Bernard Hoffman/TIME & LIFE Pictures, used with permission
One scene shared by all of the 20th century's bloodiest wars might have been lifted straight from "The Road Warrior": a spectral landscape; buildings obliterated; blasted trees; a lifeless wasteland. The picture above, for instance -- a photograph never published, until now-- while mirroring every bleak, war-battered panorama from Verdun to Iwo Jima to Pork Chop Hill, was in fact made by LIFE's Bernard Hoffman in September, 1945, in Nagasaki, Japan. But far from chronicling the aftermath of sustained, slogging armed conflict, Hoffman's picture -- along with others seen here for the first time -- depicts devastation produced in a few, unspeakably violent seconds. On the 65th anniversary of American planes dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima (August 6, 1945) and Nagasaki (August 9) -- killing 120,000 people outright, and tens of thousands more through injury and radiation sickness -- LIFE.com presents never-before-seen pictures from both cities taken in the weeks and months following the bombings. Included, as well, are excerpts from issues of LIFE published after the war that convey the powerful, discordant reactions -- relief, horror, pride, fear -- that the bombings, and the long-sought victory over Japan, unleashed.
Image credit: Bernard Hoffman/TIME & LIFE Pictures, used with permission
Japanese doctors said that those who had been killed by the blast itself died instantly. But presently, according to these doctors, those who had suffered only small burns found their appetite failing, their hair falling out, their gums bleeding. They developed temperatures of 104, vomited blood, and died. It was discovered that they had lost 86 percent of their white blood corpuscles. Last week the Japanese announced that the count of Hiroshima's dead had risen to 125,000." -- From the article "What Ended the War," in LIFE, 9/17/1945. Above: Hiroshima, 1945, two months after the August 6 bombing, photographed by Bernard Hoffman. Descriptions of the suffering endured by survivors in both Nagasaki and Hiroshima -- burns that would not heal; agonizingly bent, twisted limbs; ceaseless, excruciating headaches -- lend weight to the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev's oft-quoted (and perhaps apocryphal) utterance that, in the the event of an all-out nuclear war, "the living will envy the dead."