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A mother and child sit in the ruins of Hiroshima four months after the bombing.Alfred Eisenstaedt/Pix Inc./The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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A man looks at the ruins of the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. The structure was preserved and was later renamed the Genbaku Domu (Hiroshima Peace Memorial). Bernard Hoffman/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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Children wear masks to combat the pervasive odor of death in the air following the bombing.Keystone/Getty Images
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The shape of a victim burned into the steps of a bank. The heat and light generated by the bomb was so intense that it changed the shades of roads and buildings, leaving areas "protected" by human bodies closer to their original shades.Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images
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Another human shadow seared into bank steps by the bomb.Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images
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A lone man surveys the rubble.Getty Images
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A survivor whose skin had been burned in a pattern corresponding with that of the kimono she'd been wearing at the time of the blast.National Archives and Records Administration
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A Japanese baby sits crying in the rubble.Getty Images
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Aerial images of Hiroshima before and after the bombing.Library of Congress/Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum
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Aerial images of Hiroshima before and after the bombing, with ground zero noted by bullseye.U.S. Department of Defense
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A young Japanese boy stands with a shovel on a street that's still devastated a full year after the bombing.Getty Images
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A victim of the Hiroshima bombing lies in a makeshift hospital.National Archives and Records Administration
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A group of children and adults left homeless warm their hands over a fire on the outskirts of Hiroshima.Alfred Eisenstaedt/Pix Inc./The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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The ruins of the city one month after the bombing.Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images
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A woman cleans up amid the rubble.Getty Images
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A Japanese soldier walks through an area leveled by "Little Boy."National Archives and Records Administration
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An elderly survivor of the blast lies covered with flies in a hospital set up in what was a bank.CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
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The atomic cloud rises 20,000 feet above Hiroshima just after the bomb was dropped.National Archives and Records Administration
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Aerial view of the Hiroshima aftermath. 1946.Library of Congress
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Some victims of the catastrophe take refuge in the rubble of a bank that was transformed to house the wounded and homeless.Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images
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Shortly after the bomb was dropped, smoke rises into the sky above the city while a shockwave traveling faster than the speed of sound devastates the area below.Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images
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Two women walk among the ruins.Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images
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The remains of a fire truck devastated by the blast.National Archives and Records Administration
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Blast victims recover in a fly-infested, makeshift hospital in a bank building.National Archives and Records Administration
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Burned trees and bombed out buildings dot the landscape of Hiroshima in the aftermath of the bombing.National Archives and Records Administration
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The radiation burns of a Hiroshima survivor.National Museum of Health and Medicine
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The devastation from the bomb stretched several miles from ground zero.National Archives and Records Administration
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Residents walk through the streets now surrounded by rubble.Bernard Hoffman/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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A man wheels his bicycle about 550 feet from ground zero.Keystone/Getty Images
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The city lies in ruins just days after the bombing.AFP/AFP/Getty Images
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A victim of the blast who received severe burns.Wikimedia Commons
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People walk along the roads through the ruins.Library of Congress
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A view of the destruction in 1947.National Archives and Records Administration
33 Photos Of The Hiroshima Aftermath That Reveal The Bombing’s True Devastation
The blasts of air-raid sirens were a familiar sound for the approximately 245,000 residents of Hiroshima that still remained in the city center in August 1945 as World War II neared its conclusion. At the time, American B-29 bombers regularly (dubbed "Mr. B" by the Japanese) soared over the nearby coast en route to Lake Biwa, a strategic rendezvous point about 220 miles northeast of the city.
On the morning of Aug. 6, 1945, the siren sounded as it often did and some residents surely wondered if this was to be the day that “Mr. B” would unleash a load of explosives. Hiroshima was one of the few major Japanese cities that had been spared the wrath of United States airstrikes and there was a sense that something was coming.
Nevertheless, the alarm that morning probably only raised slight concern for many locals because the sirens had been sounding nearly every morning as U.S. weather planes floated in overhead. So Hiroshima residents went about their daily routines and the all-clear sounded soon after. Radar only picked up a small number of planes at high altitude, so no major threat was expected by the Japanese government.
But just after 8:15 a.m., a flash of blinding light erupted over the city. The U.S. had just dropped the atomic bomb.
"I saw a black dot in the sky," said survivor Fujio Torikoshi. "Suddenly, it ‘burst’ into a ball of blinding light that filled my surroundings. A gust of hot wind hit my face; I instantly closed my eyes and knelt down to the ground."
Almost instantly, some 80,000 people (30 percent of Hiroshima's population) were killed and at least 69 percent of the city’s buildings were destroyed. The bomb (known as "Little Boy") detonated 1,900 feet above the city, flattening everything within a mile of ground zero and triggering fires across 4.4 square miles.
And because the all-clear had been sounded after the earlier air-raid warning, many people were outside when the bomb detonated. More than 50 percent of the casualties died from burns while many others who did not succumb to the initial blast or fires of the immediate Hiroshima aftermath later died of radiation exposure.
Meanwhile, because ground zero happened to be a hospital, many of the city’s doctors and nurses were killed or injured in the blast. The city was thrown into chaos as those still alive scrambled to create makeshift hospitals to aid the wounded.
Beyond those who were killed or injured, the true scale of the Hiroshima aftermath revealed itself for generations to come as health issues like birth defects and cancer continued to plague those exposed to a blast unlike anything the world had ever seen before.
See the devastation of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in the gallery above.
For more, view the 1946 footage of Hiroshima taken by the U.S. Air Force below: