Investigation by City of Hiroshima puts A-bomb death toll by end of 1945 at 88,978

by Michiko Tanaka, Staff Writer

On March 25, it was learned that the confirmed death toll due to the atomic bombing between August 6, 1945, when the A-bomb attack on Hiroshima was carried out by the United States, and December 31 of that year is 88,978. The City of Hiroshima will soon release the results of its seventh investigation into this figure. Since the time of the sixth investigation, which was conducted from fiscal 1995 to 1998, a number of overlapping names were removed, resulting in a decrease of 961.

The seventh investigation, which began in fiscal 1999, has put the number of victims who lost their lives on the day of the bombing at 53,644. Compared to the previous probe, this is an increase of 174. The number of those who died between August 7 and December 31 is now thought to be 35,334, a decrease of 1,135 from the prior investigation.

The City of Hiroshima first launched this ongoing effort to investigate the city’s death toll in fiscal 1979. The investigation involves confirming, one by one, the fate of each person who experienced the atomic bombing of Hiroshima by bringing together data that has been compiled by the governments of Hiroshima City and Hiroshima Prefecture as well as the central government, among other entities. Hiroshima University’s Research Institute for Radiation Biology and Medicine (RIRBM), located in Minami Ward, Hiroshima, joined the effort three years ago. RIRBM performed a detailed computer analysis of the previous results and helped eliminate overlapping names that likely are references to the same person.

Since 1976, the City of Hiroshima has cited the figure “140,000 +/- 10,000” for the death toll caused by the atomic bombing. This figure was arrived at via calculations that involved checking the national census available from that time, a task undertaken by a panel of experts from the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and studying military records held by military authorities once located in Hiroshima.

With each investigation, however, the death toll has continued to fluctuate. In the fourth investigation, which ran from fiscal 1988 to 1990, the figure stood at its highest, at 91,164. Still, this number falls far short of the figure “140,000 +/- 10,000.”

  Keiko Otani, an assistant professor of data analysis at RIRBM and a member of the recent probe, pointed out possible instances in which all the members of a family died as well as the fact that a number of foreign nationals and military personnel left Hiroshima after the bombing, explaining that no tracking could be pursued under such circumstances. “We were able to include people when records exist, but for many others, records were never made or were lost,” Ms. Otani said. She added, “It’s unlikely that new records will be found in the future. I have to assume that the number of names which can be confirmed won’t increase from here.”

Evolution of the City of Hiroshima’s investigation into the death toll

1. Period (fiscal year)
2. Number of confirmed deaths by the end of 1945

1. First Period (1979-1981)
2. 78,349

1. Second Period (1982-1984)
2. 85,735

1. Third Period (1985-1987)
2. 77,576

1. Fourth Period (1988-1990)
2. 91,164

1. Fifth Period (1991-1994)
2. 88,850

1. Sixth Period (1995-1998)
2. 89,939

1. Seventh Period (1999-2012)
2. 88,978

(Originally published on March 26, 2013)