Hiroshima: The Lost Photographs
November 12, 2008 4:07 AM   Subscribe

Hiroshima: The Lost Photographs
posted by knave (27 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
Seeing what we did to Hiroshima still makes me tear up.

I don't want to be there when the US gets its comeuppance.
posted by dunkadunc at 4:21 AM on November 12, 2008


But it shortened the war.
posted by the cuban at 4:22 AM on November 12, 2008


Excellent photos, btw.
posted by the cuban at 4:26 AM on November 12, 2008


So are these going to be published in a book or uploaded to Flickr/Wikimedia Commons?
posted by dunkadunc at 4:39 AM on November 12, 2008


Oh, I'm sure someone in the future will have reason to shorten a war with the U.S., no?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 5:31 AM on November 12, 2008 [4 favorites]


"Since the invention of the camera in 1839, photography has marched in lockstep with death, especially death experienced in war. Starting with Alexander Gardener’s and Matthew Brady’s images of the American dead at Gettysburg, through Robert Capa’s visceral images of the Spanish Civil War (made more immediate as a result of the camera having been freed from the restraints of the tripod), images of death and destruction have served to document war’s brutality."
And yet we keep having new ones to document.
posted by nax at 6:08 AM on November 12, 2008


Why does a story ABOUT photographs only carry miniscule 356x200 pixel photographs and no enlargements. I always feel like tearing my hear out when these artsy magazines and newspapers give their photographic material such poor treatment.
posted by crapmatic at 6:20 AM on November 12, 2008 [7 favorites]


From the comments: "This collection belonged to my grandfather, Arthur John Strenge, who documented his experiences while serving in the United States Marine Corps from 1944 through 1946. His service took him from working as a combat engineer with the Second Marines at Betio atoll - Tarawa, through the landings at Saipan, Iwo Jima, Okinawa and finally to Nagasaki with the 28th Pioneer Battalion immediately following the atomic bomb drop."

Sadly, there are a lot of stupid comments in that thread too.
posted by chunking express at 6:23 AM on November 12, 2008


"I don't want to be there when the US gets its comeuppance."

Yes what we did was atrocious, especially as it was done to so many civilians. What the Japanese did to the Chinese and Filipinos was also atrocious. What the Chinese did to the Tibetans was atrocious. War is hell. If we wag the finger at any one country I think we're really missing the point.
posted by WerewolvesRancheros at 7:28 AM on November 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


As terrible as Hiroshima pictures are, they really are no more disturbing than images coming out of Iraq. You won't see them on the US media, but there is no shortage of truly brain searing photos of body parts, bloody streets, mangled US soldiers, and so on. The urge to sweep it under the rug is the same today as it was after WWII. More of those pictures need to be seen by the taxpaying public, and I'd go so far as to say that children should be exposed to them so as to suck the wind out of some of the heroic narrative of war. It doesn't do much to wag a finger at particular perpetrators, as WerevolvesRancheros said. It can help, though, to simply expose the aftereffects and keep them exposed so the will for war might not be there so strongly in the future.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:41 AM on November 12, 2008


What the Japanese did to the Chinese and Filipinos was also atrocious.

Too bad that Japanese history books don't mention that.

As far as these pictures being hidden from the citizenry, There were dozens of other horrific images of Hiroshima and the victims. I recall seeing the shadows of people burned into concrete when I was in high school 30 years ago. So the idea that they were trying to hide these images loses some of its potency.
posted by Gungho at 7:50 AM on November 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Gungho, 30 years ago was the 70s-80s. They dropped a bomb on Japan in the 40s. Are you trying to say there wasn't a ban on the publication of these images, and that the US government wasn't actively trying to hide them from the public in the years following the war? Because, there is plenty of evidence this was in fact the case. Or we can just look stuff up in our gut.

Here is one article on this topic.
posted by chunking express at 8:19 AM on November 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Knave,

Fascinating and excellent post, thank you.

All war, every war, is filled with horror and atrocities. Justified, unjustified, people all suffer just the same. Posing arguments of "it saved lives" or "one being no more disturbing than another" is so much shouting at the wind.

What these images should remind us of is before any person of any nation decides to lockstep with either a reasoned decision or nationalistic fervor to engage in a war of any kind, what the results of that doctrine of thinking has wrought. It is time for us as a species, to figure out some other way of settling our differences.

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron."

Dwight Eisenhower
April 16, 1953
posted by somnambulist at 8:20 AM on November 12, 2008 [3 favorites]


Too bad that Japanese history books don't mention that.

