Crown Prince Akihito (far left), now emperor of Japan, visits ABCC facilities with his entourage on April 6, 1949.
Fifty years ago this March, the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission (ABCC) was established by directive of President Harry S. Truman. Charged with the long-term medical study of survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the ABCC's research program began with a hematological study set up under NAS member James V. Neel in March 1947. Subsequent studies explored radiation cataracts, leukemia and other concers, and survivors' aging and mortality rates.
Perhaps the most important research undertaken was the genetics study, which derived its impetus from the uncertainties surrounding the possible long-term effects of ionizing radiation. The study did not find evidence of widespread genetic damage. It did, however, find increased incidence of microcephaly and mental retardation in children most proximally exposed in utero to the bombs' radiation.
In 1975, a new U.S.-Japan binational private foundation, the Radiation Effects Research Foundation, superceded the ABCC and continued its programs. It is still in existence, and NAS continues to administer U.S. participation.