Americans, and most people in the contemporary Western world, receive a version of history that is, without a doubt, Americanized. This sanitized and whitewashed view of the past often brushes over the tragedies at Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the fallout of history’s first, and to date only, use of atomic arms on a populace. The dreadful aftermath that the US Air Force left Japan to contend with is still somewhat celebrated in America as the event that brought an end to World War II. But much of the rest of the world considers it to be a brutal atrocity.
The bombings occurred on August 6 and 9, 1945, as the US dropped the "Little Boy" and the "Fat Man" on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively. The Japanese, who until that point refused to concede defeat, immediately surrendered. Horror stories from survivors now available to the public have shed light on why they surrendered so quickly. The effects of the strikes still impact the present psychology of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Perhaps the most famous image from the aftermath of the strikes on Japan depicts those who left behind nothing but a shadow. These imprints came from the victims who were closest to the blasts and were vaporized almost instantly.
The initial, bright flash of the nuclear warheads created “shadows” wherever anything was in its way. All some people left behind were dark outlines etched onto a sidewalk or a set of stone steps.
Oddly enough, the clothing one wore on the day of the blasts had a direct effect on how badly they were burned. Those wearing all white were fortunate, while those who wore patterned clothing were not.
The heat and light from the detonations were so great, they burned patterns from clothing directly onto skin. A woman wearing a white dress with flowers on it, for example, found the shape of the flowers branded on her skin.
The aftermath in Hiroshima is difficult for most people to fully comprehend. In addition to the horrifying effects of the device itself, it was almost impossible to seek adequate medical treatment.
Over 90% of the doctors and around 93% of the nurses in Hiroshima perished or were otherwise debilitated by the blast. Most of the hospitals were in the downtown area, where the most havoc occurred. In fact, there was only a single doctor, Terufumi Sasaki, who remained in service at the Red Cross Hospital.
While volunteers and first responders organized evacuation centers, access to professional medical aid wasn't an option for most people.
"Ant-walking alligators" was the phrase used to describe the hundreds of horrifically injured survivors of the atomic events. The ant-walking alligators were people who had been so burned by the blasts that their faces were completely obliterated. The comparison to the ant and alligator was a reference to their terribly blackened skin, which bore no resemblance to human flesh.
Almost all of these victims succumbed to their injuries, but a small few, though savagely disfigured, lived into their elderly years.