Peace Memorial Museum acquires 1,761 photos: Shots taken by U.S. military after A-bombing

by Michiko Tanaka, Staff Writer

On July 23 the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum announced that it had acquired 1,761 photographs related to the atomic bombing from the U.S. National Archives. Taken in the fall of 1945 by the U.S. military, the photos include scenes of first-aid stations in the city as well as street scenes. Many of the photos were not in the museum’s collection or are sharper than those held by the museum. The museum stated that the photos are “valuable materials for giving an overall picture of the destruction caused by the atomic bombing” and said it will put them on display.

Photos taken in Hiroshima after the war by the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy and the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey are housed at the National Archives and can be viewed on the institution’s website. Between 2009 and 2012 the Peace Memorial Museum acquired 1,090 of the photos. In 2013 the museum sent an employee to the National Archives for the first time in 39 years. As a result, the museum received an additional 671 photos in digital form, including 465 that had not been in its collection. The photos are black and white with the exception of two that are in color.

On the day of its announcement, the museum released 30 photos to the press. In the fall of 1945, a survey team from the Manhattan Engineer District (Manhattan Project), which oversaw the development of the atomic bomb, photographed the burned-out city looking east from the roof of the West Branch of the Hiroshima Central Telephone Office. The building, located in what is now Nishi Tokaichi, Naka Ward, is still standing. The devastated Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall (now the A-Bomb Dome in Naka Ward) can be seen in the background.

A photo taken by a U.S. Navy photographer in September 1945 shows a child with a head injury being treated at a first-aid station. A woman who appears to be the child’s mother is holding the child’s hand, and another woman wearing a Red Cross armband is sitting beside the child, who is in bed. A museum curator said of the photo, “It gives us a sense of people’s feelings as well as the aid situation.” The museum is considering adding some of the photos to its permanent exhibition following the complete renovation of the facility, which is scheduled for completion in 2018.

The U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey photographed street scenes in Kanon-machi (Nishi Ward) and Ushita-cho (Higashi Ward). There is also a photograph of a temporary morgue where the remains of victims were stored. The bodies are believed to have been collected and cremated by the Japanese Imperial Army.

The museum will create a database of the photos so that they can be released to the public. They will also be put on occasional display.

(Originally published on July 24, 2014)