When people think back on the devastating effect of dropping two atomic bombs on Japan in 1945, it’s hard to relate that to our own lives. The destructive forces unleashed are things we’ve never experienced with our own eyes and dramatizations of the effects are often met with skepticism. It’s just not something many of us can emotionally connect with properly, despite understanding the graveness of the attack. In Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the effects of the attacks were unprecedented.
- Between 130,000-250,000 people were killed, including over 100,000 civilians.
- Close to 40% of the cities’ structures were destroyed or severely damaged.
The bombs that were dropped in 1945 were called “Fat Man” and “Little Boy”, and had a blast yield of 20 and 15-kilotons respectively. For comparison, the largest nuclear warhead ever tested was the “Tsar Bomba” in 1961, a 57-megaton yield (1570 times larger than the combined energy of FM and LB).
In an interactive map by Alex Wellerstein we may be able to gain a little bit of perspective over the destructive nature of these weapons. In the photos below, we’ve used a 50-megaton explosion.
1. New York City, New York – When dropped in Lower Manhattan, the fireball radius alone stretches from Jersey City to Brooklyn. Third-degree radiation burns would affect people more than 37 miles away. Estimated fatalities would be well over 7 million.
2. Washington, DC – If the bomb was detonated on the White House, the building damage would almost reach Fairfax. With fatalities estimated over 2 million, the fireball would encompass everything from the Pentagon to Howard University.
3. London, England – Detonated over parliament, the blast would affect people all the way in Reading. With almost 6 million estimated fatalities, it would wipe out more than 10% of the English population.
4. Paris, France – A country that has been hit with several terrorist attacks in the last few years would see close to 7 million fatalities if Paris was hit. In comparison, France lost 210,000 soldiers in World War II.
5. Toyko, Japan – The country who has already suffered at the hands of nuclear strikes, would lose more than 11 million souls should Tokyo be hit. A crater almost a mile wide would stretch across the city.
6. New Delhi, India – India actually has bombs that approach 60-kilotons, and would likely suffer the most casualties should New Delhi be hit. An estimated 14 million lives would be lost, with 5 million injuries.
8. Seoul, South Korea – With its incredibly dense population centers, Korea would lose an incredible 20% of their entire population. Almost a third of their people would be either gone or injured.
9. Chicago, Illinois – The largest bomb currently in the US arsenal is the B-83, a 1.2-megaton weapon. It entered service in 1983 and can be deployed by several aircraft.
10. Los Angeles, California – The most powerful bomb ever tested by the United States was the “Castle Bravo”, which was tested in 1954 and released a yield of 15-megatons. Originally designed to only have a 4 to 8-megaton blast, it still is nothing compared to the Russian warhead.
12. Berlin, Germany – It actually theoretically is capable of a 100-megaton blast with certain adjustments, though a bomb that size has never been tested.
13. California (100-megaton) – With this 100-megaton blast, the weapon could affect all three of San Francisco, San Jose and Sacramento or the entire country of Jamaica.
14. Beijing, China (100-megaton) – In Beijing, it would cause over 10 million casualties and reduce almost the entire city to dust.
16. New York City, New York (100-megaton) – While nuclear war isn’t on the horizon, it would do us well to remember that it has come to that in the past. Our arrogance of developing weapons capable of this destruction can only lead to terrible outcomes.