Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

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Our technical civilization has just reached its greatest level of savagery. We will have to choose, in the more or less near future, between collective suicide and the intelligent use of our scientific conquests. ~ Albert Camus

Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki occurred in August 1945, during the final stage of the Second World War. The two bombings, which killed at least 129,000 people, remain the only use of nuclear weapons for warfare in history.

See also:
Nuclear weapons

Quotes[edit]

Sorted alphabetically by author or source
If I had foreseen Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I would have torn up my formula in 1905. ~ Albert Einstein
The Second World War introduced total war — unprincipled in method, unlimited in violence, and indiscriminate in victims. The ovens of Auschwitz and the atomic incineration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki inscribed a still-darker chapter in the chronicle of human brutality. ~ Bernard Lown
If the Germans had dropped atomic bombs on cities instead of us, we would have defined the dropping of atomic bombs on cities as a war crime, and we would have sentenced the Germans who were guilty of this crime to death at Nuremberg and hanged them. ~ Leó Szilárd
I would like … every morally responsible citizen of the world … to refresh their memories by referring regularly to the photographic record of the Hiroshima-Nagasaki happening … and for ever after do all in their power to prevent the children they are creating from suffering a fate similar to that thrust upon the children of those two Japanese cities. Let us rouse ourselves and realise this is what we shall have to face. ~ Patrick White

A[edit]

  • REST IN PEACE. THE MISTAKE SHALL NOT BE REPEATED.
    • Anonymous, Inscription on the cenotaph at Hiroshima, Japan. Quoted in Alan L. Mackay, The Harvest of a Quiet Eye (1977. In Robert Andrews Famous Lines: a Columbia Dictionary of Familiar Quotations (1997), 340.

B[edit]

  • Let us sum up the three possible explanations of the decision to drop the bomb and its timing. The first that it was a clever and highly successful move in the field of power politics, is almost certainly correct; the second, that the timing was coincidental, convicts the American government of a hardly credible tactlessness [towards the Soviet Union]; and the third, the Roman holiday theory [a spectacular event to justify the cost of the Manhattan Project], convicts them of an equally incredible irresponsibility.
    • Patrick M.S. Blackett, in The Political and Military Consequences of Atomic Energy (1948), 126. As cited by Maurice W. Kirby and Jonathan Rosenhead, 'Patrick Blackett (1897)' in Arjang A. Assad (ed.) and Saul I. Gass (ed.),Profiles in Operations Research: Pioneers and Innovators (2011),
  • One would have to have been brought up in the “spirit of militarism” to understand the difference between Hiroshima and Nagasaki on the one hand, and Auschwitz and Belsen on the other. The usual reasoning is the following: the former case is one of warfare, the latter of cold-blooded slaughter. But the plain truth is that the people involved are in both instances nonparticipants, defenseless old people, women, and children, whose annihilation is supposed to achieve some political or military objective.… I am certain that the human race is doomed, unless its instinctive detestation of atrocities gains the upper hand over the artificially constructed judgment of reason.
  • ... We devoutly hoped that the Japanese would heed our warning that, unless they surrendered unconditionally, the destruction of their armed forces and the devastation of their homeland was inevitable. But on July 28 the Japanese Premier issued a statement saying the declaration was unworthy of notice. That was disheartening. There was nothing left to do but use the bomb.
    • James F. Byrnes, as quoted in The Great Decision: The Secret History of the Atomic Bomb (1959) by Michael Amrine, p. 197

C[edit]

