* The military had long declared that radiation dissipated quickly in the atomic cities and posed little threat to the soldiers.
* A 1980 Defense Nuclear Agency report concluded, “Medical science believes multiple myeloma has a borderline relationship with exposure to ionizing radiation. That is, there are some indications that exposure to radiation may increase the risk of this disease, but science cannot yet be sure.”
* In the years that followed, thousands of other “atomic vets,” among the legion who participated in hundreds of U.S. bomb tests in Nevada and in the Pacific, would raise similar issues about exposure to radiation and the medical after-effects.
* 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.
* 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 U.S. had finally shipped to Japan a copy of black and white newsreel footage shot in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
* The Japanese had negotiated with the State Department for its return.
* 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.
* So he got his hands on it and made a short 16 film, “Hiroshima-Nagasaki 1945”.
* He arranged a screening at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and invited the press.
* He approached the three TV networks that existed back then and offered them the film, but none expressed interest in airing 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.
* When that footage finally emerged, journalist Greg Mitchell spoke with the man at the center of the drama: Lt. Col. Daniel A. McGovern, who directed the U.S. military film-makers in 1945-1946, managed the Japanese footage, and then kept watch on all of the top-secret material for decades.
* McGovern told him: “I always had the sense, 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. But the AEC, they were the ones that stopped it from coming out. They had power of God over everybody. 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.
* He later said: “The main reason it was classified was…because of the horror, the devastation.”
* 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.
* Four days after Wilfred Burchett’s story – remember him from the last episode? Aussie journalist, first into Hiroshima? – splashed across front pages around the world, Major General Leslie Groves, director of the atomic bomb project, invited a select group of thirty reporters to New Mexico.
* Foremost among this group was William L. Laurence, the Pulitzer Prize-winning science reporter for The New York Times.
* Groves took the reporters to the site of the first atomic test.
* His intent was to demonstrate that no atomic radiation lingered at the site.
* Groves trusted Laurence to convey the military’s line; the general was not disappointed.
* Laurence’s front-page story, U.S. ATOM BOMB SITE BELIES TOKYO TALES: TESTS ON NEW MEXICO RANGE CONFIRM THAT BLAST, AND NOT RADIATION, TOOK TOLL, ran on September 12, 1945, following a three-day delay to clear military censors.
* “This historic ground in New Mexico, scene of the first atomic explosion on earth and cradle of a new era in civilization, gave the most effective answer today to Japanese propaganda that radiations [sic] were responsible for deaths even after the day of the explosion, Aug. 6, and that persons entering Hiroshima had contracted mysterious maladies due to persistent radioactivity,” the article began.
* Laurence said unapologetically that the Army tour was intended “to give the lie to these claims.”
* Laurence quoted General Groves: “The Japanese claim that people died from radiation. If this is true, the number was very small.”
* Laurence then went on to offer his own remarkable editorial on what happened: “The Japanese are still continuing their propaganda aimed at creating the impression that we won the war unfairly, and thus attempting to create sympathy for themselves and milder terms. Thus, at the beginning, the Japanese described ‘symptoms’ that did not ring true.”
* Laurence went on to write a series of ten articles for the Times that served as a glowing tribute to the ingenuity and technical achievements of the nuclear program.
* Throughout these and other reports, he downplayed and denied the human impact of the bombing.
* Laurence won the Pulitzer Prize for his reporting.
* He was wrong about the Trinity site.
* Today the radiation levels at the site are 10 times greater than the region’s natural background radiation.
* Of course that’s probably one of the main reasons the U.S. wanted to discredit the connection between atomic bombs and dangerous radiation.
* THEY HAD BLOWN ONE UP IN NEW MEXICO.
* Imagine what the locals would do if they thought they were eating irradiated food and breathing in irradiated air?
* Which, of course, they were.
* For years, many of the residents of Tularosa, a small town roughly 35 miles from the Trinity site, have experienced unusually high rates of cancer.
* They are known as “downwinders”.
* For the past several years, a bill to list residents near the Trinity site under the 1990 Radiation Exposure Compensation Act has been rejected repeatedly by Congress.
* Of course, the U.S. didn’t stop testing nuclear weapons after Trinity.
* United States has conducted 1,054 nuclear weapons tests to date, involving at least 1,151 nuclear devices, most of which occurred at Nevada Test Site and the Pacific Proving Grounds in the Marshall Islands, with ten other tests taking place at various locations in the United States, including Alaska, Colorado, Mississippi, and New Mexico.
* Lots of downwinders in Arizona, Nevada and Utah but also in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho.
* Chrissy’s hometown in Utah as well.
* Several severe adverse health effects, such as an increased incidence of cancers, thyroid diseases, CNS neoplasms, and possibly female reproductive cancers that could lead to congenital malformations have been observed in “downwind” communities exposed to nuclear fallout and radioactive contamination.
* From 1951 to 1962 the AEC detonated more than 100 bombs, sending huge pinkish plumes of radioactive dust across the stony valleys and canyons of southern Utah and northern Arizona.
* It gave each “shot” names like Annie, Eddie, Humboldt and Badger.
