I was reading this article here, which includes an interesting photo of Hiroshima:

enter image description here

The caption on the photo indicates that it was taken three weeks after the atomic bomb was dropped.

The photo seems to show a 'scattershot' pattern of relatively small (I'm guessing maybe 50-100 feet in diameter, based upon the size relative to buildings and vehicles) and strikingly uniform blast/impact craters, spread across a wide area. My question is, what caused these?

I know the simple answer is almost certainly "the atomic bomb", but what specific aspects of an atomic blast and/or the design of the bomb used to produce it would lead to this sort of result? Intuitively I would expect a single large crater/blast area, and what the photo shows looks more like it would have been caused by some sort of cluster-munition than an atomic weapon.

How does a single atomic bomb produce this kind of pattern?

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    Wouldn't the guys at Physics SE be able to answer this in a better way than History SE? – NSNoob May 26 '16 at 7:19
  • Perhaps. It felt like a toss-up between the two. Although at Physics they seem to prefer things with lots of math involved, and there's none of that here. – aroth May 26 '16 at 7:21
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    The bomb dropped on Hiroshima was detonated about 600m above the ground, and as such didn't produce any crater. Photographs of the area after the detonation don't show any cratering, just a flat area empty of buildings. The cratering seen in the photo above is almost certainly nothing to do with the atomic bomb, and looks more like a lot of conventional bombs. I don't think Hiroshima was subjected to a conventional bombing raid after the atomic bomb, and the terrain in this photo doesn't look much like that seen in Hiroshima photos. Possibly the photograph is of elsewhere and misattributed? – PhillS May 26 '16 at 8:53
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    @PhillS - Misattribution does seem like a possibility, yes. Or at least here's another photo with before/after views of ground zero, and I'm not seeing an obvious connection to the photo from the news article (seems like the water has gone missing?). Although the altitude and angles are completely different, so it's really hard to tell anything for sure. – aroth May 26 '16 at 10:24
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    Personally I would like some confirmation that photo is of Hiroshima. – BevynQ May 27 '16 at 3:31

This isn't exactly an answer (yet), but for comparison, look at this aerial photograph of the damage from a conventional bombing raid over Osaka enter image description here (Taken from Reports of the United States Strategic Bombing Survey It's not the same location, but the appearance of the craters, their size, the typical spacing between them etc. is very similar to the photograph in the question.

Meanwhile, compare that with the views of Hiroshima shortly after the atomic bomb was dropped (the bomb exploded about 600m above ground level, so it wouldn't leave any kind of crater at all. It just flattened wooden buildings. Famously, the stone building directly beneath the point of the explosion was left intact): enter image description here

The kind of damage seen there is completely unlike the Osaka bombing damage, and completely unlike the photograph in the question. So I think it is pretty safe to say that the photograph in the question is showing damage due to a conventional air raid with high explosive bombs (rather than an atomic bomb or incendiary bombs).

As far as I am aware, Hiroshima was not subject to a conventional bombing raid either before or after the atomic bomb was dropped, but I'm happy to be corrected if anyone knows better

I haven't yet managed to find any copy of the original image that isn't labelled as being Hiroshima three weeks after the bomb was dropped.

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    If I'm reading the sidebar right, the photographer was "George Sil"? – T.E.D. May 26 '16 at 14:57
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    George Silk, from Time/life. I agree the bombing pattern shown looks like conventional carpet bombing. – justCal May 26 '16 at 15:08
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    Just noticed the photographers wiki states he photographed Nagasaki, which unlike Hiroshima did receive regular bombing runs before the A-bomb drop. – justCal May 26 '16 at 15:22
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    So its entirely possibly that a photograph of Nagasaki would show carpet bombing damage in addition to the atomic bomb damage. That seems like a profitable avenue of investigation. – PhillS May 26 '16 at 15:28

This photo is again used in recent CNN.com article "The bombing of Hiroshima" posted in Apr 26 2020: CNN

But this is not the one of Hiroshima after the A-Bomb. This photo was taken from above Iwakuni city, Yamaguchi Prefecture, after the bombardment in Aug 14 1945 (which is called "Iwakuni air raid" in Japan).

There is another photo of exact the same place and you can see it in Wikimedia Commons.

enter image description here

The description says that was "The Marifu Rail Yards, 2 miles east of Iwakuni, and 2 miles south of Otake, Japan, after the bombing raid of August 1945 by B-29 Superforts of the 21st Bomber Command."

"Marifu" (麻里布) is the former name of Iwakuni Station.

In fact, the "bombing raid over Osaka" photo posted by PhillS in May 26 2016 is not a photo of Osaka, and this is also the one taken from above Iwakuni.

You can compare each fields of view of them to the following image.

enter image description here

  • Great find! Welcome to History.StackExchange.com – Pieter Geerkens Aug 16 '20 at 13:21
  • CNN uses this as source? gettyimages.fi/detail/news-photo/… – LаngLаngС Aug 16 '20 at 13:44
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    @LangLangC Thanks for finding the actual Getty Images entry! This definitively proves the caption is wrong, because if you scroll down, it says the date the image was taken is January 1, 1945. – Spencer Aug 16 '20 at 14:00
  • Great job identifying where the actual photo comes from. – PhillS Aug 16 '20 at 14:25
  • @Spencer Yeah, date & caption have always been fishy, there. I tried very briefly to get to 'gg source:life', but it's unfruitful. Nevertheless, the original context of this attributed to 'George Silk' pic as published would also be interesting. Wasn't he in Europe at that date? Perhaps enough curiosity for a new Q? – LаngLаngС Aug 16 '20 at 15:16

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