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Saturday, June 18, 2005

The First Casualty (Retro Edition) 

Via our esteemed colleague Anne Zook of Peevish: The first American newspaper reports from Nagasaki, filed just after the A-bomb was dropped in August of 1945, have finally made it into print -- almost sixty years late:
The reporter was George Weller, the distinguished correspondent for the now-defunct Chicago Daily News. His startling dispatches from Nagasaki, which could have affected public opinion on the future of the bomb, never emerged from General Douglas MacArthur's censorship office in Tokyo. Carbon copies were found just two years ago when his son, who talked to E&P from Italy today, discovered them after the reporter's death . . . .

Anthony Weller, a novelist who lives near Gloucester, Mass., told E&P that it was one of great disappointments of his father's life that these stories, "a real coup," were killed by MacArthur who, George Weller felt, "wanted all the credit for winning the war, not some scientists back in New Mexico." Others have suggested that the real reason for the censorship was the United States did not want the world to learn about the morally troubling radiation effects for two reasons: It did not want questions raised about the use of the weapon in 1945, or its wide scale development in the coming years . . . .

In the first article published today by the Japanese paper [Mainichi Shimbun], the first words from Weller were: "The atomic bomb may be classified as a weapon capable of being used indiscriminately, but its use in Nagasaki was selective and proper and as merciful as such a gigantic force could be expected to be." Weller described himself as "the first visitor to inspect the ruins" . . . .

In his second story that day, however, following his hospital visits, he would describe "Disease X," and victims, who have "neither a burn or a broken limb," wasting away with "blackish" mouths and red spots, and small children who "have lost some hair."

A third piece, sent to MacArthur the following day, reported the disease "still snatching away lives here. Men, women and children with no outward marks of injury are dying daily in hospitals, some after having walked around three or four weeks thinking they have escaped.

"The doctors ... candidly confessed ... that the answer to the malady is beyond them." At one hospital, 200 of 343 admitted had died: "They are dead -- dead of atomic bomb -- and nobody knows why."

He closed this account with: "Twenty-five Americans are due to arrive Sept. 11 to study the Nagasaki bomb site. Japanese hope they will bring a solution for Disease X."

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