This month marks the sixty-seventh anniversary of the mass destruction the United States wrought on the civilians in Nagasaki and Hiroshima. And though it is often framed through the lens of ‘bringing an end to WWII’s bloody Pacific front’, the harsh images and stories of survival after the blasts reveal some of the most horrific realities of war and devastation any nation has ever had to face. Last year, the International Center of Photography exhibited many of the 1,100 images taken by the Physical Damage Division of the United States Bombing Survey in 1945. They have over 700 photos in their collection, and a new book published by Steidl:
After the United States detonated an atomic bomb at Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, the U.S. government restricted the circulation of images of the bomb’s deadly effect. President Truman dispatched some 1,150 military personnel and civilians, including photographers, to record the destruction as part of the United States Strategic Bombing Survey. The goal of the Survey’s Physical Damage Division was to photograph and analyze methodically the impact of the atomic bomb on various building materials surrounding the blast site, the first “Ground Zero.” The haunting, once-classified images of absence and annihilation formed the basis for civil defense architecture in the United States.