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tv   Reel America Effects of the Atomic Bombs on Hiroshima Nagasaki  CSPAN  August 10, 2020 2:28pm-3:02pm EDT

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they were not rescued for several days. on the anniversary of the sinking congress awarded the entire crew the congressional gold medal, the highest honor. enjoy american history tv this week and every weekend on c-span3. >> we continue for you with the bombing of hiroshima, japan, that led to the end of world war ii. coming up a discussion about how filmmakers tried to document the results of the bombing before the films were confiscated for decades. you'll see portions of the films. in 1945 war department film documenting b49 fortress air campaign against japan. that's followed by a discussion about president truman's order of the use of the bomb. all part of what you'll see every weekend on american history tv here on c-span3. >> dozens of films documenting the aftermath of the atomic
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bombs dropped on hiroshima and nagasaki in 1945 are available at the u.s. archives in maryland. the films shot by japanese and american crews were hidden and off limits to the public for decades after world war ii ended. up next on reel america, historian greg mitchell, author of "atomic cover-up" two u.s. soldiers, hiroshima, nagasaki and the greatest movie never made joins us to tell the story of these films. we begin with a portion of a film describing the morning of august 6th, 1945, in hiroshima. this program includes scenes of atomic bomb victims that some viewers may find disturbing. >> it was the 6th of august, the air raid alarm, which had been on from the night before throughout the district, was lifted for the time being. it was an unusually calm and
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clear morning. a few minutes after 8:00, two super fortresses in formation appeared over the city. then a bomb came hurtling down from one of the giant bombers. there was a blinding flash, then a deafening explosion. in an instant, hiroshima was a scene of unprecedented chaos. hiroshima was instantly transfigured. there was nothing left but ruins. nothing standing to hinder a full view of the city. >> in the first days after the atomic bombing of hiroshima and then nagasaki three days later, 75 years ago now, the leading japanese news reel team sent one or more cameramen to the two
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cities. and they shot footage of the aftermath, not just the buildings but survivors, victims told the whole story. this footage was shipped back to tokyo where it was soon suppressed by the american occupation when they arrived in early september. the news reel team then tried again, and they sent several people, elite people, actually, to hiroshima, nagasaki, and again, they shot footage, extensive footage for the next month, and then when the americans arrived in nagasaki, again, the footage was seized. and the japanese, however, since they had been there before the americans, and had totally
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historic footage, that showed medical effects as well as physical effects, the americans then ordered them to actually continue their work but under american supervision. and so the japanese went back to work. they shot more footage. they were then ordered to edit and narrate a documentary which they did, two hours and 40 minutes. but again, under american supervision, they finished this documentary, and it was seized by the american military. and basically suppressed for decades, really, until the late 1960s. the americans, meanwhile, we can get into that, then began shooting color footage of the aftermath, and that footage, too, would be suppressed for decades. as a way to control what
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americans were allowed to see about the aftermath of the bombings. >> as we drew close to the epicenter, we found that because the blast came from overhead, such perpendicular objects as the gateway which is not a strong structure in itself, remained erect on the ground. this is the commercial and industrial exhibits building built of brick, 300 meters from the epicenter. >> why did the japanese make these films that are so scientific and carefully constructed? >> well, when they first arrived, they, of course, they didn't know what they were going to find. it was just quite shocking just to be there. and they, of course, they were the victims, you know, we can talk about them being the perpetrators of the war, but in terms of the atomic bombings, they certainly were the victims, up to 200,000 died. 90% of them were civilians, and even the survivors suffered horribly from these unique burns and radiation effects.
