Today is the 65th anniversary of the first use of atomic weapons in warfare. On August 6th, 1945, the Enola Gay (piloted by Colonel Paul Tibbets, Jr.) flew over Hiroshima, Japan, and dropped the atomic bomb "Little Boy" at about 8:15am local time.
The mushroom cloud as viewed from the Enola Gay
The explosion and aftermath is thought to have killed 100,000-150,000 people. Three days later, another nuclear bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, and six days after that, Japan surrendered to the Allies.
President Harry Truman decided to use the atomic weapons in hopes it would cause the Japanese to surrender, and prevent an Allied ground invasion of Japan (Operation Downfall). Casualty estimates for the proposed invasion ranged from half a million to a million American casualties, and several million Japanese casualties.
An interesting side note - about 500,000 Purple Heart medals were manufactured in advance of the preparations for invasion, in anticipation of mass American casualties. In 2003, there were still 120,000 medals left.
The mushroom cloud, as viewed from Hiroshima
Loss of life is tragic, as is war, but sometimes drastic measures are necessary in order to save lives. The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are prime examples. Had the atomic bomb not been used, the war could have dragged on for another year, and millions more may have died on both sides.
As History looks back at Hiroshima, it deems it a necessary tragedy.