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What Happened Immediately After the Bombs Were Dropped on Japan

Updated January 23, 2020 175.5k views16 items

At the end of WWII, Japan was in nearly total devastation, and the civilians who remained loyal to their country and emperor were having a particularly difficult time. But when the Japanese military said "fight on," there really wasn't any doubt that the order would be followed. In an effort to put an end to these shenanigans while there were still some people left living on the Japanese home islands, the US decided to roll up with Little Boy and Fat Man.

Those were the names of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively. The aftermath of the atomic bombs can only be described as complete devastation. After Hiroshima was hit, chaos ensued. The immediate aftermath of the Nagasaki bomb was equally chaotic, but in a much different way.

In total, the two devices took an estimated 103,000 lives as a result of the blast itself, the ensuing fires, and long-term radiation poisoning, according to the World Nuclear Association. The Hiroshima bomb is believed to have ended 45,000 lives in the first day alone. That was just under one-fifth of the city's total population. The casualty count in Nagasaki was a staggering 40,000, counting only the first day. Between the atomic devices and the multitude of other bad things raining down on Japan, the immediate post-WWII years were pretty brutal times.

  • People Began Suffering From Radiation Poisoning

    In the minutes and hours after the devices went off, survivors began to display the symptoms of radiation poisoning. Nausea, bleeding, hair loss, and loss of life were common. Flash burns, cataracts, malignant tumors, and a susceptibility to leukemia also occurred.

    Unfortunately, the atomic device had wiped out 90% of medical personnel in Hiroshima, and treatment supplies quickly ran out. Many of the survivors had to fend for themselves, perishing on the roadside where they fell. 

  • All Lines of Communication Went Dark

    Photo: US Government / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    The device knocked out all direct lines of communication to and from Hiroshima, so it was hours before the Japanese military had any idea what had happened. Radio stations had gone off air, and the main-line telegraph had stopped working. The military was puzzled, knowing that a large attack would have been picked up by radar. They sent out a young officer to fly to the city and investigate.

    When the plane was 100 miles from the city, the officer spotted a large cloud of smoke rising in the sky. Below, the remains of the city still burned in the afternoon sun. After circling the city, the officer landed south of it and began organizing relief efforts, still not understanding what exactly had transpired.

    The first reports of the event came into Tokyo from towns neighboring Hiroshima. People described a "sinister cloud," an "enormous explosion," a "terrible flash," and a "heavy roar." Descriptions of the city's total destruction were almost beyond belief.

  • The Crew Of The Enola Gay Was Greeted With A Party

    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Meanwhile, as ripples of horror and devastation shook the Japanese community, the Enola Gay returned to the air base on Tinian Island (in the Northern Marianas) where an excited crowd awaited it. Top military brass had flown in from Guam to greet the crew. Pilot Paul W. Tibbets Jr. was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

    After the ceremony, the crew was told by General LeMay, "Kids, go eat, take a good shower, and sleep as much as you want!"

  • The Japanese Didn't Believe Truman's Announcement That An Atomic Device Had Been Dropped

    The first official word the Japanese received that the bomb that hit Hiroshima was indeed an atomic device came from US President Truman himself. In the afternoon of the day the device fell, Truman announced the news from the USS Augusta. He announced that atomic devices like the one dropped were already in production, and even more powerful ones were under development. "It is a harnessing of the basic power of the universe," Truman said. "The force from which the sun draws its power has been loosed against those who have brought war to the Far East." Truman reiterated the demands of the Potsdam Declaration, threatening the utter destruction of Japan if they did not unconditionally surrender.

    In response, the Japanese military immediately convened an "Atomic Bomb Countermeasures Committee." On August 7, the committee came to the woefully incorrect conclusion that the Americans were bluffing. The Japanese still did not believe that the Americans had succeeded in producing an atomic device, let alone a distribution method to get it across the Pacific. They concluded that the device that razed Hiroshima was definitely a special type of bomb, but it wasn't an atomic one.