a further A-bomb mini-reader - mainly on Nagasaki
August 9, 2005    Issue #65
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Sixty years ago today at 11:02 a.m., under the guise of hastening the end of World War II and avoiding further U.S. blood shed by invading the home islands of Japan, a United States Air Force bomber --- "Bock's Car" --- dropped a plutonium bomb --- the Fat Boy --- on Nagasaki, killing about 80,000 people.
Nagasaki Mayor Itcho Ito recalls "in an instant, the resulting heat, blast and radiation descended upon Nagasaki and transformed the city into a hell on earth.".
While Hiroshima, where the first atomic bomb was dropped three days earlier, has over the years, received most of the attention, Nagasaki's loss of human life and long-term causalities is perhaps even more scandalous and an indelible stain on the American moral conscience.
For in 2003 alone Nagasaki added 2,692 people to a list of those who have died from aftereffects, bringing that city's count of the total number of bomb victims to 131,885 at that time.
If one ignores the growing body of historical evidence that the reason the U.S. dropped its two atomic bombs was to simply impress the Russians --- who in fact came into the war against Japan the day before the Nagasaki bombing --- and accepts the Truman rationale that we did it to frighten the Japanese into surrendering without invading their homeland, then the reasoning behind the Nagasaki bombing falls apart.
After the Hiroshima bomb was dropped on August 6 with a loss of life of 140,000 and a city left in ruins the Japanese high command in Tokyo still had not pieced together exactly what had happened in Hiroshima. In other words even before they were able to adequately assimilate what had happened in Hiroshima news of the Nagasaki fire and destruction reached them.
Thus, one can conclude that the U.S. determined after spending billions of dollars in developing, at the time, its two atomic bombs they were going to use them both, come hell or high water. In a perverse sort of way they got what they wished for -- a living "hell on earth" but for tens of thousands of innocent human beings and for the dubious distinction of our being the only nation in the history of warfare to ever use atomic weapons in anger.
One can only say in response:
"Vengeance is mine, sayth the Lord !!!"
The Catholic Worker
September, 1945
Mr. Truman was jubilant. President Truman.  True man; what a strange name, come to think of it.  We refer to Jesus Christ as true God and true Man.  Truman is a true man of his time in that he was jubilant. He was not a son of God, brother of Christ, brother of the Japanese, jubilating as he did. He went from table to table on the cruiser which was bringing him home from the Big Three conference, telling the great news; "jubilant" the newspapers said. Jubilate Deo. We have killed 318,000 Japanese.
That is, we hope we have killed them, the Associated Press, on page one, column one of the Herald Tribune says. The effect is hoped for, not known. It is to be hoped they are vaporized, our Japanese brothers, scattered, men, women and babies, to the four winds, over the seven seas. Perhaps we will breathe their dust into our nostrils, feel them in the fog of New York on our faces, feel them in the rain on the hills of Eaton.
Jubilate Deo. President Truman was jubilant. We have created. We have created destruction. We have created a new element, called Pluto. Nature had nothing to do with it.
The papers list the scientists (the murderers) who are credited with perfecting this new weapon. Scientists, army officers, great universities, and captains of industry-all are given credit lines in the press for their work of preparing the bomb-and other bombs, the President assures us, are in production now.

Everyone says, "I wonder what the Pope thinks of it?" How everyone turns to the Vatican for judgment, even though they do not seem to listen to the voice there! But our Lord Himself has already pronounced judgment on the atomic bomb. When James and John (John the beloved) wished to call down fire from heaven on their enemies, Jesus said:
"You know not of what spirit you are. The Son of Man came not to destroy souls but to save." He said also, "What you do unto the least of these my brethren, you do unto me.
Editor & Publisher
August 5, 2005
In the weeks following the atomic attacks on Japan almost 60 years ago, and then for decades afterward, the United States engaged in airtight suppression of all film shot in Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the bombings. This included footage shot by U.S. military crews and Japanese newsreel teams. In addition, for many years all
but a handful of newspaper photographs were seized or prohibited.
The public did not see any of the newsreel footage for 25 years, and the U.S. military film remained hidden for nearly four decades.
The full story of this atomic cover-up is told fully for the first time at Editor & Publisher, as the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombings approaches later this week. Some of the long-suppressed footage will be aired on television this Saturday.
Six weeks ago, E&P broke the story that articles written by famed Chicago Daily News war correspondent George Weller about the effects of the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki were finally published, in Japan, almost six decades after they had been spiked by U.S. officials.
This drew national attention, but suppressing film footage shot in Hiroshima and Nagasaki was even more significant, as this country rushed into the nuclear age with its citizens having neither a true understanding of the effects of the bomb on human beings, nor why the atomic attacks drew condemnation around the world.
As editor of Nuclear Times magazine in the 1980s, I met Herbert Sussan, one of the members of the U.S. military film crew, and Erik Barnouw, the famed documentarian who first showed some of the Japanese footage on American TV in 1970. In fact, that newsreel footage might have disappeared forever if the Japanese filmmakers had not hidden one print from the Americans in a ceiling.
The color U.S. military footage would remain hidden until the early 1980s, and has never been fully aired. It rests today at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland, in the form of 90,000 feet of raw footage labeled #342 USAF.
When that footage finally emerged, I corresponded and spoke with the man at the center of this drama: Lt. Col. (Ret.) Daniel A. McGovern, who directed the U.S. military filmmakers in 1945-1946, managed the Japanese footage, and then kept watch on all of the top-secret material for decades.
"I always had the sense," McGovern told me, "that people in the Atomic Energy Commission were sorry we had dropped the bomb. The Air Force --- it was also sorry. I was told by people in the Pentagon that they didn't want those [film] images out because they showed effects on man, woman and child. ... They didn't want the general public to know what their weapons had done --- at a time they were
planning on more bomb tests. We didn't want the material out because ... we were sorry for our sins."
Sussan, meanwhile, struggled for years to get some of the American footage aired on national TV, taking his request as high as President Truman, Robert F. Kennedy and Edward R. Murrow, to no avail.
