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These Images Of The Hiroshima Nuclear Bombing Are Still Shocking 75 Years Later

The nuclear weapons were devastating in their destruction, and have served as a cautionary tale for decades.

Posted on August 6, 2020, at 4:04 p.m. ET

On Aug. 6, 1945, the United States dropped the first atomic bomb over the city of Hiroshima. The city was a strategic military target, and had been placed off-limits from earlier firebombing raids. The atomic bomb was intended as a tactic to end a long and extremely bloody conflict between the US and Japan in the Pacific. It is estimated that 140,000 people, or one-third of the population, had died as a result of the blast by the end of the year. Most of the casualties were civilians.

Despite repeated calls for Japan to surrender, they refused, and so three days later, on Aug. 9, 1945, a second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, a major seaport. The second bomb killed an estimated 70,000 people. On Aug. 12, Japan surrendered.

No reports about how local populations were affected by the bombs appeared in the American press until September, and stories about radiation sickness were dismissed as Japanese propaganda. While images of the mushroom cloud were published, photos showing the aftermath were suppressed until the American occupation ended in 1952, and even then they were not widely seen in the US. Seventy-five years later, the photos remain shocking, and important, historic documents of the unprecedented power of nuclear warfare.

A mushroom cloud seen from the air over the city of Hiroshima
/ AP

In this Aug. 6, 1945, photo released by the US Army, a mushroom cloud billows about one hour after a nuclear bomb was detonated above Hiroshima, Japan.

Two rivers cut through a desolate landscape where a city once stood.
AP Photo

An aerial view of Hiroshima, some time after the atomic bomb was dropped on this Japanese city.

Two people, one carrying an umbrella, walk down a street of rubble.
Bernard Hoffman / Getty Images

Hiroshima is seen in ruins following the atomic bomb attack of Aug. 6, 1945.

A woman reveals severe burns in gridlike patterns on her back caused by radiation
Ullstein Bild Dtl. / Getty Images

An atomic bomb victim reveals her wounds, Japan, 1945.

A man lying on the ground has burns on his body
Universal Images Group via Getty

A man recovering after the explosion of the atomic bomb in August 1945 Hiroshima, Japan.

A young girl sits by four badly burned and bloodied women lying down on the ground
Alinari Archives / Getty Images

Victims of the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima, Japan, 1945.

A man stands in a room packed with dozens of wounded people lying on floor mattresses
Roger Viollet / Getty Images

Victims of the atomic bomb, Hiroshima, Japan, 1945.

A person shows their back covered in bulbous keloid scars, and another person shows their forearms covered in keloid scars.
Getty Images

Left: Keloids, which are dense, fibrous growths that cover scar tissue, are seen on the back of a survivor of the Nagasaki atomic bomb. Right: The burned arms and hands of a Nagasaki survivor.

Three men tip over a stretcher, adding a corpse to a row of bodies on the ground.
Hajime Miyatake/The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images

Bodies of atomic bomb victims are gathered before cremation in August 1945, in Hiroshima, Japan.

Two broken buddha statues rise out from the debris
National Archives / Getty Images

Battered religious figures on a hill above a valley after the Americans dropped an atomic bomb in Nagasaki, Japan.

A man walks away from a car and toward a lone building standing amid rubble in a destroyed valley
Bettmann / Bettmann Archive

Nagasaki, Japan, September 1945.

A single building appears in the foreground of miles of landscape reduced to rubble
Hulton Archive / Getty Images

A view of the ruins of the city of Hiroshima following the first dropping of the atomic bomb by the United States on Aug. 6, 1945.

A man walks toward blackened trees towering over a mile of rubble
AP Photo

Skeletons of trees dominate the landscape in Hiroshima, Sept. 8, 1945, left in ruins after the world's first atomic bomb attack.

A line of people is seen walking down a desolate highway surrounded by rubble
Hajime Miyatake/The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images

A general view from the Hiroshima Higashi Police Station on Aug. 10, 1945, in Hiroshima, Japan.

A crowd of mostly men, some in soldiers uniforms, walk down a city street surrounded by destroyed buildings
AP Photo

Soldiers and civilians walk through the grim remains of Hiroshima two days after the atomic bomb explosion of Aug. 6, 1945.

Children and people with bandages sit at a cluttered table and are tended to by women and older men
Getty Images

Workers treat patients at the Fukuromachi Relief Station who have been exposed to radiation from the atomic bombs dropped on Japan in August 1945.

A woman lies on the ground and reaches over to a child beside her, whose head is covered in severe burns
AP Photo

A Japanese woman attends to her wounded child on the floor of a damaged bank building converted into a hospital, Hiroshima, Japan, Oct. 6, 1945.

A man walks through rubble looking off to a still-standing building in the distance
AP Photo

A huge expanse of ruins left the explosion of the atomic bomb on Aug. 6, 1945, in Hiroshima.

President Harry Truman sits at a desk with papers in front of him and a radio next to him
/ AP

President Harry S. Truman, with a radio at hand, reads reports of the first atomic bomb raid on Japan while en route home aboard a cruiser.

A gigantic atomic mushroom cloud explodes over a bridge and railway station
Prisma By Dukas / Universal Images Group via Getty

The atomic bomb exploding over Nagasaki in 1945.

AP Photo

Survivors of the atomic bomb attack of Nagasaki walk through the destruction as fire rages in the background, Aug. 9, 1945.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.