Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission

The Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission (ABCC) was a commission established in 1946 in accordance with a presidential directive from Harry S. Truman to the National Academy of Sciences-National Research Council to conduct investigations of the late effects of radiation among the atomic-bomb survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As it was erected purely for scientific research and study, not as a provider of medical care and also because it was heavily supported by the United States, the ABCC was generally mistrusted by most survivors and Japanese alike. It operated for nearly thirty years before its dissolution in 1975.

Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission
Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission Logo
ABCC Building
ABCC Building at a hilltop of Hijiyama, Hiroshima (circa 1954)
SuccessorRadiation Effects Research Foundation
FormationNovember 26, 1946
FounderLewis Weed
ExtinctionApril 1, 1975


The Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission (ABCC) was formed after the United States attack on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and August 9, 1945. The ABCC originally began as the Joint Commission [1] The ABCC set out to obtain first-hand technical information and make a report to let people know the opportunities for a long-term study of atomic bomb casualties.[2] In 1946, Lewis Weed, head of the National Research Council, called together a group of scientists who agreed that a "detailed and long-range study of the biological and medical effects upon the human being" was "of the utmost importance to the United States and mankind in general." [3] President Harry S. Truman ordered the ABCC into existence on November 26, 1946.[4] The key members in the ABCC were Lewis Weed, National Research Council physicians Austin M. Brues and Paul Henshaw, and Army representatives Melvin A. Block, and James V. Neel who was also an MD with a Ph.D. in genetics.[5] The fifth person on the team was USNV Ltd.Jg Fredrick Ullrich of Naval Medical Research Center appointed by the National Research Council at the suggestion of the Surgeon General's Office.

The Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission's Work

The ABCC arrived in Japan on November 24, 1946, and familiarized themselves with the procedures of the Japanese military. They visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki to see what work was being done. They found that the Japanese had a well-organized medical group under the Japanese National Research Council, who were carrying out studies on both immediate and delayed atomic bomb damage in survivors.[2] It’s almost impossible to get an exact figure of how many people were killed in the two bombings, because both cities had people who had evacuated since it was a time of war. Hiroshima expected bombings, since they were an important military supply center, so many people had left the area. There were also people from surrounding areas who would come into the city on an irregular basis to serve in work crews.[6] Robert Holmes, who was director of the ABCC from 1954-1957, said that "[the survivors] are the most important people living"[7]

The ABCC also drew on the work of Chinese scientists, who were already studying the survivors in the time before the ABCC arrived in Japan, so there was information from both American and Chinese officials.[8] Masao Tsuzuki was the leading Japanese authority on the biological effects of radiation. He said there were four causes of injury in the bombed cities: heat, blast, primary radiation and radioactive poisonous gas.[9] In a report that was released by Tsuzuki, he answered the question, "What does strong radioactive energy do to the human body?" His answer was, "damage to blood, then hematopoetic organs such as bone marrow, spleen, and lymph nodes. All are destroyed or damaged severely. Lungs, intestines, liver, kidney etc are affected and their functions disturbed as a result." The damages were rated by severity. People suffering from severe damage were people who were in within a 1 km radius of the hypocenter. The severely affected people typically died within a few days, some living as long as two weeks. Moderate damage was seen in people living in a 1–2 km. radius from the hypoenter, and those people would live for 2–6 weeks. Those people living within a 2–4 km. radius had slight damage, and which would not cause death, but would cause some health problems during the several months after the exposure.[10]