* The official advice: enjoy the show.
* “Your best action is not to be worried about fallout,” said an AEC booklet.
* Families and lovers would drive to vantage points for the spectacle, then drive home as ash wafted down on their communities.
* It was a cheap date.
* At first the local press cheered the chance to beat the Russians and be part of history.
* “Spectacular Atomic Explosions Mean Progress in Defense, No Cause For Panic,” said an editorial in the The Deseret News.
* Eleven bombs were detonated in 1953, including several between March and June that coated St George, Utah, a small town about half an hour away from Chrissy’s hometown, and other towns in grey dust.
* A year later St George hosted the filming of The Conqueror, a big budget blockbuster about Genghis Khan, starring John Wayne.
* Of course.
* Who else?
* A People magazine article in 1980 reported that of 220 cast and crew, 91 had contracted cancer, with 46 of them dying.
* Including The Duke, plus leading lady Susan Hayward, director Dick Powell and dozens of other cast and crew members.
* Wayne’s two sons, Patrick and Michael, who were on location, also got cancer.
* Back to journalist William L. Laurence, the guy who wrote there was no radiation from Trinity.
* Apparenlty he was not only receiving a salary from The New York Times.
* He was also on the payroll of the War Department.
* In March 1945, General Leslie Groves had held a secret meeting at The New York Times with Laurence to offer him a job writing press releases for the Manhattan Project, the U.S. program to develop atomic weapons.
* The intent, according to the Times, was “to explain the intricacies of the atomic bomb’s operating principles in laymen’s language.”
* Laurence also helped write statements on the bomb for President Truman and Secretary of War Henry Stimson.
* A curious twist to this story concerns another New York Times journalist who reported on Hiroshima; his name, believe it or not, was William Lawrence (his byline was W.H. Lawrence).
* He has long been confused with William L. Laurence.
* Unlike the War Department’s Pulitzer Prize winner, W.H. Lawrence visited and reported on Hiroshima on the same day as Burchett.
* W.H. Lawrence’s original dispatch from Hiroshima was published on September 5, 1945.
* He reported matter-of-factly about the deadly effects of radiation, and wrote that Japanese doctors worried that “all who had been in Hiroshima that day would die as a result of the bomb’s lingering effects.”
* He described how “persons who had been only slightly injured on the day of the blast lost 86 percent of their white blood corpuscles, developed temperatures of 104 degrees Fahrenheit, their hair began to drop out, they lost their appetites, vomited blood and finally died.”
* Oddly enough, W.H. Lawrence contradicted himself one week later in an article headlined NO RADIOACTIVITY IN HIROSHIMA RUIN.
* For this article, the Pentagon’s spin machine had swung into high gear in response to Burchett’s horrifying account of “atomic plague.”
* W.H. Lawrence reported that Brigadier General T. F. Farrell, chief of the War Department’s atomic bomb mission to Hiroshima, “denied categorically that [the bomb] produced a dangerous, lingering radioactivity.”
* Lawrence’s dispatch quotes only Farrell; the reporter never mentions his eyewitness account of people dying from radiation sickness that he wrote the previous week.
* I even found an article from 09 August1945 where Robert Oppenheimer was quoted as saying he didn’t think there would be any residual radiation in Hiroshima.
* And in case you’re thinking they didn’t know any better – from the same article, Dr Harold Jacobsen from Columbia University, who specialised in atomic research, said he thought the radiation at Hiroshima could linger for 70 years.
* As it turns out, the radiation levels at both Hiroshima and Nagasaki today are neglible.
* A bomb which detonates near or on the ground has a greater chance of producing radioactive fallout than one which is detonated high in the air.
* If a bomb was detonated in the air, the hot, radioactive ball of fire travels up high into the stratosphere.
* It does this quickly, usually within minutes.
* The cloud then cools down and begins to look like a regular (albeit irregular shaped) cloud.
* But don’t let this fool you, it is still hot and radioactive.
* Prevailing winds will blow this cloud over a huge area.
* The residual heat and lightness of the particles will keep it in the atmosphere for a few weeks, after which, the particles begin to “fall out” and come back down to earth.
* By this time, the radioactive particles have been dispersed and diluted over a thousands of square miles with the most dangerous radioactive elements already rendered inert by decay.
* The bombs dropped on Japan were detonated high up in the air so the radioactive fireball did not touch the ground.
* This dramatically reduced the radioactive fallout.
* However, the U.S. didn’t do this out of consideration, rather, it just happened to be the ideal height to maximize the destruction of the structures within the city.
* Also – during the re-building of the cities, radioactive materials, like rubble, would be cleared away.
* Rain and snow would wash more of it away, below ground and into rivers where it would be dispersed.
* Since then, approximately 1,900 people in Hiroshima, or about 0.5% of the post-bombing population, are believed to have died from cancers attributable to Little Boy’s radiation release.
* No data on subsequent cancer deaths attributable to radiation exposure from Fat Man, the Nagasaki bomb, is readily available.
