The Soviet Union declared war on Japan on 8 August 1945. The Soviet attack on South Sakhalin started on 11 August 1945, four days before the surrender of Japan, after the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima. Although the Red Army outnumbered the Japanese by a factor of three, they were unable to advance due to strong Japanese resistance. It was not until the 16 August, that the Soviets broke the Japanese defence line. Japanese resistance grew weaker after this landing. Actual fighting, mostly petty skirmishes, continued until 21 August. From 22 August to 23 August most of the remaining Japanese units requested a truce. The Soviets completed the conquest of Sakhalin on 25 August 1945 by occupying the capital, Toyohara.

The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki involved two nuclear attacks against the Empire of Japan by the United States of America (USA) under USA President Harry S. Truman. On August 6, 1945, the nuclear weapon "Little Boy" was dropped on the city of Hiroshima, followed on August 9, 1945 by the detonation of the "Fat Man" nuclear bomb over Nagasaki.The Enola Gay became a star exhibit at the National Air Fair in Chicago on July 3, 1949 and in 1952 MGM released the movie Above and Beyond about Tibbets and the Enola Gay (the B-29 that bombed Hiroshima), starring Robert Taylor and Eleanor Parker. The Enola Gay is still on display at the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Washington, D.C.

                          Hiroshima                                                         Nagasaki

Hiroshima After

Nagasaki Before

Nagasaki After

Hiroshima was the primary target (the secondary was Kokura and the tertiary target was Nagasaki) of the first nuclear attack, on August 6, 1945. The attack was carried out as planned, and a gravity bomb, a gun-type fission weapon, with 60 kg (130 pounds) of uranium-235, performed as expected.

In estimating the death toll from the attacks, there are several factors that make it difficult to arrive at reliable figures. Inadequacies in the records given the confusion of the times, the many victims who died months or years after the bombing as a result of radiation exposure, and the pressure to either exaggerate or minimise the numbers, depending upon political agenda. That said, it is estimated that as many as 140,000 had died in Hiroshima by the bomb and its associated effects, with the estimate for Nagasaki as roughly 74,000. In both cities, the overwhelming majority of the deaths were those of civilians.

This soldier is severely burned from the thermal radiation.

The burns are in a pattern corresponding to the dark portions of the kimono she was wearing at the time of the explosion.

Lunch Box
Reiko Watanabe (15 at the time) was doing fire prevention work under the Student Mobilization Order, at a place 500 meters from the hypocenter. Her lunch box was found by school authorities under a fallen mud wall. Its contents of boiled peas and rice, a rare feast at the time, were completely carbonized. Her body was not found.

Geta (Wooden Clog)
Miyoko Inoue (15 at the time) was doing fire prevention work with other students under the Student Mobilization Order in Zaimoku-cho at a place 500 meters from the hypocenter. All the students died. This is what her mother, Tomiko, found near the hypocenter , where she searched for her daughter for three months after the bombing. Her daughter's body was not found.

Deformed Nail
Yoshio Hamada (26 at the time) was at Army Division Headquarters, 700 meters from the hypocenter. His left hand, which was hanging out of a window when the bomb fell, was burned by thermal radiation. His injury resulted in an abnormal growth of fingernails on his left hand. Even today he suffers from this continual abnormal growth. As the nails contain blood vessels, they cannot be trimmed without bleeding.

Hiroko Yamashita (18 at the time) was at home. 800 meters from the hypocenter. She and her six-year-old brother were caught under the house as it collapsed. After rescuing her brother, she sought refuge elsewhere in the fire-ravaged town. On August 21, her younger brother died. Around August 25, when her mother combed her hair, all of it fell out with only three strokes.

Water Bottle
Yoshiko Kitamura (16 at the time) was mobilized to do fire prevention work in Zakoba-cho (1,200 meters from the hypocenter). Her body was not found. Only this water bottle was recovered.

First-Aid Kit
Mariko Fujii (16 at the time) was doing fire prevention work 1,000 meters from the hypocenter. After a desperate search by her father, only her first-aid kit was found. In it were medicines and diapers for her younger brother. Her body was not found.

Damaged Lens with One Frame
Although the body of Moto Mosoro (54 at the time) was not found, a part of her burned head was discovered on September 6, one month after the atomic bombing, at a place 1,500 meters from the hypocenter. This was taken from an eye socket.