Have you ever read a Japanese history book? I have read several, when I was teaching at Japanese middle and high schools. True, there is not a lot of detail, but most history books mention Japanese militarism and, yes, even Japanese atrocities in China and Southeast Asia. I think where some of the confusion comes from about Japan's approach to teaching history in schools is that the government sets curriculum standards, and has allowed a series of textbooks by the Society for History Textbook Reform, or Tsukurukai to be used in Japanese classrooms. Several schoolboards in Japan (but there are hundreds of school districts in the country) have adopted the textbook.

Speaking as a former social studies teacher, I would argue that it's really difficult to teach history to 70% of your students. Most aren't interested for whatever reason, be it negative experiences at school, academic ability, personal interest, or the ability of the teacher.

The 30% of students in class who are interested in history are also going to be reading about it outside of class. Japanese manga covers WWII pretty well. Japan is also a democratic country with a free press and the highest literacy rate in the world.

One textbook is not going to make much of a difference.

99% of Japanese people regret the war. My father-in-law saw his sister burned alive in their family home. There is a profound sense of regret and shame about the war. However, many people wonder if the two bombs weren't some kind of experiment on an inferior race. And the example of Dresden shows us that Allied bombing command was out of control towards the end of the war.

If you want to see how Japanese people think and feel about the war, this article and manga is a good place to start.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:26 AM on November 12, 2008 [4 favorites]


I was in Hiroshima two weeks ago visiting friends with my husband. I've probably been to Hiroshima half a dozen times, but every time I go look at the hills and think about how the focused the blast of the bomb, or I look at the rivers and think about horribly burned people throwing themselves in for relief and drowning. The people who live there, however, just see hills and rivers.

Most of our Hiroshima friends have spent varying amounts of time living in the United States. It's funny, but over dinner most of them reported having Americans apologize to them upon hearing that they're from Hiroshima. After having this happen a few dozen times they all got a little pissed off. Hiroshima is now a completely different place than the hellscape it was 60 years ago and every time they meet someone new in the states they end up as uncomfortable ambassadors to a ghost city, one they've never lived in.

So, if you ever meet someone from Hiroshima tell them that you heard that the Okonomiyaki is good there or that you think Miyajima is pretty. Just don't say you're sorry or that the US should never have done what it did. You will get some serious eye rolling.
posted by Alison at 9:13 AM on November 12, 2008 [3 favorites]


I went to Wright Patterson AFB to the USAF Museum several years ago. One of the planes that they have in their collection was Bockscar, the B29 that dropped the bomb on Nagasaki. Seeing the plane and actually being able to touch it was actually surreal knowing what role this plane played in our history. The friend I was with wouldn't even look it and and felt that it should have been scrapped down and that being turned into razor blades was even too good for it.

The discussion came up again when there was an article that had shown that the Smithsonian had the Enola Gay and there was a huge mess over how they decided to display the plane. They chose to display it with artifacts from the bombing, as an instrument of the atomic age that was being entered into. Veterans wanted it displayed in a more objective setting.

There will never be a disagreement about how terrible the bombs were, and I don't think anyone would want to have been in Trumans position. There will be heated debate about the necessity of the decision...

In a culture where we keep "things", whether they be souvenirs of a vacation or artifacts from a war in a museum, what is the role of the Enola Gay and Bockscar in our society? Link to the not to distant past? A reminder of a terrible war and terrible decisions that had to be made? Or is it a matter of pride and testament to American ingenuity and ability to be able to make the difficult decisions? Or are they morbid keepsakes that do not deserve a place of "honor" in a museum or elsewhere.

I strongly think they are the former and important to hold on to, but I have run into people who strongly believe the latter. Never Forget.
posted by MattScully at 9:41 AM on November 12, 2008


So, if you ever meet someone from Hiroshima tell them that you heard that the Okonomiyaki is good there or that you think Miyajima is pretty. Just don't say you're sorry or that the US should never have done what it did. You will get some serious eye rolling.

Miyajima sure is. Actually, Hiroshima is a beautiful, and (for Japan) cosmopolitan city. We considered moving there at one point. I don't know if I could have handled the constant exposure to war tourists, however. So, what are you going to see in Japan? Oh, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and maybe Okinawa. That's nice. Have a good trip.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:13 AM on November 12, 2008


Thought this was a double, but I haven't seen this particular collection before. This is one of the best photos I've seen of the "shadow people"--those standing so close they were vaporized.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:29 AM on November 12, 2008


I know, that shot in particular just stopped me in my tracks.
posted by gottabefunky at 11:55 AM on November 12, 2008


Alison: Most of our Hiroshima friends have spent varying amounts of time living in the United States. It's funny, but over dinner most of them reported having Americans apologize to them upon hearing that they're from Hiroshima. After having this happen a few dozen times they all got a little pissed off.

