Japanese institute struggles to preserve atomic bomb autopsy material
In a photograph taken in October 1945, Dr. Chuta Tamagawa is performing autopsies on atomic bomb victims in a makeshift hut next to Hiroshima Teishin Hospital.
Yoshio Sugihara, a medical student at the time, witnessed the autopsies performed by Tamagawa, then a professor at the Hiroshima Prefecture Medical School (now Hiroshima University Medical School) ). He described the situation in his memoir, “The Wrath of a Pathologist”.
The hospital was crowded with wounded. On September 20, the body of a baby born prematurely at eight months was transported to the hut from the hospital ward. The next morning, the body of the 39-year-old mother was brought in.
Sugihara saw the father, whose eyes filled with tears when he said to his son, who appeared to be in third grade, “Now say goodbye to your mother. “
“I couldn’t hold back my hatred,” Sugihara wrote, describing his anger towards the United States in his memoir.
By the fall of 1945, a large volume of pathology specimens and other material from atomic bomb victims had been collected by the United States, which occupied Japan after World War II. The materials were not returned to Japan until 1973. Those from the victims of the Hiroshima atomic bombardment are now stored at the Hiroshima University Research Institute for Radiobiology and Medicine (RIRBM).
In a report drawn up by the RIRBM after the return of the material, the names on a list correspond to the age, date and location of the autopsy of the mother and baby described in the briefs. After their deaths, specimens of their organs were taken to the very country that dropped the atomic bombs.
About 11,000 items among the “materials returned by the US military” are related to the victims of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.
Among the glass slides of internal organ or bone marrow samples taken from 669 victims, approximately 4,000 slides with specimens from 105 people – including the aforementioned mother and child – come from those autopsied at the end of 1945. .
The materials, obtained only a few months after the atomic bombardment, are considered extremely rare.
Sayaka Sugihara, 45, assistant professor in the Radiation Information Registry Division of RIRBM, analyzed bone marrow samples from 49 people and again confirmed that the acute symptom of inability to produce normal blood cells could be clearly identified in the victims, who died within three or four weeks of exposure.
However, researchers are alarmed by the deterioration of the materials. Sayaka Sugihara said, “We need to save the footage while we can still see it. Otherwise, we will lose the evidence to support the diagnoses made immediately after the bombing. “
She presented an enlarged bone marrow prep slide under the microscope. Normally, megakaryocyte cells, the source of platelets, clearly turn blue-violet when a reagent is added. But the colors on the slide have turned pale, making it difficult to distinguish megakaryocytes from surrounding tissue.
The RIRBM aims to save specimens as digital images. A scanner specially designed for this purpose would cost at least several million yen. In its budget request for fiscal year 2017, the RIRBM requested funds for the archiving of various documents related to atomic bombs hosted by the organization through the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports , Science and Technology, but the request was rejected.
Satoshi Tashiro, 58, director of RIRBM, regrets the government’s decision.
“In the current situation in Japan, it is difficult to get a budget request approved unless the research is supposed to produce early results.”
The organization is now trying to raise funds on the Internet through crowdfunding.
Each slide represents the life of a victim of the Hiroshima bombing, each with a name and a family.
To classify the materials, the US military numbered the casualty-related items in sequence, starting with the number “25”. When they were released in 1973, the Hiroshima City Government disclosed to the public all of the corresponding names, which had been recorded in Roman letters. One of them was “Yukimura Juro”, who had received the serial number “259117”. A relative showed up to claim the equipment.
Following a clue in the written press of this time, the journalists found a nephew of Yukimura. According to Hideo Mangoku, 85, Kyoto, Yukimura, 48, and his wife suffered atomic bombardment at their restaurant in Yagenbori (now part of the Naka district), about a kilometer from the hypocenter.
Yukimura couldn’t save his wife from under the collapsed building and ran, in tears, to safety. Mangoku said: “My uncle searched among the burnt ruins day after day, but could not find his remains.”
Purple spots soon appeared on Yukimura’s body, and her hair fell out. He died on September 10, about a month after the bombing. There was no way at the time to treat the unknown symptoms.
When a Kyoto University medical team requested approval for a pathological autopsy on Yukimura, Mangoku’s father agreed. “If that helps research,” he replied.
Among the documents returned from the United States were a medical record and 15 slides related to “259117”.
It should be the duty of the A-bombed cities and Japan to do everything possible to preserve the materials and to pass on the efforts to discover the real consequences of atomic bombing to future generations.
This article was published by the Chugoku Shimbun, the largest newspaper in the Chugoku region. The original article was published on April 7.
Unspeakable horror: the attacks in Hiroshima and Nagasaki
The nation this week marks the 75th anniversary of the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which killed more than 200,000 people and left many more deeply traumatized and even stigmatized.
Here are some facts about the devastating attacks:
The first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 by the American bomber Enola Gay.
The bomb, weighing 4.4 tons, was nicknamed “Little Boy”, but its impact was anything but small.
It exploded about 600 meters from the ground, with a force equivalent to 15,000 tons of TNT, and killed 140,000 people.
Tens of thousands of people died instantly, while others died of injuries or illnesses in the weeks, months and years that followed.
Three days later, the United States dropped a second bomb, dubbed “Fat Man”, on the city of Nagasaki, killing 74,000 more people.
The attacks remain the only time atomic bombs have been used in wartime.
When the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, the first thing people noticed was an “intense fireball”, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
Temperatures at the epicenter of the explosion reached about 7,000 degrees Celsius (12,600 Fahrenheit), causing fatal burns within a radius of about three kilometers (five miles).
ICRC experts say there have been cases of temporary or permanent blindness due to the intense flash of light, and consequent damage such as cataracts.
A whirlwind of heat generated by the explosion also ignited thousands of fires that burned several square kilometers (miles) of the largely wooden town. A firestorm that consumed all available oxygen caused more suffocation deaths.
It has been estimated that victims of burns and fires accounted for more than half of the immediate deaths in Hiroshima.
The explosion generated a huge shock wave which in some cases literally swept people away. Others were crushed to death inside collapsed buildings or injured or killed by flying debris.
“I remember the charred bodies of small children lying around the hypocenter area like black rocks,” Koichi Wada, who was 18 at the time of the Nagasaki attack, said of the bombing. the bomb.
The bombings triggered radiation that proved fatal both immediately and in the longer term.
Radiation sickness was reported as a result of the attack by many survivors of the initial explosion and firestorm.
Acute radiation symptoms include vomiting, headache, nausea, diarrhea, bleeding, and hair loss, with radiation sickness being fatal for many within weeks or months.
The survivors of the bombs, known as hibakusha, also suffered longer-term effects, including a high risk of thyroid cancer and leukemia, and Hiroshima and Nagasaki both experienced high cancer rates.
Of the 50,000 radiation victims in the two cities studied by the Japanese and American Radiation Effects Research Foundation, about 100 died of leukemia and 850 suffered from radiation-induced cancer.
The foundation, however, found no evidence of a “significant increase” in severe birth defects in the children of survivors.
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