  • The world is what it is, which is to say, nothing much. This is what everyone learned yesterday, thanks to the formidable concert of opinion coming from radios, newspapers, and information agencies. Indeed we are told, in the midst of hundreds of enthusiastic commentaries, that any average city can be wiped out by a bomb the size of a football. American, English, and French newspapers are filled with eloquent essays on the future, the past, the inventors, the cost, the peaceful incentives, the military advantages, and even the life-of-its-own character of the atom bomb.
    We can sum it up in one sentence: Our technical civilization has just reached its greatest level of savagery. We will have to choose, in the more or less near future, between collective suicide and the intelligent use of our scientific conquests.
    Meanwhile we think there is something indecent in celebrating a discovery whose use has caused the most formidable rage of destruction ever known to man. What will it bring to a world already given over to all the convulsions of violence, incapable of any control, indifferent to justice and the simple happiness of men — a world where science devotes itself to organized murder? No one but the most unrelenting idealists would dare to wonder.
    • Albert Camus, in reaction to the announcement of the bombing of the city of Hiroshima with an atomic bomb, in an essay published in the French Resistance newspaper, Combat (8 August 1945), as translated by Alexandre de Gramont, in Between Hell and Reason: Essays from the Resistance Newspaper Combat, 1944–1947 (1991), p. 110
  • Even before the bomb, one did not breathe too easily in this tortured world. Now we are given a new source of anguish; it has all the promise of being our greatest anguish ever. There can be no doubt that humanity is being offered its last chance. Perhaps this is an occasion for the newspapers to print a special edition. More likely, it should be cause for a certain amount of reflection and a great deal of silence. … Let us be understood. If the Japanese surrender after the destruction of Hiroshima, having been intimidated, we will rejoice. But we refuse to see anything in such grave news other than the need to argue more energetically in favor of a true international society, in which the great powers will not have superior rights over small and middle-sized nations, where such an ultimate weapon will be controlled by human intelligence rather than by the appetites and doctrines of various states.
    Before the terrifying prospects now available to humanity, we see even more clearly that peace is the only goal worth struggling for. This is no longer a prayer but a demand to be made by all peoples to their governments — a demand to choose definitively between hell and reason.
    • Albert Camus, in reaction to the announcement of the bombing of the city of Hiroshima with an atomic bomb, in an essay published in the French Resistance newspaper, Combat (8 August 1945), as translated by Alexandre de Gramont, in Between Hell and Reason: Essays from the Resistance Newspaper Combat, 1944–1947 (1991), p. 110
  • The double horror of two Japanese city names [Hiroshima and Nagasaki] grew for me into another kind of double horror; an estranging awareness of what the United States was capable of, the country that five years before had given me its citizenship; a nauseating terror at the direction the natural sciences were going. Never far from an apocalyptic vision of the world, I saw the end of the essence of mankind an end brought nearer, or even made, possible, by the profession to which I belonged. In my view, all natural sciences were as one; and if one science could no longer plead innocence, none could.
    • Erwin Chargaff, Heraclitean Fire: Sketches from a Life before Nature (1978), 3.
  • To quell the Japanese resistance man by man and conquer the country yard by yard might well require the loss of a million American lives and half that number of British- or more, if we could get them there: for we were resolved to share the agony. Now all this nightmare picture had vanished. In its place was the vision- fair and bright indeed it seemed- of the end of the whole war in one or two violent shocks... The Japanese people, whose courage I had always admired, might find in the apparition of this almost supernatural weapon an excuse...
    • Winston Churchill, as quoted in The Great Decision: The Secret History of the Atomic Bomb (1959) by Michael Amrine, p. 167
  • This revelation of the secrets of nature, long mercifully withheld from man, should arouse the most solemn reflections in the mind and conscience of every human being capable of comprehension. We must indeed pray that these awful agencies will be made to conduce to peace among the nations, and that instead of wreaking measureless havoc upon the entire globe, may become a perennial fountain of world prosperity.
    • Winston Churchill, statement drafted by following the use of an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Due to the change in government, the statement was released by Clement Attlee (6 Aug 1945). In Sir Winston Churchill, Victory: War Speeches by the Right Hon. Winston Churchill (1946), 289.

E[edit]

  • America is a democracy and has no Hitler, but I am afraid for her future; there are hard times ahead for the American people, troubles will be coming from within and without. America cannot smile away their Negro problem nor Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There are cosmic laws.
    • Albert Einstein, in a conversation of 1948, as quoted in Einstein and the Poet : In Search of the Cosmic Man (1983) by William Hermanns, p. 108
  • If I had foreseen Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I would have torn up my formula in 1905.
    • Albert Einstein, in a conversation of 1948, as quoted in Einstein and the Poet : In Search of the Cosmic Man (1983) by William Hermanns, p. 112
  • 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.
    • Dwight D. Eisenhower, The White House Years: Mandate for Change (1963), p. 312-313

