Hiroshima: “a blinding flash and the overpowering heat and wind”


Yoshito Matsushige, [Dazed survivors huddle together in the street ten minutes after the atomic bomb was dropped on their city, Hiroshima], August 6, 1945 (1464.2005)


Yoshito Matsushige, [Dazed survivors huddle together in the street ten minutes after the atomic bomb was dropped on their city, Hiroshima], August 6, 1945 (1464.2005) [verso]

Japanese Description of Explosion.
Survivors of the atomic-bomb attack stated that the detonation seemed like a vast combustion of magnesium filling the entire sky. These persons reported that the flame contained various colors such as greenish-white and yellowish-red. Reports of the duration of the flash varied from instantaneous to 2 to 4 seconds. At the same time an overpowering heat wave emanated from the source of the flash.

The entire city of Hiroshima was darkened by a dense pall of smoke and dust, which limited visibility to a few feet. From a distance, a mushroom-shaped cloud was seen expanding and covering the entire city. It then rose, reaching a height of 23,000 feet 4 minutes after the explosion. The column began to disintegrate after 8 minutes, the top of the mushroom separating itself from the column and remaining intact. The color of the column was gray and white while the ball on top was white tinged with crimson.

In the center of the city a violent blast of air immediately followed the flash, knocking down trees and poles, stripping branches off trees, tearing sheets of galvanized metal off buildings, derailing streetcars, and squashing or knocking over houses.

A slight interval between the flash and the blast was noted by persons who were removed from the center of the city. Few persons in the downtown area heard any noise of explosion. They were aware only of a blinding flash and the overpowering heat and wind. Outside the city, however, a loud rumbling noise was heard.

Fires soon broke out throughout the city and developed into an engulfing inferno in the central area of destruction. Some of the fires were caused by direct ignition of thatched roofs, curtains, trees, and the like but the majority resulted from secondary effects.

Directly after the explosion survivors reported finding in some places a “substance” which emitted a weak, bluish-white fluorescent light. This substance, upon contact, burned through or ignited combustible objects. When it fell upon clothing it burned through to the flesh, producing water blisters which gradually diffused and became extremely painful.

Following the explosion, strong, changeable winds arose, attaining velocities of 25 to 35 miles an hour. Whirlwinds were reported at a few points.

While the fires were spreading, there was a light rainfall throughout the central part of the city, with occasional heavy showers in the northwestern section.
Barnett, Erin, and Philomena Mariana, eds., Hiroshima: Ground Zero 1945. New York: International Center of Photography, 2011. p. 10


Bernard Hoffman, [Residents wander cleared streets bisecting the ruins of buildings reduced to piles of rubble by the atomic bomb, dropped a few months earlier], 1945 (1764.2005)


Bernard Hoffman, [People walking through the ruins of Hiroshima in the weeks following the atomic bomb blast], 1945 (1783.2005)


United States Government, The United States Strategic Bombing Survey: Physical Damage Division, The Effects of the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, Volume II, May 1947, p.10 (2011.23.2)


United States Government, The United States Strategic Bombing Survey: Physical Damage Division, The Effects of the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, Volume II, May 1947, p.34 (2011.23.2)

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The United States Strategic Bombing Survey: Physical Damage Division


United States Government, The United States Strategic Bombing Survey: Physical Damage Division, The Effects of the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, Volume I, May 1947, p.42 (2011.23.1)


United States Government, The United States Strategic Bombing Survey: Physical Damage Division, The Effects of the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, Volume II, May 1947, p.145 (2011.23.2)


United States Government, The United States Strategic Bombing Survey: Physical Damage Division, The Effects of the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, Volume II, May 1947, p.147 (2011.23.2)


United States Government, The United States Strategic Bombing Survey: Physical Damage Division, The Effects of the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, Volume II, May 1947, p.148 (2011.23.2)

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Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum at Ground Zero

At 0816 hours 6 August 1945, one of three B-29s over Hiroshima dropped the first atomic bomb ever used for military purposes. An eyewitness who was 2% miles west of the city stated:

“I saw a single enemy airplane flying over Hiroshima. It dropped or fired a brilliant object. I thought at first that it was an incendiary bomb, but then I saw what looked like a smoke ring from a funnel, gradually falling toward the ground. It grew larger almost immediately and increased in brilliance and soon covered an area almost as big as the city. A flame appeared which was even brighter than the sun. I thought I might get hurt so I fell flat on the ground.”

