Remembering America's mass murder of two Japanese cities

65 years ago today, America obliterated the Japanese city of Hiroshima, killing — immediately or through agonizing death from radiation poisoning — most of Hiroshima’s men, women and children. Three days later, America obliterated Nagasaki.

Of a family portrait in a photo album that survived the destruction of the house and, presumably, its inhabitants, LIFE writes:

this photo — like many other quietly revelatory pictures made by LIFE photographers on the ground in Hiroshima and Nagasaki — was not published. Perhaps a family album too-readily humanized an enemy that had been so effectively demonized and dehumanized for four long, bloody years.

This amazing photo of a bravely surviving Christian cross almost certainly was not published because it too successfully humanized — even Americanized — those America murdered.

There are no dead bodies in the photos because people were vaporized:

[P]eople’s bodies were terribly squeezed, then their internal organs ruptured. Then the blast blew the broken bodies at 500 to 1,000 miles per hour through the flaming, rubble-filled air. Practically everybody within a radius of 6,500 feet was killed or seriously injured and all buildings crushed or disemboweled.

Even the photographer, horrified by what he witnessed, assured his editor he felt no “sympathy for the Japs”:

“We were so shocked with what we saw,” [photographer Bernard] Hoffman wrote, “that most of us felt like weeping. Not out of sympathy for the Japs, but because we were so shocked and revolted by this new and terrible form of destruction…. What was formerly Japan’s most modern, most westernized city, is now nothing more than a two foot layer of twisted tin and rubble.”

People and animals' flesh was burned off till nothing but bare skeleton remained.

Those who died instantly were the lucky ones:

Those who had suffered only small burns found their appetite failing, their hair falling out, their gums bleeding. They developed temperatures of 104, vomited blood, and died. It was discovered that they had lost 86 percent of their white blood corpuscles. Last week the Japanese announced that the count of Hiroshima’s dead had risen to 125,000.

Posted by James on Friday, August 06, 2010