IT is 75 years since one of the most devastating events in human history: the Allies dropped the first nuclear bomb on Hiroshima.

The Northern Echo’s headline the following day read: “The war’s most terrible weapon. Atomic bomb dropped on Japan.”

A secondary headline said the bomb was a “grim triumph”.

The Northern Echo: The Northern Echo's front page of August 7, 1945, reporting the events of the day beforeThe Northern Echo's front page of August 7, 1945, reporting the events of the day before

The bomb was dropped from an American B-29 bomber, named Enola Gay. Its descent was aided by a parachute, and it exploded 1,900ft (580 metres) above the ground. In the intense heat, thousands of people just evaporated. Firestorms were set off that burned for three days.

It is estimated that up to 80,000 people died instantly. When those caught by the firestorms and radiation sickness are added to the tally, the final death toll was around 135,000.

The Allies agreed to drop the bomb because the Japanese government appeared to have rejected the Potsdam Declaration of July 25, with the Prime Minister Kantaro Suzuki wanting to fight on until the end. It may have been an attempt to bring the war to a rapid conclusion and prevent the need for an Allied invasion of Japan, planned for the autumn, which probably would have caused even more bloodshed.

It may also have been a reminder to the Soviet Union of America’s military might – on August 9, Russia tore up its neutrality pact with Japan and declared war on the last fighting Axis country.

A second nuclear weapon was dropped on Nagasaki with equally devastating consequence on August 9, and the following day, the Japanese government indicated it was going to surrender.

That surrender finally came through on August 15 – VJ Day.

The Echo, being the miners’ bible for County Durham, tried to explain the enormity of the Hiroshima bomb to its readers. It said of the uranium: “One pound of U235, which is used in the bomb, would equal in power output five million tons of coal and would contain as much energy as 15,000 tons of TNT.

“Ten pounds of it would be enough to drive an ocean liner for an indefinite time.”

This last line is very interesting because it shows that, once war was over, how people were thinking about the potential of nuclear power. Three days later, in the Echo’s report of the bombing of Nagasaki, there is a large article predicting that there would be nuclear-powered space flights to the moon within 100 years.

We now have just 25 years to make that prophesy come true.

The Echo’s reporting of the first nuclear bomb is very sober. There is no triumphalism. Its editorials over the next few days reflect the terrible ambiguity of the bomb: the appalling death count among civilians but the likely termination of the war thus saving other – and Allied - lives.

The Echo editor settled on a phrase about the “appalling effectiveness” of the nuclear bomb, and there was widespread relief that this devastating technology had not been in the hands of our enemies.

The Echo’s sister evening paper, the Northern Despatch, had a cartoonist who signed himself Middleton. His post-Hiroshima doodle had John Bull and Uncle Sam cowering away from the detonation and saying to one another: “We don’t know what effect it will have on the enemy but, by gum, it terrifies us!”

The Northern Echo: The Northern Despatch's cartoonThe Northern Despatch's cartoon

Beneath the cartoon it says: “It means either the end of the war or the end of the world.”