Debate over bombings

The role of the bombings in Japan's surrender, as well as the effects and justification of them, has been subject to much debate.

In the USA, the prevailing view is that the bombings ended the war months sooner than would otherwise have been the case, saving many lives that would have been lost on both sides.

In Japan, the prevailing view is that the bombings were unnecessary, and that knowingly inflicting harm of this magnitude on civilians was inherently immoral.

Those who argue in favour of the decision to drop the bombs generally assert that the bombings ended the war months sooner than would otherwise have been the case, thus saving many lives.

A nation historically suspicious of Western imperialism, Japanese military officials were unanimously opposed to any negotiations before the use of the atomic bomb.

Japan, as a Constitutional Monarchy, could only legally enter into a peace agreement without the unanimous support of the Japanese cabinet, and in the summer of 1945, the Japanese Supreme War council, consisting of representatives of the Army, the Navy and the civilian government, could not reach a consensus on how to proceed.

The peace faction, led by Togo, seized on the bombing as decisive justification of surrender. Kôichi Kido, one of Emperor Hirohito's closest advisers, stated: "We of the peace party were assisted by the atomic bomb in our endeavour to end the war." Hisatsune Sakomizu, the chief Cabinet secretary in 1945, called the bombing "a golden opportunity given by heaven for Japan to end the war." The cabinet made a unanimous decision to surrender and accept the terms of the Potsdam agreement.

Supporters of the bombing also point out that waiting for the Japanese to surrender was not a cost-free option. Firebombing had killed well over 100,000 people in Japan since February of 1945, directly and indirectly. That intensive conventional bombing would have continued prior to an invasion. The submarine blockade and the United States Army Air Forces's mining operation, Operation Starvation, had effectively cut off Japan's imports.

Years after the war, Secretary of State James Byrnes claimed that 500,000 "American" lives would have been lost, however in the summer of 1945, USA military planners projected 20,000–110,000 combat deaths from the initial November 1945 invasion, with about three to four times that number wounded. (Total U.S. combat deaths on all fronts in World War II in nearly four years of war were 292,000.)

Supporters of the bombings have argued that the Japanese government waged total war, ordering many civilians (including women and children) to work in factories and military offices and to fight against any invading force.

Some supporters of the bombings have emphasised the strategic significance of Hiroshima, as the Japanese 2nd army's headquarters, and of Nagasaki, as a major munitions manufacturing centre.

In his speech to the Japanese people presenting his reasons for surrender, Emperor Hirohito refers specifically to the atomic bombs, stating that if they continued to fight it would result in " ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation..."

Objections to the bombings generally emphasise one or both of two points:

1. That the bombings were inherently immoral due to the massive civilian casualties.
2. That the bombings were unjustified and unnecessary for tactical military reasons.

Inherently immoral
A number of notable individuals and organisations have criticised the bombings, many of them characterising them as war crimes or crime against humanity. Two early critics of the bombings were Albert Einstein and Leo Szilard (who had together spawned the first bomb research in 1939) with a jointly written letter to President Roosevelt. Szilard, who had gone on to play a major role in the Manhattan Project, argued:

"Let me say only this much to the moral issue involved:
Suppose Germany had developed two bombs before we had any bombs. And suppose Germany had dropped one bomb, say, on Rochester and the other on Buffalo, and then having run out of bombs she would have lost the war. Can anyone doubt that we would then have defined the dropping of atomic bombs on cities as a war crime, and that we would have sentenced the Germans who were guilty of this crime to death at Nuremberg and hanged them?"

A number of scientists who worked on the bomb were against its use. Led by Dr. James Franck, seven scientists submitted a report to the Interim Committee (which advised the President) in May 1945, saying:
"If the United States of America were to be the first to release this new means of indiscriminate destruction upon mankind, she would sacrifice public support throughout the world, precipitate the race for armaments, and prejudice the possibility of reaching and international agreement on the future control of such weapons."

In 1963 the bombings were the subject of a judicial review in Ryuichi Shimoda et al. v. The State. On the 22nd anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbour, the District Court of Tokyo declined to rule on the legality of nuclear weapons in general, but found that "the attacks upon Hiroshima and Nagasaki caused such severe and indiscriminate suffering that they did violate the most basic legal principles governing the conduct of war." In the opinion of the court, the act of dropping an atomic bomb on cities was at the time governed by international law found in the Hague Regulations on Land Warfare of 1907 and the Hague Draft Rules of Air Warfare of 1922–1923 and was therefore illegal.

