Through its humanitarian action during armed conflicts, the international Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has witnessed pivotal moments in the contemporary history of international armed conflicts. Its photographic and sound archives keep track of this.
From the atomic bomb to the Cold War, the Asian continent was the scene of intense armed conflicts during the second half of the 20th century, resulting in displacement of populations, human losses and unprecedented destruction. Many powers were involved in these conflicts, which shaped the geopolitical map of Asia, leading to significant regime changes and profoundly altering diplomatic relations in the region. As part of its mandate, the ICRC, in cooperation with the National Societies of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, has been assisting people affected by armed conflict and violence. Discover here the testimonies of people who lived through three events that marked the region: the bombing of Hiroshima (1945), the Korean War (1950 to 1953), and the fall of Phnom Penh (1975).
The bombing of Hiroshima, August 6, 1945
On August 30, 1945, Fritz Bilfinger, an ICRC delegate, was in the region and visited the city. In a telegram, he reported to Marcel Junod, head of the delegation in Tokyo, the appalling conditions of the city: “80% of the city destroyed (…) mysteriously severe bomb effect (…) numerous victims (…)”.
Young at the time of the events, Yoshiyama Yukio, a Japanese survivor tells his experience through an interview conducted by the Radio Suisse Romande in 2002.
Nakata Satsuo was a photographer for the Osaka office of the Domei news agency. He took 32 pictures, four days after the explosion, including these ones, showing the city in ruins. Some of them were published in various newspapers before the arrival of the American occupation forces in Japan.
To learn more about this event, read the following article on Marcel Junod, head of the ICRC delegation in Tokyo.
The prisoners of the Korean War, 1950-1953
During the Korean War (1950-1953), the ICRC picked up recordings broadcast by Radio Peking in which American and British prisoners of war transmitted messages to their relatives.
The ICRC delegate, André Durand, who was specially dispatched to Hong Kong, retransmitted the sound recordings containing the prisoners’ identities to Geneva, thus enabling the Central Prisoners of War Agency to inform their home powers, in accordance with the 1929 Geneva Convention.
The sound recording is accompanied by photographs taken during the Korean War in American and British POW camps held by the North Korean and Chinese armed forces.
Have a look at the following article on the ICRC’s work during the Korean War.
The fall of Phnom Penh, April 1975
On April 17, 1975, the city of Phnom Penh fell to the Khmer Rouge. Despite the chaos and violence, the ICRC remained in the city to continue providing assistance and relief to the civilian population. André Pasquier, head of the ICRC delegation in Phnom Penh, testifies.
The audio recording is accompanied by photographs taken shortly before the city fell to the Khmer Rouge.
Find out more about André Pasquier’s experience as an ICRC delegate in Cambodia: Chronique commémorative de ma mission au Cambodge : janvier-mai 1975 / André Pasquier.
 © ICRC Archives (ARR) / NAKATA, Satsuo, 10/08/1945. In order of appearance:
– Hiroshima, Nakaku, 4 days after the atomic bomb explosion. V-P-HIST-E-00260-08.
– Hiroshima, Chugoka-Shinbun regional newspaper office and Odamasa warehouse. V-P-HIST-E-02957-07
– Hiroshima, House located about 3 km from the center of the explosion. V-P-HIST-E-02957-17
 Sound extract: © ICRC, Hong Kong, China, 1953. Messages from American and British prisoners of war captured in Hong Kong during the Korean War. V-S-13675-A-01. Available on the ICRC audiovisual archives portal.
 Photographs in order of appearance:
© ICRC ARCHIVES (DR), Korean War 1950-1953.
– s.n., Seoul. Houses destroyed by bombing. V-P-KPKR-N-00034-06A
– REYNIER, Jacques de. Central Camp. V-P-KPKR-N-00002-18
– s.n., UN prisoners of war, distribution of clothing. V-P-KPKR-N-00023-16A
– s.n., Provision of meat. V-P-KPKR-N-00023-32A
– s.n., Christmas party. V-P-KPKR-N-00042-03B / V-P-KPKR-N-00023-23A
 Photographs in order of appearance:
– © ICRC / MERCIER, Michèle, 02/1975, Cambodia, Phnom Penh. Hotel Le Phnom neutralized by the ICRC. V-P-KH-D-00008-02.
– © ICRC / PEREZ, François, 1975, Cambodia, periphery of Phnom Penh. IRCA delegate visiting internally displaced persons fleeing fighting between government armed forces and the Khmer Rouge. V-P-KH-D-00001-14
– © ICRC ARCHIVES (DR) / n.d., 06/11/1974, Cambodia, south of Phnom Penh, Chak-Angré refugee camp. V-P-KH-E-00178.
– © ICRC / MERCIER, Michèle, 02/1975, Cambodia, National Road No. 1, Military base of the government armed forces. 105 mm battery. V-P-KH-D-00005-21.
– © ICRC / PEREZ, François, 1975, Cambodia, periphery of Phnom Penh, Boeug Bayap. Khmer Rouge rocket attacks in the inhabited area. V-P-KH-D-00001-15
– Phnom Penh. Khmer Rouge rocket attacks on the capital. V-P-KH-D-00001-16.