History Nuclear War SP Staff

78 Years Ago in Hiroshima and Nagasaki: What Oppenheimer Wrought

The official U.S. bombing survey on what happened in Hiroshima 78 years ago today.
Atomic Bomb-Nagasaki, 1945. Nagasaki medical hospital and college after Atomic blast, Japan. Photographed by Rogers, November 23, 1945. Official U.S. Marine Corps Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. (2016/10/25). National Museum of the U.S. Navy, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

By SP Staff

It’s been 78 years since the United States dropped the Little Boy atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. While antiwar activists and nuclear weapon opponents have made great efforts to ensure the barbaric attack on Japanese civilians will not be forgotten, the present moment presents a unique opportunity to consider the ominous anniversary in light of a host of new perspectives. Not only does the world stand at the cusp of a potential new nuclear war, but the impact, consequences and relevance of such weapons have reached a new high in the cultural zeitgeist. The release of Christopher Nolan’s highly anticipated film, “Oppenheimer,” which details the life of the man responsible for the creation of the atomic bomb, has brought the dialogue regarding nuclear proliferation to the forefront of mainstream consciousness. 

Building upon the impact of the film and historical anniversary, a more thorough examination of the bombing serves to ensure that the horrifying details of those days in August 1945 are never forgotten and continue to influence the movement for deterrence against such powerful weapons. The “U. S. Strategic Bombing Survey: The Effects of the Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” an American sanctioned study detailing the effects and aftermath of the bombs, serves as one of the most comprehensive accounts of the rationale and planning behind the gravest terrorist attacks in the world. Below, several passages are highlighted, showing the strategic timing from the U.S. in their attack with knowledge of children and workers attending to their regular schedule, the near depletion of emergency first responders and tools, and the other harrowing circumstances surrounding the bombing. In the words of the study,

“As the developer and exploiter of this ominous weapon, our nation has a responsibility, which no American should shirk, to lead in establishing and implementing the international guarantees and controls which will prevent its future use.”

U. S. Strategic Bombing Survey: The Effects of the Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

By keeping these images, details and histories relevant and unforgotten, perhaps this prevention of future use can draw closer and responsibility can sooner be forced back into the button pushers in Washington. A full PDF of the study can also be found below, along with a gallery of public domain images displaying the destruction of the land and the profound human damage (TW: graphic images).

Page 3 of the survey.
Page 16 of the survey.

Highlighted Excerpts (Click on each image to read full passage)

Full Study PDF

Hiroshima Gallery (TW: Graphic Images)

Nagasaki Gallery (TW: Graphic Images)

What Oppenheimer Wrought


In director Christopher Nolan’s new film, Oppenheimer, the audience sees the Manhattan Project and its effects from the perspective of the scientist that led the effort to build the world’s first nuclear weapon, J. Robert Oppenheimer. At the beginning of the Manhattan Project, the scientists on the project, including Oppenheimer, were frightened that upon using the bomb, the nuclear radiation would light the atmosphere on fire and begin a chain reaction, setting the entire world on nuclear fire.

The audience knows during the film that this will not happen. The Trinity test was a success, and while the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki saw the deaths of hundreds of thousands, they did not set fire to the atmosphere.

But the film uses this initial fear to suggest something else. The possibility of a nuclear chain reaction that would end the world did not cease to exist once the bombs were used successfully – it only just began.

In the last scene of the film, Oppenheimer warns Albert Einstein of the actual nuclear real chain reaction – the world’s increasingly expanding nuclear arsenal, all ready to be used on the entirety of humanity.

The final page of script of Oppenheimer, in which Oppenheimer and Einstein share their last conversation with each other.

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