Both 6 and 9 August are somber days in history. This year, 2015, marks the 70th anniversaries of the first two and only instances of nuclear weapons use in war. Green Cross International commemorates these days in the hope that such indiscriminate weapons of mass destruction will never be used again, and to emphasize the need to abolish all nuclear weapons as soon as possible.
At 8:15 in the morning of 6 August, 1945 the Enola Gay, a US B-29 Superfortress bomber, dropped “Little Boy,” a 15-kiloton atomic bomb, over the Japanese city of Hiroshima, the eighth largest city in Japan. The bomb detonated with a blinding flash at an altitude of 580 metres and within seconds the city was destroyed along with at least 80,000 inhabitants; fires spread over 11 square kilometers and tens of thousands died over coming days and weeks from the shocking blast and radioactive fallout.
Three days later, on 9 August, 1945 a second nuclear bomb, this one named “Fat Man”, was dropped over the city of Nagasaki just after 11 in the morning by Bockscar, another US B-29 bomber. With a nuclear core of plutonium, Fat Man detonated over the city at about 500 meters with an estimated blast of 21 kilotons, causing heat to rise to 3,900 degrees C and winds to reach 1,000 km/h. Immediate death estimates range up to 75,000, with thousands more killed in the ensuing weeks.
Both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bomb blasts of 1945 serve today as prime examples of why the world must never use such weapons again. While nuclear weapons have never been used in warfare since, both the United States and the Soviet Union went on to develop more sophisticated and powerful atomic weapons, followed by the United Kingdom, France, and China. Today India, Pakistan, and North Korea have also acquired nuclear weapons, with Israel widely suspected of possessing them since the early 1970s. The nuclear powers have tested nuclear weapons over 2,000 times since the first US “Trinity” test in July 1945, but a de facto moratorium on nuclear testing has existed since 1996, with the exception of seven nuclear tests by India (2), Pakistan (2), and North Korea (3).
As we commemorate these sad 70th anniversaries of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Green Cross urges all the nuclear weapons countries to renounce modernization and build-up of their nuclear arsenals, to progressively take them off hair-trigger alert and to engage in deeper, verified reductions in nuclear weapons stockpiles. GCI also appeals to all countries that have not done so to ratify the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) so that it may enter into force. It further calls for speedy negotiation of a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT), and for bringing to a minimum the weapons-grade fissile materials (highly enriched uranium and plutonium) stocked around the world. We all must work for a world truly free of nuclear weapons.