Exploding in the air 2,000 feet above a post office slightly northwest of the heart of the city, the atomic bomb achieved an intensity unparalleled in the history of destruction by a single man-made weapon. As estimated and described by scientists the nuclear-fission bomb had changed into a fireball hotter than the center of the sun (70,000,000°C) during the detonation that was over in a millionth of a second. It emitted radiations ranging from beyond the heat bands of infrared, down through the visible spectrum and into the ultraviolet and penetrating gamma rays. The radiations were of an intensity without precedent in human experience. Pressures developed in the bomb were of the order of a thousand billion times atmospheric pressure.
Barnett, Erin, and Philomena Mariana, eds., Hiroshima: Ground Zero 1945. New York: International Center of Photography, 2011, p. 10.


Unidentified Photographer, [Ruins of Hiroshima Prefectural Commercial Exhibition Hall, Building No. 4, (Atomic Bomb Dome)], October 24, 1945 (2006.1.33)

The building was constructed in 1915 as Hiroshima Prefectural Commercial Exhibition Hall. In 1921, the name changed to Hiroshima Prefectural Products Exhibition Hall and again in 1933 to Industrial Promotion Hall. Besides displaying and selling products from around the prefecture, it also served as a history and art museum. As the war intensified, these roles withered and various government offices took over the space, including the Chugoku-Shikoku Public Works Office of the Home Ministry and the Lumber Control Corporation. The atomic bombing killed everyone in the building. Because the bomb exploded virtually overhead, it retained the distinctive feature that earned it the name “Atomic Bomb Dome” [The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum (Genbaku Dome)] after the war. (2006.1.33)


Unidentified Photographer, [Ruins of Shima Surgical Hospital, Hiroshima], October 24, 1945 (2006.1.32)

Building 5. Looking west showing debris of building in foreground and Building No. 4 in center background. Combustible debris completely burned. Hiroshima: Ground Zero 1945, p.9


Unidentified Photographer, [Ruins of Hiroshima Prefectural Commercial Exhibition Hall, Building No. 4, (Atomic Bomb Dome)], November 14, 1945 (2006.1.34)


Unidentified Photographer, [Ruins of Hiroshima Prefectural Commercial Exhibition Hall, Building No. 4, (Atomic Bomb Dome)], November 14, 1945 (2006.1.36)

The United States detonated an atomic bomb 2,000 feet above Hiroshima, a city of over 350,000 inhabitants, on August 6, 1945. The above photos, once-classified by the U.S. government, were made 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.’” Hiroshima: Ground Zero 1945.

Building No. 4, the Hiroshima Prefectural Commercial Exhibition Hall, was the closest building to hypocenter (ground zero). The distance from the hypocenter was approximately 160m. It is now the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.

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A giant leap…


Neil Armstrong, [Buzz Aldrin walking on moon], July 20, 1969 (2012.99.1)

MAN ON THE MOONApollo 11, astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr. walks on the surface of the moon on July 20, 1969 in this photo taken by astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, who shortly before had become the first man to walk on the moon. Armstrong and the lunar module Eagle are reflected in Aldrin’s helmet.


Neil Armstrong, [Buzz Aldrin landing on moon], July 20, 1969 (2012.99.9)

“Beautiful view. Magnificent desolation.” Buzz said after he stepped onto the surface of moon […] In a press conference Neil Armstrong said the flight was “a beginning of a new age.”


Neil Armstrong, [Buzz Aldrin standing beside Solar Wind Composition on moon], July, 1969 (2012.99.8)

SOLAR WIND EXPERIMENT — Astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin stands beside the deployed Solar Wind Composition on the surface of the moon during the Apollo 11 EVA [Extravehicular activity]. The astronaut’s moon landing craft, dubbed “Eagle” by the crew is in the background.


