Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Photos From the Ruins

TIME

One scene shared by all of the 20th century’s bloodiest conflicts might have been lifted straight from The Road Warrior, or a Beckett play: spectral landscape; buildings obliterated; blasted trees; lifeless wasteland. The photographs in this gallery, for instance—pictures that starkly reference every bleak, war-battered panorama from Gettysburg to Verdun to Stalingrad to Chosin Reservoir to Pork Chop Hill—were made in September, 1945, in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.

But far from chronicling the aftermath of a sustained, slogging campaign, these pictures—none of which were published in LIFE magazine—depict the devastation produced in a few unspeakably violent seconds. Here, LIFE.com presents pictures from both cities taken in the weeks and months following the bombings—bombings that killed a combined 120,000 people outright, and tens of thousands more through injury and radiation sickness. Included, as well, are scans of typed memos from photographer Bernard Hoffman—quietly revelatory notes like the one he wrote…

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