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so they were shooting in the hospitals, makeshift hospitals, shacks, documenting the aftermath where people were suffering from a new disease. you could say it was incredibly important just from a medical standpoint, because they were documenting the emergence of a new disease in the world, the radiation sickness caused by an atomic bomb. >> a brother and sister who were upstairs in their house two kilometers southwest of the epicenter. it was reported that after about a week, they began to develop symptoms of anorexia, gingal bleeding, and fever. mother and daughter shown here were both inside their house, two kilometers southwest of the epicenter. the daughter was injured when an ice box fell on top of her. the mother had no visible injuries and was nursing her daughter outside of the city when a month later she herself became seriously ill. >> and so that's why they were,
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you know, they were intent on capturing that, and they did. but also, it was important for the u.s. to then hide that footage because they didn't want americans to see the effects. they wanted the americans to turn the page, war was over. and you know, they didn't really want to see what happened to the people, the civilians, and they're almost all women and children, elderly men. i think we still wanted people to believe we had bombed military facilities and killed soldiers and so forth, but just wasn't the case. and i mean, the japanese did, for posterity and for the occupiers, the americans there, they tried to do an honest job with this, with the footage they had. >> the deluge three days after the tragedy visited hiroshima,
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the 9th of august 1945. the day was calm, bright, windless. a hot summer sun shone upon the city. since early morning, the alarm was on in the nagasaki area. then it was lifted. but for two hours and a half, the warning continued to prevail. then exactly at 11:00, two superfortresses appeared above the city from the northeasterly direction, flying at a high altitude. the first plane dropped three objects attached to parachutes. after 11:02, the second plane dropped an object. its descent taking about 40 seconds. then came a blinding flash, followed by an explosion and a blaze. the destruction was the greatest ever wrought by man. all buildings, save those of stout reinforced concrete, were demolished. the whole of this neighborhood, once teemed with wooden houses and small factories, now is flattened out and denuded of everything. only pebbles and broken tiles
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remain. >> they were directed to make this documentary focusing on mainly on the physical effects, the effects on plants, the effects on other things in the natural world, with some focus on injuries to people. it's mainly not showing the survivors. you know, it's mainly showing a wide range. i think you're scrolling through here, a good variety of what was shown. shadow effects, of course, are quite dramatic, how the flash of the bomb threw up permanent shadows on the buildings and sidewalks and so forth. and so the footage shows scientists, japanese scientists studying this. making measurements and calculating the direction of the
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bomb and so on. so it's quite an amazing document, and people can view it now at the national archives or even online. it is available. but nobody in america saw it until around 1970. my film that will eventually be coming out, we did the first 4k modern transfers so the quality is much better. if people want to know more about your film that's not released yet but will be soon, tell us what they can do. >> well, they can go to my blog, pressing issues, where i have put up four brief clips from the film. the film is about 50 minutes long. these clips are short, but they do include footage of the black and white footage and the color footage and a little bit about what's being shown. so it's a very good -- gives you a very good idea of what my film is about and what about the footage is about and why it's important.
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>> there's really quite a dramatic story about this whole project. i mean, the people, the americans after the japanese completed this 2:40 documentary, the american military suddenly arrived and seized not just the original print but every scrap of outtake, everything that was not used with hours of footage. and that footage has never surfaced. it's known as the phantom film in japan. because even though this two hour and 40 minute documentary did emerge eventually from the shadows, all of the outtakes, all of what they call the scraps and leftover material has never surfaced. it's either still buried or it was destroyed by the americans. so that's the phantom film, but what happened was when the
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japanese news reel team found out they were about to be raided by the americans, they did spirit out one -- i guess the original print, and had a copy made at great risk. risk of imprisonment by the americans. had one copy made. and they then came back and hid that copy in the ceiling of an editing suite where it remained for several years. so everything else was shipped back to the u.s. the japanese kept it. the occupation was still going on. they kept it in the ceiling. then after several years, they brought it out, and actually the first even small bits of it that anyone saw in the west was sort of smuggled out to rene for his feature, famous feature, hiroshima man amor. as you know, it was not a documentary. it was a drama set in hiroshima, but he used small bits of it in his foreign film. so that's how the west saw even tiny bits of it, but it did
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not -- a larger part of it was never seen until -- and we can talk about this if you want, aired on pbs just after 1970. >> so tell us about this film. >> well, erik barnow found out in the late 1960s, he was at columbia at the time and already a famous writer on documentary films. he found out that this footage had been quietly declassified at the national archives. and so he then made a 15-minute rather artful, understated documentary, which we're looking at right now, parts of it, called hiroshima nagasaki 1945, and managed to get public television to air it around another august 6th anniversary.
