NAGASAKI, Japan, Aug. 8 (UPI) -- Sunday's 70th anniversary of the bombing at Nagasaki, the last time a nuclear weapon was used against an enemy anywhere in the world, will be marked by numerous observances and memorials for the hundreds of thousands who were killed and injured at the conclusion of World War II.
The seaside city has been rebuilt and almost nothing remains from the U.S. atomic bombing on Aug. 9, 1945, that ended as many as 80,000 lives.
After the bombing at Hiroshima, the second bomb, colloquially called "Fat Man," exploded over Nagasaki and its population of 263,000 people. In the seven decades since, there have been numerous occasions on which nuclear weapons were primed and ready for use -- most notably, the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and the 1983 NATO nuclear war simulation, Able Archer.
Fortunately, no one ever pushed the button.
To date, the attacks on Nagasaki and Hiroshima three days earlier are still the only two times nuclear weapons have been used in active warfare.
Japan has observed both dates every year since 1945 and the United States only began formally participating in the memorials five years ago. This year, however, the bombings serve as an especially stark reminder of the horrors of nuclear destruction and ongoing concern about nuclear proliferation.
"We don't want you young generations to go through what I did. You can help by spreading what you just heard from me to other people," survivor Emiko Okada said this week.
U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy and Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller will attend formal events in Nagasaki on Sunday.
Official estimates list as many as 250,000 dead from both bombings. However, there are still more than 180,000 survivors alive today, with their average age in the 80s. Most, though, have had to live with brutal lingering physical reminders of those days -- in the form of scars, illness and mental anguish.
What may not be widely known is the fact that Nagasaki's fate had the misfortune of some very bad timing.
As it happens, the northern Japanese city was actually never supposed to be annihilated on Aug. 9, 1945. Nearby Kokura was the Pentagon's primary target for "Fat Man," but cloud cover there and billowing smoke from a bombing the day before forced the crew of the Bockscar B-29 bomber to divert to its secondary target -- Nagasaki.
Less than a week later Japan finally gave up -- some three months after Axis surrender in Europe -- and World War II ended.