During the US led Allied Occupation, severe censorship applied to the medical aspects of the atomic bombing. Records of autopies, area monitoring and nuclear research were confiscated by US authorities under General Farrell. Such records and objects included soil samples, radiation data, includng the monitoring data of Kyoto University (Shimizu et al) and human remains, including the body of the world’s first victim of radiation sickness caused by the atomic bomb. This person, Midori Naka, was the first person to have “Atomic bomb disease” entered as the cause of death entered upon her death certificate. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum has a detailed segment on Midori Naka as part of its online display. Her body parts were returned to Japan in glass jars by the US in the 1970s.
In the immediate aftermath of the atomic bombings, the Japanese government responded by confiscating much information itself. One reason for this censorship appears to have been the control of morale in the period immediately prior to the surrender. Many photographs of the devestation of Hiroshima in particular have been lost, has have been other documents. (Palmer, Flinders University). This Japanese censorship actually augmented and assisted the US censorship which was applied by the Occupation Forces, initially under the control of Groves via General Farrell on the ground in Japan. The Peace Treaty was not signed until April 28 1952 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_San_Francisco</ahttp://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201308040020 The surrender document of 1945 was not a peace treaty. Japan was Occupied until 1952 and was effectively under US military control for that period. The censorship was not lifted until then, and even then, the role of the US – Japan authorities in the control of the public perceptions of the effects of the atomic bombings was tightly controlled. And documents were censored, confiscated and suppressed to varying degrees.
The Japanese doctors who treated the bomb victims were very aware of the censorship of the post bomb era. John Hersey published his work “Hiroshima” in the “New Yorker” in 1946. It was later published as a book. The full text of this work is available at : http://archive.org/stream/hiroshima035082mbp/hiroshima035082mbp_djvu.txt In the course of his visit to Hiroshima Hersey interviewed survivors and the treating doctors. His literary picture of Hiroshima has substituted for many many years for the official documents suppressed for so long. In his book, Hersey notes the censorship of the era. Significantly, he recounts how the Hiroshima doctors, worried about the confiscation of so much information and so many documents, created a “secret” back channel for the preseravation of information regarding the effects of the bomb and of the treatment of patients. The doctors were concerned that what they had seen and learned should not be lost and that the suffering inflicted and the means to ease it should not be lost either. And so it has been that some people have been waiting for the documented preserved to gradually come to light when those individuals who must still surely hold and preserve them, now, as always was the case, on the basis of an ad hoc unofficial and unknown “archive” rooted in the war collective of civilian Japanese medicos.
In an earlier post I have previously described a number of the above themes: https://nuclearhistory.wordpress.com/2011/04/19/sacred-ground-dont-do-this-to-fukushima/
This previous post contains links to the relevant Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum web pages.
Here is the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum illustration of Midori Naka. Her body was confiscated by the USA. Her body parts were returned to Japan in lttle glass jars in the 1970s:
The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum link for this image and the story of Midori Naka is:
The following article of the “discovery” of the medical records of Midori Naka is of great significance.
Medical records of world’s first radiation victim from A-bomb recovered
August 04, 2013
By YURI OIWA/ Staff Writer
Long-lost medical records detailing the sharply deteriorating health of the world’s first recognized radiation sickness patient have been recovered 68 years after the victim died within weeks of being exposed to the atomic bomb in Hiroshima.
The patient, Midori Naka, a stage actress, died 18 days after she was injured in the nuclear blast on Aug. 6, 1945. She was staying in Hiroshima as part of a traveling theater troupe.
After returning to Tokyo a few days later, Naka died while undergoing treatment, which included blood transfusions, at the University of Tokyo Hospital. She was 36.
The discovery came after decades of efforts by researchers to locate her missing records.The hospital kept updates of her condition leading up to her death and the results of her autopsy.
The recently recovered medical records of Midori Naka.
But other vital records have been missing until their recent recovery.
Kazuhiko Maekawa, professor emeritus with the University of Tokyo who is expert in treating patients suffering from radiation exposure, hailed the discovery of Naka’s medical records.
