Ryan Dawson – Nagasaki the forgotten bomb + Democracy Now! – Atomic Cover-Up: The Hidden Story Behind the U.S. Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Nagasaki the forgotten bomb
Nagasaki and Hiroshima were disasters of human history.
Nagasaki is like the forgotten bomb. I will be talking about Hiroshima, but I wanted to talk about Nagasaki first. I went to both places and one of my best friends in Japan, Tomoyo is from Nagasaki. When you live in a city and meet all the people there and then imagine it being blown away, it makes you want to stop and cry.
They dropped the Fatman on Nagasaki on August 9th. It was the second atomic bomb dropped and the first and more powerful Plutonium bomb ever used. It not only had plutonium, it had 15% more mass than little boy which was dropped on Hiroshima. The blast was less effective because of the mountains, but 80,000 people were killed and far more would die later from the starvation, radiation, and injuries it caused.
I dont know why Hiroshima gets ALL the attention. If anything the pointlessness of the first atomic bombing ought to be over shadowed by the even more pointless and evil and unnecessary SECOND atomic bombing
You will hear the rationalization about nuking people to “save lives.” This is a preposterous schoolroom lie. A cultural city and history were lost. Erased in seconds. And why? The Japanese had been trying to surrender. Well the main reason America used the bombs when they did was because they did not want to divide Japan with Russia the way they were East and West Germany. Russia agreed to invade Japan (who had defeated Russia in their last war) three months after the German surrender on May 8th. Well that time was August 8th (or Aug 9th Japan time). And then Russian began attacking Manchuria China where the Japanese army was.
Greg Mitchell – New Book: “Atomic Cover-Up: Two U.S. Soldiers, Hiroshima & Nagasaki”
Gepubliceerd op 14 jul. 2011
In my latest book (print or e-book) “Atomic Cover-Up: Two U.S. Soldiers, Hiroshima & Nagasaki, and The Greatest Movie Never Made,” I probe a turning point in U.S. history: the suppression of film footage, for decades, shot by a U.S. Army unit in the atomic cities – a wrong turn with staggering consequences even today. This is a detective story, a profile of two remarkable military officers, and one of the last little-told stories of World War II. The cover-up even extended to MGM and Hollywood – and to President Truman. And there was no WikiLeaks to get the film aired.
Print book at $13. Or E-book version just $3.99 (for Kindle, all phones, iPads, Blackberry, PCs) at Amazon here: http://amzn.to/omgBsE
You do NOT need a KIndle. My email: firstname.lastname@example.org
As co-author of the classic “Hiroshima in America” and eleven other books, I’ve written about elements of this story for leading newspapers and magazines, but now I tell the full saga here, based on new research – from the Truman Library to Nagasaki.
Praise for my “Hiroshima in America” book:
“A great book”
Los Angeles Times
The New York Times
The Washington Post
All front page reviews.
The new book opens this way: “This is the story of twenty hours of film footage, blazing with color, shot in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in early 1946 by a U.S. military crew, that would change the lives of many people, including two American soldiers, and me. Its effect on us, and others, is deep and mysterious, because the film was hidden for decades and almost no one could see it, although that is also why its influence on each of us was so profound. While this unique and disturbing color film languished in obscurity, the atomic bombings nearly fell into ‘a hole in human history,’ as the writer Mary McCarthy observed, and a costly nuclear arms race ensued. A myriad of nuclear threats plague us to this day.”
How did this happen? Why? And what did the two military officers, Daniel McGovern and Herbert Sussan, try to do about it, for decades? “Atomic Cover-up” answers all of these questions in a quick-paced but often surprising narrative.
Robert Jay Lifton, author of “Death in Life” (winner of the National Book Award) and numerous other acclaimed books, writes: “Greg Mitchell has been a leading chronicler for many years of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and American behavior toward them. Now he has written the first book devoted to the suppression of historic film footage shot by Japanese and Americans in the atomic cities in 1945 and 1946. This cover-up paved the way for the costly and dangerous nuclear arms race and contributed to the widespread reliance on nuclear power.”