More recently, McGovern declared that Americans should have seen the damage wrought by the bomb. "The main reason it was classified was ... because of the horror, the devastation," he said. Because the footage shot in Hiroshima and Nagasaki was hidden for so long, the atomic bombings quickly sank, unconfronted and unresolved, into the deeper recesses of American awareness, as a costly nuclear arms race, and nuclear proliferation, accelerated.
The atomic cover-up also reveals what can happen in any country that carries out deadly attacks on civilians in any war and then keeps images of what occurred from its own people.

Ten years ago, I co-authored (with Robert Jay Lifton) the book Hiroshima in America, and new material has emerged since. On August 6, and on following days, the Sundance cable channel will air "Original Child Bomb," a prize-winning documentary on which I worked. The film includes some of the once-censored footage --- along with home movies filmed by McGovern in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb over Hiroshima, killing at least 70,000 instantly and perhaps 50,000 more in the days and months to follow. Three days later, it exploded another atomic bomb over Nagasaki, slightly off target, killing 40,000 immediately and dooming tens of thousands of others. Within days, Japan had surrendered, and the U.S. readied plans for occupying the defeated country --- and documenting the first atomic catastrophe.
But the Japanese also wanted to study it. Within days of the second atomic attack, officials at the Tokyo-based newsreel company Nippon Eigasha discussed shooting film in the two stricken cities. In early September, just after the Japanese surrender, and as the American occupation began, director Sueo Ito set off for Nagasaki. There his crew filmed the utter destruction near ground zero and scenes in hospitals of the badly burned and those suffering from the lingering effects of radiation.
On September 15, another crew headed for Hiroshima. When the first rushes came back to Toyko, Akira Iwasaki, the chief producer, felt "every frame burned into my brain," he later said.
At this point, the American public knew little about conditions in the atomic cities beyond Japanese assertions that a mysterious affliction was attacking many of those who survived the initial blasts (claims that were largely taken to be propaganda). Newspaper photographs of victims were non-existent, or censored. Life magazine would later observe that for years "the world ... knew only the physical facts of atomic destruction."
Tens of thousands of American GIs occupied the two cities. Because of the alleged absence of residual radiation, no one was urged to take precautions.
Then, on October 24, 1945, a Japanese cameraman in Nagasaki was ordered to stop shooting by an American military policeman. His film, and then the rest of the 26,000 feet of Nippon Eisasha footage, was confiscated by the U.S. General Headquarters (GHQ). An order soon arrived banning all further filming. It was at this point that Lt. Daniel McGovern took charge.
In early September, 1945, less than a month after the two bombs fell, Lt. McGovern -- who as a member of Hollywood's famed First Motion Picture Unit shot some of the footage for William Wyler's "Memphis Belle" --- had become one of the first Americans to arrive in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He was a director with the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, organized by the Army the previous November to study the effects of the air campaign against Germany, and now Japan.
As he made plans to shoot the official American record, McGovern learned about the seizure of the Japanese footage. He felt it wouldbe a waste to not take advantage of the newsreel footage, noting in a letter to his superiors that "the conditions under which it was taken will not be duplicated, until another atomic bomb is released under combat conditions."
McGovern proposed hiring some of the Japanese crew to edit and "caption" the material, so it would have "scientific value." He took charge of this effort in early January 1946, even as the Japanese feared that, when they were done, they would never see even a scrap of their film again.
At the same time, McGovern was ordered by General Douglas MacArthur on January 1, 1946 to document the results of the U.S. air campaign in more than 20 Japanese cities. His crew would shoot exclusively on color film, Kodachrome and Technicolor, rarely used at the time even in Hollywood. McGovern assembled a crew of eleven, including two civilians. Third in command was a young lieutenant from New York named Herbert Sussan.
The unit left Tokyo in a specially outfitted train, and made it to Nagasaki. "Nothing and no one had prepared me for the devastation I met there," Sussan later told me. "We were the only people with adequate ability and equipment to make a record of this holocaust. ... I felt that if we did not capture this horror on film, no one would ever really understand the dimensions of what had happened. At that time people back home had not seen anything but black and white pictures of blasted buildings or a mushroom cloud."

Along with the rest of McGovern's crew, Sussan documented the physical effects of the bomb, including the ghostly shadows of vaporized civilians burned into walls; and, most chillingly, dozens of people in hospitals who had survived (at least momentarily) and were asked to display their burns, scars, and other lingering effects for the camera as a warning to the world.
At the Red Cross Hospital in Hiroshima, a Japanese physician traced the hideous, bright red scars that covered several of the patients ---- and then took off his white doctor's shirt and displayed his own burns and cuts.
After sticking a camera on a rail car and building their own tracks through the ruins, the Americans filmed hair-raising tracking shots that could have been lifted right from a Hollywood movie. Their chief cameramen was a Japanese man, Harry Mimura, who in 1943 had shot "Sanshiro Sugata," the first feature film by a then-unknown Japanese director named Akira Kurosawa.
While all this was going on, the Japanese newsreel team was completing its work of editing and labeling all their black & white footage into a rough cut of just under three hours. At this point, several members of Japanese team took the courageous step of ordering from the lab a duplicate of the footage they had shot before the Americans took over the project.
Director Ito later said: "The four of us agreed to be ready for ten years of hard labor in the case of being discovered." One incomplete, silent print would reside in a ceiling until the Occupation ended.
The negative of the finished Japanese film, nearly 15,000 feet of footage on 19 reels, was sent off to the U.S. in early May 1946. The Japanese were also ordered to include in this shipment all photographs and related material. The footage would be labeled SECRET and not emerge from the shadows for more than 20 years.
The following month, McGovern was abruptly ordered to return to the U.S. He hauled the 90,000 feet of color footage, on dozens of reels in huge footlockers, to the Pentagon and turned it over to General Orvil Anderson. Locked up and declared top secret, it did not see the light of day for more than 30 years.
McGovern would be charged with watching over it. Sussan would become obsessed with finding it and getting it aired.
