Striving to fill voids in Hiroshima, evidence of victims remains—City’s downtown shrouded in clouds, smoke: Photo taken from US aircraft 4 hours post-bombing in sky above Motoujina-machi, G7 summit candidate site

by Kyosuke Mizukawa, Senior Staff Writer

The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is reported to have in its archives a photograph of Hiroshima City taken from high in the sky above the area near present-day Motoujina-machi, in Hiroshima’s Minami Ward, about four hours after the U.S. military had dropped an atomic bomb on the city. In the photo, the city is covered in remnants of clouds from the atomic bombing and smoke from fires that arose thereafter. Motoujina-machi is situated about five kilometers southeast of the hypocenter, the location of the Grand Prince Hotel Hiroshima, a candidate site for the main venue of the summit meeting of G7 (attended by the Group of Seven industrialized nations), to be held in Hiroshima in May of next year. The photo shows the situation in the downtown area of the city as it became widely engulfed in flames and incinerated shortly after the detonation of that single nuclear weapon.

In the run-up to the upcoming G7 Hiroshima Summit, the Chugoku Shimbun looked into NARA’s collection of archival materials with cooperation from the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, located in the city’s centrally located Naka Ward, and uncovered the aerial photo, which shows the positional relationship between the hypocenter and the area of Motoujina-machi. The newspaper’s scope of investigation was expanded to photos not carried on the Peace Memorial Museum’s website’s database because the work of sorting and verifying those materials had not yet been completed.

The Peace Memorial Museum was able to obtain NARA’s original electronic data of the photo in 2003, but it has yet to add it to the museum’s database. The bottom center of the photo shows the area near Akatsuki Bridge connecting Ujina-machi (present-day Ujinakaigan, in Hiroshima’s Minami Ward) and Motoujina-machi. In the photo, the entire downtown area in the direction of the hypocenter, located on the western side of Kyobashi River, is engulfed in clouds and smoke from the A-bombing. According to Yozo Kudo, former professor at the National Institute of Technology, Tokuyama College, who is knowledgeable about U.S. military photos, the reconnaissance aircraft arrived high above Hiroshima about four hours after the atomic bomb was dropped, at 8:15 a.m. on August 6, 1945. Mr. Kudo identified the photo as being one taken by that specific aircraft.

The U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center (USAHEC) also has in its storage a photo of Motoujina-machi and the central area of the Hiroshima taken from a low altitude above the southeastern part of Motoujina-machi about three months after the atomic bombing. The Peace Memorial Museum received the electronic date of that photo in 2019 but, in the same way, has not yet listed it in its own museum database. About the photos, museum staff said, “We want to release the photos to the public in our database gradually to communicate to everyone the actual situation of the atomic bombing.”

(Originally published on October 30, 2022)