“She apparently died of sepsis in the end after the infectious disease spread all over her body,” he said. “The records are invaluable as those reporting in detail on changes in her health condition after she was exposed to a fatal level of radiation.”
One of the researchers searching for Naka’s records was Shiro Shirato, a medical student at the University of Tokyo in August 1945, who helped conduct a blood test on Naka. He also took part in her autopsy. Shirato died three years ago at age 87.
His widow, Keiko Shirato, 83, who resides in Ayase, Kanagawa Prefecture, said she was relieved to learn of the recovery of Naka’s medical records.
“If my husband were still alive, he would have been rejoicing over the news,” she said.
Naka was about 750 meters from ground zero at a Hiroshima lodging facility where her traveling troupe was staying. After she was severely injured in the blast, she managed to return to Tokyo, where she was born and raised.
The recovered records showed the results of her blood tests, a chart of her body temperatures and the treatment she underwent until her death, along with diagnoses of her illness as radiation disease.
Family members of those who were involved in her treatment, who have passed away, discovered the documents. The Asahi Shimbun interviewed university officials who authenticated the medical records as Naka’s.
Symptoms that Naka developed and the results of her autopsy were described in reports compiled by the Science Council of Japan. They were also quoted in reports on the impact of the
atomic bombing that were taken to the United States after the U.S. military translated the original Japanese documents into English.
But most of the original records had been missing until the recent discovery. Some researchers speculated that the U.S. occupying forces took them to the United States.
Others believed that Japanese officials hid them out of fear of U.S. forces seizing the data. The recent find ruled out U.S. involvement behind the loss of the records.
According to the newly discovered documents, Naka was in the kitchen of the lodging around 8 a.m. on Aug. 6, some 15 minutes before the detonation of the atomic bomb. She told doctors that she saw a flash of yellow light two meters square shortly after and heard a noise akin to the bursting of a hot water boiler.
When she was pulled from the wreckage, she found herself in only her underwear and with injuries all over her body.
Feeling strong nausea, Naka vomited. After she entered a river to flee from a raging fire in the neighborhood, she was rescued and taken to a camp for survivors. Five of the nine members of her troupe, which she had joined in January 1945 to give performances for workers at munitions factories, were later found to have been killed instantly.
With no medical treatment provided at the camp, Naka, wrapping herself in a sheet of straw mat, managed to board the first train bound for Tokyo after the blast. She arrived in the capital in the early hours of Aug. 10. She was admitted to the University of Tokyo Hospital on Aug. 16.
The records showed that her white blood cell counts were down to 400 per cubic millimeter of blood, less than 10 percent of their normal level.
Naka began losing clumps of hair the following day. Her injuries on her back sharply worsened.
On Aug. 21, her body temperature rose to nearly 40 degrees. She received blood transfusions.
Her white blood cell counts dropped further to 300 per cubic mm on Aug. 22. Infectious ulcers formed around her injuries. She underwent more blood transfusions.
On Aug. 23, she developed infectious ulcers around the spot where she had a shot and hemorrhagic macules–the size of rice grains–all over her body. Additional blood transfusions followed.
Her body temperature rose to 40.4 degrees on Aug. 24. She died at 12:30 p.m. that day.
In 1945, little was known about the health hazards of exposure to massive levels of radiation.
Masao Tsuzuki, professor of surgery at the university who treated her, was one of only a handful of Japanese doctors familiar with radiology. He diagnosed her illness as radiation disease.
“Before, the consequences of an atomic bomb were believed to be the destruction by a blast and burns left by the ray of heat,” he said in an Asahi Shimbun article dated Aug. 29, 1945. “It was proved, however, in addition to those, an atomic bomb causes harm as a result of ‘radioactive substances.’ ”
Kenji Kamiya, professor of radiology at the Research Institute for Radiation Biology and Medicine with Hiroshima University, estimated that Naka had been exposed to a radiation dose of more than 8,000 millisieverts, given her symptoms and her proximity to the hypocenter of the explosion.
