The U.S. War Department's Archival Footage of the Bombing of Hiroshima

More

The 1946 film A Tale of Two Cities documents the devastation caused when the U.S. dropped atom bombs on Hiroshima, on August 6, 1945, and Nagasaki, three days later. Courtesy of the Prelinger Archive, the film focuses on damage to architectural structures but conspicuously avoids showing the human cost of the attacks. The only first-person perspective is provided in the form of an interview with a Jesuit priest who was teaching in Hiroshima at the time. He describes how the explosion showered him with broken glass and puts the number of dead "at least at 100,000" (now estimated to be anywhere between 90,000 and 166,000). When the interviewer asks him if he believes that "the ruins of the city emit deadly rays," he believes it's "just a rumor." The narrator does pause for a moment of reflection at the end of the film, as a man in uniform marks the outline of a person, imprinted on the ground by the atomic explosion:

The world's greatest minds in science, statecraft, and military matters are wrestling with the problems created by the atom. On this spot, outlined in stone, is a figure representing the average man, regardless of his race or creed. These atomic footprints on the sands of time can never be erased. They point a path that leads to unparalleled progress or unparalleled destruction. Just as in the darkness of the desert morning when the atomic age was born, atomic power puts the question squarely to mankind.

For more films from the Prelinger Archive, visit http://www.archive.org/details/prelinger.

Jump to comments

Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg is the executive producer for video at The AtlanticMore

Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg joined The Atlantic in 2011 to launch its video channel and, in 2013, create its in-house video production department. She leads the development and production of original documentaries, interviews, and other video content for The Atlantic. Previously, she worked as a producer at Al Gore’s Current TV and as a content strategist and documentary producer in San Francisco. She studied filmmaking and digital media at Harvard University.
Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Juice Cleanses: The Worst Diet

A doctor tries the ever-popular Master Cleanse. Sort of.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Juice Cleanses: The Worst Diet

A doctor tries the ever-popular Master Cleanse. Sort of.

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Video

What If Emoji Lived Among Us?

A whimsical ad imagines what life would be like if emoji were real.

Video

Living Alone on a Sailboat

"If you think I'm a dirtbag, then you don't understand the lifestyle."

Feature

The Future of Iced Coffee

Are artisan businesses like Blue Bottle doomed to fail when they go mainstream?

Writers

Up
Down

More in Video

Just In