The ABCC grows

The ABCC grew rapidly in 1948 and 1949. Their staff numbers quadrupled in just one year. By 1951 the total stood at 1063 employees – 143 allied and 920 Japanese personnel.[11] Perhaps the most important research undertaken by the ABCC was the genetics study, which focused its study on the uncertainties surrounding the possible long-term effects of ionizing radiation in pregnant women and their unborn children. The study did not find evidence of widespread genetic damage. It did, however, find increased incidence of microcephaly and mental retardation in children most proximally exposed in utero to the bombs' radiation.[12] The genetics project studied the effects of radiation on the survivors and their children.[13] This project turned out to be the largest and most interactive of the ABCC programs.[14] In 1957, Japan passed the Atomic Bomb Survivors Relief Law, which qualified certain people for two medical exams per year.[15] The Japanese term for the survivors of the atomic bombs is hibakusha. The qualifications for medical care were those within a few kilometers of the hypocenters at the time of the bombings; those within 2 kilometers of the hypocenters within two weeks of the bombings; those exposed to radiation from fallout and children who were in utero by women who fit into any of the other categories.[16]

Pros and cons of the ABCC

There were pros and cons to the ABCC. The cons: they overlooked Japanese needs in small details. The flooring in the waiting room for mothers and babies was polished linoleum, and women in their wooden clogs would often slip and fall. The signs and magazines in the waiting rooms were in English. The ABCC did not actually treat the survivors they studied, they just studied them over periods of time. They had them come for examination during weekday working hours, causing the person to lose a day of pay, and they offered little compensation to the survivors.

The pros: they provided people with valuable medical information. Infants received a check up at birth and again at 9 months, which was not common at the time. Medical check ups on healthy infants were unheard of. Adults also benefited from frequent medical examinations.[17]

ABCC becomes the RERF

In 1951, the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) was planning on stopping funding for the ABCC's work in Japan. However, James V. Neel made an appeal and the AEC decided to fund them $20,000 a year, for three years, to continue research.[18] In 1956, Neel and William J. Schull published their final draft of The Effect of Exposure to the Atomic Bombs on Pregnancy Termination in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This monograph gave a detailed description of all the data they had collected[19] Despite their efforts, trust in the ABCC was declining, so the ABCC became the Radiation Effects Research Foundation (RERF), and with the new name and administrative organization, funding for the research on survivors was to be provided equally by the United States and Japan.[20] The RERF was established on 1 April 1975. A binational organization run by both the United States and Japan, the RERF is still in operation today.[21]

Further reading

  • The Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission in retrospect, PNAS, by Frank W. Putnam.
  • M. Susan Lindee (1994). Suffering Made Real: American Science and the Survivors at Hiroshima. University Of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-48237-5.
  • Sue Rabbitt Roff (1995). Hotspots: The Legacy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Cassell. ISBN 0-304-33438-3.
  • White Light/Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (2007)
  • G.W.Beebe (1979). Reflections on the work of the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission in Japan


  1. ^ Lindee, 36
  2. ^ a b Henshaw, 2
  3. ^ Lindee, 32
  4. ^ Lindee, 34
  5. ^ Lindee, 35
  6. ^ Lindee, 7
  7. ^ Lindee, 5
  8. ^ Lindee, 17
  9. ^ Lindee, 24
  10. ^ Tsuzuki, 71
  11. ^ Lindee, 99
  12. ^ "Archives"
  13. ^ Lindee, 76
  14. ^ Lindee, 79
  15. ^ Lindee, 138
  16. ^ "Hibakusha"
  17. ^ Lindee, 164-5
  18. ^ Lindee, 115
  19. ^ Lindee, 241
  20. ^ Lindee, 245
  21. ^ "Objectives"

External links


ABCC can mean:

Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission

Angami Baptist Church Council

Arunachal Baptist Church Council

Office of the Australian Building and Construction Commissioner

The Association of British Chambers of Commerce, since 1996 known as the British Chambers of CommerceAssociation of British Cycling Coaches

Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

During the final stage of World War II, the United States detonated two nuclear weapons over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945, respectively. The United States dropped the bombs after obtaining the consent of the United Kingdom, as required by the Quebec Agreement. The two bombings killed 129,000–226,000 people, most of whom were civilians. They remain the only use of nuclear weapons in the history of armed conflict.

