National Geographic : 1995 Aug
It would not be an exaggeration to ay that half a century after the bomb, Hiroshima DETONATION 1,900 FEET ABOVE THIS pOINT ON AUGUST 6, 1945, a U. S. B-29 pierced cloudless skies nearly six miles above Hiroshima and dropped a single bomb. Forty-three seconds later, at 8:16 a.m., one chunk of uranium slammed into another inside the plummeting shell. The resulting explosion seared the earth like a falling sun-and a city vanished. Two months after the world's first atomic bombing, photogra pher Shigeo Hayashi stood atop the remains of a roof more than half a mile from ground zero. He tilted his camera downward and shot these 18 frames, making a 360-degree arched portrait of devastation. Other than a scatter ing of ruined concrete hulks "there was nothing," says Hayashi, now 77. "Just one bomb did this. Iwas amazed." So was the world. Hiroshima had been a wartime workhorse, its factories feeding Japan's military machine, its port on the Inland Sea a staging area for forays into China, Korea, and Southeast Asia. Headquarters of housed 43,000 military personnel, 20,000 Korean forced laborers, and some 280,000 civilians. Then it became a target. Those who survived have forever remembered a blinding white flash, incinerating heat, concussive shock wave, and a towering cloud that cast day into darkness. Homes of paper and wood ignited. Steel twisted and stone glowed. Raging winds born of the blast spread a conflagration. Fat drops of ash-blackened radioac- Japan's Second Army, the city tive rain-brewed in the rising mushroom cloud-pelted the ground. The six fingers of the Ota River that cross Hiroshima over flowed with survivors seeking escape from fire and relief for blistered flesh. At dawn the next day four square miles around the hypo center were flattened and charred, and 70,000 buildings were destroyed. Some 80,000 people died in the wasteland. By the end of the year 60,000 more would succumb to burns, wounds, and radiation sickness.