"About the atom bomb? They're all dead."
Bombing of Hiroshima
Public DomainBombing of Hiroshima - Credit: US Navy

One of the most controversial acts of World War II was the decision to drop the newly invented atomic bomb on Japan.

Prior to WWII, Albert Einstein wrote to the President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt, describing Germany's efforts to purify uranium-235, which could be used to build an atomic bomb. The United States Government authorised the Manhattan Project, which had as its objective the design and construction of a viable atomic bomb.

The United States had been at war with Japan since the latter's attack on Peal Harbor, Hawaii, on 7 December 1941. The war had been intensive, very costly, and very destructive to both sides.  To bring it to a swift end, the decision was made to drop atomic bombs on two Japanese cities. On 6 August 1945, a fifteen-kiloton atomic bomb destroyed the centre of Hiroshima, instantly killing more than 100,000 people and injuring many more. Three days later, a second bomb exploded over Nagasaki, resulting in 70,000 additional deaths.

Not only did the United States kill thousands of Japanese civilians and demolish two major cities, but the radiation they unleashed caused serious medical consequences for the survivors and future generations.  However, the two bombings did directly lead to Japan's unconditional surrender, avoiding further killing on the battlefield.  The morality of the decision is still debated.

The bombing referred to in Lord of the Flies is fictional, but for early readers it rang true so soon after the Japanese bombings.