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Discovered scrapbook reveals photos of Hiroshima


A portrait of Robert Clegg Jr., 1946, sits in the Monroe County History Center. The portrait was done by a street artist while Clegg was in Kyoto, Japan, according to the info card next to the piece. Peter Talbot Buy Photos

The skeletons of steel-enforced buildings stand alone in a desolate pile of rubble in four aerial photos of Hiroshima taken after the atomic bombing in 1945.

The photos are featured in “Aftermath: The Devastation of Hiroshima,” the current exhibit in the Margaret Hill Gallery at the Monroe County History Center. The exhibit is open until March 5.

While the photos demonstrate the devastation of Hiroshima, the exhibit also looks at the late Robert Clegg Jr. and his experience during the American occupation of post-World War II Japan.

Clegg was a Bloomington local who, as a young man, traveled to Japan soon after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to work on rebuilding infrastructure as part of the United States Army Corps of Engineers, according to a sign at the exhibit.

“The really interesting part about this exhibit is that Robert Clegg’s wife found a scrapbook with all of these photos from Hiroshima,” said A.J. Gianopoulos, exhibits manager of the Monroe County History Center.

Gianopoulous said Clegg passed away in 1990. His widow, Wanda Clegg, donated the scrapbook to the Monroe County History Center, which is located at 202 E. Sixth St., a half mile from Sample Gates. 

He said Wanda Clegg had never seen the scrapbook before the death of her husband. 

While Gianopoulous said no one is sure who took the photos, it is presumed Robert Clegg put the scrapbook together. 

Wanda Clegg told Gianopoulos her husband rarely spoke of his experience in Japan, other than to say he helped build airstrips. A letter Robert Clegg wrote to his father while in Japan is also showcased in the exhibit. 

In the letter, Robert Clegg mentioned that he had grown up during his time in Japan and was enthusiastic to come home to complete his education.

He earned an MBA at IU, owned multiple businesses including the Stony Crest Motel, and was a Bloomington City councilman from 1966 to 1972, according to the exhibit.

The exhibit sheds light on the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the subsequent American occupation of Japan in a section of the exhibit named "Occupation of Japan."

The occupation of Japan led an increase in women’s rights, the change to a democratic government and reforms in education, according to the exhibit.

Another sign stated Japan was a gracious host to the U.S., and was posted along with an old photo of a Japanese restaurant in Yokohama with a sign that read "Americans welcome."

Gianopoulos said he wanted his exhibit to show that the war did not end with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There was still work to be done, he said.

"We wanted to portray the devastation and the working to rebuild lives and the political system in Japan," Gianopoulos said.

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