That level of exposure is fatal to humans, according to experts.
Shiro Shirato began his search for Naka’s missing records more than 30 years after her death, after reading a letter in the Letters to the Editor section of The Asahi Shimbun’s Feb. 26, 1978, edition.
In the letter, Hagie Ezu, a younger colleague of Naka, asked for readers’ cooperation in gathering details of Naka’s condition while she was in the Tokyo hospital. Ezu was 67 when she wrote the letter.
After corresponding with Ezu many times, Shirato made arrangements for her to view part of Naka’s medical records remaining at the university to help her effort.
Shirato also went to the United States to look for Naka’s other medical records at the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, but to no avail.
Ezu wrote the letter to the editor after she took part in a memorial service marking the 33rd anniversary of the death of the members of the Sakuratai (Cherry unit) troupe in 1977.
With few accounts left about Naka, she decided to launch her own research to publish in 1980 a book on the tragedy of the troupe, with Naka at the center of the story.
The book, titled “Sakuratai Zenmetsu” (The annihilation of the cherry unit), was later adapted into the 1988 movie “Sakuratai Chiru” (The annihilation of the cherry unit), by director Kaneto Shindo, who has shot a number of anti-war films.
Ezu’s son, Heita, a 74-year-old resident of Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, said his mother embarked on her book project to keep Naka’s memory alive.
“She believed that somebody should pass the memory of Naka’s life to succeeding generations to keep it from being buried in history,” he said.
By YURI OIWA/ Staff Writer
It should be noted that radiation sickness in the medical setting (excess x ray treatment doses) was documented by Belgian doctors in the early 1930s. Stone et al documented excess neutron ray therapy (late effects) in the late 1930s (Lawrence Rad Lab, UC Berkeley) in 1933, and that Pecher, Lawrence, Miller, Scott (Lawrence Rad Lab, UC Berkeley, 1940-1942) and Brucer (AEC, and reported in Brucer’s book “A Chronlogy of Nuclear Medicine”) all report the deaths of patients due to white count suppression (Leucopenia as it was named in the pre war publications). And in fact, this prior knowledge was used by the Manhattan Project and by Farrell’s staff in their examination of the victims of the atomic during the occupation.
The Hiroshima doctors were well aware of the pre war medical facts regarding excess exposure to radiation, including white cell suppression and resultant infective disease as a precursor to death by radiation exposure.
Though Midori Naka was the first person acknowledged to have died from excess radiation from atomic weapons (she suffered no blast or burn injuries), she was not the first person to suffer prompt death (within a few weeks) from radiation exposure. The work of the Beligians, and the work of the staff under EO Lawrence at the Berkeley “rad lab” attest to this fact.
The medical effects of radiation as published by the Lawrences, Erf, Pecher, Hamilton and Stone in the pre war era gave the US military command a predicitive capability as to the new weapons potential effects. Indeed, Brucer reports that it was the staff under Lawrence at Berkley who were able to give, for example, the human LD 50 for the neutron activation product, P32. A substance formed in human bone by the passage of neutron rays through the tissue.
Hersey, citing the Hiroshima doctors in 1946, reports these doctors knew that the upsurge in severe illness and death about a month after detonation of the bombs could be attributed in part to the suppression of the blood forming cells, including the white cells due to the death of these cells in the bone marrow. And these doctors of Hiroshima correctly surmised that induced radioactivity created in bone (ie P32) to be a cause of the leucopenia and marrow ablation.
Although America might want the world to believe that its use of atomic weapons led to unexpected suffering – suffering the US denied at the time as enemy propaganda – the truth is the US Military had an in depth predictive capablity regarding the radiation effects of the bomb.
The truth is the Japanese doctors very early on were able to act upon relevant knowledge published by the EO Lawrence rad lab staff in international medicaL journals up to 1942 – Pecher’s work being the last published prior to the NDRC censorship of war related research.