Fearful that his film might get "buried," McGovern stayed on at the Pentagon as an aide to Gen. Anderson, who was fascinated by the footage and had no qualms about showing it to the American people. "He was that kind of man, he didn't give a damn what people thought," McGovern told me. "He just wanted the story told."
In an article in his hometown Buffalo Evening News, McGovern said that he hoped that "this epic will be made available to the American public." He planned to call the edited movie "Japan in Defeat."
Once they eyeballed the footage, however, most of the top brass didn't want it widely shown and the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) was also opposed, according to McGovern. It nixed a Warner Brothers feature film project based on the footage that Anderson had negotiated, while paying another studio about $80,000 to help make four training films.
In a March 3, 1947 memo, Francis E. Rundell, a major in the Air Corps, explained that the film would be classified "secret." This was determined "after study of subject material, especially concerning footage taken at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is believed that the information contained in the films should be safeguarded until cleared by the Atomic Energy Commission." After the training films were completed, the status would be raised to "Top Secret" pending final classification by the AEC.
The color footage was shipped to the Wright-Patterson base in Ohio. McGovern went along after being told to put an I.D. number on the film "and not let anyone touch it --- and that's the way it stayed," as he put it. After cataloging it, he placed it in a vault in the top-secret area.
"Dan McGovern stayed with the film all the time," Sussan later said. "He told me they could not release the film [because] what it showed was too horrible."

Sussan wrote a letter to President Truman, suggesting that a film based on the footage "would vividly and clearly reveal the implications and effects of the weapons that confront us at this serious moment in our history." A reply from a Truman aide threw cold water on that idea, saying such a film would lack "wide public appeal."
McGovern, meanwhile, continued to "babysit" the film, now at Norton Air Force base in California. "It was never out of my control," he said later, but he couldn't make a film out of it any more than Sussan could (but unlike Herb, he at least knew where it was).
At the same time, McGovern was looking after the Japanese footage. Fearful that it might get lost forever in the military/government bureaucracy, he secretly made a 16 mm print and deposited it in the U.S. Air Force Central Film Depository at Wright-Patterson. There it remained out of sight, and generally out of mind. (The original negative and production materials remain missing, according to Abe
Mark Nornes, who teaches at the University of Michigan and has researched the Japanese footage more than anyone.)
The Japanese government repeatedly asked the U.S. for the full footage of what was known in that country as "the film of illusion," to no avail. A rare article about what it called this "sensitive" dispute appeared in The New York Times on May 18, 1967, declaring right in its headline that the film had been "Suppressed by U.S. for
22 Years."
Surprisingly, it revealed that while some of the footage was already in Japan (likely a reference to the film hidden in the ceiling), the U.S. had put a "hold" on the Japanese using it --- even though the American control of that country had ceased many years earlier.
Despite rising nuclear fears in the 1960s, before and after the Cuban Missile Crisis, few in the U.S. challenged the consensus view that dropping the bomb on two Japanese cities was necessary. The United States maintained its "first-use" nuclear policy: Under certain circumstances it would strike first with the bomb and ask questions later. In other words, there was no real taboo against using the bomb. This notion of acceptability had started with Hiroshima. A firm line against using nuclear weapons had been drawn --- in the sand. The U.S., in fact, had threatened to use nuclear weapons during the Cuban Missile Crisis and on other occasions.
On Sept. 12, 1967, the Air Force transferred the Japanese footage to the National Archives Audio Visual Branch in Washington, with the film "not to be released without approval of DOD (Department of Defense)."
Then, one morning in the summer of 1968, Erik Barnouw, author of landmark histories of film and broadcasting, opened his mail to discover a clipping from a Tokyo newspaper sent by a friend. It indicated that the United States had finally shipped to Japan a copy of black & white newsreel footage shot in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Japanese had negotiated with the State Department for its
From the Pentagon, Barnouw learned in 1968 that the original nitrate film had been quietly turned over to the National Archives, so he went to take a look. Soon Barnouw realized that, despite its marginal film quality, "enough of the footage was unforgettable in its implications, and historic in its importance, to warrant duplicating all of it," he later wrote.
Attempting to create a subtle, quiet, even poetic, black and white film, he and his associates cut it from 160 to 16 minutes, with a montage of human effects clustered near the end for impact. Barnouw arranged a screening at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and invited the press. A throng turned out and sat in respectful silence at its finish.
(One can only imagine what impact the color footage with many more human effects would have had.) "Hiroshima-Nagasaki 1945" proved to be a sketchy but quite moving document of the aftermath of the bombing, captured in grainy but often startling black and white images: shadows of objects or people burned into walls, ruins of schools, miles of razed landscape viewed from the roof of a building.

In the weeks ahead, however, none of the (then) three TV networks expressed interest in airing it. "Only NBC thought it might use the film," Barnouw later wrote, "if it could find a 'news hook.' We dared not speculate what kind of event this might call for."
But then an article appeared in Parade magazine, and an editorial in the
Boston Globe blasted the networks, saying that everyone in the country should see this film: "Television has brought the sight of war into America's sitting rooms from Vietnam. Surely it can find 16 minutes of prime time to show Americans what the first A-bombs, puny by today's weapons, did to people and property 25 years ago."
This at last pushed public television into the void. What was then called National Educational Television (NET) agreed to show the documentary on August 3, 1970, to coincide with the 25th anniversary of dropping the bomb. "I feel that classifying all of this filmed material was a misuse of the secrecy system since none of it had any military or national security aspect at all," Barnouw told me. "The reason must have been--that if the public had seen it and Congressmen had seen it --- it would have been much harder to appropriate money for more bombs."
About a decade later, by pure chance, Herb Sussan would spark the emergence of the American footage, ending its decades in the dark.
In the mid-1970s, Japanese antinuclear activists, led by a Tokyo teacher named Tsutomu Iwakura, discovered that few pictures of the aftermath of the atomic bombings existed in their country. Many had been seized by the U.S. military after the war, they learned, and taken out of Japan. The Japanese had as little visual exposure to the true effects of the bomb as most Americans. Activists managed to
track down hundreds of pictures in archives and private collections and published them in a popular book. In 1979 they mounted an exhibit at the United Nations in New York.
