15 photos taken two days after the atomic bombing discovered

Shot by Navy for survey of Hiroshima, donated to museum in Kure by family

by Masami Nishimoto, Senior Staff Writer

The existence of 15 previously unknown photos taken on August 8, 1945, two days after Hiroshima was devastated by the atomic bombing, has been revealed. The photos were among the possessions of Tetsuzo Kitagawa (1907-1983), who came to Hiroshima from Tokyo as a member of a Navy survey team. After the war Mr. Kitagawa was a professor at Yokohama National University. The photos were donated to the Yamato Museum in Kure by his son Fujio, 64, a resident of Tokyo. The pictures were examined by staff members of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and others, and the precise locations of the sites at which the photos were taken have been identified.

The 15 photographs clearly capture scenes such as the devastation of the Aioi Bridge, which was the target of the atomic bombing; the collapsed three-story reinforced concrete headquarters of the Hiroshima Gas Company; a streetcar that was derailed by the blast while running 730 meters southeast of the hypocenter; and the Hijiyama area, about 2 kilometers from the hypocenter, which escaped complete destruction by fire.

According to the record kept at the time by Mr. Kitagawa, who was a commander at the Navy's Technical Research Department, their 10-member Navy survey team arrived in Hiroshima on August 8 and joined up with another survey team from the Naval Station in Kure led by Capt. Matao Mitsui to survey the site of the bombing and other areas. Mitsui died in 1989. On August 10 Mr. Kitagawa attended a meeting of a Joint Army-Navy Study Group at which they concluded that the bomb had been an atomic bomb and prepared a report.

In 1970 Mr. Mitsui revealed the existence of 16 prints that had been preserved and said that the negatives had been burned on orders of the Navy Ministry two or three days after the photos were taken. He said that the photos were taken on August 8 and were distributed to only a few people as an appendix to the survey report. When the staff of Peace Memorial Museum compared the recently discovered photos with copies of the others, which had been acquired by the museum by 2008, they determined that the locations at which the recently discovered photos were taken were the same. But because there are differences such as the positions of people seen walking in the photos, they are believed to be separate shots that were taken before or after the others and then distributed.

Twenty-six photos taken on August 9 by Yotsugi Kawahara, who was a member of the photographic team of the Imperial Japanese Army's Shipping Command, and that were appended to an Imperial General Headquarters survey report were donated to the Peace Memorial Museum in 1994 along with other materials related to the atomic bombing. Mr. Kawahara died in 1972. With the existence of the 15 previously unknown photos revealed this time, the original photos used in the survey by the navy as well as those used in the survey by the army have been confirmed.

(Originally published on August 2, 2010)