In the final year of the war, the Allies prepared for what was anticipated to be a very costly invasion of the Japanese mainland. This undertaking was preceded by a conventional and firebombing campaign that destroyed 67 Japanese cities. The war in Europe had concluded when Germany signed its instrument of surrender on May 8, 1945. As the Allies turned their full attention to the Pacific War, the Japanese faced the same fate. The Allies called for the unconditional surrender of the Imperial Japanese armed forces in the Potsdam Declaration on July 26, 1945—the alternative being "prompt and utter destruction". The Japanese rejected the ultimatum and the war continued.

By August 1945, the Allies' Manhattan Project had produced two types of atomic bombs, and the 509th Composite Group of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) was equipped with the specialized Silverplate version of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress that could deliver them from Tinian in the Mariana Islands. Orders for atomic bombs to be used on four Japanese cities were issued on July 25. On August 6, one of the modified B-29s dropped a uranium gun-type bomb codenamed "Little Boy" on Hiroshima. Three days later, on August 9, a plutonium implosion-type bomb codenamed "Fat Man" was dropped by another B-29 on Nagasaki. The bombs immediately devastated their targets. Over the next two to four months, the acute effects of the atomic bombings killed 90,000–146,000 people in Hiroshima and 39,000–80,000 people in Nagasaki; roughly half of the deaths in each city occurred on the first day. Large numbers of people continued to die from the effects of burns, radiation sickness, and other injuries, compounded by illness and malnutrition, for many months afterward. In both cities, most of the dead were civilians, although Hiroshima had a sizable military garrison.

Japan announced its surrender to the Allies on August 15, six days after the bombing of Nagasaki and the Soviet Union's declaration of war. On September 2, the Japanese government signed the instrument of surrender, effectively ending World War II. The effects of the bombings on the social and political character of subsequent world history and popular culture has been studied extensively, and the ethical and legal justification for the bombings is still debated to this day.

Clara Raven

Clara Raven (1909-1994) was one of the first five female physicians to be commissioned during World War II by the U.S. Army (she entered active duty service in 1943), and became the first female doctor to be a full colonel in the U.S. Army Medical Corps in 1961. She was also the first female officer to become a member of the Military Order of World Wars and the Association of Military Surgeons. She had graduated from Northwestern University Medical School in 1938. She served as chief of laboratory services in general hospitals, and for a short time at the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission. She also co-wrote a Japanese textbook on histopathology. In 1958 she became the Deputy Chief Medical Examiner of Wayne County. She researched the cause of SIDS for over twenty years, and testified before a U.S. Senate subcommittee in support of counseling for those who were grieving due to SIDS and funding for SIDS research. In 1962 she received the Northwestern Alumni Merit Award. In 1983 she received the Elizabeth Blackwell Award. In 1987 she was inducted into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame. She also received the Michigan State Medical Flag Award. She was Jewish.

David Glendenning Cogan

David Glendenning Cogan (14 February 1908, Fall River, Massachusetts – 9 September 1993, Wayne, Michigan) was an American ophthalmologist.

Earle L. Reynolds

Earle L. Reynolds (October 18, 1910 – January 11, 1998) was an anthropologist, educator, author, Quaker, and peace activist. He was sent to Hiroshima by the Atomic Energy Commission in 1951 to study the effects of the first atomic bomb on the growth and development of exposed children. His professional discoveries concerning the dangers of radiation later moved Reynolds into a life of anti-nuclear activism. In 1958 he sailed with his wife Barbara, two of his three children and a Japanese yachtsman in the Phoenix of Hiroshima, a ketch he had designed himself, into the American nuclear testing zone in the Pacific. In 1961 the family sailed to the USSR to protest Soviet nuclear testing. During the Vietnam War Reynolds and his second wife Akie sailed the Phoenix to Haiphong to deliver humanitarian and medical aid to victims of American bombing.

