In1945, Harry S. Truman, the then American president declared thatthere would never be tranquility in Japan until the supremacy powerof Japan had been Shattered. True to his declaration, on August 6,1945, an atomic bomb was fired by America to Hiroshima leaving over100,000 people in the city that hosted more than 300,000 dead. Asrevealed by John Hersey, the bombing marked the onset of numeroustrepidations to the survivors as they struggled hard to stay alive inthe shattered city, Hersey (1946).
Accordingto Hersey (1946), Hiroshima was an alluring target for Americanbombing. To begin with, the city hosted one of the most fundamentalmilitary commands and was the heart of communication in Japan centerthus the possibility of rescue missions was minimized (HERSEY,P.64). This fan-shaped city had its commercial and residentialdistricts covering about four square miles in the center of the cityand played host to approximately 245,000 people at the time of war.The large population was ideal since many people would be attacked atonce and this would augment the “success of the bomb” (HERSEY,P. 64). Besides, the hills that bordered this city produced afocusing effect that would considerably boost the damage of theblast. Furthermore, Hiroshima stood as one of the large untouchedtargets and thus its intact nature would exemplify off the bomb togreat effect. Finally, on August 6, the apparent tranquil weatherreported on Hiroshima made it the favored target of the week that day(HERSEY,P.65)
Itis palpable that in times of war, women and children are the mostsusceptible. Among the central characters in the book is Mrs. HatsuyoNakamura, a tailor’s widow who dwelt in a section calledNobori-Cho. At nearly midnight, the night before the bombing, Mrs.Nakamura kowtowed to the issued warnings and sought refuge at themilitary ground referred to as East Parade ground, she laterreturned, and she and her children retire to bed. The followingmorning after the attack, she frenetically tried to salvage herchildren who were buried under the debris of what was her house. Shemanaged to grab some clothes to cover her children from the cold. Thehope in this woman for survival was evident when she took her sewingmachine, her only source of livelihood and threw it in a cement tank.The author stated, “Whilefetching the cloth, she noticed her sewing machine she went back infor it and dragged it out. Obviously, she could not take it with her,so she unthinkingly plunged her symbol of livelihood into thereceptacle that for weeks had been her symbol of safety—the cementtank of water in front of her house, of the type every household hadbeen ordered to construct against a possible fire raid”(HERSEY, P.35).
Throughoutthe war, she struggled to keep her three children alive. At somepoint, she and her children quenched their thirst with water from theriver, and they started vomiting. At JesuitNovitiate,she found refuge and later went to live with her sister in law inKabe. It is here that she and her daughter Myeko experienced theeffects of radiation sickness, but they were determined to livethrough it. Finally, the strength of this woman is showcased aftershe survived all to establish her life again. Amazingly, she harborsno resentment against her predicament (HERSEY,P. 35).
Beforethe bombing, John Hersey utilized plenty of anecdotes about life. Ithink among the reasons for this was to show how some of these peoplewere strangers before the war. After the bombing, these strangerswere later brought together by their predicament and helped eachother despite their differences. They shared an elated communityspirit (HERSEY,P.115).
Theauthor also used anecdotes to make the story as realistic as possibleand give it an emotional attachment to the audience. The anecdotesmade the stories dramatic and suspenseful but heightened thecharacters over the events of the bombing (HERSEY,P.14).
Thesurvivors of Hiroshima suffered from several side effects from theradiation sickness. Nausea was experienced a few hours after theexplosion. Apart from nausea, side effects included malaise,weariness, headache, diarrhea and fever that persisted for some time.These were caused by breaking of the wall of the body cells that weredestroyed by the bomb (HERSEY, P. 102).
Theradiation also caused anemia as side effect sickness. Hersey gives anexample of Father Kleinsorge whose white blood count fell to belowthree thousand corpuscles. Subsequently, he experienced upsetsindigestion and abdominal pains. Fifteen days after the bombing, thesymptoms changed to acute diarrhea and fever. Later on, blooddisorders inclusive of bleeding gums, bleeding under the skin and arelative drop in white blood cell count emerged. It reduced thecapacity of patients to resist infection resulting in sore throatsthat developed with several people. Most burns healed with profoundlayers of pink, rubbery blemish tissue, referred to as keloid tumors(HERSEY, P.103)
Hairloss was among the effects of the radiation sickness. It wasmanifested in Mrs. Nakamura`s family. She was among the first to losehair to the point of being almost bald. Later her daughter Myekoalso became extremely weak and for some time they were bedridden. Herother children also lost some bits of hair (HERSEY, P. 35).
Theattack cut short the lives of plenty of doctors and nurses who wouldhave assisted the survivors with their injuries. The hospitals andall their equipment and medications were reduced to debris. Thesemade the medical and rescue efforts have little impact on thesurvivors. The survivors outnumbered the small number of doctorsmaking rescue efforts difficult. “Of1,784 nurses, 1,654 were dead or too badly hurt to work. In thebiggest hospital, that of the Red Cross, only six doctors out ofthirty were able to function, and only ten nurses out of more thantwo hundred” (HERSEY, P. 40). The author also notes that DoctorSasaki was the only Red Cross doctor who was still working during theemergency (HERSEY, P. 40).
Beingthe only one available, Dr. Sasaki worked without any method byrandomly picking those closest to him and then noticed how crowdedthe corridor was. “He realized that the casualties kept pouring infrom outside” (HERSEY, P.41)
Somepeople had managed to reach what were the best hospitals in town, butthis did not make a difference. The hospital could not accommodateany more people since the available spaces were packed to capacity,“At least ten thousand of the wounded made their way to the besthospitals in town, which was altogether unequal to such a tramplingsince it had only six hundred beds and they were alloccupied.”(HERSEY, P.42). The frustrations were experienced by bothcasualties and the doctors who fought hard to aid where they could.
Hersey,John. Hiroshima.New York: Vintage Books, 1989. Print.