* war and social upheaval: World War II atomic bomb Manhattan Project

World War II: Atomic Bomb--Nagasaki Brothers (September 1945)

Figure 1.--This is one of the most moving photographs archived on CIH. It shows a Japanese boy standing at attention after having brought his dead little brother to a cremation pyre in Nagasaki (August 1945). The image of this brave little boy carrying out a final act of love needs to be described in detail. He is known to history as 'The boy standing by the crematory'.

This is one of the most moving photographs archived on CIH. It shows a Japanese boy standing at attention after having brought his dead little brother to a cremation pyre in Nagasaki (August 1945). The image of this brave little boy carrying out a final act of love needs to be described in detail. In fact, unlike many World War II images, we know a great deal about these children.

Time and Location

The photograph was taken in Nagasaki, we think in September a few weeks after the bomb was dropped.

Photographer: Joe O'Donnell

Joe O'Donnell was an Americam photojournalist. He was best bknown for documenting photographically the immediate aftermath of the atomic bomb explosions at Nagasaki and Hiroshima. He was sent by the United States Information Agency. He arrived in Japan with the U.S. occupation force (September 1945). He spent 7 months traveled over the defeated country, documenting the devestaion. He focused on the people, especially the bomb victims. He photographed the yoing and old, the dead and survivors, the homeless and orphaned. Few photographerd have captured The human of the War so movingly. His most famous image id the littke boy and his brother seen here (figure 1).

The Image

The little boy here stands militarily erect, notice his hands at his side with his fingers diffly extended. This was part of the children's militarized instruction at school. He has been sent to the cremation pount by his parents orvgurduians. We know that ny the way the baby is strapped to his back. The children look uninjured. We do not know why the baby died. We also do no not know why they did not bring the baby. Perhaps they were ick or injured. It is hard to image tasking this little boy with some a grim assignment. This we do not know, but what we do know is the love and gfilial responsibility with which he completed his task, carrying his dead littkle brother to the cremation point. We do not see emotion in the boy;s face, more grim determination. But look at his lips. There we see his emotion. He seemns to be biting them to prevent a display of emotion.


Years after the War, a Japanese journalist ionterviewd O'Donnell who provide details. "From Sasebo I entered Nagasaki, found myself on a small hill overlooking the city. Men with white masks came into view. They were working nearby a dug out pit about 60 cm deep (appx. 20”). The men were placing in the coal burning pit the dead bodies taken from the pile on the hand-drawn wagon. I noticed a young boy, about 10 years old, falling into the line which was being formed. He had what looked like a baby strapped to his back. This was a common Japanese scenario of the pre-war years when young children often carried baby brothers and sisters while they engaged in play in the open fields. But the mood and appearance of this boy was quite different. One sensed in his determined demeanor that he was at the fire pit for an important purpose. Moreover he was barefooted. “As the young boy moved closer to the edge of the burning pit, his eyes focused in concentrated expression. He stood this way by utilizing all of his remaining energy. Was the little boy strapped to his back sleeping? His head remained permanently in a lean-back position. He stood at the edge of the burning pit for 5 to 10 minutes. The masked men slowly approached him, carefully began to remove the fabric strap. At this moment, I realized for the first time that the young baby on his back was actually dead. The men took the hand and the feet of the baby and gently placed it across the burning coals in the pit. First of all, a melting sound ‘ju-u-u’ was heard when the young body was placed in the fire. Then a blinding flame immediately whirled up. A flame like a brilliant sunset red was cast on the cheeks of an innocent young boy standing erect at attention. It was at this moment that I mistakenly thought that his lips, which appeared to reflect the redness of the flame, were actually bleeding. However, due to the young boy’s gritting of teeth, his lower lip had turn red; there was no bleeding. As the flames come down like the setting of the sun, the young boy turned around and silently left the cremation pit."


We see many so called moralists using images like this to preach that war is wrong. Whay they totally ignire is the 20 million or so people the Japanese killed. Our heart bleeds for this precious little boy and his baby brother. But it also bleed for the more than 20 million people that the Japanese killed in China and other countries. What the Pope and Professor Ogawa do not tell us is how Jaoanese agression and killing could be stopped with out the massive applivation of raw power. The simple fact is that before the two atmomic bombs fill on Japan, the killed millions of innocent peoole. After the bombs fell, the killing stopped. In the smolist terms, killing is a sin. When someine breaks into your home and attacks you, killing is a very different matter. And all the moralists who condemn the Allies for applying brute force are unable to explain how the Jaoann's aggression and the war could be ended with a smaller death toll.


Naoto Ogawa. (緒川直人) Nihon University.

Pope Francis.


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Created: 11:39 AM 11/7/2020
Last updated: 11:39 AM 11/7/2020