In my opinion, a pure nuclear historian in the company of Richard Rhodes, William Lanouette, and Cynthia Kelly. The most vulnerable of those who died at Hiroshima and Nagasaki played a key role in establishing the total death counts. The so-called bone marrow syndrome, manifested by a low white blood cell count and almost complete absence of the platelets necessary to prevent bleeding,w as probably at its maximum beTween the fourth and sixth weeks after the bombs were dropped. ”. The immediate efforts to account for the dead and injured at Hiroshima and Nagasaki were part of a broader project to understand the effects (and effectiveness) of atomic weapons more generally, with an eye toward the fact that Hiroshima and Nagasaki might not be the last time they would be used. "The United States detonated two nuclear weapons over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945, respectively. (For more on the history of the ABCC, and its transition to RERF, see M. Susan Lindee’s 1994 book Suffering Made Real: American Science and the Survivors at Hiroshima). On August 8, news reports from Japan, plus a damage report created by the United States, began to paint a picture of the destruction. They similarly estimated that maybe 10,000 had died immediately at Nagasaki, as well. All the tables that were available were reproduced by hand from original sources, and a careful scrutiny invariably disclosed obvious errors in copying, as well as mistakes in arithmetic. Thousands more remain unidentified. Great job Alex. If you want to use the “low” estimate, that’s fine — just state that it was generated by the US military. The later approaches compiled many different official sources and data from both the Japanese and the American efforts, along with acknowledging that there were considerable uncertainties, and they ultimately used the same sort of methodology as the Joint Commission. (The estimates for each city have a range of ±10,000.). (From, Weeks after the bombing, cremains and bones were still present at one of the many mass-cremation sites in Nagasaki. Other estimates made in the immediate postwar, for which the methodology is not available, include the following, which were cited in some of the aforementioned reports: Again, the fact that most of these numbers hover around similar orders of magnitude (66,000-90,000 dead at Hiroshima, 25,000-45,000 at Nagasaki) should probably be understood as being essentially based on the same types of data for the populations of the cities, and they may not be totally independent estimates. The differences between the results at Hiroshima and Nagasaki were attributed to the differing population sizes and the topography. The current Noboricho Elementary School is about 1 kilometer from ground zero at Hiroshima, in a range that inflicted around 98% fatalities on schoolchildren. To note this is not to undercut their effort: They recognized the deficiencies of the data they had access to, and of their methods, and appear to have been trying their best. When spread out over time, the death toll is much higher I’d like to note for blog readers that Prof. Wellerstein address these questions in the full article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. They are part of how we understand the effects of nuclear weapons today — for Hiroshima and Nagasaki, thankfully, remain the only instances of these weapons being used in warfare, and thus provide an invaluable “data set” upon which to base other understandings and simulations. Such numbers were large, and appear to have had a sobering effect on President Harry S. Truman. Neither those in the airplanes that observed the attack nor those on the ground experiencing it could get more than a qualitative sense of the destruction in the immediate aftermath; the smoke, fires, and carnage were too great. Hiroshima was bombed on the morning of August 6, 1945. They canvassed as many Japanese sources and authorities as they could on this subject. In a later version of the report, published by McGraw-Hill in 1956, these had been rounded to 64,000 dead at Hiroshima and 39,000 in Nagasaki, both with a margin of error of 10%. World War II - World War II - Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Throughout July 1945 the Japanese mainlands, from the latitude of Tokyo on Honshu northward to the coast of Hokkaido, were bombed just as if an invasion was about to be launched. Of all of the photographs at the Hiroshima museum, this is the one I found most arresting, because the joy on these faces — both the children and the teacher — is so recognizable, and thus so tragic. I ended up tracking down just about every estimate I could find on the casualties, and was pleased to find that I could write a pretty decent history of these efforts despite being limited almost entirely to what was available online during a pandemic (I had to buy one book, in the end). This symposium, which is also where the Japanese term hibakusha was brought into broader international use, involved the creation of an International Investigation Team, of which a Natural Sciences Group was tasked with assessing the number of casualties from the bombings. It ultimately comes down to which sort of authority one wishes to go with: the official estimates of the United States military in the 1940s, or the later estimates