HIROSHIMA AND NAGASAKI by Committee for the Compilation of Materials on Damage Caused by the Atomic Bombs
Kirkus Star


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Compiled by Japanese authorities and timed to commemorate the 36th anniversary of the atomic-bombing of Hiroshima (August 6, 1945) and Nagasaki (August 9), this fact-filled tome has a powerful lest-we-forget theme that quietly asserts itself through page after page of dispassionate reporting, statistical tables, and photos. We recall that ""Little Boy"" was the uranium bomb dropped on Hiroshima, while ""Fat Man"" (a reference to Churchill) was the plutonium bomb chosen for Nagasaki. We read the data about the burst height of each bomb, about the neutron radiation at Hiroshima and the gamma rays at Nagasaki. We tick off the various ways that damage was done--by shock waves, thermal blast, flash, firestorm, ""black rain"" (formed by the condensation of carbonized particles on bomb particles), and residual radiation. We learn how the destruction of hospitals, fire and police stations, and municipal buildings wiped out normal modes of disaster control. We also learn that, after Japan's surrender, occupation forces imposed a tight lid on news so that even the words ""atomic bomb"" seldom appeared. Chapter after chapter describes the effects of the bombs on buildings, plants, animals, and human life. Many survivors, we discover, suffered disfiguring ""keloids""--painful red folds of skin that erupted as burns healed. The statistics, continuing over the years, tell of the lowered mortality, of children born with abnormally small heads (microcephaly), of incidences of malignancy--like the healthy little girl who succumbed to leukemia at age twelve, in spite of folding over a thousand paper cranes to ward off death. Virtually no aspect of the bombs' medical, social, psychological, or political aftermath is overlooked. Particularly poignant are the last chapters describing the growth of peace and antinuclear movements and the poems, recollections, drawings, and such that have helped perpetuate the memory of the holocaust in Japan, where half the population was not alive in 1945. The Japanese government is taken to task for not doing enough for bomb survivors and also, today, for its increasing militarism. The last, mingling fear with hope, is a fitting close for a landmark volume.

Pub Date: Aug. 6th, 1981
Publisher: Basic Books