Monday, June 20, 2005

Censored Atom Bomb reports resurface

George Weller, correspondent for the Chicago Daily News, was the first foreign reporter to enter Nagasaki following the US atom bomb attack on the city on August 9th, 1945. He wrote a series of articles and submitted them to Gen. Douglas MacArthur's office. The articles never found their way into print - until now.

A Japanese newspaper, the Japanese newspaper Manichi Shimbum has begun serializing George Weller's articles from 1945, also available in English on their website. Some excerpts:
The railroad station, destroyed except for the platforms is already operating. Normally it is sort of a gate to the destroyed part of the Urakame valley. In parallel north and south lines? here the Urakame river, Mitsubishi plants on both sides, the railroad line and the main road from town. For two miles stretches a line of congested steel and some concrete factories with the residential district "across the tracks. The atomic bomb landed between and totally destroyed both with half (illegible) living persons in them. The known dead-number 20,000 police tell me they estimate about 4,000 remain to be found.

The reason the deaths were so high -- the wounded being about twice as many according to Japanese official figures -- was twofold:

1. Mitsubishi air raid shelters were totally inadequate and the civilian shelters remote and limited.

2. That the Japanese air warning system was a total failure.


He goes on to explain the placement of an Allied prison camp and multiple armament factories nearby. Later, he describes Japanese expectations from him as a journalist

Showing them to you, as the first American outsider to reach Nagasaki since the surrender, your propaganda-conscious official guide looks meaningfully in your face and wants to knew: "What do you think?"

What this question means is: do you intend saying that America did something inhuman in loosing this weapon against Japan? That is what we want you to write.


He describes in graphic detail Disease X, the strange wasting disease that affected the indirect victims of the bomb.
The atomic bomb's peculiar "disease," uncured because it is untreated and untreated because it is not diagnosed, is still snatching away lives here.

Men, woman and children with no outward marks of injury are dying daily in hospitals, some after having walked around three or four weeks thinking they have escaped.

The doctors here have every modern medicament, but candidly confessed in talking to the writer - the first Allied observer to Nagasaki since the surrender - that the answer to the malady is beyond them. Their patients, though their skin is whole, are all passing away under their eyes


Political commentary is absent from the pieces. George Weller was a noted journalist of the time, having won a Pulitzer prize in 1943, and been through much of the American fighting in Europe, even being captured by the Gestapo.

The articles have been authorized by his son, Anthony Weller, a novelist, who plans to publish the entire set of articles as a book. He says his father was furious at the censorship, feeling that it denied the public's right to know.

The Nagasaki bomb killed more than 70,000 people instantly, with ten thousands dying later from effects of the radioactive fallout.

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