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Stills from the wreckage

Deirdre Newman

The images are stark in their barrenness. The landscape is

unforgiving in its utter lack of life. And the people in the pictures

are devoid of expression, as if the marrow has been sucked out of

them.

This was the desolate scene captured in Hiroshima, Japan on Sept.

6, 1945-- a month to the day after the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on

the city. And staring at these images behind the lens of his Speed

Graphic camera was Stan Troutman, a 27-year old photographer for Acme

Newspictures.

The Newport Beach resident, who shot photos for Acme while working

with the Air Force, was one of the first journalists to view the

devastation in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Aug. 6 will mark 57 years

since the United States became the first country to use a weapon of

mass destruction.

As a war photographer, Troutman said he was able to detach himself

emotionally from the apocalyptic scene in Hiroshima. What did amaze

him, he said, was the way the bomb had crashed down on the city like

a stone in a stream, causing random waves of damage.

“As we approached the city, we saw areas that were completely

demolished and some that were perfectly intact,” said Troutman, who

after the war parlayed his photographic experience into a 34-year

career as director of UCLA’s photography department.

Troutman became interested in photography when he was 22 and

started working for Acme -- which later became UPI -- in Southern

California.

He started out mixing chemicals for developers but soon caught the

shutterbug bug himself and eventually bought his own camera to start

covering assignments.

At the time, Hollywood was the canvas for Acme photographers and

Troutman covered the rape trials of two of the area’s most infamous

movie stars -- Errol Flynn and Charlie Chaplin.

When World War II broke out, Troutman was able to get an exemption

from the draft because newspaper folk were considered “essential”

people.

He started covering the war in 1944 for the Navy with absolutely

no military combat training.

“They just said, ‘you’re now a war correspondent. Go out and take

pictures of the war,’” said the man whose photos have won

international acclaim.

For his first military assignment, he landed on the island of

Saipan where he was quickly introduced to the illogical horrors of

war.

“The Japanese civilians were so afraid of Americans that they

started committing suicide,” Troutman said. “When the U.S. soldiers

went to save them, the Japs shot our guys.”

After covering more assault landings on other Pacific islands,

Troutman’s year of service was up and he returned home.

But he was soon back in action as one of two photographers in a

new group of war correspondents formed by the Air Force, which was

trying to break away from the Army.

To provide the journalists with a vivid sense of the Air Force’s

impact in the war, officials flew them on a trip around the world.

Troutman said he was awed by how much damage the Air Force had

inflicted on the Germans.

“It went on for miles and everything was completely flattened,”

Troutman said.

The correspondents ended up in the Philippines at the time the

Japanese finally decided to surrender. So they headed to Japan just

in time for Troutman to snap a picture of General Douglas MacArthur

putting his foot down on Japanese soil.

Their next stop was Hiroshima, where Troutman said they had no

clue about the danger of radiation.

“We had heard about radioactivity but had no idea how severe it

was,” Troutman said. “We didn’t have Geiger counters.”

In fact, Troutman said he was more concerned with the radiation’s

effect on his film.

With the severe devastation the bomb caused, Troutman said he was

shocked to see nascent signs of life peeking through the rubble.

“It surprised the heck out of me that little weed shoots were

starting to come up,” he said.

One of the most forlorn pictures Troutman took is of three

Japanese men -- who survived the blast -- staring solemnly at the

camera. They have burns on various parts of their body that were not

protected by clothing and bandages on their faces, ears and

shoulders. Through Troutman’s nuanced photo, the three men personify

the human anguish caused by the atomic bomb.

Once the Hiroshima pictures were released back in the U.S., they

created a torrent of publicity, so much that MacArthur -- infuriated

that the Air Force was getting all the credit for winning the war --

grounded the correspondents’ planes so that they couldn’t go to

Nagasaki, Troutman said.

A few days later, however, they finally got their chance as

MacArthur and other officials were about to sign the peace treaty

aboard the USS Missouri. Troutman was perched in a crow’s nest above

the officials, poised to take the perfect picture, when the leader of

the war correspondents came running in with an urgent message.

“He said, ‘we’re going to Nagasaki,’ so I had to make a decision,”

Troutman said. “Hiroshima made me famous, so I was going to stay with

the Air Force. I wanted to be loyal.”

With MacArthur attending to more important affairs, the

correspondents drained gasoline out of other airplanes and put them

in theirs so they could get to Nagasaki, Troutman said.

Although the landing was dicey, Troutman and the others were able

to get the first pictures of the damage, which was not quite as

extensive as in Hiroshima because the bomb exploded over a valley

instead of the city.

“The valley was just filled with rubble,” Troutman said. “There

were hardly any buildings intact.”

What left the most indelible mark on Troutman’s mind was how much

ruin the atom bombs wreaked in one shot compared to the continuous

bombing of Germany.

While Troutman’s war career ended in Nagasaki, he continued to

pursue his photographic passion at UCLA. He captured the exciting

sports moments of Red Sanders’ football teams and John Wooden’s

basketball teams. After 34 years of taking both still pictures and

film throughout the campus, Troutman stayed on as a consultant to the

athletic department for seven more years.

Troutman’s wife of 27 years, Patt, said she is impressed by her

husband’s modesty about his wartime endeavors.

“Up until lately, when he runs into people, he didn’t talk a lot

about it,” Patt said. “For a long time, he didn’t think he was doing

anything important.”

* DEIRDRE NEWMAN covers education. She may be reached at (949)

574-4221 or by e-mail at deirdre.newman@latimes.com.


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