Hiroshima by Hajime Miyatake, 1945

The very first pictures taken in Hiroshima was by Yoshito Matsushige who was just outside the blastzone; other photographers soon arrived on the scene. Hajime Miyatake of Asahi Shimbun was one of the first to arrive.

Miyatake left Osaka Station on the afternoon of August 8th and arrived in Hiroshima the evening of August 9th. Miyatake took most of his photos on the 10th and 11th. Four days later (on the 12th), he returned to Osaka. In his journal, Miyatake wrote, “Looking at people near death laid out on concrete, their faces and bodies burned, only shreds of clothing still clinging to them, groaning in a way that did not sound human, I stood frozen to the spot, camera in hand.”

Koichi Nagata, the head of obstetrics and gynecology at the Hiroshima Red Cross Hospital treating Nario Harada.

Harada, a 16-year-old student soldier, was practicing fighting with a bamboo spear when the atomic bomb detonated. He was treated for severe burns. Harada lived until the age of 70.

Miyatake made truly horrific images of the bomb victims. They were published in the Sept. 4, 1945, issue of the Osaka edition of The Asahi Shimbun, but the General Headquarters of the Allied Powers imposed press restrictions soon after and Miyatake was forced to surrender his prints and ordered to burn the negatives. He hid them instead under his porch for over six years until the end of the American occupation.

The photos were eventually published in a special issue of Asahi Picture News weekly magazine (August 6, 1952) titled First Exposé of A-bomb Damage.

It included images from both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as development of the bomb, sketches and paintings of the bombing.

It proved to be extremely popular, and the Asahi Shimbun ran four additional printings with a black and white cover replacing the original color cover. The total circulation reached 700,000.

In the U.S., LIFE followed suit on 29th September 1952, but LIFE did not include the photo above, which was the most horrific; in accompanying editorial, the magazine wrote, “Dead men have indeed died in vain if live men refuse to look at them. Peace and the way to attain it, which paradoxically may mean that we have to prepared for war, has been a world issue…. the love of peace has no meaning or no stamina unless it is based on a knowledge of war’s terrors.”

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