On Aug. 2, 1939, Albert Einstein penned a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt informing him that, according to a manuscript provided him by two scientists, the ability to use the element uranium as a new source of energy would soon be available. Einstein encouraged the President to remain abreast of the development.
Einstein’s letter also proposed that the energy produced could be used as a weapon, writing, “…that extremely powerful bombs of a new type may thus be constructed.” He suggested the bombs could be carried by boat into a port and used to destroy the port and some of the surrounding territory, but that the bombs may prove to be too heavy to be delivered by airplane.
A little more than six years later, on Aug. 6, 1945, the first atomic bomb, dubbed “Little Boy,” was dropped over the center of Hiroshima by the American B-29 bomber Enola Gay. The bomb detonated about 2,000 feet above ground and killed an estimated 70,000 to 80,000 people, including at least 11 American prisoners of war. Tens of thousands died of their injuries and/or radiation poisoning in the months and years that followed. According to some estimates, about 90 percent of the city’s buildings were either damaged or completely destroyed.
Three days later a second atomic bomb, named “Fat Man,” was dropped from the B-29 Bock’s Car on Japan. Originally destined for the city of Kokura, poor visibility forced the plane to its secondary target, Nagasaki. When it detonated about 1,600 feet above the city, about 70,000 people were killed, including about 100 prisoners of war. Another 75,000 were injured.
On Aug. 14, 1945, delegates of Japanese Emperor Hirohito accepted Allied surrender terms and World War II ended.