Part 3 Rescue and Medical Relief

Final Section

Chapter 4:Shifts in the Estimation of Fatalities Related to the Nagasaki Atomic Bombing

1. Shifts in Reports Issued by the Governor of Nagasaki Prefecture
2. Estimations of Fatalities and Records by Other Official Bodies
3. Military Announcements and Press Reports

Accurate statistical data on fatalities and casualties due to the Nagasaki atomic bombing are of fundamental importance, but it is still very difficult to determine the precise figures due to several factors, including the chaotic situation after the atomic bombing, the annihilation of records and the lingering impact of the disaster.
 However, numerical data, including the death toll due to the atomic bombing, have been surveyed and estimated in various ways in diverse fields and published during subsequent years. Those data are listed below in order to shed light on currently accepted statistics and to explain shifts in estimates in the hope of achieving a greater clarification in the future.

1. Shifts in Reports Issued by the Governor of Nagasaki Prefecture

As mentioned earlier, the governor of Nagasaki Prefecture sent a total of 11 reports on the situation in Nagasaki to the commander of the Air Defense General Headquarters and the Kyūshū District Government-General during the period from the day of the atomic bombing to September 3, 1945. The following are excerpts related to casualties.

Report No. 5: August 9, the day of the atomic bombing
 This report contains the statement: “The number of identified casualties is approximately 50,000, but an accurate survey remains difficult because medical relief activities are still underway. A further increase in fatalities is expected.” The report is inaccurate but includes the first casualty figures and a comment regarding the difficulties encountered in launching investigations.

Report No. 6: August 10, the day after the atomic bombing
 This report provides a clearer estimate of the death toll and the number of injuries: “The fatalities are expected to exceed 30,000. If the seriously injured are included, the figure will reach to between 50,000 and 60,000.”

Report No. 8: August 14
 “Dead: 9,079, Seriously injured: 3,960, Slightly injured: 10,654, Missing: 3,379, Displaced people: 78,945. The figures were determined as of August 13 and are expected to increase. Some may increase more dramatically than expected.” This was the first report providing detailed statistics. As the writer predicted, the death toll continued to increase.

Report No. 9: Report as of August 20
 In this report, the figures increased to “Fatalities: 10,107, Missing: 2,800, Seriously or slightly injured: 23,739.” The reported fatalities had all undergone postmortem examinations as of August 19. An additional explanation read, “Although an accurate survey is very difficult, fatalities are expected to increase to 18,000.”

Report No.10: Report as of August 29
 In this report, the figures further increased to “Fatalities (confirmed):17,358, Missing: 1,887, Seriously or slightly injured: 23,739.” An additional explanation read, “Fatalities are expected to reach about 30,000.”

Report No. 11: Report as of September 3
 In this report, the figures are “Fatalities: 23,359, Missing 1,927.” Derived from police inquiries regarding atomic bomb survivors, the numbers included fatalities in relief centers outside Nagasaki City.
 Of these figures, the fatalities confirmed by postmortem examination as of September 1 totaled 19,743. Although the number of missing persons was based on information from relatives, the report concludes that all of the people reported missing had died.

Summary Report on Nagasaki Air Raid Damage on August 9: Consolidated Report as of September 1
 This report was made by Nagasaki Prefecture to explain the situation in the affected area on the occasion of Chamberlain Hisamatsu’s tour of the disaster area. The appendix table of this report showed figures from respective police stations regarding dead and missing persons. Although these figures are identical to those in Report No. 11, there are additional explanations for each figure: fatalities were expected to be no less than 25,000 or 26,000; the fatality rate among the seriously injured who were still being treated at relief centers was higher than expected, with more than two-thirds expected to die; and survivors who appeared to have sustained almost no injuries were also dying one after another.

2. Estimations of Fatalities and Records by Other Official Bodies

In addition to the above reports, there were many reports and announcements from various sources regarding the death toll. The principal figures are listed below.

“Overview of Atomic Bomb Air-raid Damage” as of October 23, 1945, compiled by the Nagasaki Prefectural Foreign Affairs Division
Fatalities: 23,753 (postmortem examinations)
Missing: 1,927
Seriously or slightly injured: 40,000
 This document offers the explanation that the data on fatalities were limited to bodies identified and that the actual death toll would be approximately 30,000. The document was created by Nagasaki Prefecture to report the situation to the Occupation Forces.

Record by the Nagasaki City Defense Section
 This document contains the following description: “The confirmed data on casualties as of October 23 are as follows: Fatalities: 23,753, Missing: 1,927, Seriously or slightly injured: 40,000. The figures are all based on confirmed data. In fact, in the hypocenter area, all houses were completely destroyed and all residents killed, except those who were away from home at the time of the atomic bombing. Since some survivors, including the seriously injured, fled from the city by various means according to the situation, it is impossible for Nagasaki City to arrive at accurate estimates regarding the injured. In addition, although an increasing number of injured people are showing symptoms of radiation sickness and dying over time, it is nearly impossible to accurately grasp the number of fatalities among them. The actual number of injured will be greater if those who have not received treatment at relief centers are added. Actually, estimates of fatalities and injured are around 50,000 and 100,000, respectively.”