H[edit]

  • We were on garrison duty in France for about a month, and in August, we got great news: we weren’t going to the Pacific. The U.S. dropped a bomb on Hiroshima, the Japanese surrendered, and the war was over. We were so relieved. It was the greatest thing that could have happened. Somebody once said to me that the bomb was the worst thing that ever happened, that the U.S. could have found other ways. I said, “Yeah, like what? Me and all my buddies jumping in Tokyo, and the Allied forces going in, and all of us getting killed? Millions more Allied soldiers getting killed?” When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor were they concerned about how many lives they took? We should have dropped eighteen bombs as far as I’m concerned. The Japanese should have stayed out of it if they didn’t want bombs dropped. The end of the war was good news to us. We knew we were going home soon.
    • Edward Heffron, Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends: Two WWII Paratroopers from the Original Band of Brothers Tell Their Story (2007), p. 214

L[edit]

  • Once it had been tested, President Truman faced the decision as to whether to use it. He did not like the idea, but he was persuaded that it would shorten the war against Japan and save American lives. It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender because of the effective sea blockade and the successful bombing with conventional weapons... My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make wars in that fashion, and that wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.
    • William D. Leahy, I Was There (1949), p. 441
  • The Second World War introduced total war — unprincipled in method, unlimited in violence, and indiscriminate in victims. The ovens of Auschwitz and the atomic incineration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki inscribed a still-darker chapter in the chronicle of human brutality.
    • Dr. Bernard Lown in his Nobel Peace Prize lecture, as quoted in Awake! magazine (4 Augusts 1988)

N[edit]

  • The purpose of the bomb was to destroy cities, to kill Japanese, and to destroy the Japanese will to continue the war. So long as mass killing was considered necessary, it should not make any difference whether people died from the blast, the heat, and the fires created, or the radiation. War itself is horrible. We wanted to end the war as quickly as possible and minimize the overall casualties, particularly for Americans; at that time we all remembered Pearl Harbor.
    • Kenneth D. Nichols, The Road To Trinity: A Personal Account of How America's Nuclear Policies Were Made (1987), p. 198

O[edit]

  • There are many sites around the world that chronicle this war -- memorials that tell stories of courage and heroism; graves and empty camps that echo of unspeakable depravity. Yet in the image of a mushroom cloud that rose into these skies, we are most starkly reminded of humanity’s core contradiction; how the very spark that marks us as a species -- our thoughts, our imagination, our language, our tool-making, our ability to set ourselves apart from nature and bend it to our will -- those very things also give us the capacity for unmatched destruction. [...] Science allows us to communicate across the seas and fly above the clouds; to cure disease and understand the cosmos. But those same discoveries can be turned into ever-more efficient killing machines. The wars of the modern age teach this truth. Hiroshima teaches this truth. Technological progress without an equivalent progress in human institutions can doom us. The scientific revolution that led to the splitting of an atom requires a moral revolution, as well.
  • * If atomic bombs are to be added as new weapons to the arsenals of a warring world, or to the arsenals of nations preparing for war, then the time will come when mankind will curse the names of Los Alamos and Hiroshima. The people must unite, or they will perish.
    • Robert Oppenheimer Speech at Fuller Lodge when the U.S. Army was honouring the work at Los Alamos. (16 Oct 1945). Quoted in Kai Bird, Martin J. Sherwin, American Prometheus: the Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer‎ (2005), 323.

S[edit]

