Nagasaki — 71 years later

By Bulletin Staff | August 9, 2016

Today, 71 years later, the world remembers one of the most lethal bomb attacks in world history. In the immediate aftermath of the atomic blast at Nagasaki, anywhere from 45,000 to 75,000 lives were lost.

In many ways, Nagasaki is a more realistic – and thus alarming – case study of what a modern nuclear strike might look like. Hiroshima was considered an ideal military target: a medium-size population center that had been untouched by conventional weapons with a sizable troop concentration. Nagasaki, on the other hand, had no major troop concentration. It did have the Mitsubishi industrial complex, but the main reason it was chosen as the target that day was because the primary target – Kyushu – had poor visibility. Nagasaki’s hilly geography, unsuited for a nuclear strike but suitable for surviving one, accounted for the minor difference in the loss of life between the two blasts.

Today, 71 years later, the world remembers one of the most lethal bomb attacks in world history. In the immediate aftermath of the atomic blast at Nagasaki, anywhere from 45,000 to 75,000 lives were lost.

In many ways, Nagasaki is a more realistic – and thus alarming – case study of what a modern nuclear strike might look like. Hiroshima was considered an ideal military target: a medium-size population center that had been untouched by conventional weapons with a sizable troop concentration. Nagasaki, on the other hand, had no major troop concentration. It did have the Mitsubishi industrial complex, but the main reason it was chosen as the target that day was because the primary target – Kokura – had poor visibility. Nagasaki’s hilly geography, unsuited for a nuclear strike but suitable for surviving one, accounted for the minor difference in the loss of life between the two blasts.

If Hiroshima was bombed to prove there was a nuclear weapon, Nagasaki was bombed to prove there were more. In this way, Nagasaki encapsulates the horrifying reality of a nuclear-armed world and the false narrative of the ideal first strike.

Please take a look at our special collection of articles commemorating the 71st anniversary of the only atomic bombings in history.

Bob Gallucci in Nagasaki: A complex nuclear situation in a complicated world

Six Weeks after Nagasaki, by John Mecklin

A mother’s love, after Hiroshima, by Kathleen Burkinshaw

Why the United States did not demonstrate the Bomb's power, ahead of Hiroshima, by Frank von Hippel and Fumihiko Yohida

Let Hiroshima guide us back to nuclear basics, by Kennette Benedict

Obama, Hiroshima, apologies and the invisible victims of the atomic bombings, by Tessa Morris-Suzuki

What President Obama should say at Hiroshima, by Hugh Gusterson

Hiroshima and the Iran agreement, by Rachel Bronson

Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Lessons learned? Development and Disarmament roundtable, by Akira Kawasaki, Mustafa Kibaroglu, and Suvrat Raju

The harrowing story of the Nagasaki bombing mission, by Ellen Bradbury and Sandra Blakeslee

Related Reading:

What would happen if an 800-kiloton nuclear warhead detonated above midtown Manhattan? by Steven Starr, Lynn Eden, Theodore A. Postal

Confronting plutonium nationalism in Northeast Asia, by Fumihiko Yoshida

Nuclear Notebook Interactive: Our infographic on the world’s nuclear arsenals


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