Author: John Hersey
Type of book: Non-Fiction
Date Completed: May 10, 2002
The book, Hiroshima, is the story of six individuals who experienced the true effects of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, August 6, 1945. Miss Toshinki Sasaki, a clerk in the East Asia Tin Works factory, just sat down in the plant office and was turning to converse with the girl at the next desk when the bomb exploded. Dr. Masakazu Fujii, a physician, was relaxing on his porch, which overlooked the Kyo River, where he was reading the morning periodical when the shell detonated. Before the eruption, Mrs. Hatsuyo Nakamura was observing her neighbor destruct his house as part of a fire lane in preparation of an American attack. Previous to the attack, Father Wilhelm Kleinsorge, a German priest, was reclined on a cot in the Society of Jesus mission house reading his Stimmen der Zeit. Dr. Terufumi Sasaki, a young surgeon for the Red Cross, was walking along the hospital corridor carrying a blood sample for a Wassermann test when he was thrown off his feet by the discharge. The pastor of the Hiroshima Methodist Church, Reverend Mr. Kiyoshi Tanimoto, was about to unload a cart of clothes at a prosperous associate’s house in the suburbs when the flash consumed the structure. All were unaware of the blast considering an all-clear siren had just sounded.
After the bomb had exploded, the six individuals had there own predicament from which to escape from. Miss Sasaki was trapped under the ceiling, books, and bookshelves of the Eat Asia Tin Works factory. Dr. Fujii’s house collapsed on top of him leaving Dr. Fujii squeezed between two long timbers in a V-shape across his chest. Luckily, Dr. Fujii had his head protruding out of the Kyo River, but his torso and legs were in the river. Mrs. Nakamura was buried in timber, however lightly because she could free herself. As soon as she was emancipated, she initiated in digging throughout the debris looking for her children. Father Kleinsorge regained consciousness a few minutes after the explosion. Father Kleinsorge did not reminisce how he got out, but the first thing he does evoke is walking around the mission garden in his underwear.
After the initial explosion, dead and wounded remained everywhere, fires reduce buildings to ashes and persist out of control, leaving the city in utter chaos. Dr. Fujii, Father Kleinsorge, and Mr. Tanimoto began to assist others who were more heavily injured than they were. Many of the suffering poured into garden entitled Asano Park. By nightfall of that day, 10,000 victims had invaded the Red Cross hospital and Dr. Sasaki was totally worn out. He had lost his glasses in the explosion and had taken a pair from a wounded nurse. Although these were not his prescription, he could see well enough to do some bandaging. He tried to bandage the ones that he thought had a chance of survival. He felt that he could not afford to spend time on those that he was sure would die despite his efforts.
Miss Sasaki spent two days and nights under the rubble with her leg crushed. Her leg became swollen and discolored. All this time, she was without food or water. On the third day, some of her friends who thought that she was dead came to look for her body but found her instead. Her friends informed her that the rest of her family had surely perished at the Tamura Pediatric Hospital, where her young baby brother had been a patient. Later, some men carried her to a truck to a relief station in Inokuchi and two Army doctors examined her. From there, she was placed on a launch to the nearby island of Ninoshima. This began her long period of hospitalization to recover from her serious leg wound.
About 12 – 14 days after the explosion, Father Kleinsorge, Mrs. Nakamura and Mr. Tanimoto fell ill with general malaise, weakness, tiredness, and fever. They did not know it but they were coming down with a disease that was later to be called radiation sickness. Miss Sasaki lay in severe pain because an internal infection had prevented the setting of her fractured leg. By this time, Dr. Fujii was living in the summerhouse of Mr. Okuma in Fukawa. Here his injuries seemed to be healing well and he began to take in some patients. However, his misfortune was not over yet because on September 17 a typhoon came and flooded the house where he was staying.
Ten days after the flood, Dr. Fujii bought a vacant private clinic in Kaitaichi and began to treat patients. Soon he built up a strong practice. This was just the beginning of many prosperous medical endeavors for him.
On October 23, 1945, Dr. Sasaki made an incision in Miss Sasaki’s leg to drain the
infection. A week later he mad a second incision, and on November 9 he made a third. These were then enlarged on November 26. Her bones were mending without being set and she could see that her left leg was 3 inches shorter than the right.
