HIROSHIMA Japan marked 70 years since the atomic bombing that helped end World War II but still divides opinion today on whether the total destruction it caused was justified.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and foreign delegates were among the tens of thousands gathered in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park to observe a moment of silence at 8:15 am when the detonation turned the western Japanese city into an inferno.
An American B-29 bomber named Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb, on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.Nearly everything around it was incinerated, with the ground level hit by a wall of heat up to 4,000 degrees Celsius.
About 140,000 people are estimated to have been killed in the attack, including those who survived the bombing itself but died in the following days weeks and months from severe radiation exposure.
On August 9, the port city of Nagasaki was also attacked with an atomic bomb killing more than 70,000 people. Japan surrendered days later on August 15, 1945 bringing the war to a close. While some historians say that they prevented many more casualties in a planned land invasion, critics have said the attacks were not necessary to end the war, arguing that Japan was already heading for imminent defeat.
Fifty-six percent of Americans surveyed by the Pew Research Center in February said using the atomic bomb on Japanese cities was justified compared to 79 percent of Japanese respondents who said it was not.
Washington which has been a close ally of Tokyo since the war has never officially apologized for the bombings.