Sixty years after Hiroshima, could atomic bombs be used again?
The attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 killed over 200,000 people.
Atomic bombs haven't been used in conflict since then, but the five original nuclear powers - Britain, France, China, Russia and the USA - have not disarmed.
In recent years, countries like India, Pakistan and Iran have started nuclear programmes despite the non-proliferation treaty.
Do you remember the atomic bombs being dropped? If so, send us your memories. What are the lessons of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Are you worried by nuclear proliferation?
Do you have any pictures from Hiroshima, Nagasaki, or any of this week's memorial events? If so, you can send them to firstname.lastname@example.org
We discussed Hiroshima and nuclear proliferation in our global phone-in programme, Talking Point, on Sunday 7 August. Our guest was the historian Diana Preston.
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:
My mother was in the Japanese Army during WWII. Her unit was ordered to go south with a stop over in Hiroshima. She got sick and never made the trip. The next day the bomb was dropped. She never saw it as nothing more as another weapon of war. It is easy to sit back and judge the past. But, our parents and grand parents lived it and their opinion should matter more than ours.
Russ Black, Los Angeles, Ca USA
I remember. My father knew about it, and seated my 3-1/2 year old self before the short-wave radio to hear the news about it. This episode dominated my childhood and youth. The lessons of the bombings were such that no-one else has dropped an atomic bomb in the 60 years since. Of course I'm worried about nuclear proliferation. But at least I don't have mushroom-cloud dreams any more.
Polly Mitchell, Eugene, Oregon, USA
Shouldn't we now ban all nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction as part of the war on terrorism? Since the intended targets are by definition always civilians.
Having read the statement from the surviving members of the Enola Gay crew, it saddens but does not surprise me that they express "no regrets". Military propaganda has a way of immortalising the heroic, while those who experience the real suffering of these horrific events, the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, are seen as collateral damage. I can only pray, especially in these turbulent times, that we never again bear witness to the deployment of such a devastating weapon.
Declan Cassidy, Dublin, Ireland
I was 12 years old and thought it was exciting. I became a nuclear physicist, now retired. For years I thought / hoped that the war could have been won without dropping the bombs but now I suspect the bomb did in fact contribute significantly to the decision by the Japanese to surrender, Had the Japanese continued which was their mood just before the bombs were dropped many more Japanese and Americans would have lost their lives than the number killed by the bombs. What is tragic however, is that we still haven't given up on war and have not reduced the absolutely obscene number of nuclear weapons which we world powers now have. The 21st Century is still under grave threats of cataclysmic death and destruction.
Richard I. Brown, Michigan, USA
Of course nuclear bombs could be used again. However, the only two countries that could use them for any real tactical gain is the United States and perhaps China. If you are any other country but those two you would have to destroy the entire world or the entire world would come after you. Someday the terrorist may use "the bomb" but they would lose all support of any country or person who wants to prosper in this world. It is the line that you just don't cross.
Erik Rose, Ft. Collins, USA
An old man's recollection of that day 60 years ago: I was 14 years old and walking down the Old Town in Peebles when I saw the billboards outside an newsagent's shop: 'Atomic Bomb Dropped On Japan'. I was amused, for I thought the silly idiot had mis-spelled 'Automatic'! But as I continued on my way I began to think. Don't all bombs explode automatically? Atomic? Automatic? By the next day I knew what the difference was.
J. P. Ward, Netherlands
Without doubt the dropping of nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the worst acts of terrorism ever inflicted on civilian populations. Over 200,000 civilians were killed and to this day the effects of those acts are still apparent. Many survivors of the initial blast developed cancers and many had children born with birth defects. The proffered raison d'etre for this mass murder is that is shortened the war. This myth has recently been discounted by Truman's assistants who state that Japan was already suing for peace. They affirm that the real reason for the vicious slaughter was that America wished to sent the Soviet Union a powerful message. Thus began the cold war.
George Ward, Taunton UK
The fact that some countries do have nuclear weapons and others don't is exactly why proliferation happens. The quickest way to devalue nuclear weapons is to give them to everyone. One of the saddest things in this is the tarnishing of nuclear power itself which if used properly is wonderful, but will never be viewed as such.
Andrew, Seoul, South Korea
To Gayathri, I would like to reply that despite the horror of the Hiroshima attack, I certainly believe that it was the best option at the time. The only alternative to end the war was the invasion of the Japanese mainland, and in preparation for this, the Japanese military were planning to sacrifice the civilian population in "human wave" attacks against the Americans. Already on Saipan, 12,000 Japanese civilians had committed suicide after being instructed by their army that the Americans would torture and even eat them if they were captured. On the instructions of Japanese soldiers, mothers hiding in caves strangled their own children to prevent their cries attracting the Americans. On the mainland, the population was being armed with bamboo spears ready to fight the US Marines, and tens of thousands of Allied prisoners were to be slaughtered before they could be liberated. The bomb ended all this madness and aside from saving an estimated 1 million Allied casualties, it saved millions of Japanese civilians.
