Nagasaki remembered

Recently disinterred from the ash pile of the past is journalist George Weller's wrenching report about the U.S. atomic attack on Nagasaki. Weller was the first Western reporter to make his way to the Japanese island in September 1945, a month after the United States dropped a 4.5-ton atom bomb on the city center, killing tens of thousands of people.

Weller's report has been buried for six decades; military censors confiscated the reporter's notebooks and suppressed his account under orders from General MacArthur. The dispatches were presumed lost, even by Weller, until his son found the carbon copies in his father's study, two years after Weller's death, and they are being serialized this month in Mainichi, a national Japanese newspaper.

Weller wanted to give the world a precise visual picture of the dreadfulness of war. All these years later, his words have the power of forensic poetry:


In swaybacked or flattened skeletons of the Mitsubishi arms plants is revealed what the atomic bomb can do to steel and stone, but what the riven atom can do against human flesh and bone lies hidden in two hospitals of downtown Nagasaki.
Nagasaki, Weller wrote, had become a wasteland. He described how doctors were mystified by the "disease" steadily felling those who initially survived the blast:
The atomic bomb's peculiar 'disease', uncured because it is untreated and untreated because it is not diagnosed, is 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 for three or four weeks thinking they have escaped. The doctors here have every modern medicament, but candidly confessed in talking to the writer -- the first Allied observer to Nagasaki since the surrender ---that the answer to the malady is beyond them. Their patients, though their skin is whole, are all passing away under their eyes.
We have been given an unexpected opportunity to look full in the face at old wounds, old bones retrieved from the silent shadows of the past. We find they are not so silent after all.

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