In August 1945, US President Harry Truman ordered a nuclear attack on Japan: on August 6, the attack on Hiroshima was launched, and on August 9, the attack on Nagasaki.
Estimates show that by the end of 1945, bombs had killed more than 150,000 people in Hiroshima, and nearly 80,000 in Nagasaki, although only half of them had died as a result of the bombs. The rest of the people died as a result of exposure to radiation, or from injuries. In addition, even today people still die from radiation exposure, suffering from diseases such as leukemia or various types of cancer.
After the capitulation of Japan, in September 1945, the US military sent photographer Joe O’Donnell to document the damage caused by the two nuclear bombs. For more than 6 months, the photographer traveled through western Japan, capturing death, pain and human suffering through his photos. One of his photos was very special.
In that picture, a boy is sitting with his dead brother tied behind his back and waiting his turn at the entrance to the crematorium. The child, who is not more than 10 years old, expresses his pain only through the fixed bite of the lower lip. He took his younger brother to cremation, as required by law, fulfilling his duty even in this dramatic situation.
According to the photographer, the child waited 10 minutes, until an employee of the crematorium untied the strips and placed him on the funeral pyre. The young man remained motionless until his younger brother burned, squeezing his lip so hard that he began to bleed. After the body was cremated, the boy left in silence.
Most likely, the boy had lost his parents, but despite his unimaginable pain, he knew he had a debt, a debt that had been fulfilled. The picture reflects the image of a defeated nation, but not humiliated.