Paul, Aberdeen UK
A UK WWII veteran (RIP) commented to me that he was glad that the bombs had been dropped. Rather surprised, I asked him why? He said that he had had embarkation orders to the Pacific for a land invasion of Japan just before the bombings and these orders were now cancelled. He felt that the bombs had probably saved his life. I suppose that one could also say that they saved millions of lives by preventing conventional super power wars in the "MAD" era from the end of WWII and throughout the Cold War, although the Cuban missile crisis was a close run thing. Khrushchev's comments in his memoirs on Mao's attitude to the use of the bomb frighteningly demonstrate the danger we all faced from him then and now, from leaders of similar ilk.
Henry Isadore, Portsmouth Hants
The "bomb" was a race against time. Whoever got it first and used it, won the war. If Japan or Germany had use of it before the allies, do you think there would have been only two?
Nick, Wakefield, UK
Critics of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki should compare the Japanese death toll of those events with the price paid in Japanese lives for the bombs that country dropped on Pearl Harbor. It is clear to anyone that more Japanese died because of the decisions made by their leaders than died because of anything Harry Truman ordered.
Robert, Charlotte, NC
My uncle Arthur was 17 in 1945 and assigned to enter occupied Hiroshima. Hundreds of soldiers were being briefed on what to expect, etc, and somebody asked, "how does this bomb work? Is it percussion, or heat, or what?" The sergeant turned, spoke with the officers, and came back with the answer that nobody knew. That was Arthur's only 'war' story.
Dave Pieper, Los Angeles
My uncle AB Alexander Murray was onboard the first incoming Red Cross relief ship to Hiroshima. They swabbed the decks with mops and brushed up the fine dust and the black rain on the way in. When they got to Hiroshima the US confiscated his camera coming back into the dockside, and he never spoke of what he had seen because they were made to sign the official secrets act (he was only a merchant seaman). All the crew later died, one by one. Our family fought the MOD without avail for years and years for compensation, without success. Even to this very day, despite the overwhelming evidence of Chernobyl, the official stance of the MOD is, and I quote "There is no connection between radiation and cancer".
Frank Murray, Bristol
My father was a doctor with the US Army in Europe. On VE Day he was in Czechoslovakia. At the time of the Hiroshima bomb his unit had been told that they were going to the Pacific for the invasion of Japan. They were all scared stiff as they excepted the Japanese to fight "to the last man" as they had been doing in the most recent battles. He told me many times that I might not have been born if the atomic bombs had not ended the war. When I was at school nearly every science book we had used a picture of the Hiroshima explosion as a frontispiece. This was, at the time, considered to be the pinnacle of scientific research. Today we may know better, but in the many years to follow the event, Americans looked at this event with pride and with relief that it ended that war.
Mark, Copenhagen, Denmark
I am very shocked to see many people justify bombings in Japan. To all, please imagine you and your family in "Keiko Ogura's" situation (who survived atomic bombing in Japan) and tell if you'd still support this. I am also very surprised to see many people support the nuclear programme of the so-called "nuclear powers" while they say they are against other countries who start nuclear programmes. Why this bias? People in those countries want to protect themselves from whom they think as rogue nations just as the developed nations do. Where are we all going and what are we achieving out of this? How many lives are we going to lose in the name of "war against terrorism"? Whom are we protecting finally?
Gayathri, OH, USA
I would like to emphasise the need for every one of us to learn an important lesson from Hiroshima's approach toward peace. The purpose of Hiroshima's Peace Museum is to eliminate nuclear weapons, not at all to criticise the bombers. We, as human beings, actually feel somewhat guilty for having made such an awful thing (not only the nuclear bomb, but also any wars including WW2) happen. Clearly we human beings should know better than killing each other, and this is exactly what the museum is trying to appeal to the people from all over the world. My mother is from Hiroshima, and because of that I've been there so many times since I was very little. I strongly recommend everyone to visit there, and you'll see the fact that the point of the museum is neither to criticise the people who did it nor to justify any of the Japanese actions during the WW2, it seems to me that there are misunderstandings among people who have not been there.