Trailer for the book created an edited by Andrew Mitchell. Music, of course, by Beethoven, from Piano Sonata no. 7.
The US wanted all of Japan. They had plans to invade Korea after all, which we all saw, and Japan was the unsinkable aircraft carrier. Even now almost 65 years later the US still has troops in Japan. In fact, if you are a foreigner whose been to Japan the first questions you will be asked is are you military? And Okinawa or Misawa?
When I arrived in Japan 6 years ago it was in August. The first thing I saw on TV were reports about the bombs. In Japan, every year they talk to survivors and have remembrance. I’ve been to the museums and I’ve talked to countless numbers of Japanese about the bombing. In the US one rarely sees anything but some footage of the buildings. The people are never shown not like the half naked and starving people shown liberated from German labor camps, or the piles of corpses, we all get to see that as early as middle school. But not America’s victims.
The typical argument for dropping the bombs will never be analyzed by the kind of sick individuals that just revel in the power of it and love the showmanship or shall we say “Shock and Awe” of the bomb that makes them feel mighty through some distance attachment to their ego via nationalism. No the typical rationalization is that the bomb actually saved lives in their bizzaro world. This is accepted on its face because it fits a predetermined conclusion that America is the good guy and can do no wrong. Any crime it does has to be for the greater good. So I guess the next time the police chase a bank robber they should just fire at the car with bazookas or artillery and take out the entire city block for after all, if they tried to shoot the robber with their guns they might get shot back at, and collateral damage is worth it. Add to this analogy that the robber already tried to turn himself in to the police station on several occasions but the police said no.
The reason to drop the bombs wasn’t to save lives and it did not save lives it killed hundreds of thousands and the US could have ended the war long before dropping the bombs and saved lives on all sides by accepting the surrender the Japanese had been offering. But just like in Europe the US wanted to destroy things in overkill fashion and wreck as many cities as possible. Like in Dresden and Rohan, the clean up and reconstruction was just too profitable to pass up. The Russians needed to see US might and the US wanted to take the stage as the next Super power with a flash.
Bombing Nagasaki was completely unnecessary. Hiroshima was already wiped off the map. The war was over. The US kept killing until they had total control. In the aftermath of the war Japan was turned into ruins, the CIA paid the Yakuza Mafia to run the show, women prostituted themselves out to GIs because they were without homes, work, or food in many cases. An entire entertainment ring grew up in the new generation of black markets, gambling, and prostitution.
There is no justification for killing civilians much less cities full of them. Just imagine where ever you are right now and everyone you know, being bombed. You might be completely against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but imagine you were blown up anyway. Kids, babies, animals, everything sacrificed because you’re the same nationality as the people at war. The US propaganda towards Japan was highly racist and well received. It wasn’t much different than the Nazi Propaganda about the Jews or other undesirables. And to top it off, in America, Japanese citizens were put into “internment” camps. They didn’t do that to scale to the Germans or Italians just the Japanese. Don’t think it was because it’s easier to tell who is who. It’s no easier to tell the difference between Asians as it would be between European groups. And yet they didn’t put the Chinese, Koreans, etc into camps. There were Germans rounded up even in South America and placed in camps in Texas.
Some hot headed people will say: “well they shouldn’t have bombed Pearl Harbor.” Well that’s damn right they shouldn’t have bombed Pearl Harbor. But that’s just the thing “THEY” didn’t bomb the harbor, the military did. And when the Japanese military bombed the Harbor that’s what they bombed, the base, US war ships, not Hawaii and not cities full of civilians. Hawaii was also not part of the United States. And we’ll leave aside the issues of the US antagonizing that by the oil embargo, the attacks in China, as well as the foreknowledge of the attack. The fact is, the people living in Nagasaki and Hiroshima had about as much say in that as you or I did (and I wasn’t even born yet).