The USA was not ignorant in its use of the atomic bomb against Japan. The reasons for the use of the weapons appear to have been multiple – as is standard for many significant military actions. One aim of the use of the bombs agains civilians was a warning to the world, particularly the USSR. The USSR was preparing, at that time to invade Hokkaido and was actively pressing down through Manchuria and China, and heading down the Korean Peninsular.
It is reported that with the landing of US troops at Inchon, Korea, Soviet Troops already there retreated north.
While the use of the atomic bombs may have “ended” World War 2, one can surmise that one goal of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the US was not aimed at Japan or its people.
Rather the bombs were used as a demonstration to the major military and political competitior of the USA at that time – USSR.
The following is not the only available reference regarding the proposal by Stalin to invade Hokkaido. For the purpose of this blog post it will suffice as an authorative account. Analysis of the Soviet documents and Western Intelligence regarding Stalin’s orders exist elsewhere:
Truman Told Stalin Not to Invade Japan
Published: February 02, 1995
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To the Editor:
Re “Hiroshima: A Controversy That Refuses to Die” (news article, Jan. 31): I must point out an omission. After discussing the influence of Secretary of State James Byrnes on Truman’s decision to drop the atomic bomb and the perceived need to send a warning to the Soviet leadership, you quote me about the geopolitical stakes of such a warning.
My main point was more specific: We now know from Russian sources that the Soviets were preparing an invasion of the northernmost Japanese home island, Hokkaido, one that would have taken place Aug. 25 — two months before the planned United States invasion of Kyushu.
It would have been a cobbled-together, single-division affair, but no matter. A Soviet landing of any sort would not only have given Stalin a voice in the surrender agreement but would also have made Hokkaido a Soviet occupation zone (and possibly Tokyo as well).
Truman cautioned Stalin not to make a move on Japan, and at the eleventh hour he called off the invasion. In hindsight, Truman’s firmness may have been one of the truly crucial moments of the developing cold war. ROBERT COWLEY Editor, MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History New York, Jan. 31, 1995 New York Times.
The USA was not willing to tolerate an equivalent of Check Point Charlie in Japan, an a Soviet in Japan.
Japan was attempting to surrender immediately prior to the atomic bombings. The people were starving. Though an invasion would have cost millions of lives, neither the atomic bomb nor a US invasion of Japan was needed to end the war. A coordinated response by the Allies to Japan’s approaches via Moscow for surrender would have achieved peace. But with Soviet influence in Japan.
A repost of the previous post on these issues:
Sacred Ground – Don’t Do this to Fukushima!
Surveys and confiscations
In the aftermath of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japanese authorities mounted a concerted and coordinated scientific response to the disaster. Many radiological surveys took place.
The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum has documented the details of the total Japanese and Joint US Japanese response in a web based Exhibition dated 25.7.03. This is located at:
The results of these surveys were documented in detail. Soil samples and other evidence were carefully studied and catalogued.
Elements of the Manhattan Engineering District under US Army General Farrell – The Manhattan District Survey Team – reached Hiroshima on the 8th of September 1945. From this time onward, the previously autonomous Japanese technical responses to the atomic bombings became increasingly US led with the Japanese contribution under US command.
The US began confiscating the evidence and reports gathered and created by the Japanese scientists in mid September 1945. For example, on the 11th of September 1945 the Kyoto University team handed over the results of their 37 autopsies of bomb victims to General Farrell.
The confiscated material removed to the United States included human body parts and the remains of a famous Japanese actress who had suffered no burn, blast or impact shrapnel injuries. Midori Naka had died of “A-Bomb Disease”.
Despite Groves’ insistence, through the services of his hack journalist, that no such disease occurred in Hiroshima.