Gilbert Wheeler Beebe

Gilbert Wheeler Beebe (3 April 1912 – 3 March 2003), also known as Gil Beebe, was an American epidemiologist and statistician known for monumental studies of radiation-related mortality and morbidity among populations exposed to ionizing radiation from the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 and the Chernobyl reactor accident in 1986.


Hibakusha (被爆者/被曝者, hi 被 "affected" + baku 爆 "bomb" or 曝 "exposition" + sha 者 "person") is a worldwide democratised word of Japanese origin generally designating the victims of the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

James V. Neel

James Van Gundia Neel (March 22, 1915 – February 1, 2000) was an American geneticist who played a key role in the development of human genetics as a field of research in the United States. He made important contributions to the emergence of genetic epidemiology and pursued an understanding of the influence of environment on genes. In his early work, he studied sickle-cell disease and conducted research on the effects of radiation on survivors of the Hiroshima atomic bombing. In 1956, Neel established the University of Michigan Department of Genetics, the first department of human genetics at a medical school in the United States. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1971.Of particular interest to Neel was an understanding of the human genome in an evolutionary light, a concept he addressed in his fieldwork with cultural anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon among the Yanomamo and Xavante in Brazil and Venezuela. His involvement in this fieldwork came under heavy scrutiny and criticism in the Darkness in El Dorado controversy, a scandal in anthropology that broke in 2000 involving numerous allegations of unethical research that threatened serious damage to Neel's reputation. The accusation is that Neel deliberately injected South American natives with virulent measles vaccine to spark off an epidemic which killed hundreds and probably thousands. However, these claims against him were never substantiated with evidence and it was found later that the measles outbreak predated his arrival.

Dr. Neel attended the College of Wooster with a degree in biology in 1935 and went on to receive his Ph.D. at the University of Rochester.

Michihiko Hachiya

Michihiko Hachiya (蜂谷道彦, Hachiya Michihiko, 1903 in Okayama Prefecture - 1980) was a Japanese medical practitioner who survived the Hiroshima bombing in 1945 and kept a diary of his experience. He was Director of the Hiroshima Communications Hospital and lived near the hospital, about a mile from the explosion's center. A 1984 editorial in the Journal of American Medical Association, indicates "At the urging of friends, Dr. Hachiya first published his diary in a small Japanese-language medical journal (Teishin Igaku) that circulated among medical members of the Japanese communications services. There it came to the attention of Warner Wells, MD, an American physician who was working in Japan in 1950 as a surgical consultant to the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission." It was Dr. Wells, who in consultation with Dr. Hachiya, made the diary to be published in 1955, under the name of Hiroshima Diary.

Newton Morton

Newton Ennis Morton (21 December 1929 – 7 February 2018) was an American population geneticist and one of the founders of the field of genetic epidemiology.

Radiation Effects Research Foundation

The Radiation Effects Research Foundation (RERF) is a joint U.S.-Japan research organization responsible for studying the medical effects of radiation and associated diseases in humans for the welfare of the survivors and all humankind. The organization is located in Hiroshima, Japan.

The studies have been going on for 70 years, which makes RERF the only institution that has been conducting epidemiological studies on a population of more than 120,000 individuals for this long. RERF continues to conduct research until this day because the effects of A-bomb radiation on human health have not been fully elucidated.RERF conducts research in multiple fields of science including epidemiology, clinical medicine, genetics, and immunology. Findings from RERF’s studies have been used not only for the medical care and welfare of the A-bomb survivors but also for the establishment of international radiation protection standards.