“Fire Department’s Fire Fighting and Other Activities at the Time of the Atomic Bombing,” Data by the Nagasaki City Fire Department
 This document contains the statement: “Fatalities: 25,630, Missing: 1,887, Seriously or slightly Injured: 40,464.” However, the date of the survey remains unknown.

Report by the United States Strategic Bombing Survey (USSBS) entitled “Effects of the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki”
 Based on the investigation conducted from October through December 1945, the report estimates that approximately 35,000 people were killed in Nagasaki and a slightly larger number injured. The figures were considered to provide the most reliable estimate regarding casualties.

Investigation by Masuyama Motosaburō
 Casualty data were compiled by statistical analysis of the results of a survey conducted in January 1946 by Masuyama Motosaburō, a Tōkyō Imperial University faculty member and consultant to the Education Ministry Institute of Statistical Mathematics. Targeting approximately 6,000 households in Nagasaki, the survey was conducted with the cooperation of Marvin E. Habel of the Joint Commission for the Investigation of the Effects of the Atomic Bomb in Japan. The authors estimated the number of fatalities and injuries to be from 29,398 to 37,507 and from 23,469 to 26,709, respectively, but the data did not include deaths of unknown cause and were mainly limited to people who died from the immediate impact of the atomic bomb explosion.

Investigation by the Committee for the Preservation of Atomic Bomb Artifacts
 Today, the Nagasaki municipal government has officially adopted the figure of “more than 70,000” deaths on the basis of information from population surveys and estimates made by the Nagasaki City Atomic Bomb Records Preservation Committee in July 1950. The committee reported that: “73,884 people were killed and 74,909 injured, and 17,358 of the deaths were confirmed by postmortem examination soon after the atomic bombing.”
 The following description was later added to the announced data, to explain their validity: “As of May 31, 1945, the number of people receiving rations of food and other staples was 233,935. Although evacuations had caused a certain decrease, the daytime population of Nagasaki swelled with the many people coming to work in the munitions factories and so the population of Nagasaki at the time of the atomic bombing is estimated to have been about 210,000. The results of the survey conducted in 1950 show that the resident population after the atomic bombing was around 130,000. Assuming that about 10,000 of the remaining 80,000 people left the city for other reasons, the committee thus arrived at the estimate of 70,000 deaths due to the atomic bombing.”

Report by United Nations Secretary-General U Thant entitled “White Paper on Nuclear Weapons”
 This report was based on material submitted from the expert advisors group to the United Nations Secretary-General on October 6, 1967. The report includes a statement that fatalities and injuries in Nagasaki totaled 27,000 and 41,000, respectively, and that thousands of missing persons had been reported in both Nagasaki and Hiroshima, but the basis of those estimates remains unknown.

As shown above, various announcements and reports were made from diverse sources regarding the fatalities caused by the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. However, the fatalities were not an immediate and fixed phenomenon. The death toll continued to increase over an extended period of time. The transfer and dispersion of atomic bomb victims during the postwar period, as well as the wide variation in causes of death both direct and indirect, created a mass of complex intertwining factors that hampered accurate estimates. The above figures need to be constantly reviewed and updated taking the facts into consideration.

3. Military Announcements and Press Reports

The explosion of a “new-type bomb” over Hiroshima made front-page news as part of an official announcement, but, by contrast, the atomic bombing on Nagasaki earned only minor mention in newspapers as an announcement from the Western Force District Headquarters.
 For example, the Asahi Shimbun carried an inconspicuous article entitled “New-type Bomb Dropped on Nagasaki” in the Tōkyō edition of August 12, three days after the catastrophe. The article described the situation in Nagasaki in only seven lines, including a comment that “although the facts are currently being investigated, the damage seems to be relatively minor.”
 It is unlikely that many readers took serious notice of the small article in the midst of their own dire circumstances.
 Media coverage of the Nagasaki atomic bombing was overshadowed by dramatic changes in the theater of war. Media attention focused on the Soviet Union’s declaration of war on Japan and Japan’s subsequent surrender. The atomic bombing of Nagasaki was all but ignored by newspapers after the initial reports.
 Newspapers used the term “new-type bomb” until August 13 when the term “atomic bomb” finally appeared in articles. Even those articles, however, did not mention the name “Nagasaki.”
 Partly owing to these factors, the disastrous situation caused by the atomic bombing of Nagasaki was not widely recognized by the public, either inside or outside Japan, and continued to be underrepresented by the press in subsequent years.
 The mission of the present book is to rectify that lack of recognition and to provide the truth about the carnage and horror left in the wake of the Nagasaki atomic bombing.