Reading so many of the comments I am just amazed that no one really has the ability to think beyond what the powers (the US in the case of Japan) has told them about the nuclear attack on Japan. To this day people still blindly believe what they are told by their leaders and this is dangerous. So sadly, no lesson has been learnt from the events of the end of WWII. I visited both cities with my wife, who is Japanese - my father was a soldier in Singapore at the time of its fall, and to be there and see what remains of their destruction overwhelmed me and I doubt that anyone who leads a nuclear nation or espouses their development and use actually has any true perspective on what these horrific weapons are capable of, or if they do they simply do not care. And now with deluded ideologies seeking nuclear weapons I can only think that the days of the Cuban missile crisis were a pleasant time in comparison of what may come to pass.
Andrew Stamford, Australia
It's a pity that the lessons of Hiroshima and Nagasaki haven't prevailed all over the world. As I had many experiences to guide foreigners at the Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima, I found many of them were surprised at the result of nuclear weapons through the exhibition. I'm worried by nuclear proliferation because of double standards adopted by big countries.
Shinji Noma, Hiroshima, Japan
My uncle was stationed in Pearl Harbor in 1941. He returned from Church and found his barracks destroyed. They were there because the Japanese had invaded Korea and China years earlier. My school mate's fathers and 1,000's of other soldiers were on ships bound for Japan. Japan's leaders did not surrender when warned and even a second bomb was dropped to convince them. The US motives were clear after the war. Japan was rebuilt and helped to become a great economic power, independent, and democratic. To my Japanese neighbours, I say, study your history from 1930 to 1945. If Japanese aggression and oppression had not started, the US would not have had any reason to end it.
Bob Van, Issaquah, Washington, USA
Yes, they could, but only by rogue nations or terrorists. Why do you think we had a "Cold War" for about 45 years? That was a war which involved no destruction of countries, no loss of life, so to speak, and no winners or losers. A bad deal perhaps but much preferable to the alternative - for example, WWII. The doctrine of mutually assured destruction actually works. Do you think either Pakistan or India would risk a nuclear attack on the other? That's why non-proliferation is a joke. The possession of atomic capability is the only guarantee that a country won't be attacked or invaded. I completely understand why Iran, North Korea, and other countries want to develop nuclear weapons. I don't agree, but I understand. The danger is from terrorist groups who may beg, steal, or borrow such capability, and the more countries that possess it, the more likely that these groups will acquire it. As we were advised in the late 50s: get under a desk, put your head between your knees and hold your breath.
Dennis Kearney, Lille, France
I believe the greatest threat as far the possibility of a nuclear holocaust reoccurring is the distinct prospect of a terrorist group like Al-Qaeda getting hold of one and using it against the US or other perceived enemies. 9/11 and the London bombings have more than proved that groups like this have no compunction whatsoever about such a drastic action. This may be why the US doesn't want nations like Iran and North Korea to have their own nukes. It fears they may sell or lose the technology or materials that would make this possible to the USA's enemies.
Afolabi Akinrogunde, Lagos, Nigeria
Those who think disarmament would convince others not to pursue the proliferation of nuclear weapons are deluding themselves. Nuclear proliferation primarily serves as the perfect preventative measure against an aggressor at the expense of your country. Would the USA and UK have risked attacking Iraq if it had nuclear capability? It also serves as a tool for intimidation and aggression. The US congress has already approved the development of 'mini-nukes' which would have a far smaller area of effect, yet the same crippling blow.
With the US launching unprovoked attacks on other nations and the shift towards expeditionary combat, the nuclear option is the only option for another nation to defend itself from a country that spends more money on its war machine than almost the rest of the world combined. Whilst I don't want to see nukes in anyone's hands, getting a nuclear deterrent is now a vital key to survival.
The non-proliferation treaty is one of the funniest jokes and hypocrisy in human history. What kind of logic is used to allow some countries and continents to develop some kind of weapons and prevent others to do so?
Justin Hategekimana, Pittsburgh, USA
I think the dropping of 'little boy' was a dreadful act. However, the axis powers must have been aware that by attacking other countries there was the risk of retaliation. If you are going to dish it out, you must be able to take it.
I used to believe it was the right decision to drop the A Bombs in order to save lives on the allied side. But my views have changed over time, particularly since the birth of my own children. We cannot justify the murder of so many innocents, the incineration of so many babies, children and mothers, all done in our name by our civilised governments.
Yes, these weapons could be used again but it is likely that only a rogue nation or a terrorist faction would do so. Responsible nations and individuals who understand the repercussions and have respect for human life will find another way to solve their problems.
Paula, Boston, USA
Nuclear and thermonuclear weapons have made the world an immeasurably safer place as they act as a deterrent and are not intended to be used in conflict except in emergency situations. The bombs dropped on Japan cost approximately 100,000 lives - about 5% of what an invasion would have cost in allied and Japanese lives.
