Leading to Hiroshima
The bomb was first tested in the middle of 1945. President Roosevelt died in April of 1945, though, and was succeeded by President Harry Truman. Political leaders in America became convinced that they had to attack or invade Japan in order to win the war, and Truman decided to use the atomic bomb. General Dwight Eisenhower, who would later become president, was commanding the Allied forces in Europe at this time. President Truman gave the order to drop the atomic bomb over Hiroshima in August of 1945, despite the fact that large-scale testing had not been conducted. No one was sure exactly what would happen.
A World-Altering First Bombing
The impact, of course, was monumental. An incredibly bright explosion ensued, and some estimate that as many as 80,000 people were killed instantly. Consider that next to the fact that close to 55 million people were killed throughout all of World War II. Winds and fires followed, destroying much of the Japanese-style wooden architecture in the area. Nagasaki was bombed as well, and Japan surrendered the following week.
The atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima was carried by the U.S. bomber Enola Gay. Four square miles of the city were destroyed upon impact. Close to 70 percent of the city's buildings were destroyed. The bomb dropped over Nagasaki destroyed approximately 40 percent of that city.
Einstein's reaction to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki came nearly a year after the events. In a 1946 article published in The New York Times, Einstein said that he didn't think President Roosevelt would have authorized the bombings, had he still been alive.
Einstein would later declare that the one great mistake of his life was signing the letter to then-President Roosevelt, suggesting that atomic bombs could be made. Had he known about the devastation that would ensue, he said that he would have rather spent his life as a shoemaker. His ongoing justification of having signed that letter was that, to the end, it was better than what would have happened if Germany had developed the atomic bomb first.