Stills from the wreckage
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
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
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
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
He started out mixing chemicals for developers but soon caught the
shutterbug bug himself and eventually bought his own camera to start
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”
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
For his first military assignment, he landed on the island of
Saipan where he was quickly introduced to the illogical horrors of
“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,”
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
* DEIRDRE NEWMAN covers education. She may be reached at (949)
574-4221 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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