There, by chance, Iwakura met Sussan, who told him about the U.S. military footage.
Iwakura made a few calls and found that the color footage, recently declassified, might be at the National Archives. A trip to Washington, D.C. verified this. He found eighty reels of film, labeled #342 USAF, with the reels numbered 11000 to 11079. About one-fifth of the footage covered the atomic cities. According to a shot list, reel #11010 included, for example: "School, deaf and dumb, blast effect, damaged ... Commercial school demolished ... School, engineering, demolished. ... School, Shirayama elementary, demolished, blast effect ... Tenements, demolished."
The film had been quietly declassified a few years earlier, but no one in the outside world knew it. An archivist there told me at the time, "If no one knows about the film to ask forit, it's as closed as when it was classified."
Eventually 200,000 Japanese citizens contributed half a million dollars and Iwakura was able to buy the film. He then traveled around Japan filming survivors who had posed for Sussan and McGovern in 1946. Iwakura quickly completed a documentary called "Prophecy" and in late spring 1982 arranged for a New York premiere.
That fall a small part of the McGovern/Sussan footage turned up for the first time in an American film, one of the sensations of York Film Festival, called "Dark Circle." It's co-director, Chris Beaver, told me, "No wonder the government didn't want us to see it. I think they didn't want Americans to see themselves in that picture. It's one thing to know about that and another thing to see it."
Despite this exposure, not a single story had yet appeared in an American newspaper about the shooting of the footage, its suppression or release. And Sussan was now ill with a form of lymphoma doctors had found in soldiers exposed to radiation in atomic tests during the 1950s --- or in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
In late 1982, editing Nuclear Times, I met Sussan and Erik Barnouw --- and talked on several occasions with Daniel McGovern, out in Northridge, California. "It would make a fine documentary even today," McGovern said of the color footage. "Wouldn't it be wonderful to have a movie of the burning of Atlanta?"

After he hauled the footage back to the Pentagon, McGovern said, he was told that under no circumstances would the footage be released for outside use. "They were fearful of it being circulated,"McGovern said. He confirmed that the color footage, like the black and white, had been declassified over time, taking it from top secret to "for public release" (but only if the public knew about it and asked for it).
Still, the question of precisely why the footage remained secret for so long lingered. Here McGovern added his considerable voice. "The main reason it was classified was...because of the horror, the devastation," he said. "The medical effects were pretty gory. ... The attitude was: do not show any medical effects. Don't make people sick."
But who was behind this? "I always had the sense," McGovern answered, "that people in the AEC were sorry they had dropped the bomb. The Air Force --- it was also sorry. I was told by people in the Pentagon that they didn't want those images out because they showed effects on man, woman and child. But the AEC, they were the ones that stopped it from coming out. They had power of God over everybody," he declared. "If it had anything to do with nukes, they had to see it. They were the ones who destroyed a lot of film and pictures of the first U.S. nuclear tests after the war."
Even so, McGovern believed, his footage might have surfaced "if someone had grabbed the ball and run with it but the AEC did not want it released."
As "Dark Circle" director Chris Beaver had said, "With the government trying to sell the public on a new civil defense program and Reagan arguing that a nuclear war is survivable, this footage could be awfully bad publicity."
In the summer of 1984, I made my own pilgrimage to the atomic cities, to walk in the footsteps of Dan McGovern and Herb Sussan, and meet some of the people they filmed in 1946. By then, the McGovern/ Sussan footage had turned up in several new documentaries. On September 2, 1985, however, Herb Sussan passed away. His final request to his children: Would they scatter his ashes at ground zero in Hiroshima?
In the mid-1990s, researching Hiroshima in America, a book I would write with Robert Jay Lifton, I discovered the deeper context for suppression of the U.S. Army film: it was part of a broad effort to suppress a wide range of material related to the atomic bombings, including photographs, newspaper reports on radiation effects, information about the decision to drop the bomb, even a Hollywood movie.
The 50th anniversary of the bombing drew extensive print and television coverage --- and wide use of excerpts from the McGovern/Sussan footage --- but no strong shift in American attitudes on the use of the bomb.
Then, in 2003, as adviser to a documentary film, "Original Child Bomb," I urged director Carey Schonegevel to draw on the atomic footage as much as possible. She not only did so but also obtained from McGovern's son copies of home movies he had shot in Japan while shooting the official film.
"Original Child Bomb" went on to debut at the 2004 Tribeca Film Festival, win a major documentary award, and this week, on August 6 and 7, it will debut on the Sundance cable channel. After 60 years at least a small portion of that footage will finally reach part of the American public in the unflinching and powerful form its
creators intended.
Only then will the Americans who see it be able to fully judge for themselves what McGovern and Sussan were trying to accomplish in shooting the film, why the authorities felt they had to suppress it, and what impact their footage, if widely aired, might have had on the nuclear arms race --- and the nuclear
proliferation that plagues, and endangers, us today.
Los Angeles Times
August 5, 2005
Sixty years ago tomorrow, an atomic bomb was dropped without warning on the center of the Japanese city of Hiroshima.  One hundred and forty thousand people were killed, more than 95% of them women and children and other noncombatants.  At least half of the victims died of radiation poisoning over the next few months.  Three days after Hiroshima was obliterated, the city of Nagasaki suffered a similar fate.

The magnitude of death was enormous, but on August 14, 1945 --- just five days after the Nagasaki bombing --- Radio Tokyo announced that the Japanese emperor had accepted the U.S. terms for surrender.  To many Americans at the time, and still for many today, it seemed clear that the bomb had ended the war, even "saving" a million lives that might have been lost if the U.S. had been required to invade mainland Japan.
This powerful narrative took root quickly and is now deeply embedded in our historical sense of who we are as a nation. A decade ago, on the 50th anniversary, this narrative was reinforced in an exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution on the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the first bomb. The exhibit, which had been the subject of a bruising political battle, presented nearly 4 million Americans with an officially sanctioned view of the atomic bombings that again portrayed them as a necessary act in a just war.
But although patriotically correct, the exhibit and the narrative on which it was based were historically inaccurate. For one thing, the Smithsonian downplayed the casualties, saying only that the bombs "caused many tens of thousands of deaths" and that Hiroshima was "a definite military target."
Americans were also told that use of the bombs "led to the immediate surrender of Japan and made unnecessary the planned invasion of the Japanese home islands." But it's not that straightforward. As Tsuyoshi Hasegawa has shown definitively in his new book, Racing the Enemy --- and many other historians have long argued --- it was the Soviet Union's entry into the Pacific war on August 8, two days after the Hiroshima bombing, that provided the final "shock" that led to Japan's capitulation.
The Enola Gay exhibit also repeated such outright lies as the assertion that "special leaflets were dropped on Japanese cities" warning civilians to evacuate. The fact is that atomic bomb warning leaflets were dropped on Japanese cities, but only after Hiroshima and Nagasaki had been destroyed.
The hard truth is that the atomic bombings were unnecessary. A million lives were not saved. Indeed, McGeorge Bundy, the man who first popularized this figure, later confessed that he had pulled it out of thin air in order to justify the bombings in a 1947 Harper's magazine essay he had ghostwritten for Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson.
The bomb was dropped, as J. Robert Oppenheimer, scientific director of the Manhattan Project, said in November 1945, on "an essentially defeated enemy." President Truman and his closest advisor, Secretary of State James Byrnes, quite plainly used it primarily to prevent the Soviets from sharing in the occupation of Japan. And they used it on August 6 even though they had agreed among themselves as they returned home from the Potsdam Conference on Aug. 3 that the Japanese were looking for peace.
These unpleasant historical facts were censored from the 1995 Smithsonian exhibit, an action that should trouble every American. When a government substitutes an officially sanctioned view for publicly debated history, democracy is diminished. Today, in the post-September 11 era, it is critically important that the U.S. face the truth about the atomic bomb.
For one thing, the myths surrounding Hiroshima have made it possible for our defense establishment to argue that atomic bombs are legitimate weapons that belong in a democracy's arsenal. But if, as Oppenheimer said, "they are weapons of aggression, of surprise and of terror," how can a democracy rely on such weapons?
Oppenheimer understood very soon after Hiroshima that these weapons would ultimately threaten our very survival.
Presciently, he even warned us against what is now our worst national nightmare --- and Osama bin Laden's frequently voiced dream --- an atomic suitcase bomb smuggled into an American city: "Of course it could be done," Oppenheimer told a Senate committee, "and people could destroy New York."
Ironically, Hiroshima's myths are now motivating our enemies to attack us with the very weapon we invented. Bin Laden repeatedly refers to Hiroshima in his rambling speeches. It was, he believes, the atomic bombings that shocked the Japanese imperial government into an early surrender --- and, he says, he is planning an atomic attack on the U.S. that will similarly shock us into retreating from the Mideast.

Finally, Hiroshima's myths have gradually given rise to an American unilateralism born of atomic arrogance.
Oppenheimer warned against this "sleazy sense of omnipotence." He observed that "if you approach the problem and say, 'We know what is right and we would like to use the atomic bomb to persuade you to agree with us,' then you are in a very weak position and you will not succeed…. You will find yourselves attempting by force of arms to prevent a disaster."
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
August 8, 2005
No one at Hanford Engineer Works knew they were making history.
There were signs, but all told them to keep quiet. They were told they were serving their country and furthering the war effort.
But they were curious.
Why were they --- thousands of men and women --- converting an isolated Central Washington farming community into a bustling industrial complex, virtually overnight? Where were trucks and railcars filled with tons of precious steel and aluminum going? Why did they have to wear radiation meters? What was so top secret?
The answer came on August 6, 1945. With the bombing of Hiroshima, Japan, the people of Hanford and Richland finally discovered what they had been working on for two years: the Manhattan Project's atomic bombs.
Later, those workers would find out it was their "Fat Man" bomb that devastated Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. Both bombs led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people through the initial blasts and subsequent radiation.
On August 14, 1945, headlines in a Richland newspaper blared: "PEACE! OUR BOMB CLINCHED IT!" in announcing the Japanese surrender.
Employees of the Hanford Engineer Works believed --- and still believe --- the end of the war justified the means. As part of the massive work force that made up the world's first plutonium producing plant, they carried the firm conviction that hundreds of thousands more would have perished had the bombs not been detonated. They also faced the stigma of being labeled as warmongers, or worse.
"It scared us to think of what we had made," said Larry Denton, 80 of Kennewick, about four hours east of Seattle. "Everyone was dubious as to whether it should have been done. But when you piece together all the American lives that would have been lost if we hadn't dropped the second bomb, I feel like it was worth it."
Denton was 18 when he followed his father --- a World War I Marine --- to Hanford to work on the project in September 1943. The younger Denton was 4F and denied military service. His older brother was stationed in England with the Air Corps; buddies from high school were also fighting abroad. The Idaho lumberjack started as a shipping clerk at Hanford, sharing a tent with three other men. He retired in 1987 as a manager of maintenance surveillance of all the reactors.
"I was destined to find something else where I could be used," Denton said.
Denton and his co-workers lived in a world in which the war was the No.1 priority. Rationing limited food and gas, newsreels played in-between feature films and it seemed like everyone had a loved one fighting Axis troops halfway across the globe or knew a boy who hadn't come home. By August 1945, more than 400,000 U.S. soldiers had been killed.
Patriotism was so strong that all 51,000 workers at Hanford donated a day's wages --- $300,000 --- to purchase the aptly named "Day's Pay" B-17 Seattle-built bomber for the war effort.
While the country celebrated the end of the war in Europe with V-E Day on May 8, 1945, reminders of the combat raging in the Pacific were everywhere.
Pearl Harbor had become lodged in the American psyche. Returning soldiers brought home stories of Japanese kamikaze pilots, hand-to-hand combat in the Pacific islands and the Bataan Death March. Hard-fought victories at Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima came at the cost of thousands of American lives, while stories circulated about how Japanese soldiers and civilians chose suicide rather than surrender. The idea that U.S. forces might have to invade Japan gained momentum. Under these conditions, Hanford support for President Truman's decision was nearly unanimous.