For the record my grand father fought the Japanese all the way to Okinawa. He used a flame thrower to toast bunkers and holes and was shot in the leg eventually but continued to fight. I’m proud of him for serving his country. But like he felt himself, there was no glory in burning people alive, even soldiers. It was just a horrible thing to never talk about. War is hell and nationalism attached to war is a sick sick disease. There is no shame in serving in WWII. The issue here is with the nuclear bombs. There was no need to add that pointless destruction to the innocent.
Just imagine right now if America nuked Iraq, and not a base but a city. Imagine if they had nuked Fallujah years ago under the wild justification that it would save American lives. I could see some imperialist idiot saying to nuke every inch of Afghanistan just to kill “Al Qaeda” or to turn the whole middle east not only Iraq but all of it into a glass parking lot (http://www.rys2sense.com/anti-neocons/viewtopic.php?f=43&t=3596). That was the kind of Insane comments made by many Americans in the run up to the Iraq War or after 9/11.
Nuclear weapons are terrible. And right now the new nuclear weapon first used by Israel in 1973 and currently used by the US is depleted Uranium. This stuff murders by radiation poisoning. If causes massive birth defects and destroys the unborn and the young the most.
What is the argument for it? “Saving lives” really saving lives by killing people and putting a radioactive poison in the ground for eons?! Radiation doesn’t create super heroes. In the real world it only does one thing, kill everything around it. Other than creative torture it is among the most horrible ways to die possible.
Well winners write the history. Had the allies lost the war the nuclear bombings of Japan would be seen as what they are. Human atrocities. People are still dying from those damn bombs.
And it was not “good for Japan.” Japan rose to its economic leadership because of the Japanese’s people. For one they didn’t have to spend countless billions on war and military defense. Secondly they have year round school, the longest work hours, and busted their asses day and night to make Japan what it is. There is nearly no religion, and there are creative minds to invent and improve things. Rather than selling guns, they produced goods sold all over the world. But with the stroke of a pen the BIS ended all of that. Japan once held one half of all the money in the world. Now it’s down to about a 1/6th. Still they have the longest life expectancy, most centurions, gold reserves, most advanced technologies in several fields, top two in language and math, top two in health care, highest standard of living, lowest crime rate in the industrialized world even with the biggest cities. Japan has the second largest market in the world behind US of America which is currently falling apart and was based mostly on credit.
The future for hybrids, robotics, cell phones, flat screens, mass transit, wind power, game consuls, and international business is Japan.
One reason is the country’s near empty appetite for war. With Shinto now disconnected form government, and organized religion all but reduced to rituals for funerals and weddings there just isn’t a way to amass the people into senseless violence. There would be a better chance of violence from angry baseball fans than from nationalism or religion. Japan is proud of what it can Create not Destroy.
America could learn from that. America’s ego is still attached to what it can break.
Anti Neocon Report, August 9, 2019
Atomic Cover-Up: The Hidden Story Behind the U.S. Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
As radiation readings in Japan reach their highest levels since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant meltdowns, we look at the beginning of the atomic age. Today is the 66th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of Nagasaki, which killed some 75,000 people and left another 75,000 seriously wounded. It came just three days after the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, killing around 80,000 people and injuring some 70,000. By official Japanese estimates, nearly 300,000 people died from the bombings, including those who lost their lives in the ensuing months and years from related injuries and illnesses. Other researchers estimate a much higher death toll. We play an account of the 1945 atomic bombing of Nagasaki by the pilots who flew the B-29 bomber that dropped that bomb, and feature an interview with the son of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist George Weller, who was the first reporter to enter Nagasaki. He later summarized his experience with military censors who ordered his story killed, saying, “They won.” Our guest is Greg Mitchell, co-author of “Hiroshima in America: A Half Century of Denial,” with Robert Jay Lifton. His latest book is “Atomic Cover-Up: Two U.S. Soldiers, Hiroshima & Nagasaki and The Greatest Movie Never Made.” [includes rush transcript]
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
“The worst nuclear disaster to strike Japan since a single bomb fell over Nagasaki in 1945 occurred in the spring of 2011 at the Fukushima nuclear power plant following the epic tsunami. Just last week, it was reported that radiation readings at the site had reached their highest points to date. The wide release of radiation, and fear of same, has forced the Japanese and others all over the world to reflect on what happened to the country in 1945, and the continuing (but usually submerged) threat of nuclear weapons and energy today.”
