View Once-Classified Photos of Ground Zero Hiroshima

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In the wake of the atomic blast at Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, the US government restricted photographs of the ravaged city. One exception to this rule: the United States Strategic Bombing Survey, a group of 1,150 military personnel and civilians dispatched by President Truman to photograph and analyze the bomb’s impact on buildings in order to create our own civil defense architecture in the United States. Currently on view at the International Center of Photography, Hiroshima: Ground Zero 1945 features 60 contact prints culled from 700 images that have been classified for decades, until they were accidentally discovered in a suitcase in a pile of trash. These heart-wrenching photos of urban destruction, shattered buildings, twisted bridges and post-apocalyptic emptiness are a testament to the horrors of nuclear weapons and the first instance they were used on a populated city by the US, killing more than 140,000 people.

United States Strategic Bombing Survey, Physical Damage Division. Distorted steel-frame structure of Odamasa Store, Hiroshima, November 20, 1945. Courtesy of International Center of Photography

United States Strategic Bombing Survey, Physical Damage Division. Cemetery with debris, on the grounds of Kokutai Temple, showing sacred camphor tree charred by blast and Bank of Japan in background, Hiroshima, November 5, 1945. Courtesy of International Center of Photography

United States Strategic Bombing Survey, Physical Damage Division. Ruins of the Hiroshima Prefectural Commercial Exhibition Hall (A-Bomb Dome), October 24, 1945. Courtesy of International Center of Photography

United States Strategic Bombing Survey, Physical Damage Division. Charred boy’s jacket found near Hiroshima City Hall, November 5, 1945. Courtesy of International Center of Photography

United States Strategic Bombing Survey, Physical Damage Division. Ruins of Chugoku Coal Distribution Company or Hiroshima Gas Company, November 8, 1945. Courtesy of International Center of Photography

United States Strategic Bombing Survey, Physical Damage Division. Interior of Hiroshima City Hall auditorium with undamaged walls and framing but spalling of plaster and complete destruction of contents by fire, November 1, 1945. Courtesy of International Center of Photography

United States Strategic Bombing Survey, Physical Damage Division. Rooftop view of atomic destruction, looking southwest, Hiroshima, October 31, 1945. Courtesy of International Center of Photography

United States Strategic Bombing Survey, Physical Damage Division. Steel stairs warped by intense heat from burned book stacks of Asano Library, Hiroshima, November 15, 1945. Courtesy of International Center of Photography

United States Strategic Bombing Survey, Physical Damage Division. Remains of a school building, November 17, 1945. Courtesy of International Center of Photography