On August 6, 1945, a U.S. B-29 bomber called the Enola Gay flew towards Hiroshima, Japan. It carried an atomic bomb that was developed and tested in the United States. Its mission to drop the bomb on Hiroshima marked the first time that an atomic weapon was used in warfare and targeted at humans.
The atomic bomb had been developed during the previous four years. The U.S. government had gathered the world's leading scientists to work on the top-secret Manhattan Project to produce an atomic weapon. By learning to harness the power from within the nucleus of a hydrogen cell, the scientists created a nuclear fission reaction and developed the world's most powerful bomb.
Germany surrendered from World War II (1939–45) in May 1945. President Harry S. Truman (1884–1972; served 1945–53) decided to use the atomic bomb against Japan when it became clear that Japan was not going to end the war through diplomatic means. Trying to avoid the expense of both money and lives with a conventional invasion of the Japanese homeland, President Truman ordered the bomb to be used.
The Enola Gay, named for the mother of the commander for the bombing mission, was sent on the first of two missions to Japan. The plane's commander, Colonel Paul W. Tibbits (1915–2007), ordered the release of the atomic bomb, “Little Boy,” at 8:15 in the morning. With a brilliant flash, the bomb devastated most of the city below. The explosion destroyed everything in the immediate area. Resulting fires burned
another 4.4 square miles, and over seventy thousand people died. Another seventy thousand were seriously injured.
Despite the resulting disaster, Japan refused to surrender. The B-29 aircraft Bockscar dropped an atomic bomb three days later on the Japanese city of Nagasaki, where another thirty-five thousand people lost their lives. Japan began its surrender the next day, August 10, 1945.