Those are the words of Greg Mitchell, co-author of the book Hiroshima in America: A Half Century of Denial. Mitchell is our guest today. He has also written Atomic Cover-Up: Two U.S. Soldiers, Hiroshima & Nagasaki, and The Greatest Movie Never Made.
Yes, today is the 66th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of Nagasaki, which killed some 75,000 people and left another 75,000 seriously wounded. It came just three days after the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, killing around 80,000 people, injuring some 70,000. By official Japanese estimates, nearly 300,000 people died from the bombings, including those who lost their lives in the ensuing months and years from related injuries and illnesses. Other researchers estimate a much higher death toll. The atomic bombings of Japan remain the only time nuclear weapons have been used in war to date.
At a ceremony over the weekend, the Japanese prime minister, Naoto Kan, honored the dead from the World War II bombing, adding he deeply regrets having believed the so-called “security myth,” which suggested Japan could be safely powered by the same atomic forces that instantly killed so many Japanese people over six decades ago.
Well, today, we’ll look at the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings and their legacy amidst Japan’s ongoing nuclear crisis. We turn first to Nagasaki through the story of the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist George Weller. Weller was the first reporter to enter Nagasaki, defying a U.S. media ban in southern Japan. He worked for the Chicago Daily News, hired a rowboat to get himself to Nagasaki. He wrote a 25,000-word report on the horrors he encountered. When he submitted his story to the military censors, General Douglas MacArthur personally ordered the story killed, and the manuscript was never returned. George Weller later summarized his experience with the government censors, saying, “They won.”
Well, six years ago, George Weller’s son Anthony discovered a copy of the suppressed dispatches among his late father’s papers. George Weller died in 2002. They’re now published as a book called First into Nagasaki: The Censored Eyewitness Dispatches on Post-Atomic Japan and Its Prisoners of War. This is an excerpt of an interview that Juan Gonzalez and I did with Anthony Weller, George Weller’s son, shortly after he first discovered his late father’s papers.
Well, I think the thing that astonished him the most—I mean, there were many things that he found astonishing. Remember, he went in there four weeks, almost to the minute, after the bomb was dropped, which was on the 6th of September in mid-morning, is when he arrived. And he was struck, obviously, by several things—by the physical appearance of the city, which was still smoldering here and there, by the surgical precision of the bomb itself. Later, he was to learn that, in fact, a great deal of damage had been done not just by the bomb, but by the fires that erupted, because people were cooking their midday meal when the bomb hit, and a number of wooden residences just caught fire, and the fire spread. So, in a way, it was kind of like a Dresden.
And as he went around the ruins of the city and rapidly began visiting all the hospital facilities that still existed, I know he was struck immediately, first by the absence of any American medical personnel there—four weeks later, there were still no doctors or nurses—and then, by the great precision and care with which the Japanese doctors had already catalogued the effects of the bomb on individual organs of the body.
And over the next few days, he was as astonished as the Japanese doctors were, of course, by what he referred to in his reports as “Disease X.” It was perhaps not so astonishing to see some of the scorches and burns that people had suffered, but to see people apparently unblemished at all by the bomb, who had seemingly survived intact, suddenly finding themselves feeling unwell and going to hospital, sitting there on their cots surrounded by doctors and relatives who could do nothing, and finding when he would go back the next day that they had just died, or that, let’s say, a woman who had come through unscathed making dinner for her husband and having the misfortune to make a very small cut in her finger while peeling a lemon, would just keep bleeding, and bleed to death, because the platelets in her bloodstream had been so reduced that the blood couldn’t clot anymore.