"They regret that Pearl Harbor was attacked. They regret that Hitler and Tojo and Mussolini came to power and ruined their youthful times by pulling them into war, absences from home, terror and exhaustion. They regret that they had to learn to kill, and to be thrust into terrible situations in combat and in manufacturing armaments," said Michele Gerber, a Richland-based historian and president of the B Reactor Museum Association, which is trying to preserve the world's first nuclear reactor in Hanford. "But the bombings they do not regret. They believe that the bombings ended all of this horror."
The U.S. government contracted DuPont to oversee the Hanford project, so employees came from all over the country, many of them employed by DuPont or its subsidiaries.
Hanford appealed to them because of the steady work (many still felt the sting of the Depression), plentiful subsidized meals, cheap housing and the chance to contribute to the war effort. The average age of the mostly male work force was 40 and those with families found the living camp at Hanford and the burgeoning town of Richland provided for all their needs: schools, all kinds of stores, post offices, fire stations, dog pounds, barber/beauty shops and even movie theaters.
Secrecy was sacrosanct. Signs posted throughout the facilities urged workers to shush. Husbands did not talk to their wives about work. Undercover agents looked out for loose lips. Most of the workers were isolated in their specific tasks; few could conceive of all the elements that went into building the atomic bomb.
But Roger Rohrbacher, 85, of Kennewick, said hints were all over the place. As a chemist and physicist -- jokingly called "peons with Ph.D's" -- he probably had an advantage over others. He noticed restricted supplies like aluminum and steel pouring into Hanford, and the presence of uranium was a dead giveaway.
Dee McCullough, 91, of Richland was fixing radios and movie projectors when he got to Hanford in January 1944. The Utah native was 30, a father of three and told his choice was either the Manhattan Project or the Army.
He became an instrument technician, installing and testing meters that measured neutron flux. He remembers wearing "pencils" --- radiation detectors. Later, he assisted the initial startup of B Reactor with Enrico Fermi, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and the leader of one of the Manhattan Project teams whose experiments led to in the first controlled nuclear chain reaction.
"Some people criticize us for making the bomb and killing so many people, but they don't realize how many people we saved," McCullough said. "Armies were ready to go to Japan."
Hanford's role in ending the war remains part of local lore in Richland and the surrounding area, where being "Proud of the Cloud" is a common saying and alums from Richland High School bristle at changing the school's mascot: The Bombers.
Shirley Gilson Schiller (Bomber class of 1947) of Tacoma was 14 when she followed her parents to Hanford. "We were really thrilled and happy to hear the war was over, but it was a terrible way to end it. We felt bad about that, but we rejoiced that more of our own people didn't have to die."
Virginia Miller, 74, of Richland (Bomber '49) still beams with pride when she talks about her father, Harry Miller, a works engineer who arrived in Hanford in 1943.
Miller said the children of those Hanford workers were always aware of their shared heritage.
"I'm very proud of living in history," Miller said. "We were making history."
Hanford Engineer Works (1943-45)
* Construction completed over 30 months at a cost of $230 million.
* 554 buildings spread over 640 square miles; 158 miles of railroad.
* 51,000 workers (only 4,000 women); seven-day workweeks.
* In one meal, employees consumed 2,500 pounds of pot roast; 18,000 pork chops; 900 pies; and 5,000 heads of lettuce.
* Three reactors built, including B Reactor, the world's first full-scale nuclear reactor.
For more information: or

* "Fat Man" bomb detonated at Nagasaki Aug. 9, 1945
* Weight: more than 10,000 pounds; a similar bomb is shown above.
* It was an implosion type of bomb with a plutonium core about the size of a tennis ball surrounded by more than 5,000 pounds of high explosives.
* Equivalent to a little more than 20,000 tons of TNT.
Washington Post
August 7, 2005
Sixty years ago today, the world went black for Keijiro Matsushima, then a 16-year-old Hiroshima schoolboy. He vividly recalled an airplane he now knows was the Enola Gay shimmering in the sky like a "flying Popsicle" before the great flash from the atomic bomb vaporized tens of thousands and left a ghostly parade of "the half-living covered in ash and burns" to die in the months ahead.
Since those days, Matsushima said he has felt a "deep if troubled" connection to this Pacific island, about the size of Manhattan, that housed the runways and staging area for the U.S. atomic strikes. The same can be said for Michael Kuryla, 79. He is among the few remaining survivors of the USS Indianapolis, sunk on July 30, 1945, by a Japanese submarine after delivering parts of the bomb to Tinian. Kuryla spent five days adrift before being rescued, watching scores of his fellow crewmen drown while others were devoured by sharks.
On opposite sides of the fateful mushroom cloud, Matsushima and Kuryla are bound by invisible links that drew them and 200 others this week to an extraordinary and controversial commemoration here. Few questions in modern history remain more divisive than whether the U.S. bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were justified. Six decades after the war, and with their countries now the closest of allies, no two groups remain more polarized on the issue than U.S. Pacific war veterans and Japanese survivors of the attacks.
At what most participants described as the last major gathering at this historic site for a vanishing generation of World War II vets, the local organizers did the once-unthinkable --- they brought the two sides together.
For some, like Kuryla, who raptly listened to Matsushima's accounts, the event became the final act of cleansing of a long-harbored hatred. The stocky Chicago resident staunchly believes that dropping the bombs saved countless lives by forcing Japan's early surrender. He gradually came to forgive, he said. And after hearing Matsushima's recollections in a conference room, Kuryla stood up in tears to offer his hand in friendship.
"Yes, it was a horrible thing," Kuryla said. "You suffered the bomb effects, and I wish we didn't have to do it. We feel sorry about that. Believe me. But it was war."
"I did not come here to blame," said Matsushima, a slight man with a strong command of English. "You veterans did your job. But at the same time, what you dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was very horrible. Now, if possible, please, just a drop of your tears, and a prayer that this never happens again."
