Censored Japan A-bomb stories published
Banned reports detail Nagasaki’s ‘disease X’
TOKYO, Japan – Censored stories written by an American journalist who sneaked into Japan soon after Nagasaki was leveled by a U.S. atomic bomb have surfaced six decades later.
They offer an unflinching account about the “wasteland of war” and its radiation-sickened inhabitants.
The national Mainichi newspaper this month began serializing George Weller’s stories and photographs from Nagasaki, about 614 miles southwest of Tokyo, for the first time since they were rejected by U.S. military censors and lost 60 years ago.
Weller’s reportage about the unknown affliction he called “disease X” appeared in the paper in Japanese and on its Web site edition in English.
By hiring a Japanese rowboat, catching trains and later posing as a U.S. Army colonel, Weller, an award-winning reporter for the now-defunct Chicago Daily News, slipped into Nagasaki in early September 1945, the paper said.
It was about a month after the two A-bomb strikes — the first in Hiroshima on August 6, the second in Nagasaki on August 9 — that had led to Tokyo’s August 15, 1945, surrender ending the war.
Weller, who died in 2002, was the first foreign journalist to set foot in the devastated city, which Gen. Douglas MacArthur, head of the U.S. occupation in Japan, had designated off-limits to reporters, it said.
Carbon copies of his stories, running to about 25,000 words on 75 typed pages, along with more than two dozen photos, were discovered by his son, Anthony, last summer at Weller’s apartment in Rome, Italy, the Mainichi said.
Anthony Weller, a novelist living in Annisquam, Massachusetts, couldn’t be reached for comment. He plans to publish his father’s stories.
Though he skirted American authorities to get into Nagasaki, Weller submitted his reports — the first was dated September 6 — to the censors. The stories infuriated MacArthur so much he personally ordered that they be quashed, and the originals were never returned.
Anthony Weller told Mainichi he thought wartime officials wanted to hush up stories about radiation sickness and feared that his father’s reports would sway American public opinion against building an arsenal of nuclear bombs. The first batch of stories were finished just as a delegation of American scientists was to visit the city to test for radiation.
About 70,000 people were killed in the explosion.
In a September 8, 1945 dispatch, Weller walked through the city — a “wasteland of war” — and found evidence to back the talk of radiation fallout from American radio reports.
Though thousands of burn victims had died within a week after the attack, doctors were stumped by “this mysterious ‘disease X”‘ which sickened and was killing many Japanese as well as allied soldiers freed from prison camps a month later.
“In swaybacked or flattened skeletons of the Mitsubishi arms plants is revealed what the atomic bomb can do to steel and stone, but what the riven atom can do against human flesh and bone lies hidden in two hospitals of downtown Nagasaki,” he wrote.
One woman at a hospital “lies moaning with a blackish mouth stiff as though with lockjaw and unable to utter clear words,” her legs and arms covered with red spots. Others suffered from a dangerously high-temperature fever, a drop in white and red blood cells, swelling in the throat, sores, vomiting, diarrhea, internal bleeding or loss of hair.
The next day, he met a Japanese doctor and X-ray specialist who thought that the bomb had showered the population with harmfully high levels of beta and gamma radiation. But nobody could say for sure.
“The atomic bomb’s peculiar ‘disease,’ uncured because it is untreated and untreated because it is not diagnosed, is still snatching away lives here,” Weller wrote.
Weller was 95 when he died in December 2002. He won the Pulitzer Prize, the most prestigious journalism honor in the United States, for an eyewitness account of an emergency appendectomy carried out by a pharmacist’s mate on a Navy submarine underwater in the South China Sea. He also covered the French Indochina war in Southeast Asia and World War II in Europe, as well as wrote stories from the Mideast, Africa, the Soviet Union and other parts of Asia.