So there were case after case like this, and, in a way, I think my father found them more poignant than the obvious destruction or the obvious burn victims, because here was a whole team of Japanese doctors, very able, very aware from long before the war had started about the potentials of radiation, absolutely baffled. And he had a wonderful phrase he used. He said the effects of the bomb uncured because—excuse me, the effects of “Disease X,” which is what they were calling it, uncured because it is untreated, and untreated because it is undiagnosed.
AMY GOODMAN: Anthony Weller, the son of George Weller, whose story on the Nagasaki bombings was blocked by military censors. As we turn now to an account of the 1945 atomic bombing of Nagasaki by the pilots who flew the B-29 bomber that dropped that bomb. This is an excerpt of the documentary Hiroshima Countdown, produced by Andrew Phillips.
This is one of a series of interviews conducted by the Air Force historical division. Today, we are interviewing Brigadier General Paul W. Tibbets, Jr.
PAUL TIBBETS, JR.:
They were definitely military targets. There was no question about that. And they offered such a—well, you could almost say a classroom experiment, as far as being able to determine later the bomb damage. These were good virgin targets, and they were ideal for the purpose that we wanted to use them for.
The consideration of targets would be Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Niigata, Kokura, and there’s one more that I don’t remember. The 20th Air Force had been told they would not attack those targets under any circumstances. In other words, the ground was laid.
As well as these targets, Kyoto, Japan’s ancient capital, was strongly recommended by the man with overall control of the bomb project, General Leslie Groves. But Secretary of War Henry Stimson, approaching 80 years of age, would not have it. He had visited Kyoto with his wife in the ’20s and had enjoyed the city’s cultural riches. It was a city of great religious significance to the Japanese, and Stimson felt Kyoto’s destruction would damage America’s post-war stature.
The selection of the targets in the month of May 1945 was actually done by the intelligence community in headquarters, U.S. Air Force. The requirements given to them was: You will select cities that have military targets in them. And they also selected the type of terrain that they wanted. They also were interested in the type of construction that they could expect to run into, because in reality not only was this a military mission, but it was also of extreme scientific importance, because they wanted to know what a weapon of this type could do against reinforced concrete, what it could do against steel, what it would do against anything that was in the building materials line. It had to be something that had not been attacked by the 20th Air Force up to that time, call it virgin targets, undamaged, unhurt by any other type of an explosive or munition.
I know the type of bomb we were working on…
Charles Sweeney flew with Tibbets in an observer aircraft to witness the bombing of Hiroshima. Three days later he lead his crew first to Kokura, the primary target for the second bomb, and then to Nagasaki. Kokura was clouded in that day.
As he was talking, he picked up a handful of earth. He said, “Basically what we’re working on is a single bomb that will turn a whole city into this.” And he just tossed a handful of sand into air.
The voices of the men who loaded and flew the B-29 bomber that dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki, August 9, 1945, from the documentary Hiroshima Countdown, produced by Andrew Phillips. We’ll link to the whole documentary at democracynow.org. When we come back from break, we’ll speak with a man who has followed this story for decades, the author of Atomic Cover-Up, Greg Mitchell. Stay with us.
Our guest is Greg Mitchell. He writes the “Media Fix” blog for TheNation.com. He is the author of numerous books. His latest is Atomic Cover-Up: Two U.S. Soldiers, Hiroshima & Nagasaki, and The Greatest Movie Never Made.
Welcome. You have been covering this for decades. The significance, Greg, of this day, August 9th, 66 years ago, and what it means today in a nuclear-ravaged Japan.