Ravindra Khattree

Ravindra Khattree (born 1959) is an Indian-American statistician and professor of statistics at Oakland University. His contribution to the Fountain–Khattree–Peddada Theorem in Pitman measure of closeness is one of the important results of his work. Khattree is the coauthor of two books and has coedited two volumes. He has served as an associate editor of the Communications in Statistics journal and the editor of the Interstat online journal. He is Chief editor of Journal of Statistics and Applications. He is an elected fellow of the American Statistical Association.Khattree was born in Uttar Pradesh, India. He attended the Ewing Christian College-Allahabad University and the Indian Statistical Institute. In 1985, he earned a doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh with Calyampudi Radhakrishna Rao as his advisor. He became a faculty member at Oakland University in 1991. He was the biostatistics group leader in the Biomedical Research and Informatics Center and a professor of biostatistics in the College of Human Medicine, Michigan State University during 2005–2006. He worked as a senior research scientist at US National Academy of Sciences with assignment at the Radiation Effects Research Foundation (formerly known as Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission), Hiroshima during 2010–2011.Prior to joining Oakland University, he had been a faculty member at the North Dakota State University, Case Western Reserve University and also worked at BFGoodrich Chemical Group. He is the paternal grandson of Binda Prasad Khattri.

Robert Stone (scientist)

Robert S. Stone (February 10, 1922 – October 20, 2016) was an American physician. He served as the Director of The National Institutes of Health from 1973 to 1975. Stone also served as the vice president for health services and dean of the school of medicine at the University of New Mexico, dean of the School of Medicine of the University of Oregon Health Sciences Center and vice president of the Health Sciences Center, and dean of the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine.

Sadako Sasaki

Sadako Sasaki (佐々木 禎子, Sasaki Sadako, January 7, 1943 – October 25, 1955) was a Japanese girl who was 2 years old when an American atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, near her home next to the Misasa Bridge. Sasaki became one of the most widely known hibakusha – a Japanese term meaning "bomb-affected person". She is remembered through the story of the one thousand origami cranes she folded before her death, and is to this day a symbol of the innocent victims of nuclear warfare.

Shields Warren

Shields Warren (26 February 1898 – 1 July 1980) was an American pathologist. He was among the first to study the pathology of radioactive fallout. Warren influenced and mentored Eleanor Josephine Macdonald, epidemiologist and cancer researcher.

Terufumi Sasaki

Terufumi Sasaki (Japanese: 佐々木 輝文, Hepburn: Sasaki Terufumi) was a surgeon at the Red Cross hospital in Hiroshima in 1945 and was personally situated 1,650 yards from the hypocenter of the Little Boy explosion. Twenty five years old that year, out of an initial 30 interviewed, he became one of the six central biopics found in the 1946 book Hiroshima by John Hersey. He lived at his family home in Mukaihara district prior to the detonation and practiced medicine in communities with poor health care without a permit.After the detonation occurred, he was one of the first to observe, document and attempt to treat "atomic bomb sickness", now known as acute radiation syndrome. Terufumi Sasaki led intensive research into the syndrome in the weeks and months post-detonation, leading to the establishment of three recorded stages of the syndrome. Within 25–30 days of the explosion, Sasaki noticed a sharp drop in white blood cell count and established this drop, along with symptoms of fever, as prognostic standards for Acute Radiation Syndrome. In the years afterward he would become one of the leading surgeons continuing to document and treat the Hibakusha (explosion-affected) community, serving as an important source of knowledge for the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission, and later Radiation Effects Research Foundation, who began and continue the Life Span Study of atomic bomb survivors, respectively.

William Schull

William Jackson (Jack) Schull (17 March 1922 – 20 June 2017) was an American geneticist and Professor Emeritus of Human Genetics at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. He worked for the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission in Japan, was one of the founding members of the Department of Human Genetics at the University of Michigan, and was the founding director of the Center for Demographic and Population Genetics at the University of Texas at Houston. His scientific contributions include studies on the effects of ionizing radiation on human health, the role of heredity and the interaction of heredity and environment in the etiology of chronic disease, the effects of inbreeding in human populations, the mechanisms of adaptations to hypoxic conditions, and the genetic epidemiology of populations burdened by chronic diseases associated with low socio-economic status.

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