A minute of silence this morning commemorated the 150,000 victims of the world’s first nuclear explosion targeted to kill civilians – the American attack on Japan’s Hiroshima, which took place 70 years ago today.
The bomb, dubbed 'Little Boy', was dropped on Hiroshima at 8.30am local time on 6 August 1945. It was one of two atomic bombs used in the Second World War to break the resistance of the Japanese, who were refusing to surrender months after the war was over in Europe after Germany’s capitulation.
The second atomic bomb, known as 'Fat Man', was dropped on Nagasaki three days later, forcing Japan to surrender.
The two destructive bombs represented a culmination of years of research and development efforts led by American physicist.
The 'Little Boy' bomb was a gun-type fission bomb based on the rare uranium-235 isotope, while the 'Fat Man' bomb was based on a more efficient and complicated implosion-type design using plutonium-239.
Uranium fission that provided the basis for the construction of a nuclear weapon was first described by German scientists in 1938. America was thus impelled to fast-track the development of the atomic bomb technology with the knowledge that the Germans had got a headstart.
'Little Boy', dropped from the B-29 bomber Enola Gay, destroyed 90 per cent of Hiroshima and killed an estimated 140,000 people, including those who succumbed to injuries and radiation sickness in the ensuing weeks.
The black rain of radioactive particles that followed the blast has been linked to higher rates of cancer and other radiation-related diseases among survivors.
The bomb dropped on Nagasaki three days later, albeit more powerful, caused less damage due to the city’s more complicated terrain.
During the remembrance ceremony at the epicentre of the Hiroshima attack today, the mayor of Hiroshima Kazumi Matsui urged the world leaders to ultimately abolish nuclear weaponry.
He criticised nuclear powers for still keeping more than 15,000 bombs as threats to achieve their national interests.
The anniversary comes as Japan is divided over Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's push to pass unpopular legislation to expand the country's military role internationally. It comes a year after his cabinet's decision to loosen Japan's war-renouncing constitution by adopting a new interpretation of it.
Mr Abe said that as the sole country to face a nuclear attack, Japan had a duty to push for the elimination of nuclear weapons. He pledged to promote the cause through international conferences to be held in Hiroshima later this month.
Hiroshima and the atomic bomb infographic