On August 6, 1945, the United States Army Air Forces dropped an atomic bomb over Hiroshima, Japan. A blinding flash of light was immediately followed by a blast of heat and wind that destroyed almost everything within a mile radius. Three days later, the United States dropped another atomic bomb over Nagasaki. By the end of 1945, 140,000 people had died in Hiroshima, while 74,000 had died in Nagasaki. Thousands more were seriously injured, permanently disfigured, and mentally scarred. The United States and Japan had been fighting since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, in a brutal conflict described by historian John Dower as “war without mercy.” The deployment of atomic bombs by the United States on Japan was among the last major military events of World War II.
Over fifty amateur and professional photographers documented the immediate aftermath of the atomic bombings. After Japan surrendered, many of these photographers hid their negatives and prints to prevent them from being confiscated by the occupying American military authorities’ strict censorship. The Anti-Nuclear Photographers’ Movement of Japan collected many surviving images, which now make up the Hiroshima and Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Photographs Archive at the Briscoe Center. This exhibit presents these documentary photographs as witnesses to the widespread destruction and suffering that followed.