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this caused great controversy at the time. some people thought this was not a proper idea, i.d. and they -- at least one station refused to run it. when it was aired, there was a panel that came on after to discuss it, i guess, to give more of a context rather than let it speak for itself. but he basically took the two hours and 40 minutes, took 15 minutes of highlights, with narration, and you know, it did cause quite a stir. and it was available for many years as a vhs tape. >> in hiroshima on that day, half the doctors were killed. at the hospitals, between 3,000 and 10,000 people came each day for help. and each day, 2,000 of them died. they were buried together because there were too many to bury separately.
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>> and so it was an historic moment. now, this is in, like i said, 1970, 1971. the color footage shot by the americans at that point was still unknown and no one had ever seen. we're seeing the first bits of it here, okay. actually, that card there, it's a very interesting story itself, if you want to hold that. cameraman harry mimura. now it's not a name many americans know, but he was a well-known japanese cinematographer who was born in japan, actually went to hollywood, worked on mainstream hollywood movies in the 1930s. went back to japan, and actually in 1942, was the cinematographer for curacao's very first movie. that's how prominent he was.
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he was then enlisted by the americans to shoot most of their footage. and so that's, again, the level of quality that went into this. and harry mimura then shot much of this footage that, some of this you're going to see now. this scene here is nurses marching into the red cross hospital in hiroshima, which was badly damaged. and they were -- this footage was shot in the fall or winter following the atomic bombing. >> where was this color footage then? it's marked at the national archives as united states air force. but when did people first learn about this? >> well, i guess it's kind of a long story, but one of the handful of men who took part in this project was a man named
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herbert sussan. he got out of the military and went on to be one of the pioneering network tv producers and directors. but he was haunted by what he had seen there. and so he had tried for years to get permission to get at this footage, which was kept on basically a military archives for so long. and was never allowed. then in the late 1970s, he happened to attend a u.n. exhibit of photos from hiroshima and saw an image, basically a still from this footage, and he told the organizer, well, i shot that. or my team shot that footage, and of course, the man was shocked. what are you talking about? he said this is -- this is footage i shot back in 1945, 1946, and that led to the japanese to then investigate. they found that the color footage had all been declassified at the national
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archives a few years earlier, but no one knew about it. it was just as if it had not been declassified. so the japanese then launched a mass movement. it was called the ten-foot campaign. you would donate a certain amount of money, and you could buy ten feet of this 90,000 feet of footage, and they ended up getting all of the relevant footage back in japan and started making films in the early 1980s. actually, the first time i was exposed to this was in new york in 1982, when that first japanese documentary was shown, and herbert sussan spoke before it. i then became good friends with herbert. i edited at a magazine called "nuclear times." the first article ever about this, this footage, and then it became, i guess you could say, a mini sensation. documentary filmmakers then
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started to use it. everyone knew about it. and so thanks to herbert sussan and the japanese, the footage finally emerged after 35 years. >> have you seen the japanese documentaries using this footage? >> yes, i have. >> how would you compare it to american works? >> well, they did a very interesting thing. from the very start. this was a big new project in the news in japan. as you can imagine. covered as this incredible finding. and so the press was, you know, covered this, and they located some of the people who were shown in this footage. in fact, a couple of them i met myself years later in japan. so they tracked down some of the people shown in the original footage, then they would kind of show the original footage, and then talk to the person in 1980
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about how they felt about it or, you know, the story behind it. and so that's pretty much how they handled it. they definitely did kind of a before and after treatment in most cases. >> do you know if president truman or other policy leaders ever saw these films? >> i don't really. you know, they were classified, top secret at the start, and they just kind of remained. they got shuffled to different, you know, military repositories. but as far as i know, no top person had that. there was a screening of the japanese, the black and white footage, which i document in the book. where more of the top brass was shown.
