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In November 1946, President Harry S. Truman issued a directive authorizing the NAS-NRC to undertake the long-term study of the survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Just prior to Truman's directive, a five-man commission, operating under the auspices of the National Research Council's Division of Medical Sciences and calling itself the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission, had been sent to Japan to conduct a preliminary survey of the situation.
The Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission (ABCC) was officially established under the direction of the Research Council's Division of Medical Sciences in March 1947. The ABCC, which was responsible for carrying out research in the field, was overseen by the division's Committee on Atomic Casualties, which later became the Advisory Committee on ABCC. Operations were funded by the newly created Atomic Energy Commission's Biology and Medicine Division.
The survey findings of the original five-man NAS-NRC commission, communicated in December 1946, made up the ABCC's first report. The first research program proper set up by the ABCC was a hematological study, begun under James V. Neel in March 1947. By 1950, the ABCC had a number of departments in operation, and had established a series of studies that would include research on radiation cataracts, leukemia and other cancers, survivors' aging and mortality rates, sex ratios of survivors' offspring, and genetics.
Logistical and organizational problems of the early ABCC were such that by 1955 it appeared that the program would have to be terminated. Toward the end of 1955, a committee under the direction of NAS Member Thomas Francis was sent to Japan to assess the ABCC and its programs; on the committee's recommendation a new and more effective study program was implemented. By 1957 George B. Darling of Yale University was made director, and it was under his long leadership -- ending only in 1972 -- that the ABCC was able to reorient and stabilize its operations. An Adult Health Study involving biennial examinations of survivors was soon established, followed not long after by new cytogenetic studies. It was also under Darling's leadership that the ABCC instituted bilingual technical protocols and increased the participation of the Japanese National Institute of Health in ABCC studies.
By the early 1970s, constraints imposed by increased operating costs began to make themselves felt. In response to requests that the Japanese Government increase its support of the ABCC, a new, binational private foundation, the Radiation Effects Research Foundation (RERF), was negotiated into existence, and in 1975 it replaced the ABCC while continuing the latter's programs.
The ABCC General Report of January 1947 is available here.
Scope and Content
The Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission collection covers the period 1945-1982 and spans approximately 54.6 linear feet in 29 file drawers. The collection contains correspondence, meeting minutes, memoranda, newspaper and magazine clippings, photographs, reports, reprints, and other materials documenting the activities and organization of the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission and Radiation Effects Research Foundation in Japan, and ABCC- and RERF-related activities of the National Research Council's Division of Medical Sciences and Assembly of Life Sciences.
The Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission collection is organized into the following 19 series:
Series 1: ABCC-NAS Office Correspondence (1947-1975).
Series contains correspondence between ABCC and the NAS. Includes correspondence to and from the ABCC Director, Associate Director, and Deputy Director. Series Files List
Series 2: ABCC Correspondence with Supporting Government Agencies and Others (1951-1973).
Series contains correspondence between ABCC and various government agencies and other institutions. Includes correspondence with the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, U.S. Public Health Service, Japan National Institute of Health, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, various universities, and others. Series Files List
Series 3: ABCC Program Components (1947-1973).
Series contains materials documenting the activities of ABCC's study units. Includes correspondence, memoranda, project outlines, reports, and other materials. Series Files List
Series 4: Consultants' Visits to ABCC and RERF (1947-1977).
Series contains correspondence, reports, itineraries, and other materials pertaining to visits made to ABCC/RERF facilities by various consultants, and by ABCC personnel to the U.S. Series Files List
Series 5: Name Files (1947-1973).
Series contains files for individuals working for or otherwise associated with the various programs and activities of ABCC. Files had been kept by ABCC Director's Office in Japan. Series Files List
Series 6: Subject Files (1947-1973).
Series contains files dedicated by subject matter. Files had been kept by ABCC Director's Office in Japan. Series Files List
Series 7: Miscellaneous Correspondence (1946-1973).
Series contains files of miscellaneous correspondence from inside and outside Japan. Files had been kept by ABCC Director's Office in Japan. Series Files List
Series 8: ABCC Reports (1947-1972).
Series contains reports issued by the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission, including Annual, Semi-Annual, and Quarterly Reports; also contains unpublished reports. Series Files List
Series 9: Reprints (1947-1969).
Series contains reprints of articles by ABCC researchers. Series Files List
Series 10: Photographs (1945-1970).
Series contains photographs of various people, places, and events in and around Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Series Files List
Series 11: Early Reports & Inception of ABCC (1945-1953).
Series contains material pertaining to the establishment of the ABCC program as well as the organization of the National Research Council Division of Medical Sciences Committee on Atomic Casualties. Includes early reports on effects of atomic bombs, correspondence with War Department and SCAP concerning availability of personnel and supplies, early memoranda, and public relations materials. Series Files List
Series 12: Committee on Atomic Casualties (1946-1957).
Series contains correspondence, conference and meeting minutes, reports, proceedings of symposia, and memoranda of the National Research Council Division of Medical Sciences Committee on Atomic Casualties. Series Files List
Series 13: Advisory Committee on ABCC (1956-1973).
Series contains correspondence, meeting minutes, memoranda, and other items from the National Research Council Division of Medical Sciences Advisory Committee on ABCC. Series Files List
Series 14: DMS/ALS ABCC-Related Subject Files (1945-1980).
Series contains files kept by the National Research Council Division of Medical Sciences and Assembly of Life Sciences on ABCC- and RERF-related subjects. Series Files List
Series 15: Administration & Budget (1951-1975).
Series contains correspondence and other materials related to ABCC administration and budget. Includes NAS President's correspondence. Series Files List
Series 16: Early Building Development (1946-1972).
Series contains correspondence, leases, and other documents pertaining to the construction of ABCC facilities in and nearby Hiroshima, Kure, and Nagasaki. Series Files List
Series 17: Editorial Office (1946-1982).
Series contains correspondence and other documents pertaining to the operation of the ABCC Editorial Office. Items include ABCC/RERF newsletters spanning 1962-1982, listings of technical reports, and publications policy documents. Series Files List
Series 18: Committee Member/Employee Correspondence (1948-1977).
Series contains alphabetized correspondence files for ABCC personnel and members of the Advisory Committee on ABCC, apparently kept by the National Research Council Division of Medical Sciences. Series Files List
Series 19: Supplemental Material (1945-1966).
Series contains miscellaneous and/or ABCC-associated materials found among ABCC holdings. Series Files List