The Horrors and Heroes of Hiroshima


Hiroshima Communications Hospital, September 1945. The image is slightly blurry, not because of the quality but the photo itself, and is in black and white. The burned concrete building is without a roof and without windows. A tree without leaves is tilted in front of the building. Rubble is all around on the ground.

Hiroshima Communications Hospital, September 1945, box 1, folder Hiroshima Diary correspondence and photographs, 1945-1955, Warner Wells collection, 1945-1972.

Please note: This exhibit includes graphic images and descriptions of the effects of the atomic bomb.

The atomic bombing of Hiroshima has been covered and recovered, fit into a message of destruction and peace, politicized and personalized, making for a patchwork of true and false narratives in people’s memories, classrooms, and museums. Providing an unflinching and unique view to the horrors of the atomic bombing is Hiroshima Diary: The Journal of a Japanese Physician, August 6-September 30, 1945, by Dr. Michihiko Hachiya and translated and edited by Dr. Warner Wells. To have a diary, recording one’s thoughts in the immediate aftermath of the bombing instead of months or years later, is rare, possibly one-of-a-kind, and for it to be from a doctor only adds to its inimitable status.

Dr. Hachiya recorded the state of the hospital, the city, the patients, and staff, allowing readers to understand the complete destruction of Hiroshima, but also the continuous care hospital staff provided to their community, even in the bleakest of conditions and fear for their own health and safety.

Dr. Wells trained at Duke Medical School and worked in Chapel Hill. Hiroshima Diary was published by the University of North Carolina Press on the 10-year anniversary of the bombing. This exhibit, The Horrors and Heroes of Hiroshima, seeks to introduce a new generation of readers to the amazing work that is Hiroshima Diary.

This exhibition was curated by Michelle Wolfson, Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Intern. Wolfson is a graduate student in Library Science at East Carolina University and half-Japanese. The curator wishes to thank Matthew Hayes, Librarian for Japanese Studies and Asian American Studies, for his advice and translation assistance; and also Rachel Ingold, Curator of the History of Medicine Collections; Meg Brown, E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundations Exhibits Librarian; and Yoon Kim, Senior Library Exhibition Technician, for their support and guidance.

Some materials and descriptions may include offensive content. More info