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here's has we have. out of that came, okay, you have to keep the secret. and so that just endured. once things are classified, unless someone takes a step to declassify them or release it to the media or whatever, you know, nobody knows about it. and that's what happened in this case. >> do you think that americans in 2020 should watch these films? >> well, obviously, i do, since i just made a film based on them. >> why? >> you know, the selections you're showing are -- i mean, they're representative in some ways. the footage could be edited into a long feature with subtlety, not necessarily focusing on the most graphic images. these images are pretty hard to take. and i understand that. so i wouldn't expect, and i didn't make a film where people have to sit there for an hour or two watching this. you know, put it in context, you
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can show, you know, the stories of the filmmakers, which is basically what my film is about, really about the japanese and american filmmakers. their stories, the whole film is told first person. the japanese filmmakers, cameramen, talk about what they saw, how they experienced it, and the american filmmakers. it's entirely from the point of view of the filmmakers. and, you know, half of them were american soldiers or officers. so it's not -- you know, it's very sympathetic to the american military in trying to shoot this footage and the people who did it. but ultimately, the same military and government hid the footage. so it's kind of a story of these elite filmmakers versus the government and versus the public right to know. should the public have been allowed to see this footage from
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the start? would it have made a difference? my latest book is about how the mgm made a film that was revised, sabotaged, by the white house and the military in the very same year they were suppressing this footage. so it's part of an overall drive by those in authority to manage what i call the hiroshima narrative. to keep the story focused on the use of the bomb that allegedly was the only thing that could end the war, save the million american lives, and so forth. it was important to keep that not interrupted by images and stories that might make people have second thoughts about that. so that's all part of this whole post-war routine. >> your new book "the beginning of the end: how hollywood and america learned to stop worrying and love the bomb." what's that film -- what's that about, basically?
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>> well, as i mentioned, immediately after -- very shortly after the bombing a group of atomic scientists within the manhattan project approached mgm, giant studio, in fact, they did it through the actors. donna reid, which is kind of interesting. but they, to make a film that would warn the world about the dangers of going, continuing down this path. nuclear arms race with the soviets. hydrogen bomb. everything that did follow. could they make a big hollywood dra drama? the head of mgm said, yes, we'll do this. it's going to be the most important movie i ever made. first scripts showed effects in hiroshima. they raised questions about further creation of the bomb, bigger bombs. then mgm allowed jefrl groves,
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head of the manhattan project, and the white house and president truman, himself, to intervene, basically have script approval. so the book charts over the following year both the military and president truman intervened in annen pre unprecedented fash revise the script, cut out things they didn't like at all such as the bombing of nagasaki which somehow was eliminated, doesn't turn up even once in the film, and basically shape a movie that was pro-bomb propaganda, came out in early 1947. again, the very same months this documentary footage that we've been talking about was suppressed. so, that film eventually came out and, you know, hollywood has only made two movies about the bomb, about the creation and use of the bomb since. so it is kind of remarkable when you think about.
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3 films, 3 movies, in 75 years. but the book goes back to the origin of that. and how this first film was totally turned in a different direction. >> the whole thing is terrifying. you must have spent many sleepless nights over it. >> i've consulted with mr. churchill, with all of the top military and naval advisers, i've talked with the civilian heads of our war effort and all of the advisers tell me the bomb will shorten the war by at least a year. >> where are we going to use it? >> that's another question i had to think about. the army has selected several japanese city as prime military targets. >> so 25 years ago you co-authored this book with robert j. lifton, "hiroshima in america: 50 years of denial." 75 years after the bomb, how could you summarize your thoughts about the united states' relationship with hiroshima and nagasaki?