On May 1973, the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs held a ceremony for the return of Hiroshima and Nagasaki A-bomb records confiscated by the U.S. during Occupation (1945-52). (Source: Atomic Bomb Museum – “The Pursuit of Peace”. http://www.atomicbombmuseum.org/5_timetable.shtml)
In 2003 Yoko Fujikawa, Kiyoshi Shizuma and Satoru Endo, of the Research Reactor Institute, Osaka, reported their study of samples of previously returned 1945 Hiroshima soil. Their paper, entitled “Investigation of the Fate of U-235 from the Hiroshima A Bomb”, is available at: http://irpa11.irpa.net/pdfs/7c4.pdf
On 9 August 1945 Yoshio Nishina and his companions from the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research collected soil samples in Hiroshima. These samples were used in the 2003 study. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum account of the collection of the soil samples is given at:
The validation of the experiences of atomic bomb survivors has been delayed by the confiscation and late return of evidence of important significance.
Validation of experience and the trauma of war
For a people to act with an identified and shared political interest, and in order to recover spiritually, psychically and physically from the brutality of war, diverse experiences must be validated at all levels of society.
The survivors of the atomic attacks have been impacted by the time it has taken to return the technical evidence that validates their experiences. This September will see the 63rd anniversary of the 1945 confiscation of the validating data.
Immediately after the atomic bombings, the Imperial Japanese government confiscated any photographs of Hiroshima that it considered posed a threat to the morale of the wider Japanese population. Due to the widespread confiscation of bomb related material, the United States may still hold these photographs. (Source: Palmer, D., “The Missing 72 Hours: Are there Hidden Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Photos?” 2004. Dr Palmer is Senior Lecturer in American Studies at Flinders University of South Australia. The Hiroshima Peace Museum Display confirms the confiscation of photographs by the United States.)
The scenes of Hiroshima that depict a depopulated desolation have presented a sanitized view for many years. The scenes are not in accord with the statements and art of the survivors (ibid, Palmer). The scenes do not validate the survivors’ experiences and memories. The space depicted was full of people in torment and despair, injury and death. It was a crowded city.
The acknowledgement of the suffering of the atomic survivors is incomplete. The world is more dangerous today than it might have been had full disclosure of their experiences been made sixty-three years ago.
The remains of esteemed actress Midori Naka – the first person in the world whose death was certified as being caused by “Atom Bomb Disease” – were returned to Japan from the United States in 1972. Her body had been carefully studied. It was returned to Japan in a set of glass preserving jars. She died solely from Radiation Poisoning. (The Hiroshima Peace Memorial website contains a photograph of the glass jars).
Midori Naka died from the generation of abnormal chemicals within her body caused by intense radiation from the atomic bomb.
Ionizing radiation creates Oxygen and Hydrogen ions from water in the cells of the body. The poisoning results from the action of Oxygen and Hydrogen radicals, Hydrogen gas, the creation of hydrogen peroxide and the abnormal chemical reactions these substances cause within the body. Resultant metabolites include carcinogens. (Source: Alexander. Peter, “Atomic Radiation and Life”, Chapter 8 “Enter the Chemist”, pp 184 -185. Pelican Books, London, 1957.)
The time of onset of the illness is determined by the radiation dose received. The illness may be induced by a large single dose of radiation, or by the accumulation of many smaller exposure doses. (Ibid, page 88.)
The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Web page that remembers Midori Naka is:
Other members of the acting troupe visiting Hiroshima with Ms Naka also survived the bomb to die later from radiation sickness. An account of the events is located at:
The 34 page paper “The Repatriation of Atomic Bomb Victim Body Parts to Japan: Natural Objects and Diplomacy”, by M. Susan Lindee, was published in Osiris, 2nd Series, Vol. 13, “Beyond Joseph Needham: Science, Technology, and Medicine in East and South East Asia” (1998), pp. 376-409. The paper was published by the University of Chicago Press on behalf of the History of Science Society.
A sacred task
In his Epilogue, Professor Shimizu visualizes the horror he witnessed 37 years earlier (from the time of his writing in1982). He celebrates the unanimous UN resolution of January 1946 on the International Control of Nuclear Energy “so as to use it not for military purposes but only for peaceful purposes to promote the human welfare. But two different major plans were proposed from the USA and USSR as to ways and means of control, timing and sequence, and enforcement and sanctions. …up to now (1982) there have been about 1330 nuclear explosions, atmospheric and underground, including H bombs. All of us are now standing at a cross roads where we must choose either nuclear disarmament or annihilation of our civilization and culture. Everybody all over the world should consider and reflect upon many aspects of the present nuclear problems in schools and churches, and also in homes in the most quiet mid-night to open a new era which could be achieved by the revolution in our minds and spirits by introducing a quite new philosophy on the meaning of life and nature, which, I hope, man can find in the profound Buddhism philosophy.” (Shimizu, page 53.)