In about 6 months, the Red Cross Hospital was almost back to normal with the help of donations from other Japanese cities. Dr. Sasaki was almost back to normal as well.
A year after the bomb was released on Hiroshima; the six main characters were alive but were dealing with the aftermath of such a force. Miss Sasaki was a cripple. Mrs. Nakamura had no means of support. Father Kleinsorge was in the hospital again from radiation sickness. Dr. Sasaki was not capable of doing the work he once could do
with ease and Dr. Fujii had lost his 30 room hospital but was trying to make a living with his small clinic. Mr. Tanimoto’s church had been ruined and because of his radiation sickness, he did not have the vitality or the desire necessary to rebuild.
Hatsuyo Nakamura struggled for many years to keep herself and her children alive. She fixed her rusted sewing machine and began to sew again. Throughout her remaining years, she held numerous jobs. Among these were bread deliverer, sardine seller, paper money collector, and mothball wrapper.
For about 5 years after the bombing, Dr. Sasaki’s work was mostly removing keloid scars. These thick, rubbery growths formed over areas burnt by the great heat of the hypocenter. In 1951, he quit the hospital to get away from the awful memories and set himself up in a private practice. He had difficulty getting a loan so he set up his practice in his wife’s parents’ home. He developed a considerable practice and then was given a loan. Over time he was given more money in loans and developed many hospitals and clinics. In 1963, he had his left lung removed as a result of cancer while he was studying anesthesia. He lost his wife to breast cancer in 1972. In 1977, he built a 4-story hospital. He also built an old-people’s home and a luxurious bathhouse.
Father Kleinsorge, who was now known as Father Makoto Takaura because he had been given Japanese citizenship, spent the remaining years of his life in and out of hospitals as he fought the symptoms of radiation sickness. His final decline began one
Winter’s day in 1971 after he slipped and fell on some ice. From then on, he was bedridden. He died on November 19, 1977.
Toshiko Sasaki was abandoned by her previous fiance. She found out that her younger brother and sister had survived and she attempted to support them. After a while she had to let her siblings, go to an orphanage called the Garden of Light. A short time later, she was employed there as an attendant was. In the spring of 1949, she began to take courses at Oita University and then she passed the test to qualify as a nursery-school teacher. Six years later she entered the hospital for 14 months and underwent three major surgeries to correct her leg. After her brother was injured in an accident she began to take some accounting courses and soon qualified as a 3rd class bookkeeper. In 1954, she entered the convent and she spent many happy years using her nursing and accounting skills as a member of the Society of Helpers. In 1980, she was honored in Tokyo on the
twenty-fifth anniversary of her becoming a nun.
Dr. Masakazu Fujii continued to thrive in his clinic in Kaitaichi. In 1948, he built a new clinic in Hiroshima on the site of the one that had been ruined by the bomb. He had five children and suffered none of the effects of the radiation. In 1956, Dr. Fujii came to the United States as one of the physicians with the Hiroshima Maidens who had come for plastic surgery. On New Year’s Day in 1964 his family found him unconscious on his futon with a gas heater turned on but not burning. They did everything they could to revive him but he remained comatose. On January 4, he made what seemed to be a remarkable recovery but this lasted only a few days. Then on January 25th he again
lost consciousness and for the next 11 years lived as a vegetable. He died on January 12, 1973.
Kiyoshi Tanimoto began preaching again about a year after the bombing. He did this with four other Protestant ministers on a box where houses once stood. Because there was no building, he soon realized how futile his efforts were. He attempted to restore the church in the city but funds and supplies were limited. In October 1948, he left for San Francisco to raise funds for this new church. Over the next few years, he returned to the U.S. for many speaking engagements. He began to make plans for a peace center. In 1955, he went with the girls to New York for their plastic surgery. He was soon rushed to the West Coast for another fundraising tour. He even appeared on an episode of “This Is Your Life”. Tanimoto made 3 more speaking trips to the United States in 1976, 1981, and 1982. He retired from the pulpit in 1982 when he was over seventy years old.