As the first military use of nuclear weapons, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki represent to some the crossing of a crucial barrier. Peter Kuznick, director of the Nuclear Studies Institute at the American University in Washington DC wrote of President Truman:
"He knew he was beginning the process of annihilation of the species. It was not just a war crime; it was a crime against humanity."

Kurznick is one of several observers who believe that the USA was largely motivated in carrying out the bombings by a desire to demonstrate the power of its new weapon to the Soviet Union. Historian Mark Selden of Cornell University has stated "Impressing Russia was more important than ending the war in Japan."

Rumour hath it that the second bomb was dropped to force Japan to concede before the Soviet Union landed on the Japanese mainland.

Takashi Hiraoka, mayor of Hiroshima, upholding nuclear disarmament, said in a hearing to The Hague International Court of Justice:
"It is clear that the use of nuclear weapons, which cause indiscriminate mass murder that leaves effects on survivors for decades, is a violation of international law".

Iccho Ito, the mayor of Nagasaki, declared in the same hearing:
"It is said that the descendants of the atomic bomb survivors will have to be monitored for several generations to clarify the genetic impact, which means that the descendants will live in anxiety for decades to come. ... with their colossal power and capacity for slaughter and destruction, nuclear weapons make no distinction between combatants and non-combatants or between military installations and civilian communities ... The use of nuclear weapons ... therefore is a manifest infraction of international law."

John Bolton, former USA ambassador to the United Nations, used Hiroshima and Nagasaki as examples why the USA should not adhere to the International Criminal Court (ICC):
"A fair reading of the treaty [the Rome Statute concerning the ICC], for example, leaves the objective observer unable to answer with confidence whether the United States was guilty of war crimes for its aerial bombing campaigns over Germany and Japan in World War II. Indeed, if anything, a straightforward reading of the language probably indicates that the court would find the United States guilty. A fortiori, these provisions seem to imply that the United States of America would have been guilty of a war crime for dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This is intolerable and unacceptable."

Although bombings do not meet the definition of genocide, some consider that this definition is too strict, and that these bombings do represent a genocide. For example, University of Chicago historian Bruce Cumings states there is a consensus among historians to Martin Sherwin's statement, that "the Nagasaki bomb was gratuitous at best and genocidal at worst."

Militarily unnecessary
Those who argue that the bombings were unnecessary on military grounds hold that Japan was already essentially defeated and ready to surrender.

One of the most notable individuals with this opinion was then—General Dwight D. Eisenhower. He wrote in his memoir The White House Years:
"In 1945 Secretary of War Stimson, visiting my headquarters in Germany, informed me that our government was preparing to drop an atomic bomb on Japan. I was one of those who felt that there were a number of cogent reasons to question the wisdom of such an act. During his recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives."

Other U.S. military officers who disagreed with the necessity of the bombings include General Douglas MacArthur (the highest-ranking officer in the Pacific Theatre), General Carl Spaatz (commander of the U.S. Strategic Air Forces in the Pacific), and Brigadier General Carter Clarke (the military intelligence officer who prepared intercepted Japanese cables for U.S. officials), and Admiral Ernest King, U.S. Chief of Naval Operations and Under-secretary of the Navy Ralph A. Bard.

Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the USA Pacific Fleet:
"The Japanese had, in fact, already sued for peace. The atomic bomb played no decisive part, from a purely military point of view, in the defeat of Japan."

Admiral William D. Leahy, Chief of Staff to President Truman:
"The use of [the atomic bombs] at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender."

You have seen two differing types of nuclear disasters. One an accident and two inflicted with malicious intent. There appears to be a difference between the effect of these two different types though they both carry with them catastrophic consequences.

The bombs have an immediate devastating effect, but do not seem to have the lasting or widely distributed radioactive pollution problem of a nuclear power station accident.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki are both thriving cities sixty years after being attacked by atomic bombs, Hiroshima now has a population of over a million.

July 20, 2000
Courtesy: City of Hiroshima

It would seem that an explosion at a nuclear power plant has a wider and much more lasting effect than the dropping of an atomic bomb, this may be a result of the lack of published records of the after effect on the health of Japan. One is left to ponder as to why the long range effects have been hidden.

On present evidence it would seem that a nuclear power station is a greater hazard than an atomic bomb.