On August 6, at 8:15 a.m, seventy-five years ago, the first nuclear bomb was detonated over Hiroshima, an industrial port city and a key military target, by an American B-29 Superfortress turbo-prop bomber plane named “Enola Gay,” at the last stage of the Pacific theater during the Second World War.

The bomb, nicknamed “Little Boy,” was detonated at 1,900 feet above Shima Surgical Clinic, missing its target at Aioi bridge by about 800 feet. It released an equivalent of 16 kilotons of dynamite and incinerated more than 4.4 square miles of the city.

Before the bomb was dropped, Hiroshima was a key production area for Japanese military hardware and was home to the Second General Army, in charge of the defense of southern Japan against the anticipated American invasion.

It was left untouched by the incendiary bombs dropped by the United States Army Air Force under Maj. Gen. Curtis LeMay, which destroyed nearly 70 Japanese cities, including Tokyo, early  in 1945.

A second nuclear bomb, nicknamed “Fat Man,” was dropped three days later in another important southern port city, Nagasaki, which brought down Japan to its knees. A day later, Japan agreed to surrender, ending the global war.

The atomic bombs dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the only time the weapons were used in an armed conflict. There had been many conflicts in the second half of the 20th century but no nuclear weapon was ever used.

The horrors created by the use of nuclear devices did not stop world powers and other countries aspiring to join the nuclear weapons club from developing more lethal bombs that can be delivered swiftly and with precise accuracy.

During the Second World War, the allies — the United States, United Kingdom and Canada — were racing against the Axis powers of Germany and Japan in developing the nuclear bomb. The United States’ “Manhattan Project” beat all of them.

After the war, more countries acquired nuclear weapons: France, China and the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which later became Russia. Later, India and Pakistan joined the elite nuclear weapons club. The latest to join them was North Korea, which had acquired its own nuclear arsenal but with a dodgy delivery system.

Iran was attempting to develop its nuclear arsenal. Israel was suspected of having its own stockpile. The list of countries wishing to gain nuclear weapons has grown long, including non-state actors from the Middle East.

For a brief moment, the world saw an effort by the US and the former USSR to dismantle their nuclear arsenal, when the late US President Ronald Reagan and former Soviet Union’s leader Mikhail Gorbachev signed an Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty in the late 1980s.

Both sides dismantled some of the strategic nuclear and conventional missiles with a range of more than 500 kilometers, including those in the hands of former Soviet Republics.

But the agreement to stop developing, testing and deploying these strategic missiles ended last year when the United States withdrew from the INF treaty, citing China’s development of its own arsenal. China is not a party to the treaty.

Now, the world is back to a period of uncertainty like in 1945 when Washington demonstrated the use of nuclear devices in Japan. The nuclear weapons race has returned, threatening peace and stability in the world as rival powers develop lethal weapons with precise accuracy.

This year, the United States started testing in Hawaii and the US west coast hypersonic weapons that could travel five or more times the speed of sound. The weapon will not allow the country being targeted time to react because of the speed and accuracy of the missile.

However, the United States is way behind the development of hypersonic weapons as China’s XingKong-2 and Russia’s Avangard had been tested and deployed as early as 2010.

These tests have prompted the US to develop its own version, announcing it would be ready to unveil its own weapon next year. It has allocated $2.6 billion for research and development of the hypersonic weapons system.

France, India and Australia were reportedly pursuing the same technology. Japan, which experienced being attacked by nuclear bombs, was also trying to acquire the hypersonic cruise missile and boost-glide weapons.

The world has become a more dangerous place in the 21st century as a deadly nuclear arms race has begun anew.

In 1945, it took the B29 “Enola Gay” six hours from a base in Tinian island in the South Pacfic to reach its primary target in Hiroshima. It took less than a minute later for the bomb to be detonated after it was released from the bomb bay, exploding above the city.

The plane had already moved about 18 kilometers away from the drop zone but it still felt the shock waves as a big mushroom cloud emerged from ground zero.

Twenty-first-century technology is much different. The warhead would be much smaller on a tip of a cruise missile and fired thousands of kilometers away from a nuclear-powered submarine or a strategic bomber, hitting a target in only an hour’s time away anywhere around the world.

Countries still have to find counter-measures to stop hypersonic weapons, like space-based sensors and systems for tracing and fire control, radars with a longer range, and another missile to intercept the deadly payload. 

In the first half of the 20th century, the Second World War was preceded by a pandemic, a devastating US stock market crash and the rise of fascist regimes.

Let’s hope the coronavirus pandemic will not lead to a similar scenario. In his book, the “Next 100 Years,” George Friedman, a Hungarian-born US geopolitical forecaster and strategist on international affairs, had predicted a Third World War in the second half of the 21st century.

The horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki 75 years ago might be repeated.