemsin

Nagasaki Today

Just a few minute-walk from the Ground Zero you will easily find the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum where relics and records of the war are kept.

The Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum | Nagasaki Government

While taking photos is not prohibited inside the museum, the somber mood inside—quietly reflecting and reliving the horrors of war would most likely take away to urge to do so.

One particularly section of the museum is the high-ceiling Peace Memorial Hall where visitors are encouraged take a moment to say a prayer for world peace.

Nagasaki National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims, a prayer hall where visitors are encouraged to leave messages of peace | Toni Tiemsin
The Urakami Cathedral was once the biggest in the Orient. Just 500 meters away from the hypocenter, it was also destroyed during the war. | Toni Tiemsin
Nagasaki played a particular important role during Japan’s period of national isolation as the only gateway for communication from Europe and rest of the world. | Toni Tiemsin

Easily accessible from a tram stop is the Nagasaki Peace Parkit where it was said grass and trees would not grow for 75 years.

But the park now is full of trees, flowers and art works donated by countries all over the world in support of the city’s prayer for peace, according to the Nagasaki City government.

A symbol of Nagasaki as a city of peace, the Peace Statue was created by Nagasaki native sculptor Seibo Kitamura. According to Discover Nagasaki site, “The raised right hand pointing to the sky depicts the threat of the atomic bomb, and the left hand stretching horizontally symbolizes eternal world peace, while the slightly closed eyes express a prayer asking that the souls of the victims may find rest.”
This water fountain serves as a memorial to those who “lost their strength before they could drink a single drop”—those who died of extreme heatwave and exhaustion during the atomic attack.

The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki effectively signalled the end of the Second World War, but at what price?

Borrowing words from SubSelfie.com’s resident historian Kristoffer Pasion in a retrospect, “The question remains and the raging debate continues: Did the militarized Japan of the early 20th century deserve such a destruction?”

The more pressing question now, however, would be, “What’s next after Nagasaki?”

Nagasaki is the last city in the world to experience a nuclear attack, but not quite yet. The US, China, Russia and other super powers all maintain nuclear arsenals.

That is why the mayor of Nagasaki Tomihisa Taue on the attack’s 75th anniversary last Sunday, August 9, urged the Japanese government once again to take more action toward realizing a world free of nuclear weapons, amid a global retreat of leadership on the issue, according to a report by the Japan Times.

The mayor appealed specifically to the government to sign and ratify the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was adopted in 2017 but has still not entered into force.

Very ironice of the Abe government who repeatedly pledged to lead the international community toward the abolishment of nuclear weapons, but refused to participate in the said treaty banning nuclear arsenals along with the world’s nuclear-weapon states.

The more than century-old Oura Cathedral is Japan’s oldest wooden Gothic style church. It was built in1864 to commemorate the execution of 26 martyrs at Nishizaka. | Toni Tiemsin

Where to?

Nagasaki City shot taken in February 2020 | Toni Tiemsin

Despite massive technological advancement, the world has not changed much since the introduction of weapons of mass destruction which can erase an entire city in an instance.

If any the threat has just grown more real and bigger with the world’s Super Powers racing to outdo each other, amassing more nuclear arms in the guise of defense.

The people of Nagasaki, through their City Mayor, released their Nagasaki Peace Declaration 2020:

Exactly 75 years have passed since the day our city was assaulted by a nuclear bomb. Despite the passing of three quarters of a century, we are still living in world where nuclear weapons exist.

Just why is it that we humans are still unable to rid ourselves of nuclear weapons? Are we truly unable to abandon these dreadful weapons that so cruelly take lives without even allowing for dignified deaths and force people to suffer for entire lifetimes as the result of radiation?

Winter twilight in Nagasaki | Toni Tiemsin

About the Author

Toni Tiemsin  is the Editor-in-Chief of SubSelfie.com

He has over 15 years experience in news media, advocacy and development communication, and brand and corporate communications. Journalism 2009, UP Diliman. Read more of his articles here. For more photos of his trips, check out his Instagram.

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