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>> well, some people might say why have you been writing about this for 38 years? why does it matter today? you can't bring back dead civilians. you can't change the direction of the arms race that developed and so forth. of course, that's all sadly true, but what drives me and really has driven me is that, you know, we still have at least 5,000 nuclear weapons, warheads, on alert here in the u.s. and, of course, other countries have it as well. but what most people don't know is the united states has had, still has, a first-use policy, which means any president sort of has the okay to launch a nuclear war not in retaliation like in the movies when missiles are coming in, but as a first strike. so you can call it the first-strike policy. absolute okay to do that in response to a conventional attack or even a threat. you know?
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and polls show, recent polls show that a good number of americans, 30% to 40%, say they would support a first strike on, for example, north korea or iran if they started makie ining threatening noises toward the u.s. even though in the polls they're asked even if this would kill a million civilians? people say, you know, sure. this goes back to the hiroshima narrative that only our bombs could have ended the war at that time and saved what was claimed to be a million american lives. and so that narrative has endured in the media, certainly even today. most in the media, or few in the media ever really challenge that, and certainly officials rarely challenge that. so it's something that's endured for 75 years and it's certainly worth a debate. it's not a black-and-white debate. i always welcome debate studying
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evidence and so on and so forth, but the fact is, the fact is that many americans and most in the media continue to endorse that, only makes further use more likely. not only is it a precedent, but it is a precedent that is endorsed every year. another anniversary, this will maybe be the last time such a major anniversary is marked. and, again, i don't see much evidence that the media or officials or anyone is particularly rising up to challenge this. myself and, of course, a few others. but, so that's what's driven me, i guess, is it's not just a matter of the past. you know, this is a very much relative topical issue today because how we respond, how we look at the fact we used the bomb twice, informs today's policies, informs today's
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attitudes, informs -- you know, imagine a nuclear threat, a crisis today, call it what you will, suddenly a world crisis with some of our rivals or enemies that are making threatening noises and there's any president with nuclear codes, as you know, what they call the nuclear football, always within a few yards, who could launch a nuclear attack any time. so, you know, i think hiroshima and nagasaki do matter very, very much today even if there's nothing we can do to change what was done in 1945. >> greg mitchell, thank you very much for joining us and helping us understand these films. >> well, i was very happy to do this. thank you. >> the cities of hiroshima and nagasaki. for a moment tragic scenes of devastation have begun to recover with the passage of time. slowly but surely efforts toward construction are being made.
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♪ insufficient though the studies of the scientists may have been, they have given hope and light to these cities and their citizens. you're watching american history tv. every weekend on c-span3, explore our nation's past. c-spa c-span3. created by america's cable television companies as a public service and brought to you today by your television provider. weeknights this month, we're featuring american history tv programs as a preview of what's available every weekend on c-span3. tonight, a look at the "u.s.s. indianapolis." on july 30th, 1945, 2 japanese torpedos sunk the "u.s.s.
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indianapolis" in shark-infested waters. only 317 out of 1196 crew members survived. they were not rescued for several days. on the 75th anniversary of the ship sinking, congress awarded the entire crew the congressional gold medal, its highest d esest civilian honor. watch tonight beginning at 8:00 eastern and enjoy american history tv this week and every weekend on c-span3. ♪ c-span has unfiltered coverage of congress, the white house, the supreme court and public policy events. you can watch all of c-span's public affairs programming on television, online, or listen on our free radio app. and be part of the national conversation through c-span's daily "washington journal" program or through our social media feeds. c-span, created by america's cable television companies as a public service and brought to you today by your television provider.
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75 years ago on march 9th and 10th, 1945, nearly 300 u.s. b-29 bombers executed operation meeting house, the fire bombing of tokyo. much of the city was destroyed and the estimates of civilians killed ranged from 80,000 to 130,000 people. up next on "reel america," "the last bomb." this academy award nominated war department film details the process of a similar tokyo bombing mission in the summer of 1945 showing planning, execution and return after 3,000 miles of flight. ♪


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