Neil, Skye, Scotland
The current danger of nuclear weapons doesn't come from one nation attacking another, as in the past, but from terrorists who have no nationals of their own they'd worry about as the result of retaliation. Their only goal is to kill as many people and wreak as much havoc as possible. For them, nuclear weapons are the perfect instrument.
A nuclear weapon is like any other. More people have been killed in Iraq since 2003 than died at Hiroshima. More Americans have died in road crashes than foreign wars. Where is the outcry to condemn cars? It is politicians that make wars not the weapons employed, they are just the tools.
Jim Kirk, Basildon
I was a teenager when the bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And like most US citizens I accepted the official line that it was necessary and saved lives. Since then I've learned many things that have made the decision questionable at best. And recent developments suggest to me that somebody, somewhere, sometime will set off a nuclear explosion unless we (citizens of the world) rise up in opposition to the powers that be who have plans at the ready to use these weapons.
Barry Childers, Geneva, Switzerland
The media never says a word about who were the victims. The answer: mainly students of high schools, women, Korean prisoners... This was an enormous crime against.
Youri Kabanov, Besancon, France
What we all have to remember is that the dropping of atomic weapons on Japan during WWII ACTUALLY SAVED LIVES - both Japanese and Allied. Whilst the island hopping campaign of tiny places like Iwo Jima and Tarawa was very costly, it was going to be nothing compared to invading the islands of Japan proper. The US put its causalities at 1 million, and the civilian many times that. At that time Japan was a fanatic military dictatorship, and every man, woman and child was supposed to resist the invader. Let's put this in historical perspective - If you were President Truman in 1945 and were faced with 1 million causalities, what would you do?
Gregg , Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA
If they had not dropped these bombs in all likelihood my daddy, who was training in Sumatra and due to be amongst the first British troops into the mainland of Japan, would have been killed, maimed or injured. So would tens of thousands of other military personnel and civilians on all sides. Nuclear weapons today are obsolete - all that is required nowadays is a delivery system and some nasty germs or, as we have seen in London, a few killers with nail bombs!
Peter McNaughton, Montreal, Canada
People completely misunderstand the issue of the proliferation of Atomic weapons. Its prime driving factor is profit, because once you have an energy source (i.e. a nuclear power station) you can create your own weapons. Secondly, it is driven by a localised MAD condition. The reason the middle east wants nuclear weapons is because other countries in their sphere have them. Not to have weapons is like denuding yourself. However the US, the French, Brits ,Russians and Chinese are becoming aware that they are losing their muscle because every tin pot country has them. That is a great equaliser and the West does not want equality, it wants dominance, which is why the arguments are so one sided.
The Cold War, although it may have brought us close to nuclear conflict at times, actually helped prevent the proliferation of these devices. With the breakdown of the USSR who knows who has half of their old nuclear arsenal?
Why is the BBC intent on criticising the decision to drop Atomic weapons on Japan during WWII? Hindsight is a wonderful thing. If it had been your Brother, your Father, your relative, who had been selected to be among the first to wade ashore on the Japanese Mainland, and they were killed, what would have been your reaction when you became aware that your own country had a weapon which could have prevented that loss of life and suffering?
John O'Brien, France
My father was a US Navy medical corpsman on board an attack transport at the time of the Atomic bomb drop. They had already made five amphibious assaults in Europe and two in the Pacific. Their ship, the USS Charles Carroll APA 28, had been among the targets of Japanese kamikaze attacks in the months prior to Hiroshima. Fellow medics in my father's landing battalion were shot and killed by Japanese snipers. It was known to the crew that they would make up part of the first wave of landings on the Japanese mainland. I know EVERY member of the Carroll's crew were grateful the bomb was dropped.
I, for one, have never "wondered" if I should be grateful for Truman's decision to drop the bomb. I doubt I'd be here to comment if the bomb hadn't been dropped.
Ian Hammond, Fort Lauderdale, FL USA
I saw the BBC's documentary programme about the Hiroshima bomb. I felt that the people who survived the bomb at the first day must have felt like that they had end up in a living hell. Flames all over the place and the black rain of dead bodies. I believe that there are no rules in a war. War is just a crazy thing.
Babak, Herlev, Denmark
I believe it will be some time before nuclear arsenal are put to war again. However, one slip now from a rogue nation will plunge us all into a global catastrophe.
Benjamin Tarachi, Jos, Nigeria
It is true that countries have ignored the NPT and begun nuclear weapon programs of their own. However, unless there is a concerted effort by the current Nuclear Powers, i.e. the USA, Russia, Britain, France and others to disarm their weapons, countries such as Iran, Pakistan and India have no incentive to give up their programs.