[One might easily be dissuaded from reading this short book due to our natural aversion to the horrors of nuclear war, but I urge you to give it a chance because Hersey has done a remarkable job describing the truly indescribable.  He has done so by using survivors’ own words and carefully choosing his stories.  It is this simple straightforward reportage that makes such an impact on one’s psyche.  The book is far more than a recitation of facts and horrors, it follows six survivors from the day before the explosion until their deaths years later (expanded edition).  jbm 6/3/2017]

“A hundred-thousand people were killed by the atomic bomb, and these six were among the survivors.”

“…a rumor was going around that the Americans were saving something special for the city.”

“Then a tremendous flash of light cut across the sky…(Almost no one in Hiroshima recalls hearing any noise of the bomb).”

“He took the woman to a grammar school not far away that had previously been designated for use as a temporary hospital in case of emergency.  By this solicitous behavior, Mr. Tanimoto at once got rid of his terror.”

“…except at the very center, where the bomb itself ignited some fires, most of Hiroshima’s citywide conflagration was caused by inflammable wreckage falling on cook-stoves and live wires…”

“Dr. Machii said, “It must  have been a Molotoffano banakago” – a Molotov flower basket, the delicate Japanese name for the “bread basket,” a self-scattering cluster of bombs.”

“In a city of two hundred and forty-five thousand, nearly a hundred thousand people had been killed or doomed at one blow; a hundred thousand more were hurt.”

“Irrelevantly, Father Kleinsorge turned to Father LaSalle and said, “We have lost all our possessions but not our sense of humor.”

“Under many houses, people screamed for help, but no one helped; in general, survivors that day assisted only their relatives or immediate neighbors, for they could not comprehend or tolerate a wider circle of misery.”

“All the way, he overtook dreadfully burned and lacerated people, and in his guilt he turned to right and left as he hurried and said to some of them, “Excuse me for having no burden like yours.”

“He had to keep consciously repeating to himself,  “These are human beings.”

“By nightfall, ten thousand victims of the explosion had invaded the Red Cross Hospital…”

“By three o’clock the next morning, after nineteen straight hours of his gruesome work, Dr. Sasaki was incapable of dressing another wound.”

“It was difficult for all the children in the park to sustain the sense of tragedy.”

“At two minutes after eleven o’clock on the morning of August 9th, the second atomic bomb was dropped, on Nagasaki.  It was several days before the survivors of Hiroshima knew they had company, because the Japanese radio and newspapers were being extremely cautious on the subject of the strange weapon.”

“Disposal of the dead, by decent cremation and enshrinement, is a greater moral responsibility to the Japanese than adequate care of the living.”

“Over everything – up through the wreckage of the city, in gutters, along the riverbanks, tangled among tiles and tin roofing, climbing on charred tree trunks – was a blanket of fresh, vivid, lush, optimistic green; the verdancy rose even from the foundations of ruined houses…It actually seemed as if a load of sickle-senna seed had been dropped along with the bomb.”

“…the bomb’s heat on the ground at the center must have been 6,000 degrees C.”

“One feeling they did seem to share, however, was a curious kind of elated community spirit, something like that of the Londoners after their blitz – a pride in the way they and their fellow-survivors had stood up to a dreadful ordeal.”

“A surprising number of the people of Hiroshima remained more or less indifferent about the ethics of using the bomb…Shikata ga nai, a Japanese expression as common as, and corresponding to, the Russian word, “nichevo”:  “It can’t be helped.  Oh, well. Too bad.”

“To pay the doctor, she was forced to sell her last valuable possession, her husband’s sewing machine.  She came to think of that act as marking the lowest and saddest moment of her life.”

“The class of people to which Nakamura-san belonged came, therefore, to be called by a more neutral name, “hibakusha” – literally, “explosion-affected persons.”

“The bombing almost seemed a natural disaster – one that it had simply been her bad luck, her fate (which must be accepted), to suffer.”

“It appeared that all along there had been, deep in her temperament, a core of cheerfulness, which must have fuelled her long fight against A-bomb lassitude, something warmer and more vivifying than mere submission, than saying, “Shikata ga-nai.”

“Above all, it was evident by 1950 that the incidence of leukemia in hibakusha was much higher than normal…”several sorts of anemia, liver dysfunction, sexual problems, endocrine disorders, accelerated aging, and the not quite really sick yet undeniable debilitation of which so many complained”

Dr. Terufumi Sasaki:

“He lived enclosed in the present tense.”

“He determined thenceforth to be calm and composed, and not to leave undone anything he could do for a patient.  He would try to be kind to people he detested.  He would give up hunting and mah-jongg.  His wife said, “You’ve reached maturity in your forties.  I grew up when I was in my twenties…He did not give up cigarettes.”

“He had a favorite lecture:  Do not work primarily for money;  do your duty to patients first and let the money follow; our life is short, we don’t live twice; the whirlwind will pick up the leaves and spin them, but then it will drop them and they will form a pile.”

“If the past memories did stir up in him, Dr. Sasaki had come to be able to live with his one bitter regret:  that in the shambles of the Red Cross Hospital in those first days after the bombing it had not been possible, beyond a certain point, to keep track of the identities of those whose corpses were dragged out to the mass cremations, with the result that nameless souls might still, all these years later, be hovering there, unattended and dissatisfied.”

Father Wilhelm Kleinsorge:

“Father Kleinsorge lived this life of misery with the most extraordiary selfless spirit.”

“Gradually, over years of this unremitting labor, he gathered his modest harvest:  some four hundred baptisms, some forty marriages.”

“He had a tendency when he was rebuffed in an undertaking to stubbornly push all the harder straight for it, whereas a Japanese would more tactfully look for some way around.”

Toshiko Sasaki:

“These thoughts led her to an opinion that was unconventional for a hibakusha:  that too much attention was paid to the power of the A-bomb, and not enough to the evil of war.  Her rather bitter opinion was that it was the more lightly affected hibakusha and power-hungry politicians who focused on the A-bomb, and that not enough  thought was given to the fact that warfare had indiscriminately made victims of Japanese who had suffered atomic and incendiary bombings, Chinese civilians who had been attacked by the Japanese, reluctant young Japanese and American soldiers who were drafted to be killed or maimed, and yes, Japanese prostitutes and their mixed-blood babies.  She had firsthand knowledge of the cruelty of the atomic bomb, but she felt that more notice should be given to the cause than to the instrument of total war.”

“In time, she discovered she had surprising hardihood and tenacity, which she credited to all she had learned about herself in the hours and weeks after the bombing.”

“Sister Sasaki stayed beside him all that time, holding his hand, so that he might die knowing that, living, he had pleased her.”

Dr. Masakazu Fujii:

“Dr. Fujii suffered from none of the effects of radiation overdose, and he evidently felt that for any psychological damage the horrors of the bombing may have done him the best therapy was to follow the pleasure principal.  Indeed, he recommended to hibakusha who did have radiation symptoms that they take a regular dosage of alcohol.”

Kiyoshi Tanimoto:

“On the sea voyage, an ambitious idea grew in his mind.  He would spend his life working for peace.  He was becoming convinced that the collective memory of the hibakusha would be a potent force for peace in the world, and that there ought to be in Hiroshima a center where the experience of the bombing could become the focus of international studies of means to assure that atomic weapons would never be used again.”

“He ate too much.  He got up at six every morning and took an hour’s walk with his small woolly dog, Chiko.  He was slowing down a bit.  His memory, like the world’s, was getting spotty.”

Copyright:  1946, 1985 by John Hersey/Copyright renewed 1973 by John Hersey
author bio:  https://www.britannica.com/biography/John-Hersey

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