Original American Nagasaki Bomb Reports, Censored By MacArthur, Lost For Decades, Surface

The reports were by George Weller, arguably the first American reporter on the ground in Nagasaki after the A-bomb was dropped there Aug. 9, 1945, and credit for the reappearance of his long-suppressed reports goes to his son Anthony, a novelist, who found carbon copies in the attic of their home after his father’s death at age 95. This Nation article by Greg Mitchell (an author of books on the early atomic bombs), published a couple of days ago, is my proximate source. As best I can tell, Weller wrote reports as the first reporter on the ground in Nagasaki, dispatched them to Tokyo by hand, only to find them spiked by MacArthur’s censors, for reasons not entirely clear but easily surmised. Remember, at that time, the average American may have known of the existence of a powerful bomb, but had no notion of the radiation sickness suffered by those who survived the initial blast. Please read the linked Nation article for more details.

The A-bombs dropped on Hiroshima (Aug. 6, 1945, three years to the day before I was born) and Nagasaki (three days later) were the subject of one of the few moral disagreements on the nature and practice of war that my late father and I confronted. When W.W. II ended, my father was en route to the Pacific theater as gunnery officer of a troop landing ship; his argument was that if the A-bombs had not been dropped, I might well never have been born. I tried not to push back too hard, because Dad always tried to undertake morally justified actions, and he didn’t need to hear from his son that Allied aircraft had delivered one of the most devastating and horrifying weapons ever conceived and produced in the history of humankind. But I was as certain during our discussions as I am today: if by some magic I could trade my life for the possibly 200,000 lost at Hiroshima and the 70,000 that died at Nagasaki, almost all civilians, I’d do it without hesitation.

But neither God nor history gives individuals the opportunity to make bargains like that, and here I am, alive today. This background does probably mean that I think about nuclear weapons more than most people, and despite our survival for some 66 years since those bombings, I am not optimistic about the long run. I would love to be wrong about this, but I do expect a nuclear conflict killing untold numbers of humans and other creatures at some uncertain time in the future… if we don’t kill ourselves off by some less dramatic but equally devastating means, such as global climate change, before that happens.


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