On this day in 1945 – (71 years ago) – some 80,000 people were killed instantly when an American B-29 bomber dropped an atomic bomb called “Little Boy” on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, population 350,000. Many thousands more people died in the following years from burns and radiation poisoning, as the result of a decision taken by US President Harry S. Truman to use the bomb, which destroyed 90 percent of the city. Three days later, another American plane would drop an atomic bomb on the city of Nagasaki, killing another 80,000 people. The overwhelming majority of dead in both cities were civilians. Truman argued that it was the lesser of two evils — the alternative to a US ground invasion that, according to American generals, could have cost the lives of 400,000 to 800,000 Americans and some five to ten million Japanese. But the atomic bombs were targeted less at military installations than at areas with high civilian populations—and the Japanese government was already in surrender negotiations with the United States, which some historians believe were progressing so well that the use of atomic bombs may have only hastened Japan’s surrender by a few days. Even documents from US General Douglas McArthur show that the Japanese surrender was just a matter of time. Some speculate that the US government’s intention in using the bombs was less to end the war than to punish the Japanese for their bombing of Pearl Harbor, and to frighten the Soviet Union.