My family visited Hiroshima in September and we spent a couple hours at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. These experiences are always hard to put into words. It was very emotional to see the photos and stories of those who suffered from the bomb either immediately after, or years afterwards. I’d heard stories about what radiation could do to people, but to see the effects and hear the heartbreaking stories really brought it home for me.
When I got home, I researched more about Hiroshima and found some stories that really surprised me. I had my team fact-check them and they all seem to check out.
1.) This man survived both atomic blasts
It is believed that about 165 people experienced both atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but Tsutomu Yamaguchi was the only one to be officially honored by Japan as the “twice-bombed person.” He suffered some injuries in both attacks, but actually went on to live a relatively normal life, until the age of 93. Read the first-hand account of his experiences in this fascinating article.
2.) “Little Boy” used almost all the Uranium in existence
According to Command and Control by Eric Schlosser, the bomb that hit Hiroshima (aka “Little Boy”), took 141 pounds of Uranium, which was pretty much all of the processed Uranium that was then in existence. What’s interesting though, is that by the time the bomb exploded, most of the uranium was blown apart before the bomb reached the “supercritical” phase. In the end, the explosion was caused by just 0.7g of Uranium. As Schlosser notes, that remaining uranium that killed 80,000 people weighed less than a dollar bill.
3.) The bomb was only finally assembled in the air
According to Schlosser’s book, the man in charge of the mission, Captain Parsons, decided that if something had gone wrong during take-off on Tinian, he didn’t want the explosion to wipe out the U.S. base and the thousands of U.S. soldiers stationed there. So, it was up to the crew of the Enola Gay to make final preparations to the bomb—mid-air.
4.) The co-pilot of the Enola Gay met Hiroshima victims on “This Is Your Life”
In 1955, several survivors of the Hiroshima bombing were flown to America to receive plastic surgery. Oddly, U.S. television thought it would be a good time to reunite victims with the co-pilot of the plane which dropped the bomb on Hiroshima. Part of the footage from the show is available here, and yes, it is as awkward as you are imagining.
5.) Hiroshima inspired Godzilla
Nine years after the bombing of Hiroshima, the first Godzilla film was released in Japan. According to the director, Ishiro Honda, his monster was inspired by the destructive characteristics of the bomb: Godzilla’s skin texture was based on the keloid scars of real Hiroshima survivors, and its fire-breathing heat beam was generated by the nuclear energy inside the creature and unleashed through its jaw to bring destruction to the cities of Japan. Godzilla might seem like a cheesy monster to us, but the metaphor for nuclear weapons hit close to him. Thematically the nuclear metaphor has been present throughout Godzilla’s history, even in this past year’s reboot, too.
6.) A Hiroshima survivor won the Boston marathon
In 1945, 13-year-old Shigeki Tanaka lived 20 miles from Hiroshima when he saw and heard the bomb go off. Six years later, the Boston marathon invited Japanese athletes to compete—and Tanaka won. He completed the course in 2 hours 27 minutes and 45 seconds. Not only was this win a personal victory, it helped restore Japanese pride and honor following the war.
Note: A lot of this information was taken from a Gizmodo article, but was then fact-checked by my team. Here is a link to the article: https://www.gizmodo.co.uk/2015/08/facts-about-the-hiroshima-bombing/