by a group of anti-nuclear weapons scientists, largely spearheaded by Japan. Register now for our virtual 75 Years and Counting Anniversary Dinner! However, due to the massive destruction of the cities, the recorded death tolls are estimates, with other studies saying 66,000 people died in the Hiroshima bombing and that 39,000 people died in the Nagasaki bombing. Of particular interest were the immediate and long-term effects of radiation exposure, which had never been studied on such a large population, with such large exposures. To continue reading login or create an account. A 1998 study posited a figure of 202,118 registered deaths resulting from the Hiroshima bombing, a number that had swollen by 62,000 since the 1946 death toll of 140,000. Hiroshima was an important Japanese military base and Nagasaki was an important port. In March 1946, the city of Hiroshima put the same number at 64,610. The “low” estimates are those derived from the estimates of the 1940s: around 70,000 dead at Hiroshima, and around 40,000 dead at Nagasaki, for 110,000 total dead. The Manhattan Project was not the only effort to estimate these casualties. Large numbers of the population walked for considerable distances after the detonation before they collapsed and died. In practice, authors and reports seem to cluster around two numbers, which I will call the “low” and the “high” estimates. If you’re just looking for “the answer,” this is the paragraph that sums up the general gist of it: There is, I think it should be clear, no simple answer to this. According to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, this photograph is of the Noboricho Elementary School circa the 1930s. We would have really liked to have dressed Admiral Yamamoto up as one of your waiters, but we shot him down in 1944, and he's already been turned into fish s**t. It is our hope that in the future you will remember the metallic taste in the back of your mouth the next time you want to launch a sneak attack against America. The only pre-Hiroshima estimate on record is the recollection from Arthur Compton that at a May 31, 1945, meeting of the Interim Committee, J. Robert Oppenheimer had suggested that an atomic bomb dropped would kill “some 20,000 people” if exploded over a city. At no time during the period between 1943 and 1946 were facilities allotted, or time provided, for the Medical Section of the Manhattan Engineer District to prepare a comprehensive history of its activities. So this provided data for many different distances from the bombing, and different types of structures. I get the sense that they were trying to come up with real numbers here, not trying to guess low, but there are some real methodological shortcomings with their source terms. The two bombings killed between 129,000 and 226,000 people, most of whom were civilians, and remain … Col. Stafford Warren, the Chief Medical Officer of the Manhattan Project, and a pioneer in nuclear medicine, led this effort. Many victims died years later, as a result of cancer and other illnesses linked to radiation poisoning caused by the bombings. Despite these perceived limitations, the Joint Commission attempted to develop an underlying model of how many people were in the cities at the time of the bombing, and where they specifically were relative to ground zero. To be sure, the people who did this felt that there was something unjust about undercounting the dead, and so there is a clear political angle to having higher numbers as well. Oppenheimer would comment obliquely on this variance in before-and-after estimates during the hearing on his security clearance in 1954: This preamble is merely to suggest how widely the earliest assessments varied—by an entire order of magnitude—and to give some sense of the context of what followed: Aside from the many technical and historical reasons one might want to know the consequences of the bombs, the number of dead impinges on any moral and ethical evaluations of the bombings as well, even for those like Oppenheimer and Truman. The only reportage I have on this estimate is from American newspaper sources (and so may be inadequately communicated or poorly translated), but it is of interest not only because of its significant variance with the other numbers given, but also because it was reported on quite widely in 1949 specifically because of that variance. All Rights Reserved. I have not seen any concrete attempts to calculate what the total attributable cancer deaths would be expected to be on all survivors should these numbers be considered representative, but if we assume that there were roughly 400,000 total hibakusha between the two cities, and that typical Japanese cancer mortality is around 8.5%, then a 9% increase to this would correspond to around 3,000 additional fatal cancers. The same story quoted “unofficial American sources” that estimated that the “dead and wounded” might exceed 100,000. It is of some interest that the version of the Joint Commission report that was released in 1951 did not contain the methodological discussions; the relevant statistical volume was classified as “Restricted” by the Army until 1954. Both of these latter estimates are obviously considerably higher (nearly double) the other estimates, and it is not clear what the methodologies used to compile them were.