Hiroshima is a Japanese city on the south eastern coast of the island Honshu. It was the first city to be destroyed by an atomic bomb. The stomic bomb blast at 8:15 a.m., August 6th, 1945, killed, directly or indirectly, 80,000. It had also destroyed 90,000 buildings. Most of the remaining structures were too badly damaged for occupancy. The fire and bomb blast covered an area around four square miles. Many of those who survived the blast were crippled, burned, or victims of radiation sickness.
Hiroshima by John Hersey adds to my understanding of historical events by the way the Japanese citizens had reacted to the atomic bomb. In the beginning, some people thought they were part of an experiment. They believed this because many didn’t have much hatred in them. A few other people believed there were spys giving the United States Japanese secrets. In believing there were spys, they had someone to blame and people would think the atomic bomb won’t occur in their city or country again.
“In Japan, face is important. Yes, people of Hiroshima died manly in the atomic bomb, believing that it was for Emperor’s sake,” Mr. Tanimoto, one of the survivors, wrote in a letter to an American. (endnote 1)
The events following the atomic bombing differ from what countries do now. Many countries know nuclear warfare is more dangerous today than it was in the past. People are also much more aware of the after effects. It took about ten years after the atomic bomb blast for Japan to recognize many citizens of Hiroshima had radiation sickness. Japan has built a shrine called Yasukuni Shrine to honor and remember the atomic bomb victims.
The destruction of Hiroshima was one of the events that precipitated the surrender of Japan and the end of World War 2.
In July 1949 the Japanese people approved a proposal to make Hiroshima an international shrine of peace. Plans were drawn up for an elaborate peace memorial in Hiroshima. The annual “Peace Festival” on August 6th has become the most important even of the year in Japan. (endnote 2)
I am not totally sure why John Hersey wrote Hiroshima, but I can give a guess. Mr. Hersey might have wrote it to show people what one single atomic bomb could do to a whole city. He wanted them to see and feel the sufferings that the people will go through for the rest of their lives. He wanted people to know that revenge against a country hurts and kills many innocent people. Many people need to think before acting out their anger and hurting so many innocent victims.
Mr Hersey wrote this true story about “six human beings who lived through the greatest single man-made disaster in history” (endnote 3) to date of his book. He starts out telling what these six people were doing at the time of the explosion. After the explosion he follows the course of the lives hour by hour, day by day. Nearly forty years after the original publication of his book, he returns to Hiroshima to get the facts of the after effects of these six people. Mr. Hersey set his book up that way to let people know the effects of an atomic bomb are like a disease. Some effects stay forever. Other effects from it come and go. Those people never knew what they would suffer from until they got it.
The victims never knew when they would feel normal again. They never knew if people would treat them like everybody else, like others who weren’t an atomic bomb victim.
In August 1946, Toshiko Sasaki, one of the survivors, was slowly pulling out of the ordeal of pain and low spirits she had undergone during the years since the bombing. Some Hiroshima citizens, like Dr. Masakazu Fujii, were eager to make friends with Americans. Others were confused at what had happened to their lives and to their families.
“Nothing that can be said about his book,” The New York Times wrote of the first edition, “can equal what the book has to say. It speaks for itself, and, in an unforgettable way, for humanity.” (endnote 3)
1 Hiroshima by John Hersey, chapter 4, pages 88-89, c1985, by Bantam Books, Inc.
2 Collier’s Encyclopedia, volume 12, pages 140-141, c1967, by Crowell and MacMillian, Inc.
3 Hiroshima by John Hersey, back cover of book, c1985, by Bantam Books, Inc.