  • What happened at Hiroshima was less than a millionth part of a holocaust at present levels of world nuclear armament.
  • The Hiroshima people’s experience, is a picture of what our whole world is always poised to become, a backdrop of scarcely imaginable horror lying just behind the surface of our normal life, and capable of breaking through into that normal life at any second.
  • The dropping of the Atomic Bomb is a very deep problem... Instead of commemorating Hiroshima we should celebrate... man's triumph over the problem [of transmutation], and not its first misuse by politicians and military authorities.
    • Frederick Soddy address to New Europe Group meeting on the third anniversary of the Hiroshima bomb. Quoted in New Europe Group, In Commemoration of Professor Frederick Soddy (1956), 6-7.
  • 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?
    But, again, don't misunderstand me. The only conclusion we can draw is that governments acting in a crisis are guided by questions of expediency, and moral considerations are given very little weight, and that America is no different from any other nation in this respect.
    • Leó Szilárd, who first proposed the U.S. develop nuclear weapons, as quoted in "President Truman Did Not Understand" in U.S. News & World Report (15 August 1960)
    • Variant: If the Germans had dropped atomic bombs on cities instead of us, we would have defined the dropping of atomic bombs on cities as a war crime, and we would have sentenced the Germans who were guilty of this crime to death at Nuremberg and hanged them.
      • As quoted in The Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb (1996) by Dennis Wainstock, p. 122
  • My chief purpose was to end the war in victory with the least possible cost in the lives of the men in the armies which I had helped to raise. In the light of the alternatives which, on a fair estimate, were open to us I believe that no man, in our position and subject to our responsibilities, holding in his hands a weapon of such possibilities for accomplishing this purpose and saving those lives, could have failed to use it and afterwards looked his countrymen in the face.
    • Henry L. Stimson, as quoted in The Great Decision: The Secret History of the Atomic Bomb (1959) by Michael Amrine, p. 197

T[edit]

  • I made up my mind then that the morality of dropping that bomb was not my business. I was instructed to perform a military mission to drop the bomb. That was the thing that I was going to do the best of my ability. Morality, there is no such thing in warfare. I don’t care whether you are dropping atom bombs, or 100-pound bombs, or shooting a rifle. You have got to leave the moral issue out of it.
    • Paul W. Tibbets, in a 1989 interview, entitled "General Paul Tibbets- Reflections on Hiroshima", recorded by the Voices of Hiroshima project.
  • I gave careful thought to what my advisors had counseled. I wanted to weigh all the possibilities and implications... General Marshall said in Potsdam that if the bomb worked we would save a quarter of a million American lives and probably save millions of Japanese... I did not like the weapon... but I had no qualms if in the long run millions of lives could be saved.
    • Harry S. Truman, as quoted in Mr. President (1952) by William Hillman

U[edit]

  • "August 6, 1945: Hiroshima. August 9, 1945: Nagasaki." I wrote the words on the classroom whiteboard in large letters. Then I crossed out both dates and places with a big red X. "Not true," I declared. "The atomic bombings never happened. A total fabrication." My university students were dumbstruck. We stared at each other in silence for a long moment. All right, I conceded, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed by American warplanes 60 years ago. But only conventional bombs were used and only a few hundred people were killed. Another uncomfortable silence. Then I admitted it was a ruse. The students seemed to collectively exhale in relief. The tragic reality, of course, is that hundreds of thousands of Japanese died as the result of the two atomic bombings. The brief classroom exercise helped students imagine how citizens of Asian countries victimized by Japanese colonialism, invasion and atrocities during World War II feel when the Nanjing Massacre is labeled a fabrication, military sex slaves are portrayed as willing prostitutes, and forced laborers are claimed to have voluntarily toiled for Japan's former empire. It also gave students additional insight into why Chinese and Koreans, in particular, continue to react so indignantly to revisionist Japanese history textbooks and prime ministerial visits to Yasukuni Shrine, where convicted war criminals are among the Japanese war dead worshipped.

W[edit]

  • I don't think I am ghoulish in saying that I would like them, and every morally responsible citizen of the world, particularly my fellow Australians of the World War II period, to refresh their memories by referring regularly to the photographic record of the Hiroshima-Nagasaki happening — the rags of human flesh, the suppurating sores, the despair of families blown apart, the disturbed minds, the bleak black gritty plains where the homes of human beings like you and I once stood. Most of all, I would like every Australian couple born since Hiroshima and Nagasaki were blasted out of existence to consult these photographic records and for ever after do all in their power to prevent the children they are creating from suffering a fate similar to that thrust upon the children of those two Japanese cities. Let us rouse ourselves and realise this is what we shall have to face.

Y[edit]

  • The only people who should be allowed to govern countries with nuclear weapons are mothers, those who are still breast-feeding their babies.

External links[edit]