How The Japan Times reported the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
TOKYO (Tribune News Service) — The newspaper described the ebb and flow of the war in considerable detail. Censorship was in operation, but the Nippon Times offered voluminous coverage in English based on statements by the Imperial authorities, reports by vernacular Japanese newspapers and foreign news agency dispatches, archival records show.
News of the Aug. 6, 1945, bombing of Hiroshima was approved for print the following day and the Aug. 8 edition contained a terse statement within a longer article about U.S. and British air raids.
“Hiroshima was attacked by a small number of Superforts at 8:20 a.m. Monday,” the newspaper said, referring to the U.S. B-29 Superfortress bomber. “The enemy dropped explosives and incendiaries. Damage is now being investigated.”
Readers had to wait a further day to get a sense of the severity.
“New-type bombs were used by the small number of Superforts that raided Hiroshima on Monday morning, causing considerable damage to the city quarters,” the newspaper said on Aug. 9, citing an Imperial Headquarters statement.
“The explosive power of the new bomb is now under investigation, but it is considered that it should not be made light of,” the newspaper said.
If readers in Japan were spared the details, the bomb’s horror was by now known overseas. The Nippon Times alluded to this in its Aug. 9 report, saying a Vatican spokesman had referred to the bomb as “a further step in the direction of indiscriminate deployment of means of destruction.”
Meanwhile on Aug. 9, the city of Nagasaki was destroyed in history’s second atomic bombing. The newspaper first mentioned this on Aug. 12, quoting military authorities as calling the damage “comparatively slight.” It failed to report that city’s destruction until a full 16 days after the event, and gave no reason for this.
The archives show how authorities responded to the attacks. On Aug. 10, the newspaper conveyed advice for new air raid procedures. “The new-type bomb . . . is dropped by parachute. At about 500 to 600 meters above the ground, it issues a strong light and explodes. The blast of the bomb is powerful and strong heat is spread all over.”
It quoted the Home Ministry as telling people to seek shelter even if only a lone plane appears.
“Choose a shelter which has a covering. In case there is no cover, one should protect oneself with a blanket or futon.”
The ministry added, “People in the open are likely to suffer burns. . . . The hands and legs should be given full protection.”
On Aug. 10, the Imperial authorities delivered a protest to Washington via the Swiss government, saying that although the U.S. had disavowed the use of poison gas on account of its indiscriminate nature, this bomb was far worse.
The protest accused the U.S. of committing “a sin against the culture of the human race by using a bomb which harms more indiscriminately and is more cruel than any weapon or missile which has been used in the past.”
It described Hiroshima as “a common ordinary urban community without any particular military defense facilities. . . . By individual cases of damage done, it was unprecedentedly cruel.”
The Japanese people learned of the surrender on Aug. 15 when the Emperor’s recorded address was broadcast to the nation. The following day, the Nippon Times described a conference at the Imperial Palace “which had no precedent in history.”
It said Emperor Hirohito had addressed ministers and heads of the Imperial army and navy, saying ” ‘Whatever happens to Us, We cannot stand to see the nation suffer further hardships.’
“All those in attendance, upon hearing these benevolent Imperial Words, burst into tears in spite of the August presence,” it said.
©2015 the Japan Times (Tokyo)
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