A dense column of smoke rises more than 60,000 feet into the air over the Japanese port of Nagasaki, the result of an atomic bomb, dropped from a U.S. B-29 Superfortress on August 9, 1945.
Twenty-six-year-old lieutenant Charles Levy captured the photograph with his personal camera while aboard the B-29 aircraft The Great Artiste, an observation plane that flew near the strike plane Bockscar to record the power of the blast.
The explosion came just days after the detonation of the world’s first deployed atomic bomb, codenamed “Little Boy,” which was dropped by the U.S. on Hiroshima, killing an estimated 140,000 people. Three days later, this second atomic bomb (“Fat Man”) immediately claimed the lives of nearly 80,000 people in Nagasaki.
Photographs that pictured the bomb’s devastation on the ground were censored by U.S. officials, but Levy’s image of the explosion circled the globe. It was the only image to emerge that would show the massive cloud in its entirety; it didn’t show carnage back on earth, or capture the unbelievable loss of human life.
Image courtesy US National Archives & Records Administration