August 10, 1996
Web posted at: 9:30 a.m. EDT (1330 GMT)
HIROSHIMA , Japan (CNN) -- Rare footage of the aftermath of the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima has now been made available to the world -- three years after it was discovered by accident in a Tokyo film vault.
The film gives new insight into the horrors suffered by the people of Hiroshima in the weeks following the world's first A-bomb attack. The bomb, dropped by a U.S. plane on August 6, 1945, caused the deaths of an estimated 80,000 people.
The film, with three hours of unedited footage, was discovered in a Tokyo film vault in 1993. Since then, historians at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum , which documents the destruction of the bomb, have been studying it frame by frame.
The black-and-white film was shot around the city center during a Japanese Education Ministry fact-finding mission a month after the bombing. It shows a landscape of total devastation. People are walking around among piles of rubble and trees stripped bare of their branches. It also shows doctors treating victims of the blast -- babies with burns covering their entire bodies and men whose skin had melted from their heads.
Months later, Japan's Allied occupiers ordered the film confiscated, branding its images a military secret. But a member of the Japanese film crew that filmed the aftermath made a copy and hid it in the film vault -- apparently fearing that Americans would destroy the original.
"A female staff member found this footage while cleaning out this messy archive," explained Taiji Shirai of the Nippon Eiga Shinsa LTD, as he pointed to shelves of film reels in disarray.
Historians and curators at Hiroshima's Peace Memorial Museum who saw the film knew they had stumbled upon a major find. After studying the film for three years they released a 1,000-page commentary called "A Scorched Earth Chart -- Hiroshima 1945"
"This documented footage is very meaningful," said Minoru Ohmuta of the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation. "People now know what precisely happened and where. The unedited footage just showed Hiroshima without any specification. We have come to confirm the things that actually happened at certain places."
Lest anyone doubt the destruction caused by the bomb dropped on Hiroshima 51 years ago, the film provides proof of one of the darkest days in world history.