Friday, June 17, 2005

One last scoop for Chicago Daily News

Although the presses stopped forever in 1978, the Chicago Daily News this week pulled off a posthumous scoop with the publication of a correspondent’s long-lost eyewitness account of the aftermath of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki.

George Weller, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the Daily News, evidently was the first American reporter to get to Nagasaki after an atomic bomb was dropped on the city on Aug. 9, 1945. At least 100,000 people were killed.

American military censors at the time suppressed the reports Mr. Weller filed from the scene and he died believing the stories had been lost forever. Two years ago, Mr. Weller’s son, Anthony, found carbon copies of the articles among his father’s papers. The Mainichi Shimbun in Japan this week published the recovered articles for the first time.

Mr. Weller arrived at the stricken city a month after the bombing and initially reported on Sept. 8, 1945, that “the atomic bomb may be classified as a weapon capable of being used indiscriminately, but its use in Nagasaki was selective and proper and as merciful as such a gigantic force could be expected to be.”

Within a day, however, he recognized that radiation sickness was ravaging the population, reporting:
The atomic bomb's peculiar "disease," uncured because it is untreated and untreated because it is not diagnosed, is still snatching away lives here. Men, woman and children with no outward marks of injury are dying daily in hospitals, some after having walked around three or four weeks thinking they have escaped.

The doctors here have every modern medicament, but candidly confessed in talking to the writer -- the first Allied observer to Nagasaki since the surrender -- that the answer to the malady is beyond them. Their patients, though their skin is whole, are all passing away under their eyes.
“Twenty-five Americans are due to arrive Sept. 11 to study the Nagasaki bombsite,” concluded Mr. Weller. “Japanese hope that they will bring a solution for Disease X.”

Sadly, they didn’t have one.


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