Right. Well, of course, it’s particularly poignant, given the Fukushima nuclear disaster and the—similarly to after Hiroshima-Nagasaki, the fears of so many people that they’ve been tainted by released radiation. And so, the psychological effects of the nuclear disaster are severe. And the other—in fact, survivors of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki have been campaigning this year against nuclear power, which is something they haven’t particularly done in the past, linking nuclear weapons and nuclear power, the fear of radiation, the chance of catastrophe, the chance of disaster. So it’s a special day for that.
And, of course, the other reason is because, as I’ve pointed out for many years, the U.S. is the only country that has used the bomb twice in war, as you mentioned. And, you know, it may surprise many people to know we still have a first-use policy in the United States. And the lesson that has been handed down to us for decades now is that, yes, never again, we should never use nuclear weapons again; however, we continue—most Americans, certainly American leaders, American policymakers, American media—all defend the use of the bomb, or the double use of the bomb, back in 1945. So the message is, these weapons are too dangerous to use, but we used them before, we continue to defend it, we continue to have a first-strike policy. So, to me, that’s a very dangerous lesson of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Talk about the color videotape of the atomic bombing that has rarely been shown.
And yet, it’s been around, well, since after, right after, the bombing.
Right. Well, that’s basically what my new book is about. It’s about the suppression of this footage, both the American footage, which is in color and was shot by the U.S. military, and the Japanese footage, which was shot by the Japanese newsreel team and is in black and white. In fact, in your first part of this program, almost all the images that people saw on the screen was black-and-white footage. Even to this day, not many people have seen much of the color footage, and that’s because the U.S. suppressed that color footage, shot by our own military, for decades. And it really wasn’t until the 1980s that any of it came out. Snippets have been used in film, you know, so we see a little bit more of it now. But in this key moment in our nuclear history, as nuclear power was becoming entrenched, as a nuclear arms race continued for decades, Americans were not exposed to the full truth of the bomb.
Interestingly, the scientists at Los Alamos who made the bomb, most of them thinking that it would be used, if need be, on Germany—
—actually were privately shown this video, weren’t they?
Yeah. And so, the video was taken by the Pentagon, and parts of it were made into training films to show—you know, show our policymakers and our military what the bomb could do. What my book focuses on is two U.S. military officers who shot the footage, and then, for decades after, tried to get it released, tried to get it shown on TV, tried to get it made into a movie—
Tell us their names.
—to be shown in theaters. Daniel McGovern and Herbert Sussan. And they tried for decades to get it released and shown to a wider public, and it really didn’t happen until, you know, just a few years ago.
Talk about the YouTube video that you just didn’t think was particularly controversial. It was a kind of promo for your book—
—illustrating your point.
Yeah. Well, it’s—if people search for it on YouTube under “Atomic Cover-Up,” they’ll find it. It’s just a two-minute video. And it includes some of the suppressed footage. And I think that’s why, after I loaded it on YouTube, I got a notice from Google that they were not going to allow any ads for it, because it showed—because of the “promoted violence,” as they said, which was of course 180 degrees from what it really did. It’s sort of against violence and against war. And, of course, the real irony was that it was an act of suppression about a book and a video that is about suppression. So, there were—a lot of people protested, and that sort of ended it after a few days.
Well, speaking of the stories that were told about what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I wanted to go to Wilfred Burchett, the first journalist to make it into Hiroshima—
—which was bombed three days before Nagasaki—it was bombed August 6, 1945—an Australian reporter who defied the U.S. military ban, who took a train for 30 hours. The whole area of southern Japan was off-limits. He took this train to Hiroshima. In this recording, an excerpt from the documentary of Andrew Phillips called Hiroshima Countdown, Burchett describes what he saw.
