Hiroshima by John Hersey

June 04, 20232 min read

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John Hersey’s Hiroshima was seminal in its coverage of the first ever nuclear weapon used against humanity. It details the lives of 6 victims as they went about their day the bomb dropped, and the hellscape that followed.

We walk through the city from the narrative accounts of these 6 individuals, as they wake up in the morning and tend to their daily chores, and suddenly see the bright flash that changes their lives forever. The destruction and death that follows, is haunting.

I thoroughly am of the opinion that using nuclear weapons was unwarranted, since Japan was already on the verge of surrender1. However, even if we take the popular understanding to be true—that the nuclear bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki swiftly ended WW2, this book focuses on human element of those who witnessed and survived the bombing. It contextualises the innumerable deaths and suffering of civilians, and ordinary people like me and you, had we been born a mere 80 years ago in Japan.

This book was influential because it shone a light into the new age of humanity, the atomic age. Before this, very little was known and even less publicly acknowledged by the U.S. Government on the impact of these weapons. Specifically, Hersey helped uncover radiation sickness, and how different these new class of weapons were compared to conventional bombs. They continue to kill those victims of the bomb (known as Hibakusha in Japan) to this day.

I’ve visited Hiroshima before, and I’ll be visiting later this year and reading this is so important. It helps in framing the unspeakable evils and horrors of war that coat the backbone of the now thriving city, since nearly every building in the area was built after the bomb.

You can have a read of the text in full here: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1946/08/31/hiroshima

Read on 3rd June 2023

1: https://foreignpolicy.com/2013/05/30/the-bomb-didnt-beat-japan-stalin-did/

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Apurva Shukla

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