WW2 and Hiroshima
The Second World War & Hiroshima

the atomic bomb
The Atomic Bomb


WW2 censorship
Second World War Censorship

the nuclear world today
The Nuclear World Today

discussion notes
Discussion Notes

citizenship & the curriculum
Citizenship & the Curriculum

Discussion Notes

  • What role has censorship played in war and peace?

    The U.S. occupying authorities censored Japanese newspapers even after the War's end. In Great Britain a great degree of government information is covered by the Official Secrets Act and there is a system of voluntary self-censorship - the so-called 'D' (for Defence) Notice - run by the government's Defence Press and Broadcasting Committee. This is chaired by an official of the Ministry of Defence and may request editors of newspapers to refrain from publishing stories affecting national security. It was established in 1912. The United States has a Freedom of Information Act, first passed in 1966, which gives citizens the right of access to federal government information in certain circumstances.

  • Immediate images of war are brought to our television screens via CNN, and local cameramen in areas of conflict. The images are not censored although where journalists may travel to can be restricted. How is coverage of war today different to 1945?

    Technical means of reporting have been revolutionised firstly by the introduction of hand-held 8mm film camera and, in 1980s, by increasingly portable video-recorders and TV cameras. American journalists covering the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War in 1960s were able to report directly from the frontline and to have the pictures on the nation’s TV screens within 24 hours. Today, with the use of satellite technology, reporting has the capacity to be instantaneous.

  • How does reporting of events at the time influence our views?

  • Do you agree with the journalist and author, Greg Mitchell, in the film who believes nuclear stockpiling might have been checked if the 1945 information and film had been available?

  • Does a lack of reporting, or any delay in reporting, affect on our view of nuclear weapons and government policy towards them? What impact does it have on the treatment of people affected by weapons testing?

    There are ongoing legal cases involving former military personnel who acted as human subjects ('guinea pigs') in weapons tests in Nevada and Australia, and the inhabitants of certain South Pacific islands who claim they were not sufficiently protected from the effects of nuclear tests. Australian soldiers, as well as Americans, were involved in the clear-up of Hiroshima after the bombing without being advised of the risks involved. Claims have also been made that military personnel were harmed by chemical weapons used in the Vietnam War; and today the U.S. Congress and the British Ministry of Defence are investigating allegations that Allied soldiers were affected by environmental factors (so-called 'Gulf War Syndrome') during their deployment against Iraq in 1990-91.

  • What would be the benefits of a Freedom of Information Act?

    Citizens would have a statutory right to access certain categories of information held by the government. This would advance public debate and the political process by keeping us better informed; civil servants and/or ministers would be less able to censor issues. However the courts would be brought more into the political process if attempts to access information were frustrated by officials, and there would have to be safeguards to prevent the invasion of personal privacy. (Information held electronically is regulated by the Data Protection Act of 1984, amended in 1998, and privacy is now a protected right under the Human Rights Act of 1998.)

  • Who decides what is a war crime?

    On 12th August 1945 Japan accused the United States, via the Swiss Legation in Washington, of 'cruelty and inhumanity' for using the atomic bomb. Following the Second World War the Allied Powers created an International Military Tribunal to prosecute certain leaders of Germany and subsequently Japan for crimes arising from the War, including waging war belligerently (i.e. not in self defence) and for 'crimes against humanity'. Those charged with these crimes often argued that they had only been obeying orders. In 1948 the newly established United Nations ratified a Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Fifty years later it adopted a treaty to create an International Criminal Court. The United States has not ratified this treaty, arguing that it violates American sovereignty and does not afford its citizens the same degree of protection in judicial matters that they enjoy under the U.S. Constitution.

  • How should nuclear weapons be controlled?

    In 1946 the United States proposed that nuclear weapons be placed under international control, and ultimately eliminated ( the Baruch Plan), but agreement could not be reached with the USSR on how to achieve this. Subsequently other states have pursued the development of nuclear weapons and today there are five 'declared' nuclear powers – the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France and the People’s Republic of China – and a number of other states known to possess a nuclear capability (including Israel, Pakistan and India). A Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) was signed in 1968 and came into force two years later. Signatory nations without nuclear weapons have agreed not to develop a nuclear capability and to work to stop the spread of nuclear technology for non-peaceful purposes. A further objective of the treaty, enshrined in Article VI, is the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons.

  • Are nuclear weapons 'illegal'?

    In 1996 the International Court of Justice gave advice on the legality of nuclear weapons at the request of the World Health Organisation and the United Nations General Assembly. Three of the 14 judges said that the use, or threat of use, of nuclear weapons is illegal per se in any circumstances. Seven said it would "generally" be contrary to the laws of war to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons, although they were unsure whether such use "would be lawful or unlawful in an extreme circumstance of self-defence in which the very survival of a state would be at risk". However the Court pointed out that Article VI of the 1968 NPT has not yet been fulfilled.


Further Reading

GRANT, R.G., Hiroshima & Nagasaki (Wayland Publishers Ltd 1997)

LIFTON, Robert Jay and MITCHELL, Greg, Hiroshima in America: Fifty Years of Denial (New York: Putnam's Sons, 1995)

HARWIT, Dr Martin, An Exhibit Denied

BRAW, Dr Monica, The Atomic Bomb Suppressed

ROFF, Sue Rabbitt, Hotspots: The Legacy of Hiroshima & Nagasaki (Cassell 1995)

HERSEY, John, Hiroshima (Penguin Books 1946)

LIFTON, Robert Jay, Death in Life: the Survivors of Hiroshima (Random House 1968 & North Carolina Press 1991)