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Reporter found ‘wasteland of war’

Kenji Hall Associated Press

TOKYO – An American journalist who sneaked into Nagasaki soon after the Japanese city was leveled by a U.S. atomic bomb found a “wasteland of war” and victims moaning from the pain of radiation burns in downtown hospitals.

Censored 60 years ago by the U.S. military, George Weller’s stories from the atom-bombed city surfaced this month in a series of reports in the national Mainichi newspaper.

A woman at a hospital “lies moaning with a blackish mouth stiff as though with lockjaw and unable to utter clear words,” her legs and arms covered with red spots, Weller wrote.

Others suffered from a dangerously high-temperature fever, a drop in white and red blood cells, swelling in the throat, sores, vomiting, diarrhea, internal bleeding or loss of hair, Weller’s censored dispatch said, describing the then-unknown effects of atomic radiation.

By hiring a Japanese rowboat, catching trains and later posing as a U.S. Army colonel, Weller, an award-winning reporter for the now-defunct Chicago Daily News, slipped into Nagasaki in early September 1945, Mainichi said – about a month after the Aug. 9 bombing that killed 70,000 people.

In a Sept. 8, 1945, dispatch, Weller wrote of walking through the city – a “wasteland of war” – and finding evidence to back the talk of radiation fallout in American radio news reports.

“In swaybacked or flattened skeletons of the Mitsubishi arms plants is revealed what the atomic bomb can do to steel and stone, but what the riven atom can do against human flesh and bone lies hidden in two hospitals of downtown Nagasaki,” he wrote.

The United States dropped two atomic bombs – the first on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, and the second three days later on Nagasaki. The twin bombings led to Japan’s Aug. 15, 1945, surrender ending the war.

Weller, who died in 2002, was the first foreign journalist to set foot in the devastated city, which Gen. Douglas MacArthur, head of the U.S. occupation in Japan, had designated off-limits to reporters, the newspaper said.

Carbon copies of his stories, running to about 25,000 words on 75 typed pages, along with more than two dozen photos, were discovered by his son, Anthony, last summer at Weller’s apartment in Rome, Italy, Mainichi said.

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