Over 90% of the Doctors and Nurses in Hiroshima Were Killed or Injured in the Atomic Bomb Blast

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, which took place on August 6, 1945, near the end of the Second World War.

The nuclear bomb dropped by the United States devastated the Japanese city, destroying and burning around 70 percent of all buildings while also killing around 80,000 people immediately, with an estimated 60,000 more dying by the end of the year due to the effects of radiation and other injuries.

The horrific impact of the bomb was exacerbated by the fact that more than 90 percent of Hiroshima's doctors and nurses were killed or injured by the bomb, while the blast left 42 out of 45 of the city's civilian hospitals and two large army hospitals non-functional, according to the The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

This meant it was nearly impossible for the scores of injured to access aid, and most died without any care to ease their suffering from severe burns and radiation poisoning.

Before the attack Hiroshima had around 200 doctors, but the vast majority perished leaving only about 30 physicians who were able to perform their normal duties, according to a report created by the United States Strategic Bombing Survey.

Furthermore, more than 1,600 nurses out of nearly 1,800 were also killed, while medical stocks and supplies were also mostly destroyed.

Any hospitals within around 3,000 feet of ground zero were completely destroyed with almost everyone in them dying.

Two other large hospitals made from reinforced concrete that were located nearly 5,000 feet from the blast's epicenter remained standing. However, the interiors suffered severe damage and around 90 percent of the occupants died, with many killed due to falling plaster, flying glass and fire.

Several medical centers that were located more than 7,000 feet away from ground zero also remained standing, although many were so badly damaged that they were not able to function.

The lack of medical facilities and staff only served to exacerbate the situation, as one eyewitness to the aftermath, Father Siemes, a German-born Jesuit professor who was in Hiroshima when the bomb fell, described, recounting the scene at an improvised first aid station.

"Iodine is applied to the wounds but they are left uncleansed. Neither ointment nor therapeutic agents are available. Those that have been brought in are laid on the floor and no one can give them any further care. What could one do when all means are lacking? Among the passersby, there are many who are uninjured," he wrote.

"In the official aid stations and hospitals, a good third or half of those that had been brought in died. Everything was lacking, doctors, assistants, dressings, drugs, etcetera."

Medical help had to be sent into the city from the outside, however, this took some time to arrive and several individuals who came to assist also ended up dying due to the high levels of lingering radiation.

atomic bomb, Hiroshima
Damage from the atomic bomb blast in Hiroshima, 1945. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

On the 75th anniversary of the bombing, the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), the only international medical organization dedicated to the abolition of nuclear weapons, told Newsweek that there can be "no useful medical response" to even a single nuclear attack on one city in their view.

"The infrastructure necessary would be destroyed and the personnel needed would be killed or badly wounded," Chuck Johnson, IPPNW Director of Nuclear Programs, said. "Even a relatively small nuclear war would have atmospheric effects beyond the immediate blast, fire, and radiation, which could threaten billions of people with starvation due to crop failure. An all out nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia would end civilization and threaten to extinguish all human life."

"We agree with President Reagan's statement that 'nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought,' and are greatly concerned by the growing development of a new nuclear arms race among the nine nuclear weapons states."

However, Johnson said the organization was "greatly encouraged" on the 75th anniversary of the first nuclear weapons attack on a human population, that three more nations—Nigeria, Ireland, and Niue—have become states parties to the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. This leaves only seven more states to submit ratification papers for the nuclear ban treaty to enter into force."

"We look forward to the day when the UN declares that rogue nations which persist in developing and possessing nuclear weapons must listen to the world community and cease their activities which threaten all of us."