If you haven’t noticed, I’ve been writing a lot of book reviews lately and I apologize for the lack of diverse posts. I’ve been super busy, and yet the one thing I always have time for is reading. Besides, writing book reviews are the easiest posts for me to do, so for the next month or two, expect to see quite a lot of them.
After I read the amazing book by Iris Chang on The Rape of Nanking, I was curious to read more books about first-hand experiences during the World War II of Asia. I happened upon this book, which is the diary of a Japanese doctor following the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, which led to Japan’s surrender not two weeks later. I knew nothing of the book going into it and, though I know the big picture surrounding the tragedy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I found this on-the-ground documentation to be fascinating.
Genre: Non-fiction, autobiography
Synopsis: From August 6 to September 30, 1945, Doctor Michihiko Hachiya kept a diary of his experience during the Hiroshima bombing and afterwards. It is a touching first-hand witness of the horrors of the atomic bomb, and the radioactivity which kills even after the smoke has settled.
I loved this book. It’s a truly interesting story, documenting both Hachiya’s experiences and the tales told to him by other survivors. It covers an extremely difficult time in Japanese history, as the war draws to a close and American soldiers arrive on their beaches. Hachiya is also one of the doctors who first examined the effects of radiation sickness. I was fascinated as much by the doctors figuring out their patients’ strange symptoms as I was moved that innocent people suffer so much pain during war.
One of my favorite quotes by Plato is:
“Only the dead have seen the end of war.”
Hiroshima was not only a horrible tragedy, but it was also the first time the world saw the effects of an atomic bomb. Before this, though much testing had been done concerning the atomic bomb, it had never been dropped on an actual city.
While this book documents the horrors people faced during and after the bombing, it also documented much of Hachiya’s study of the then unknown side-effects of an atomic bomb. Radioactive sickness had never been a thing until Hiroshima, where Hachiya witnessed patients coughing up blood, losing their hair, etc. He tested their blood to find dangerously low white blood cells (which is the main immunity system of the body, without which a person is far more likely to contract a dangerous illness). One of my favorite parts of this book are the doctors trying to figure out why people continue to die, even a week or a month after the bombing.
Saying that, this book is not for the faint of heart. There are graphic descriptions of victims, both alive and dead, many of which were badly burned or horribly disfigured.
Another thing I found interesting in this book was the Japanese perspective of the end of the war. Even after Hiroshima and Japan surrendered, the people surrounding Hachiya were horrified that Japan would surrender.
“Only a coward would back out now.” Some said. “I would rather die than be defeated.” Others said. (These quotes are contained in the August 15 entry.)
It seems insanity to me to want to continue war, but from the Japanese perspective, it was a matter of honor to never surrender. Even when the Americans were about to land in Japan, Hachiya makes the observation that they will all be killed by the American soldiers. Of course, this doesn’t happen, but perhaps the Japanese believe this because, if the tables were turned and Japan had won the war, that is exactly what they would do to any country they took over. This perspective was fascinating to me, since I come from a western country with very different ideals, where pride is not as important as life.
What more is there to say about this book but that it was interesting to read. If you are interested in learning more about the Hiroshima Bombing from a direct witness, I highly recommend this book.
For reference, Hachiya lived until 1980, meaning, though he was only one mile from the hypocenter of the bomb, he must have not been badly effected by the radiation. Though, also keep in mind, the power of atomic bombs in the modern age is over a hundred times more than in 1945, so if Hiroshima had been bombed with a modern atomic bomb, Hachiya and many others would not have survived. What a sobering thought!
Have you heard of this book? Or any books similar to it? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more musings and, as always,
Best wishes in your life full of adventure,