Eyewitness Testimony of Atomic Attack Preserved In ‘Hiroshima Archive’

Screenshot of Hiroshima Archive project
Screenshot of Hiroshima Archive project

An interactive mapping project has recently been translated in order to combine first-hand testimony from the many witnesses. The goal is to comprehensively document the bombing of Hiroshima and the consequences of that fateful day.

The main goal of the Hiroshima Archive coupled with an earlier mapping project to document the bombing of Nagasaki is to preserve the memory of what transpired more than seven decades ago when World War II came to a conclusion. With each passing day there are less witnesses and survivors that are alive to communicate what occurred during that dark time.

The final days of World War II took place during August, 1945. An American aircraft dropped an atomic bomb on a western Japanese city of Hiroshima. Approximately 30% of the population (up to 80,000 people) was instantly killed by the atomic bomb, and the majority of the city was decimated. Just three days later, on August 9th 1945, another Japanese city called Nagasaki was attacked in the same way.

This Hiroshima Archive gives a personalized experience into the events that took place during the bombing. By using the online tool, archive users can view a 1945 map of Hiroshima while also looking through survivors’ accounts and photos, and where they were positioned during the time of the attack in Hiroshima. The technology then allows the users the chance to switch to a contemporary aerial photograph of Hiroshima to determine how things have changed since 1945.

The project leader is Hidenori Watanave who did an interview with Global Voices about the Hiroshima Archive. He said, “More than 70 years since the atomic bombs fell upon Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Few survivors remain today and soon there will be none. Who then can speak from personal experiences of the effects of nuclear war upon humanity?”

An introduction to the scope and depth of the online archive can be gained through a video walk through of the original Japan language version of the archive. It has been available online since 2011. It has recently been translated into English, and the online mapping tool has been migrated from Google Earth to a new format that can be accessed by any browser in any operating system.

The Watanave’s technology makes use of Cesium which is a JavaScript library for creating 3D globes and 2D maps through a web browser without a plug-in. This Watanave is a creator of an innovative mapping project as well that has the ability to track the last moments of the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March, 2011.

At this point, the Hiroshima Archive is planning to use the Nagasaki Archive at two youth peace conferences in Boston and New York. The plan is to include talks given by survivors of the atomic bomb that still reside in the United States. There will be an exhibition of archive materials, and opportunities for conversation among younger Japanese and Americans. Other participants and members of the public will be welcomed. High school students in Hiroshima and Nagasaki are currently organizing the conference, and are looking to raise money through crowd funding.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE