Consequences/significance of the Hiroshima bombing

A man stood on the rumble after the atomic bomb attack in Hiroshima.
The aftermath of the atom bomb attack on Hiroshima
  • The Americans estimate the number killed as 117,000. The Japanese put it at quarter of a million. Many more suffered horrific injuries. In the years that followed, many of the survivors, known as 'hibakusha', developed ill health.
  • Studies of the hibakusha have allowed doctors to understand radiation poisoning, and to set safety levels for the nuclear power industry.
  • By the 1950s, America and the Soviet Union had developed the more powerful hydrogen bomb, and had learned how to put them on inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). The world entered an era of 'overkill' – where it had the ability to destroy every living thing on earth many times over.

Living in the shadow of war

Between the 1960s and the 1990s, people lived under the shadow of the fear of nuclear war:

  • Every year from 1958 to 1963 the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) marched to London from the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment at Aldermaston in Berkshire to demand the abolition of nuclear weapons.
  • Today politicians worry what would happen if a terrorist group got hold of an atomic weapon.

The atomic bomb changed international relations. The superpowers, that is the USA and the Soviet Union, did not dare to start a war because both sides had nuclear weapons. There was a period of 'Cold War' where the two sides opposed each other without actually going to war themselves.

The dropping of the atomic bomb therefore holds major historical significance. It was an event which shaped history for many years and one which had lasting impacts. It not only sparked the advent of other weapons, it also influenced relations between countries and instilled a sense of fear around the world. It still does so today with the west worried about the nuclear capacity of nations like North Korea.