On August 6, 1945, an American B-29, the Enola Gay, dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese industrial center at Hiroshima. With a single bomb, the United States completely incinerated a four-square-mile area at the center of the previously undamaged city. More than 80,000 civilians died, according to later American estimates. Many more survived to suffer the crippling effects of radioactive fallout or to pass those effects on to their children in the form of birth defects.

In a report assembled by the Manhattan Engineer District of the United States Army the following year, Father John Siemes, a professor of modern philosophy at Tokyo’s Catholic University who at the time was living just outside Hiroshima, offered his harrowing eyewitness account of the atomic bombing. It is excerpted below.


1. Briefly summarize Father Siemes’s experience of the bombing. What does he remember of the blast? How does he spend the days thereafter? How does he describe the damage wrought by the bomb?

2. How, according to Siemes, do the Japanese people view Americans, before and after the bombing?

3. In your opinion, should the United States have dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima? Why or why not? Should the United States have also dropped the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki?

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