Despite the passage of time, this viewpoint and explanation of the insight of the scientist as a vehicle for spiritual renewal and political and social revolution remains relevant.
Professor Sakae Shimizu passed away on 13 December 2003 at the age of 88 years.
He was one of a band of Japanese researchers who entered Hiroshima very soon after 6 August 1945. By their prior training they were aware of the hazards they faced in the radioactive debris. The importance of the early survey work remains. The Obituary to Professor Shimizu, written by John Hubbell, using additional information by Professor Yasuhita and Professor Megumi Tashiro, is available at:
Summary and conclusion
The photographs of empty desolation in Hiroshima have been shown throughout the world since 1945. These photographs present a limited view of events. The memories and experiences of the atomic bomb survivors are very different.
There is an experiential contradiction between what the world is allowed to see and what the human experience really was.
The validation of the experiences of survivors of war by the nations is a primary responsibility that must be carried out openly and honestly.
Biochemical knowledge of radio nuclides gained by 1941 in the advancement of medicine appears to have been used from 1942 in the Allied quest for the atomic bomb. The radio nuclides at issue here are dual use medical and weapon related. The Half Life periods of the radioisotopes form underlying time lines that compelled responses.
Japan for many years was denied access to the evidence that would reveal the reality of what occurred at the time of the detonation of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima.
The short-lived radioisotopes decay to nominally zero in seconds, hours, days, weeks and months. By the time the Hiroshima soil samples were returned to Japan the soil samples were depleted of these fission products. This complicates the research.
The role of the Japanese radiation researchers is still not widely known.
The long period of exclusive possession and use by the United States of the confiscated material has delayed the full disclose of the events, effects and experiences.
These materials, which include human remains, were used as a bargaining chip by the United States in its dealings with Japan.
The research conducted on the returned 1945 soil samples by Japanese researchers holds a special significance. It can be seen that the younger scientists in recent times have reenacted the skills of science first conducted in August1945 by Japanese researchers in Hiroshima who, in the course of their investigations, became casualties of the Atomic Bomb.
The means by which survivors suffer under the atomic bomb has been complicated by arguments regarding dose rate responses. In the first instance, a clear explanation of the chemical mechanisms that cause radiation poisoning is needed. This explanation has been lost over six decades even though the knowledge predates 1939.
On 19 August 1945 Professor Shimizu became ill. The illness occurred despite his knowledge of the hazards present in Hiroshima and despite the protective measures taken.
The first nuclear protestors included 70 Manhattan Project Scientists.
The anti nuclear movement commenced no later than 1945.
This movement has at its core a tradition of scientific accuracy understood from ethical and moral insight. These protestors were subjected to retaliation by their government.
The United States confiscated Japanese documents relating to the Fascist Imperial use of biological and chemical weapons; in one instance this occurred along with the material that confirm the effects of the Hiroshima atomic bomb. Both sets of documents were used in the pursuit of the perceived national interest of the United States. Both sets of documents were written in the Japanese language. Survey data from Hiroshima in1945 may still be lost in America.
Global studies of long-lived fission products and ignorance of the short-lived highly active fission products have turned our eyes from the effects of the Hiroshima bomb in 1945.
These complex sets of factors have resulted in an incomplete and delayed validation of the experiences and memories of the Japanese atomic bomb survivors. History must become a solid rock upon which all hibakusha may rest, reflect and communicate without contradiction or restriction.
By withholding full validation, we increase the risk of living now on borrowed time.
By Paul Langley
28 May 2008
The Japanese Governmenttoday must not delay disclosure as happened in the past.