Images of the destroyed Hiroshima Red Cross building from the "The Effects of Atomic Bombs on Health and Medical Services in Hiroshima and Nagasaki"
Photographs of the destroyed Red Cross building in Hiroshima, included on page 6 of the American report, “The Effects of Atomic Bombs on Health and Medical Services in Hiroshima and Nagasaki”

Title: The Effects of Atomic Bombs on Health and Medical Services in Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Document Ownership: Original document owned by the University of Michigan, digitized by Google: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015006649134;view=1up;seq=1

Type of Textual Primary Source: Governmental report

Unique Physical Characteristics: Original document printed on standard paper and in good physical condition, no outstanding characteristics. Includes photographs of destroyed buildings and the injuries of survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Date of Document: March 1947

Creator of Document: The United States Strategic Bombing Survey, Medical Division

Audience of Document: This report was created primarily to be used by the United States Strategic Bomb Survey and other governmental agencies; as such, they are the primary audience.

Key Information:

a) Three Important Details:

  1. The document states that the atomic bombs destroyed the majority of the medical infrastructure in Hiroshima and particularly Nagasaki by means of rendering medical facilities physically inoperable (pg 10).
  2. When the members of the survey arrived in the cities in October of 1945, three months after the bombings, the Japanese medical systems in these cities had still not been reconstructed (pg 19).
  3. The survey discovered that casualties (besides those caused by complete incineration in the initial blast) could be categorized as secondary injuries (primarily from flying glass, collapsing buildings, or secondary fires that erupted in the wake of the initial blast), flash burns, and radiation effects (pg 24).

b) Purpose of the Document: Given the unprecedented nature of the atomic bombings, the US government was eager to document and study the biological effects of atomic bombs, as well as their effects on the medical infrastructure and society of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As such, this study was created to collect, compile, and analyze data from these cities for the US Bombing Survey and other governmental agencies to use in order to understand the full extent of the situation in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

c) Evidence for the Document’s Purpose: On page ii of the report, it is stated that “[t]his report was written primarily for the use of the United States Strategic Bombing Survey in the preparation of further reports of a more comprehensive nature.”

d) Two Insights the Document Provides into its Contemporary Time and Place:

  1. Following the atomic bombings, the survey members noted that the populations of the two cities (particularly Hiroshima, where more of the city proper was destroyed) were considerably apathetic, likely as a result of the immense psychological trauma stemming from the bombs’ physical destruction. They concluded that it was this state of mind combined with the physical damage to medical facilities that caused medical infrastructure to be delayed in its restoration. This likely resulted in more deaths, as the injured could not receive adequate medical treatment that could have save their lives (pg 19).
  2. While fatalities from flash burns and secondary injuries typically occurred within a few days after the bombings, deaths from radiation effects peaked later, in late August and early September. Therefore, the biological consequences of the atomic bombs on these Japanese cities were not limited to the days following the initial events (pg 56).

e) Unanswered Questions from Today: As this report was complied from data obtained in the months following the atomic bombings in 1945 and was published in 1947, it cannot answer questions concerning the long-term biological effects of the bombings, such as if and how the children of Japanese survivors would be biologically impacted by radiation effects possibly sustained by their parents during the event.

Megan Wilson, University of Oklahoma, 2/27/19