I went to a hospital, which had survived in the outskirts of the city. These people were all in various states of physical disintegration. They would all die, but they were giving them whatever comfort could be given until they died. And the doctor explained that he didn’t know why they were dying. The only symptoms they could isolate from a medical point of view was that of acute vitamin deficiency. So they started giving vitamin injections. Then he explains where they put the needle in, then the flesh started to rot. And then, gradually, the thing would develop this bleeding which they couldn’t stop, and then the hair falling out. And the hair falling out was more or less the last stage. And the number of the women who were lying there with sort of halos of their black hair which had already fallen out. I felt staggered, really staggered by what I’d seen. And just where I sat down, I found some lump of concrete, I remember, that had not been pulverized. I sat on that with my little Hermes typewriter, and my first words, I remember now, were, “I write this as a warning to the world.”
“I write this as a warning to the world,” Wilfred Burchett wrote, his reporting exposing the horrors of the bombings and particularly talking about—well, he didn’t have the words for radiation. He talked about an “atomic plague.”
The New York Times correspondent told a very different story. The reporter, William Laurence, was not just working for the Times, though. He was also on the payroll of the U.S. War Department. That’s what the Pentagon was called at the time. Laurence wrote military press releases and statements for President Harry Truman and Secretary of War Stimson, all the while faithfully parroting the line of the U.S. government in the pages of the New York Times. He was awarded the 1946 Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on Nagasaki, as well as on the U.S. government’s development of the atomic bomb. His work was crucial in launching a half-century of silence about the deadly lingering effects of the bomb.
In 2005, I joined my brother, the journalist David Goodman, to call on the Pulitzer board to strip Laurence and the New York Times of the Pulitzer for their atomic bomb reporting. Juan Gonzalez and I talked to David on Democracy Now! about the William Laurence’s deception.
William Laurence was—had immigrated to the United States from Lithuania in the 1930s, at a time when actually the New York Times was laying off reporters, due to the Great Depression. They asked Laurence to become both the newspaper’s and the nation’s first dedicated science reporter. Laurence was—became fascinated with atomic power and atomic weapons and was an ardent supporter of atomic power in the articles that he wrote throughout the 1930s and into the early 1940s. This is probably what caught the attention of the War Department.
In the spring of 1945, a remarkable meeting took place, secretly, at the headquarters of the New York Times in Times Square in New York City. General Leslie Groves, the director of the Manhattan Project, which was the name of the program that was developing atomic bombs for the U.S. military, came to Times Square to the New York Times and met secretly with Arthur Sulzberger, the publisher of the New York Times, the editor-in-chief of the New York Times, and William Laurence. At that meeting, he asked Laurence if he would become a paid publicist, essentially, for the Manhattan Project. So, while simultaneously working as a newspaper reporter for the New York Times, he would also be writing essentially propaganda for the War Department. Officially he was asked to put in layman’s terms the benefits of atomic weapons and the development of atomic power. Other New York Times reporters were unaware of this arrangement, this dual arrangement where he was being paid by both the government and the newspaper, and in fact were somewhat mystified when Laurence began taking long leaves of absence.
Well, the government’s investment in Laurence paid off in spades, because he was rewarded for his loyalty. He was also writing—ended up writing statements for Secretary of War Stimson and for President Truman himself. He was rewarded by being given a seat in the squadron of planes that dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki. I’ll read to you a little excerpt of Laurence’s dispatch. In general, his writing—well, these days journalists would call it “purple prose,” but it was often imbued with these messianic themes about the potential and power of atomic weapons.
Here’s what he had to say in describing the bombing of Nagasaki. This bombing is thought to have taken about 70,000 to 100,000 lives. Laurence recounted, quote, “Being close to it and watching it as it was being fashioned” —he’s speaking here of the atomic bomb— “into a living thing so exquisitely shaped that any sculptor would be proud to have created it, one felt oneself in the presence of the supernatural.”
