The familiar images of a mushroom cloud and absolute devastation never take long to enter any conversation about Hiroshima, Japan. But rare color footage released by the National Archives shows the resilience of Hiroshima's citizens, just seven months after the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city.
The unique film, commissioned by the Department of Defense and filmed in the spring of 1946, provides a fascinating glimpse of Hiroshima as it recovered from one of the most destructive attacks in history.
According to Slate, Japanese cameraman Akira "Harry" Mimura was enlisted by combat photographer Colonel Daniel McGovern to document the results of the U.S. campaign against Japan. Born in Hiroshima Bay but sent to the United States after middle school, Mimura studied filmmaking and worked in Hollywood briefly before returning to Japan in 1934, the Japan Times notes.
In March and April 1946, Mimura traveled to more than 20 Japanese cities to document the destruction. “I was put in charge of this unbearably painful filming job. Even if you consider a war between two countries to be unavoidable, why, you wonder, must innocent civilians be forced to go through such suffering? ... But a cameraman must face up to whatever he films, however horrified he is by it. It struck me that this film record would someday, in some way, come to serve a purpose,” Mimura wrote in 1946, according to the Japan Times.
Slate notes the footage of Hiroshima was kept classified for years because the government feared it would be "too disturbing." But the silent video also shows images of Hiroshima's citizens repairing their broken city and performing menial tasks, proving that even in the worst devastation, life keeps moving forward.