Unidentified Photographer, [Diagram showing where Apollo 11 landed, Sea of Tranquility, Moon], July 20, 1969 (2012.99.10)

WHERE APOLLO 11 LANDED — Photo diagrams show where Apollo 11 landed on the moon today, with astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin aboard lunar module. Landing was in moon’s Sea of Tranquility. These moon photos were taken during the Apollo 10 mission in May.


Unidentified Photographer, [Drawing depicting Neil Armstrong walking on moon], July 10, 1969 (2012.99.4)

ARTIST’S CONCEPTION OF THE ASTRONAUT ON MOON — This drawing from Grumman Aerospace Corp. depicts Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Arnstrong taking his first step on the moon after descending by ladder from the lunar module. In the background is the Earth.

muniz_vik_160_1998
Vik Muniz, Memory Rendering of the Man on the Moon, from “The Best of LIFE” portfolio, 1995 (160.1998)

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“Countdown Toward the Moon”


Unidentified Photographer, [Moon seen by Apollo 8], December, 1968, (2012.99.22)


Unidentified Photographer, [Moon seen by Apollo 8] (verso), December, 1968, (2012.99.22)


NASA, [Moon annotated with possible sites to be photographed], November 29, 1968 (2012.99.28)


NASA, [Moon annotated with possible sites to be photographed] (verso), November 29, 1968 (2012.99.28)

Manned Spacecraft Center, Houston, Texas, Nov 29, 1968 —
Lunar Landing Sites — The Apollo 8 astronauts in their flight around the moon in December will sight, track and photograph at least one of these five sites selected for the ultimate manned landing by American astronauts sometime before 1970. The launch day of Apollo 8 will determine which of the sites will be photographed. The choices are: December 21-Site 1; December 22, 23-Site 2; December 24, 25-site 3; December 26-Site 4; and December 27-Site 5.


Unidentified Photographer, [Double exposure of the moon and Apollo 11 moon rocket made after service gantry was moved away during countdown, Cape Kennedy, Florida], July 2, 1969 (2012.99.2)

Cape Kennedy, Fla., July 2, 1969 —
Countdown Toward the Moon — This double exposure of the moon and The Apollo 11 moon rocket was made after the service gantry was moved away during a countdown demonstration test. The rocket is scheduled to be launched from Cape Kennedy, Florida, July 16, with astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., in an attempt for lunar landing and walk on the surface.

50 years ago today: “Apollo 11 launched from Florida, taking commander Neil Armstrong, lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin and command module pilot Michael Collins” nasa.gov on a mission to the moon.

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“Amelia Earhart riding up the Broadway canyon through cheering thousands with the traditional accompaniment of ticker tape…”


The New York Times, Mid-Week Pictorial, July 2, 1932 (2006.18.39)

New York accords a “Lindbergh welcome” to the woman who accomplished a solo flight across the Atlantic: Mrs. Amelia Earhart Putnam

Riding up the Broadway canyon through cheering thousands, with the traditional accompaniment of ticker tape, enroute to her official reception at the New York City Hall.


The New York Times, Mid-Week Pictorial, July 2, 1932 (2006.18.39)

The president of the United States honors a daring aviatrix: Mr. Hoover presenting the National Geographic Society Medal to Mrs. Amelia Earhart Putnam at the White House in the presecnce of Mrs. Hoover and Gilbert Grosvenor (left), president of the society.

A few words to a nation-wide audience: Mrs. Putnam broadcasting a message after receiving the cross of the honor of the United States Flag Association at the Federal Hall reproduction in Bryant Park.

The city’s medal for distinguished guest: Mayor Walker calling attention to the decoration conferred on Mrs. Putnam in the City Hall ceremonies.

With all the accompaniments of modern acclaim: the procession nearing City Hall, with camera men and sound technicians preceding the aviatrix’s car to record the proceedings.


