Japan's Refusal to Surrender
Prior to the bombings, on May 7, Germany had surrendered, ending the war in Europe. But Japan was still fully involved in war and not willing to surrender. After intense strategic fire-bombing of 67 Japanese cities, on July 26, 1945, United States President Harry S. Truman, United Kingdom Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and President of the Republic of China Chiang Kai-shek issued the Potsdam Declaration, a document calling for Japan's unconditional surrender and defining the terms of that surrender. The ultimatum stated that if Japan did not surrender it would face "prompt and utter destruction". President Truman said, "If they do not accept our terms they may expect a rain of ruin from the air the like of which has never been seen on Earth. Behind this air attack will follow by sea and land forces in such number and power as they have not yet seen, but with fighting skill of which they are already aware".
The Japanese government ignored the Potsdam Declaration and refused to surrender.
Hiroshima was chosen as the first target because it was a city of considerable military importance as it contained Japan's Second Army Headquarters, as well as being a communications center and storage depot.
Nagasaki was one of the largest sea ports in Southern Japan and was of great wartime importance because of it's wide-ranging industrial activity, including the production of ships, military equipment, and other war materials.
Destruction and Devastation
"Those closest to the explosion died instantly, their bodies turned to black char, nearby birds burst into flames in mid-air, and dry, combustible materials such as paper instantly ignited as far as 6,400 ft. from ground zero. The white light acted as a giant flashbulb, burning the dark patterns of clothing onto skin and the shadows of bodies onto walls.
Survivors outdoors close to the blast generally described a literally blinding light combined with a sudden and overwhelming wave of heat. The blast wave followed almost instantly for those close-in, often knocking them from their feet. Those that were indoors were, in most cases, spared the flash burns, but flying glass from broken windows filled most rooms, and all but the very strongest structures collapsed. One boy was blown through the windows of his house and across the street as the house collapsed behind him. Within minutes 9 out of 10 people half a mile or less from ground zero were dead." (U.S. Department of Energy)
Within the first two to four months of the bombings, the acute effects killed between 90,000-166,000 people in Hiroshima and 60,000-80,000 in Nagasaki with roughly half of the deaths in each city occurring on the first day.
The Japanese surrendered on August 15, 1945.
Was the Use of the Atomic Bomb Necessary?
The debate as to whether the choice by the Allied Forces to use the atomic bomb was warranted continues to this day. Supporters of the decision believe that if that choice had not been made, and the war had continued on, with Russia invading Japan as well, that millions of lives would have been lost on both sides before the war was over. Others who oppose the bombings say that Japan was planning to surrender on their own, albeit according to their own terms, in due time and so the bombings were unnecessary and inherently immoral.
There is so much more information on this subject. Read and learn more to make up your mind as to whether or not you believe the bombings were warranted. Whatever the case may be, the events that occurred on August 6th and 9th, 1945, in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan were undeniably tragic!