* In 2016, Barack Obama became the first sitting U.S. President to visit Hiroshima – 71 years after the bomb was dropped.
* He said: We come to mourn the dead, including over 100,000 Japanese men, women and children, thousands of Koreans, a dozen Americans held prisoner.
* Some day, the voices of the hibakusha will no longer be with us to bear witness. But the memory of the morning of Aug. 6, 1945, must never fade.
* It was a good speech.
* But he didn’t apologise on behalf of his country.
* Should he have?
* Whenever I read Americans discussing the question of an apology to Japan, I normally read a few common arguments for it.
* The first is “They started it.”
* Well no, they didn’t start it.
* As I’ve pointed out before, America was already engaged in an economic war with Japan, they had put economic sanctions on them before Pearl Harbour.
* And the U.S. had moved their fleet to Hawaii which was obviously signalling their intention to attack Japanese troops in China.
* When you’re acting aggressive towards another country, and they decide to retaliate, are they striking first?
* The other argument I hear is DRESDEN.
* People say “more civilians died in Dresdan than Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined and we didn’t apologise to them”.
* Both of which are true.
* But that’s not a great argument either.
* I didn’t apologise to THIS guy so why should I apologse to THAT guy?
* Do the Japanese want an apology?
* It seems that some don’t.
* A secret 2009 state department cable published by Wikileaks in 2011 indicated Japan was cool to the idea and worried that it would only serve to energize anti-nuclear activists in the country.
* In 2007, during Shinzo Abe’s first term as prime minister, Defense Minister Fumio Kyuma referred to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as “something that couldn’t be helped.”
* While opposition leaders took issue with that position, the government’s official stance was that it would be more meaningful for the U.S. and Japan to “aim for a peaceful and safe world without nuclear weapons.”
* One of their concerns might be that if the U.S. apologises to Japan, then the Japanese will face pressure to apologise to China and Australia and the Phillipines for their own war crimes during WWII and other conflicts.
* But is that a bad thing?
* Why is it such a bad thing to apologise for things we, as nations, have done?
* “It’s in the past” some people say.
* Well duh doy.
* Everything we ever apologise for is in the past, you dumbass.
* Is that how you handle your personal relationships?
* Do you say to your spouse, “I’m not going to apologise, it’s in the past”??
* Good luck with that if you do.
* Why do we ever apologise for things we’ve done?
* Because it’s a sign of humility.
* It’s a sign of maturity.
* It’s a sign of sincerity.
* It’s a sign that we care about others and want to mend their hurt in order that we might have a healthy relationship with the moving forward.
* I think the real reason people, especially politicians don’t want to apologise, is that they are afraid it’s an admission of guilt, which could lead to lawsuits.
* But that’s a legal matter.
* From a moral perspective, I say, let’s apologise, often and sincerely.
* Even if we don’t think we are totally in the wrong.
* If I say something that hurts Chrissy’s feelings, even if I think it was innocent, or if I think she was mean first, I can either dig my heels in, in which case we’re going to have a bad couple of days, or I can just say “I’m sorry” and we can move on.
* Why is it different between nations?
* And let’s be clear.
* Under the 1949 Geneva Conventions, collective punishment is a war crime.
* ARTICLE 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states:
* No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.
* Now, you will say, “but that wasn’t written until 1949”.
* But the fact that it *was* written a mere four years after WWII, implies that people living in that day KNEW that collective punishment was immoral.
* Is there any sensible argument that the nuclear attacks on Japan, and the fire bombings of Dresden, Tokyo and other cities, weren’t a form of collective punishment as defined by the Geneva Convention?
* I can’t think of one.
* And if they are wrong, wrong now, wrong then, shouldn’t the countries who committed them, apologise for them?
* I asked the question on Facebook and my old mate Rod Adams gave the best reply:
* As I understand “collective punishment” it’s about holding innocent people accountable for offenses committed by others. Large scale strategic bombing wasn’t, in the minds of most decision makers, aimed at punishing anyone. It was ostensibly a tactic design to contribute to achieving victory. By the time those actions were taken, the generally accepted definition for victory in WWII was “unconditional surrender.”
* But I don’t think the justification for attacking civilians makes much of a difference as to whether or not it’s classified as collective punishment.
* Today a fundamental principle of international humanitarian law is that parties to a conflict must distinguish between combatants and civilians, and may not deliberately target civilians or civilian objects.
* Article 33 of the 4th GC states “No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed.”
* I think the bombing of a civilian population to try to force politicians to surrender would today be considered ‘Measures of intimidation or of terrorism’.
HOW TO LISTEN
If you’re already a subscriber, you can listen to the full show in the player below or subscribe through iTunes or any podcast player.
If you haven’t heard any of the series and want to know if you’ll like it before you sign up, you can listen to the first six episodes totally free. You might want to start with Episode 1, unless of course you’re an old school George Lucas fan, in which case feel free to start at Episode IV. We don’t recommend it though.
If you haven’t already, join our Facebook page and you’ll be in the running to win prizes in our regular “Share The Love” and other competitions.
If you’d like a chance to win a prize, write a funny or insightful review on iTunes.