The two men then embraced, taking one step toward a reconciliation that -- like the ultimate question of the bombings itself --- is not that simple. The unprecedented attempt had successes and failures. Most here reached their limits at agreeing to disagree.
The Japanese remain on a campaign to force the world --- and Americans in particular --- to remember and reflect on the horror of those bombings. But many no longer see merit in discussing it. Dozens of American veterans of the Pacific theater chose not to attend the event, including the surviving crew members of the Enola Gay and Bock's Car, which delivered the August 9, 1945, bomb on Nagasaki. Some cited ill health.
Others bitterly opposed the mayor of Tinian's proposal to turn this commemoration into a "peace conference" by inviting the Japanese delegation. It included Japanese veterans who fought here and on nearby Saipan --- Tinian's sister island in the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
Those who did come, including 38 U.S. vets involved in some way with the atomic bomb missions, mostly welcomed the chance to engage the Japanese. But U.S. military authorities did not attend. One poll by a Saipan newspaper indicated that only one in three island residents supported the event, some claiming it would dishonor the memory of American veterans.

"This was not easy for us to pull off --- a lot of people were against this idea," confessed Francisco M. Borja, mayor of Tinian, a lush island with 4,500 residents. His mission is to create a museum here "that will tell both sides" of the atomic legacy, he said.
That legacy remains the last major sore spot in the extraordinary peacetime relationship of the United States and Japan. As the 60th anniversary of World War II's end in the Pacific is marked on August 15, Japan is still struggling to mend fences with China and South Korea over charges that the Japanese have yet to fully atone for wartime atrocities.
In stark contrast, the United States and Japan are jointly developing a missile defense system and beefing up strategic cooperation with the long-term goal of serving as a counterbalance to China's growing might. Japan, which has embraced pacifism since the bombings, now seeks to play a major role on the world stage. The government is moving toward changing its constitution, which renounces war, and hopes to gain a permanent seat on the United Nation Security Council.
Yet the atomic bombs --- which killed about 140,000 in Hiroshima and about 80,000 in Nagasaki while leaving tens of thousands survivors maimed or plagued by radiation sickness --- still haunt the United States and Japan. A joint poll last month by the Associated Press and Japan's Kyodo News Service found 75% of Japanese still feel the bombings were unnecessary, while 68% of Americans called them unavoidable.
Matsushima said many in Hiroshima were also opposed to his visit. But he said he thought it was a chance to share his story with American vets and "see this place in honor of the bomb's victims."
He and Kiyoshi Nishida, a 76-year-old Nagasaki survivor, were driven by event organizers to the now-overgrown runways where the U.S. B-29s carrying the bombs took off. They stoically studied the condition and quality of what in 1945 was the world's largest airfield. But at the now glass-encased pits that had stored Little Boy, the bomb that hit Hiroshima, and Fat Man, which hit Nagasaki, their reserve shattered.
"So this is where it came from. Somehow, I am glad to have seen it with my own eyes," Matsushima said, softly crying and clutching a bracelet of wooden Buddhist prayer beads. "This is what human did. So many dead. Maybe they were doing their jobs, but for us, it was hell."
Matsushima later participated in a panel discussion with one of the best-known American vets here, Harold Agnew, 84, who measured the yield of the Hiroshima bomb while in flight alongside the Enola Gay. During the 1970s, he was director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, where the bombs were developed.
"So, you saw the mushroom cloud. I was underneath it," Matsushima said.
"Yes, you're lucky to be here," Agnew said.
Agnew nodded in agreement when Matsushima seemed to concede that the bomb, at least, had helped shorten the war. Last month, Agnew was flown by a Tokyo television station to Hiroshima, where he held a discussion with bomb survivors who had demanded an apology. Agnew, a tall, blunt man, had stood up in disgust and proclaimed "Remember Pearl Harbor!" The discussion abruptly ended.
"There is nothing to apologize for," Agnew later said in an interview. "This is exactly why the Chinese are still upset with them. Many Japanese still refuse to take responsibility for what they did, for starting that war. They can point at us. But believe me, they did some awful bad things. We saved Japanese lives with those bombs -- an invasion would have been worse."
Such tensions rarely flared at this reunion, perhaps because the organizers divided the Japanese and Americans into different dining times and distinct tours. There were carefully arranged encounters between both sides -- but many impromptu ones, too.
Fumiyaki Kajiya, 66, who saw his three-year-old sister impaled by searing steel in Hiroshima, was visiting the pit where Little Boy was stored when he came across Leon Smith, the weapon's test officer who had been in charge of maintaining the bomb in Tinian. The men struck up a conversation through interpreters about the horror of the victims, the American rationale for dropping the bomb, and the paradox of Japan's ongoing protection under the U.S. nuclear umbrella. Beside the atomic pit, the two shook hands.

"This is not something that can be resolved or agreed upon," Kajiya said. "But I feel that we've achieved something very important. We've finally started talking."
Special correspondent Taeko Kawamura contributed to this report
August 6, 2005
Hiroshima marked the 60th anniversary of the first atomic bomb attack Saturday with prayers and water for the dead and a call by the mayor for nuclear powers to abandon their arsenals and stop "jeopardizing human survival."
At 8:15 a.m., the instant of the blast, the city's trolleys stopped and more than 55,000 people at Peace Memorial Park observed a moment of silence that was broken only by the ringing of a bronze bell.
A flock of doves was released into the sky. Then wreaths and ladles of water --- symbolizing the suffering of those who died in the atomic inferno --- were offered at a simple, arch-shaped stone monument at the center of the park.
Outside the nearby A-Bomb Dome, one of the few buildings left standing after the blast, peace activists held a "die-in" --- falling to the ground to dramatize the toll from a bombing that turned life to death for more than 140,000 and forever changed the face of war.
Thousands of paper lanterns symbolizing the souls of the dead were to be floated in a river next to the park.
Fumie Yoshida was just 16 when Hiroshima was bombed. She survived but lost her father, brother and sister. On Saturday, she chose not to attend the formal memorial, but paid her respects privately with a small group of friends in the peace park.
