View Once-Classified Photos of Ground Zero Hiroshima

In the wake of the atomic blast at Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, the US government restricted photographs of the ravaged city. One exception to this rule: the United States Strategic Bombing Survey, a group of 1,150 military personnel and civilians dispatched by President Truman to photograph and analyze the bomb’s impact on buildings in order to create our own civil defense architecture in the United States. Currently on view at the International Center of Photography, Hiroshima: Ground Zero 1945 features 60 contact prints culled from 700 images that have been classified for decades, until they were accidentally discovered in a suitcase in a pile of trash. These heart-wrenching photos of urban destruction, shattered buildings, twisted bridges and post-apocalyptic emptiness are a testament to the horrors of nuclear weapons and the first instance they were used on a populated city by the US, killing more than 140,000 people.

United States Strategic Bombing Survey, Physical Damage Division. Distorted steel-frame structure of Odamasa Store, Hiroshima, November 20, 1945. Courtesy of International Center of Photography