[In which me meet exceptional coverage of a mammoth day-old event and what must be the first map of NYC under atomic attack.]
The news coverage of the 6 August 1945 bombing of Hiroshima was covered in spectacular (all things and time considered) detail in the 7 August issue of the daily newspaper, PM.1 The entire issue of 12 pages (with no advertisement2) was dedicated to the event—I have no idea, really, how they were able to put together this amount of good tough data so very quickly, nimbly and intelligently, as the bomb was detonated at Hiroshima only the day before.
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It is odd how well the case is covered, and it is positively issued on the day after --it isn't the case that it was issued for the week of 7 August and released on 13 August, which I thought was a possibility of explaining the deep coverage. But there's no mention of Nagasaki (which would come in two days), so I am certain that the coverage was all accomplished within 24 hours of the use of the weapon. The newspaper distinguishes itself by not screaming something about the “Jap city” being wiped out (as so many other newspapers did), with its front page summarizing beyond the bomb. (“It Will End all War—Or all Men” and “It Will Revolutionize Human Life” as sub-heads; the first being accurate, while the second being nearly so.)
The editorial, “Thank God its OUR Bomb”, by Irving Brant, is a lovely piece of thoughtful interpretation in the opening moments of the nuclear age. He writes: “America must join and lead in a worldwide renunciation of this worldwide renunciation and prevention of war”,and “What will happen to industry, to society, when the power of all the coal mined in a year is compressed into an exploding fistful of atoms?” And further:“There is no escape. The split atom may shatter humanity, but not before then will it retreat into the physical void from which it came. The dust of creation is in our hands. We must master it.” Not bad stuff for having a few hours or so to think this through.
The other articles included “Bombs and Sabotage Stopped Nazi Experiment with Heavy Water”, “New Atomic Era Could Revolutionize Mankind’s Whole Manner of Life/Power Harnessed for Destruction Has Limitless Constructive Possibilities”, big two-page story “Stimson Reveals How Work on Bomb Was Organized”, “Bomb’s Death Range Believed to be 4 Miles”, “Four Scientists who Will Plan Postwar Uses of Atomic Energy”, “Harnessing of Atomic Power research Strengthens US Research”, “If a Piece of the Sun Were Placed on Earth”, “End Not Yet Truman Tells the Japanese”, and another 12 articles.
There’s another baffling article “Steel Tower Vaporized in First Test”, discussing the shot at Alamagordo—it must have been the case that there was an enormous amount of material divulged by the government in the hours after the explosion at Hiroshima . The work at Columbia is also chronicled, as is the personal life of the man in control, General Leslie Grove (and how completely in the dark his wife was, and so on).
One of the most interesting objects to me though is the small graphic on page 7 which shows what effect the Hiroshima atomic bomb would have if dropped on New York City—it was no doubt gigantically sobering to anyone who looked at it, and brought the power of the bomb and its destruction to a common, understandable point. I'm not an historian of the first newspaper coverage of the bomb, but it strikes me that this may well be the first graphic to depict the effects of an atomic bomb exploded over NYC.
In any event, the overall coverage of the event was stunning given the short amount of time to do the research, writing, and publication. Truly a great effort.
1. PM (1940-1948) was a left-wing newspaper funded by Marshall Field III, and was home to excellent reporting. See here for more details. Among the staff writers was I.F.Stone and staff photographers Margaret Bourke-White. Other contributors included Heywood Hale Broun; James Thurber; (the great) Dorothy Parker; Ernest Hemingway; Eugene Lyons; Ben Stolberg; Malcolm Cowley; Tip O'Neill;and Ben Hecht.
2. Actually, NO issue of PM had advertisements--it was entirely ad-free. (And even so it still came close to making money after 8 years.)
PM's stated mission:
PM is against people who push other people around. PM accepts no advertising. PM belongs to no political party. PM is absolutely free and uncensored. PM's sole source of income is its readers--to whom it alone is responsible.PM us one newspaper that can and dares to tell the truth.
Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss) was a cartoonist for PM (see here for his War cartoons) as was the great Crockett Johnson.