Seventy-five years ago, on 6 August 1945, an American warplane destroyed the city of Hiroshima with a single atomic bomb. Over the following five months, 140,000 people died. The surviving 210,000 came to be known in Japanese as hibakusha, ‘bombed people’. A second atomic bomb destroyed the city of Nagasaki on 9 August, leaving 73,000 dead and 200,000 hibakusha.
In Quebec in 1943, the US and the UK agreed that any use of nuclear weapons would require both countries’ prior approval. The British government gave its formal assent to the US bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the Combined Policy Committee meeting in Washington on 4 July 1945. Deliberations over the decision were remarkably perfunctory. On 30 April, Field Marshal Henry Maitland Wilson had written from Washington that the US was eager to know British views. The ensuing discussions focused only on the phrasing of London’s assent.