American Reporter’s Nagasaki Story Emerges After 60 Years Of Censorship

George Weller during WWII.George Weller won a Pulitzer Prize, a Polk Award, and was named a Neimann Fellow during his fifty-some-odd year career during which he covered much of Europe and Asia for the New York Times and Chicago Daily News. Weller died in 2002 at age 95, leaving behind a body of work that tells much of the 20th century’s events. His 1943 story about an appendectomy performed by navy pharmacist’s mate Wheeler Lipes in a submarine 120 feet below Pacific waters amid the concussive blasts of depth charges is legendary. But Weller also left mysteries, like his early reports from the ground in Nagasaki (geolocation) shortly after the US bombed it with the second nuclear device used in war. From his obit:

As U.S. forces neared Japan, MacArthur forbade correspondents to go ashore. Mr. Weller hired a Japanese rowboat to take him to Nagasaki, and the general retaliated by killing all 30,000 words Mr. Weller filed.

Others (one, two, three) are less generous and claim a government cover-up of the facts of nuclear weapons and fallout was the motive for burying the story. Whatever the reasons, Weller’s stories about Nagasaki never saw publication, and were thought lost until now.

Japan’s Mainichi Daily News reported yesterday that Weller’s 60-year old report has been discovered by his son who is still researching the files in Weller’s old apartment in San Felice Circeo, Italy (geolocation).

The stories had been typed and carbon-copied. The paper on which they had been printed had browned. The stories were typed out on about 75 pages and comprised some 25,000 words. There were also another 25 photos taken of Nagasaki soon after the bombing.

Weller’s reports included some of the first descriptions and photos of the then unknown effects of radiation.

“These patients begin with slight burns which make normal progress for two weeks. They differ from simple burns, however, in that the patient has a high fever. Unfevered patients with as much as one-third of the skin area burned have been known to recover. But where fever is present after two weeks, healing of burns suddenly halts and they get worse. They come to resemble septic ulcers. Yet patients are not in great pain, which distinguishes them from any X-ray burns victims,” Weller wrote, adding that most of these patients died after no longer than five days.

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Context: Christopher Simpson’s Science of Coercion tells of how the US government and military became very crafty with their use of the media to shape public opinion during the 20th century. According to Simpson, censorship and “information” campaigns were common and often leveraged the complicity of those in the media and academia.