I listened to an interview with Hiroshima in America co-author Greg Mitchell last weekend on FAIR’s radio program, Counterspin. Mitchell talked about how documentary footage taken by both Japanese and American film crews in the days and weeks following the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had been suppressed by US authorities for decades. When the Pentagon released the footage simultaneously to the National Archives and the Japanese government in 1968, film scholar Erik Barnouw (1908-2001) assembled a portion of it into a 16-minute film entitled Hiroshima-Nagasaki August, 1945 (1970). He then screened the film at MoMA (which will include it in a program later this month) and on public television, offering Americans one of their first opportunities to see documentary footage of the effects of the atomic bombs–25 years later. (It wasn’t until the early ’80s that the American color footage was released in a similar fashion.)
Barnouw has written about the history of the Japanese footage and it’s a tale with significant drama and intrigue–when its filmmakers were asked to turn the film over to the US Occupation authorities, they secretly made a duplicate and hid it for many years; some of this footage (along with dramatic hibakusha recreations from Kaneto Shindo’s 1952 Children of Hiroshima and Hideo Sekigawa’s 1953 Hiroshima) surprisingly managed to turn up in Alain Resnais’ Hiroshima mon amour (1959).
But back to Greg Mitchell, who participated in a documentary currently screening on the Sundance Channel, Original Child Bomb (2004), and who recently published his own lengthy and fascinating account of the filmmakers and events related to the suppressed footage, which can be read here. Look for cameos by Barnouw, Warner Brothers, and cinematographers Lt. Col. Daniel McGovern (William Wyler’s 1944 Memphis Belle) and Akira “Harry” Mimura (Sadao Yamanaka’s 1937 Humanity and Paper Balloons).