Seventy-five years ago — on Aug. 6, 1945 — a B-29 Superfortress named the Enola Gay struck out across the Pacific and dropped a uranium-235 atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. The bomb, code-named “Little Boy,” flattened buildings for miles in all directions. Tens of thousands of people were killed instantly. That strike and the subsequent atomic bomb attack by the U.S. on the city of Nagasaki three days later brought an end to World War II, as the Japanese military leaders realized that they could not win.

But in the midst of the devastation, near the hypocenter of the attack, eight Jesuit missionaries who were in their rectory survived. Four of the priests whose lives were spared are known by name: Father Hugo Lassalle, Father Wilhelm Kleinsorge, Father Hubert Schiffer and Father Hubert Cieslik sustained only minor injuries from shattered windows. None suffered hearing loss from the explosion. Their church, Our Lady of the Assumption, suffered the destruction of its stained glass windows but did not fall; it was one of only a few buildings left standing in the midst of widespread destruction.

Not only were the clerics kept safe from the initial blast — they suffered no ill effects from the harmful radiation. Doctors who cared for them after the blast warned that radiation poisoning to which they had been exposed would cause serious lesions, illness and even death. But 200 medical exams in the ensuing years showed no ill effects, confounding the doctors who had predicted dire consequences.

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