Hiroshima Footage Suppressed for Decades
- U.S. Suppressed Footage of Hiroshima for Decades
The New York Times
August 3, 2005
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - As the world prepares to mark the 60th
anniversary of the dropping of the first atomic bomb on Saturday, some
American media experts see uncomfortable echoes between the
suppression of images of death and destruction then and coverage of
the war in Iraq today.
As author Greg Mitchell lays out in an article in Editor & Publisher
this week, in the weeks following the atomic attacks on Hiroshima and
Nagasaki, U.S. authorities seized and suppressed film shot in the
bombed cities by U.S. military crews and Japanese newsreel teams to
prevent Americans from seeing the full extent of devastation wrought
by the new weapons.
Tens of thousands died in each attack.
The U.S. military footage shot in color was classified as secret. It
remained hidden until the early 1980s and has never been fully aired.
The Japanese film shot in black and white was declassified and
returned to Japan in the late 1960s.
Some of the images captured in the days after the bombings will
finally be shown on a U.S. cable television channel as part of a
documentary on Saturday.
``Although there are clearly huge differences with Iraq, there are
also some similarities,'' said Mitchell, co-author of ``Hiroshima in
America'' and editor of Editor & Publisher.
``The chief similarity is that Americans are still being kept at a
distance from images of death, whether of their own soldiers or Iraqi
civilians,'' he said.
In May, the Los Angeles Times released a survey of six months of media
coverage of the Iraq war in six prominent U.S. newspapers and two
newsmagazines -- a period during which 559 coalition forces, the vast
majority American, were killed. It found they had run almost no
photographs of Americans killed in action. The same publications ran
only 44 photos to represent the thousands of Westerners wounded during
that same time.
``There's a mixture of censorship and self-censorship. In an
information age, unfortunately what is missing is truthful and factual
information,'' said Yahya Kamalipour, a communications professor at
Purdue University in Indiana and author of ``Bring 'Em On: Media and
Politics in the Iraq War.''
Examples of overt censorship are the Pentagon's ban on filming the
coffins of dead servicemen and women being brought back to Dover Air
Force Base in Delaware, as well as its continuing legal fight to
prevent the publication of photographs and videos of detainee abuse in
Abu Ghraib prison.
Self-censorship happens when individual editors decide not to run
photographs or footage of casualties because they deem them ``too
shocking'' for readers or because they wish to avoid controversy or
``So much of the media is owned by big corporations and they would
much rather focus on making money than setting themselves up for
criticism from the White House and Congress,'' said Ralph Begleiter, a
former CNN correspondent, now a journalism professor at the University
Last October, Begleiter filed a lawsuit to force the Pentagon to
release military photographs and video of the coffins being returned.
In April, the Pentagon made public more than 700 images all taken
before June 2004. Begleiter said it appeared the military had stopped
taking pictures of casualties being returned to avoid being forced to
release more images.
In May 2004, when ABC's Nightline screened the names and photos of 721
U.S. forces killed in the Iraq war without any commentary, it caused
furor. One company which owned eight ABC stations ordered them not to
show the program and some conservatives denounced it as an anti-war
One month before, when four U.S. contractors were murdered in Fallujah
and their charred bodies were strung up from a bridge, most TV
stations did not use the images. A survey of the 20 top circulating
newspapers in the United States found only seven put a picture of the
bodies on their front pages.
In 1945, U.S. policymakers wanted to be able to continue to develop
and test atomic and eventually nuclear weapons without an outcry of
``They succeeded but the subject is still a raw nerve. Americans
remain very divided about nuclear weapons. We'll never know what
impact the footage, if widely aired, might have had on the nuclear
arms race and nuclear proliferation that plagues and endangers us
today,'' Mitchell said.
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