"My father's remains have never been found," she said. "Those of us who went through this all know that we must never repeat this tragedy. But I think many Japanese today are forgetting."
In a "Peace Declaration," Hiroshima's outspoken Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba vowed to never allow a repeat of the tragedy and gave an impassioned plea for the abolition of nuclear weapons, saying the United States, Russia and other members of the nuclear club are "jeopardizing human survival."
"Many people around the world have succumbed to the feeling that there is nothing we can do," he said. "Within the United Nations, nuclear club members use their veto power to override the global majority and pursue their selfish objectives."
In a more subdued speech, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi offered condolences for the dead.
"I offer deep prayers from my heart to those who were killed," he said, vowing that Japan would be a leader in the international movement against nuclear proliferation.
Though Hiroshima has risen from the rubble to become a thriving city of 3 million, most of whom were born after the war, the anniversary underscores its ongoing tragedy.
Officials estimate that about 140,000 people were killed instantly or died within a few months after the Enola Gay dropped its deadly payload over the city, which then had a population of about 350,000.
Three days later, another U.S. bomber, Bock's Car, dropped a plutonium bomb on the Japanese city of Nagasaki, killing about 80,000 people. Japan surrendered on August 15, 1945, ending World War II.
Including those initially listed as missing or who died afterward from a loosely defined set of bomb-related ailments, including cancers, Hiroshima officials now put the total number of dead in this city alone at 242,437.
This year, 5,373 more names were added to the list.
In central London, more than 200 anti-nuclear activists and others gathered at Tavistock Square, where a cherry tree was planted in 1967 in memory of the victims of the Hiroshima bombing.
Jeremy Corbyn, a lawmaker in the governing Labour Party and vocal anti-war campaigner, urged people to remember the "unique horror" of what happened in 1945.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer Columnist
August 4, 2005
On Saturday, we will observe the 60th anniversary of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima. Seattle, in 1945 as now, was enjoying glorious summer weather. After Hiroshima, and the strike three days later against Nagasaki, sunsets here and across the Pacific became vividly red.

War in Europe had ended, but war with Japan had not. Many local families' kids had been killed or wounded in the fierce Okinawa and Iwo Jima battles just completed. Heavy bombing raids over Japan were exacting a frightful toll. Yet Japanese resistance remained stiff. It generally was estimated that a million casualties would result when U.S. and allied troops mounted an invasion of the Japanese homeland.
Only a few in the U.S. government and scientific communities knew nuclear weapons were being developed. Thousands were laboring at the secret Hanford Works in the Eastern Washington desert. President Harry Truman, when he assumed office in April 1945, after President Franklin Roosevelt's death, was briefed for the first time on the weapons and their potential.
Three years ago I wrote a column questioning the rightness of Truman's decision to drop nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Most readers responding argued that Truman had no choice. A land invasion of Japan would have taken far more lives. The use of the bombs shortened and ended the war.
Yet there were other options. The prevailing mind-set prevented their serious discussion at the time.
A blockade of the home islands would have cut off Japan's depleted petroleum and other vital supplies and ended its war-making capability. A nuclear weapon dropped on a lightly inhabited northern Japanese island could have demonstrated dramatically to Emperor Hirohito and his government the weapons' potential for destruction and led to peace negotiations.
There also is a legitimate question as to why the Nagasaki bomb was dropped so soon after the one on Hiroshima. The Japanese government needed time after the first bomb to absorb its implications and reach an obvious decision to sue for peace. The Nagasaki strike simply took additional lives without reason. Some 120,000 mostly civilian lives were claimed immediately in the two strikes. A larger number died later, sometimes years later, from the effects of radiation.
The main thrust of U.S. thinking was that nuclear weapons were like other weapons --- only more powerful. During the Cold War period, school kids practiced "duck-and-cover" drills in anticipation of Soviet nuclear attacks on the United States. Gen. Douglas MacArthur urged use of nuclear weapons against North Korean and Chinese targets in the Korean War. Vice President Richard Nixon unsuccessfully lobbied President Eisenhower for their use to bail out French colonial forces at the decisive Indochinese battle of Dienbienphu.
Doing reserve duty as an Army intelligence analyst, I helped prepare a1960 report on the anticipated effects of nuclear attacks on U.S. regions and metropolitan areas. It found that only Oregon and northern Maine would be spared from both blast and lethal fallout. Neither contained a target or would be swept by prevailing radioactive winds. Post-attack aerial photos of Seattle would have resembled those of Hiroshima.
Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kennedy in his 1960 campaign charged the Eisenhower administration with dereliction in allowing Soviet ICBM production to exceed our own. (As it turned out, this "missile gap" charge was false.) Then, in 1961, while serving at the Pentagon during the Berlin Crisis --- when the Soviet Union erected a wall between East and West Berlin --- I took part in planning based on the presumption that a Soviet/Warsaw Pact invasion of Western Europe could be stopped only with tactical nuclear weapons. Use of the weapons would have devastated Germany. It also could have led to an exchange of intercontinental ballistic missiles. The Cuban Missile Crisis, in 1962, again almost resulted in use of nuclear weapons.
Since those years, we have been leaders in trying to limit nuclear weapons proliferation and risk. Yet, because technology cannot be contained, additional countries continue to acquire the weapons. Most of the new and aspiring nuclear powers --- countries such as North Korea and Iran --- hold the view that we once held: Namely, that nukes are like other weapons, only more powerful. Al-Qaida and other groups want them not only to terrorize the West but to exert leverage on behalf of their political aims.

There is menacing news: Sixty years into the nuclear age, we and others not only have been left with self-inflicted wounds of nuclear contamination, we also must face the reality that the nuclear-weapons genie is not in its bottle, after all. The danger that nuclear weapons will be used is again growing, not receding.
Our conventional bombing attacks on Japan killed far more civilians in 1945 than did the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs. Yet, in deciding to use them, we set in motion later consequences not yet fully seen. Saturday will be not be a time for celebration.
Ted Van Dyk has been involved in national policy and politics since 1960