Sixty-six years ago today, a U.S. Army Air Forces B-29 dropped a nuclear bomb code-named “Fat Man” over the city of Nagasaki. Within 43 seconds, the bomb exploded, killing an estimated 40,000 people instantly. Thosands more died later from radioactive fallout and burns.
Three days before Nagasaki, the United States had dropped another atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, killing up to 140,000, in the hopes that Japan would soon surrender the war.
This year, as Nagasaki and Hiroshima remember the bombings, the U.S. has for the first time sent a representative to the annual memorial service, the Associated Press reports.
U.S. Charge d'Affaires James P. Zumwalt, who is being sent, said in a statement that President Obama hoped to work with Japan toward his goal “of realizing a world without nuclear weapons.”
The memorial service comes five months after a nuclear disaster caused by an earthquake and tsunami hit Japan. Meltdowns at three reactors at a Fukushima power plant affected hundreds of thousands of residents and resulted in large evacuations.
Since the Fukushima accidents, Nagasaki survivors have only increased their calls for an end to nuclear energy.
In a protest last month, some 1,700 people rallied in the capital of Japan's Fukushima region, chanting “Abolish all the nuclear power plants!” and “Give radiation-free Fukushima back to us.”
At the memorial Tuesday, Nagasaki’s mayor, Tomihisa Taue, called on Japan to change its nuclear policy and reject all nuclear power.
“Why must this nation that has so long fought for bomb victims once again live in fear of radiation? ... The time has come to thoroughly talk about what kind of society we want and make a choice,” he said.
This year, as in all years, a moment of silence was held at 11:02 a.m., the moment the bomb dropped on the city in 1945, a bell rang out in a prayer for peace, and Nagasaki victims who were children during the bombing sang a song called “Never Again.”
Listen to American folk singer Pete Seeger sing “Never Again” in 1963:
Prime Minister Naoto Kan promised Tuesday that Japan world work to become a society not dependent on nuclear power.
“We must never forget,” Kan said of Nagasaki, “and it must never be repeated.”
See photos of the memorial and from Nagasaki in 1945 below: