In May 1945 the Allies defeated Germany but the war in the Pacific theatre continued. Faced with the prospect of a ground invasion of Japan, which would cost many thousands of US lives, President Harry S Truman chose “prompt and utter destruction” and authorized the use of the atomic bomb. The first nuclear weapons had been developed by the top secret Manhattan Project, based at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, headed by the physicist Robert Oppenheimer. The first nuclear bomb had been detonated on 16 July 1945 at Alamogordo, New Mexico. On 6 August 1945 an American B-29 bomber, piloted by Colonel Paul Tibbets of the 393rd Bombardment Squadron, and named the Enola Gay after his mother, dropped the first atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima. About 69% of the city’s buildings were obliterated and about 140,000 people were killed instantly or died within the next few months of injury or radiation poisoning. The government still refused to surrender and, three days later on 9 August, a second bomb was dropped by another B-29, the Bockscar, flown by Major Charles Sweeney, on the on the city of of Nagasaki, causing the deaths of a further 80,000 people. Six days later, following the Soviets’ declaration of war, the Japanese government signed an unconditional surrender, Emperor Hirohito announced Japan’s capitulation on national radio, and World War II was over.
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