The New York Times, Mid-Week Pictorial, July 2, 1932 (2006.18.39)

New York’s distinguished guest appears with an armful of roses: Mrs. Putnam on the steps of the City Hall with Mayor James J. Walker and a group of leading participants in the official reception.

In the first stages of the ceremonies the aviatrix with her husband, George Palmer Putnam, posing for photographs aboard the Ile de France.

A smile for the cheering crowds: Mrs. Putnam starting up Broadway accompanied by Charles L. Lawrance President of the Aeronautical Chamber of Commerce.

Greeted by comrades of the air: Women fliers welcoming the transatlantic aviatrix on her arrival from Europe aboard the Ile de France. Left to right are: Mar Holmes, Mrs. Ford G. Samson, Elvy Kalep, Mrs. Ruth Elder Camp, Mrs. John T. Remey, Mrs. Putnam, Elinor Smith and Viola Gentry.


The New York Times, Mid-Week Pictorial, July 2, 1932, pp. 16-17 (2006.18.39)


The New York Times, Mid-Week Pictorial, July 2, 1932, cover (2006.18.39)

Riddle of the week: Leading candidates for the democratic nomination for the presidency.

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Weegee Knew Something Was Brewing – and It Was!


Weegee, This is the scene as Weegee shot it before the blast; he said his psychic bone told him something would happen. Then…, July 5, 1944 (2040.1993)


Weegee, …something happened, all right – the street fell in. Note the fallen street post and the flames bursting from the main., July 5, 1944 (2041.1993)


Weegee, This is the scene as Weegee shot it before the blast; he said his psychic bone told him something would happen. Then…, July 5, 1944 (negative 25)


Weegee, …something happened, all right – the street fell in. Note the fallen street post and the flames bursting from the main., July 5, 1944 (negative 26)


PM, July 6, 1944, pp. 12-13

Weegee Knew Something Was Brewing – and It Was!
A water main burst at Mott and Pell Sts. Chinatown, at 2:30 a.m yesterday routing 500 people from their homes. Weegee, out psychic photographer, not only made the scene after the explosion, but BEFORE as well.

This is the scene as Weegee shot it before the blast; he said his psychic bone told him something would happen. Then…

…something happened, all right – the street fell in. Note the fallen street post and the flames bursting from the main.

An emergency worker, equipped with a gas mask, descended into the break and shut off the gas thereby stopping the flames.

Chinatown residents flee the scene in a hurry. There were no injuries.

Two invalids, one of them a paralytic, were carried to safety when the break threatened to spread. This is one of them. Refugees took temporary haven in nearby stores.

Chinatown took the explosion philosophically. Two police emergency squads and 19 extra patrolmen were assigned to maintain order. Two companies also were on hand. PM, July 6, 1944, pp. 12-13


Weegee (1899-1968), Naked City, 1945, pp. 206-207

Psychic Photography

Peaceful scene in the heart of Chinatown. The cops who always patrol the beat in pairs there think I am crazy… because I am taking their picture…

Right after I took the photo above… the street blew up… the water main pipes broke… the gas main caught fire… followed by
an explosion… five hundred tenement dwellers in the block were driven from their homes. Naked City, 1945, p. 207

The Brooklyn Eagle reported that a 38 inch water main broke and caused a hole that was 20 by 25 feet wide and 20 feet deep.

In May 1945 fireman William Groening received the Walter Scott Medal medal for his heroic actions during the water and gas main breaks at Mott and Pell Streets:

While attempting to plug the break, the plug fell into the excavation and a fireman climbed into the excavation pit to retrieve it. While he was in the pit, the accumulated gasses exploded and enveloped him in flames. The explosion undermined the sinking sub-surface, making the trapped man’s position more precarious as he started to climb out.

Knowing that another explosion would throw him into the inferno that was raging in the hole, Groening threw himself flat on the ground and grasped the arms of the man in the pit. By Herculean effort he dragged his comrade to the street, saving his life… Long Island Star-Journal, May 21, 1945, p.7

These two photos from July 1944 (75 years ago this week) provide the best evidence of Weegee’s psychic abilities.

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