Now, Laurence went on to write a series of 10 articles about the development of the atomic bomb. This is—this and his reporting about the Nagasaki bombing won him the 1946 Pulitzer Prize in reporting. He seems to have been completely unashamed and unrepentant of what was clearly an egregious conflict of interest by any of the most basic canons of journalism ethics. Laurence later wrote in his memoirs about his experience as a paid publicist for the War Department. He wrote, quote, “Mine has been the honor, unique in the history of journalism, of preparing the War Department’s official press release for worldwide distribution. No greater honor could have come to any newspaperman, or anyone else for that matter.”
AMY GOODMAN: David, I think it’s instructive, the effects of this reporting. I mean, on the one hand, you had someone like Wilfred Burchett on the ground, talking about—he didn’t even have the words to describe. He talked about “bomb sickness.” He talked about “atomic plague.” And then you have Laurence’s front-page story, September 12th, 1945, “U.S. Atom Bomb Site Belies Tokyo Tales: Tests on New Mexico Range Confirm that Blast and Not Radiation Took Toll.” This, after William Laurence, while he didn’t go to Hiroshima, was taken by Leslie Groves, the general in charge of the Manhattan Project, that was responsible for the bomb, took Laurence and other reporters to New Mexico to counter what the War Department, what Groves was calling Japanese propaganda of the effects, the deadly effects of radiation.
And, in fact, Laurence knew better, because having observed the Trinity test, the first explosion of the atomic bomb in the deserts of New Mexico, he knew that Geiger counters had spiked around the area of the bombing long after the actual bomb itself. In fact, an interesting footnote to this whole encounter is that when Laurence was brought by Groves in this effort, as Amy describes…
We’re going to pull out of that clip of David Goodman describing William Laurence. William Laurence, Greg Mitchell, the original embedded reporter, won a Pulitzer Prize for his reports, was also on the payroll of the War Department, writing the Stimson press releases and statements.
Right, right. Well, it was—I mean, he’s a symbol, I guess, but really it was—we’ve had decades of the suppression. You know, my book talks about the film footage, which was extremely significant, but, of course, in the media and in the official statements by the government, there was basically a Hiroshima narrative. And it was important that it get established early, and then it be maintained, because of the arms race. We wanted to build the hydrogen bomb, which we did a few years later. And so, it’s been important to the development both of nuclear weapons and nuclear energy in the U.S. that this Hiroshima narrative be disseminated. And, you know, really, from the first words of the nuclear age, it was lie when Truman said that they bombed Hiroshima, which was merely a military base. And so, it’s been 66 years of that kind of misstatements and misleading arguments.
The words “nuclear power,” “nuclear weapons” and “suppression of information” follow through right to today.
And this is where we’re going to end, as the Japanese people deal with their government in the last few days, hearing that the radiation levels are highest than they’ve ever been since the nuclear meltdowns.
Right, right, yeah, that’s—it’s continuing today, certainly, in Japan. And one fears it would happen in the U.S., as well, if we had a nuclear crisis here. So, it seems like anything that nuclear weapons or the nuclear energy touches leads to suppression and leads to danger for the public.
Greg Mitchell, his latest book is Atomic Cover-Up: Two U.S. Soldiers, Hiroshima & Nagasaki, and The Greatest Movie Never Made. A contributor at TheNation.com, he was the editor of Nuclear Times in the 1980s, has written widely about Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings.
Editor of Nuclear Times magazine from 1982 to 1986. He has written widely about the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings, including Hiroshima in America: A Half Century of Denial, with Robert Jay Lifton. His latest is Atomic Cover-Up: Two U.S. Soldiers, Hiroshima & Nagasaki and The Greatest Movie Never Made. Mitchell is a daily contribute to TheNation.com and has been chronicling the lead-up to the bombing in a series of blog coasts called “Countdown to Hiroshima 1945.”
“ATOMIC COVER-UP: Two U.S. Soldiers, Hiroshima & Nagasaki, and The Greatest Movie Never Made,” by Greg Mitchell (Sinclair Books)
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Democracy Now, August 09, 2011