Your point is excellent, but I sure wish I could apologize to someone. I don't quite know what to do with the guilt and sadness I feel about the fact that this happened, for all sorts of complicated reasons, and before I was even born. It's hard to know what to do with cultural shame. Vote, I guess? Just doesn't ever feel like penance enough for those "shadow people".
posted by asspetunia at 12:13 PM on November 12, 2008


I always thought the story of the discovery of the bombing, from Wikipedia, was pretty disturbing in its own right:

The Tokyo control operator of the Japanese Broadcasting Corporation noticed that the Hiroshima station had gone off the air. He tried to re-establish his program by using another telephone line, but it too had failed. About twenty minutes later the Tokyo railroad telegraph center realized that the main line telegraph had stopped working just north of Hiroshima. From some small railway stops within 16 kilometers (10 mi) of the city came unofficial and confused reports of a terrible explosion in Hiroshima. All these reports were transmitted to the headquarters of the Japanese General Staff.

Military bases repeatedly tried to call the Army Control Station in Hiroshima. The complete silence from that city puzzled the men at headquarters; they knew that no large enemy raid had occurred and that no sizeable store of explosives was in Hiroshima at that time. A young officer of the Japanese General Staff was instructed to fly immediately to Hiroshima, to land, survey the damage, and return to Tokyo with reliable information for the staff. It was generally felt at headquarters that nothing serious had taken place and that it was all a rumor.

The staff officer went to the airport and took off for the southwest. After flying for about three hours, while still nearly one hundred miles (160 km) from Hiroshima, he and his pilot saw a great cloud of smoke from the bomb. In the bright afternoon, the remains of Hiroshima were burning. Their plane soon reached the city, around which they circled in disbelief. A great scar on the land still burning and covered by a heavy cloud of smoke was all that was left. They landed south of the city, and the staff officer, after reporting to Tokyo, immediately began to organize relief measures.

By August 8, 1945, newspapers in the US were reporting that broadcasts from Radio Tokyo had described the destruction observed in Hiroshima. "Practically all living things, human and animal, were literally seared to death," Japanese radio announcers said in a broadcast captured by Allied sources.


It's like a cliche science fiction story come to life. I mean, atomic bombs are scary enough to us, but for the Japanese it was a complete unknown. To realize that an entire region has gone radio silent, and then hear word that the confused rumors percolating in the outskirts are really true, and that a whole city has been scoured from the earth... nightmarish stuff.
posted by Rhaomi at 1:15 PM on November 12, 2008 [4 favorites]


Before Enola Gay was moved to the Udvar Hazy Center near Dulles, the Smithsonian was restoring the plane at their facility in Suitland, Md. I got to visit it in the early 1990's while work was still going on. At the time the wings and empennage were not attached. I was allowed to walk right up to the plane - the public is not allowed to do this today. I got so close I could see the brush strokes where Paul Tibbets had painted his mother's name on the nose. The bomb bay doors were open so I crouched underneath the fuselage and stood up inside the bay.

The rack for the bomb was still there, empty as it had been since 1945.

A sobering moment I'll never forget.
posted by smoothvirus at 5:17 PM on November 12, 2008


I should note that my grandfather was a B-29 pilot based on Tinian and took part in the firebombings of Japan.

One of these days I'll have to get around to watching Grave Of The Fireflies.
posted by smoothvirus at 5:19 PM on November 12, 2008


Grave Of The Fireflies is the most depressing movie ever made.
posted by chunking express at 7:04 PM on November 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


I got so close I could see the brush strokes where Paul Tibbets had painted his mother's name on the nose. The bomb bay doors were open so I crouched underneath the fuselage and stood up inside the bay.

I did this as well, in about 1980 or so, I think. I got a tour of the Suitland facility from a pal in my bicycle club who worked there. He let me go into the nose section and sit in the seats and check out the bombardier's position. Very eerie feeling.
posted by pjern at 7:09 PM on November 12, 2008


I've been to the world peace museum in Hiroshima and these pics are a nice addition. Wonder why they're not in the museum?
posted by gawkycreature at 8:08 PM on November 12, 2008


anyone know where to view more of these? or if there will be a book? i read the whole article and the commetns and there was no indication one way or another.
posted by Soulbee at 8:08 AM on November 13, 2008


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