On August 6, 1945, exactly quarter past eight Hiroshima city experienced the worst devastating war. The American military dropped the first atomic bomb that left many people dead, scores injured, and huge property destroyed. In fact, the beautiful city of Hiroshima with well-developed infrastructure and many industries on that very day was reduced into ashes.
According to John Hersey, Hiroshima city had not previously been exposed to destruction compared to other cities of Japan. Most of facilities and property in Hiroshima before the atomic bombing was intact. In addition, the city had many military factories, military facilities, and a large number of military troops. The military strength of Hiroshima had not been subjected to significant destruction during the Second World War and the Americans believed that by attacking Hiroshima city the war could come to an end. These factors suitably made Hiroshima an easy target for the American military attack.
In his article John Hersey focuses on six main characters who actually survived during the bombing of Hiroshima. The article describes their survival as an escape from death, “each of whom escaped, not unscathed but at least with life” (Hersey IV). According to the article, the six main characters were Mrs. Hatsuyo Nakamura, Reverend Kiyoshi Tanimoto, Dr. Masakazu Fuji, Father Wilhelm Kleinsorge, Miss Toshiko Sasaki, and Dr. Terufumi Sasaki. The article describes the impact of the atomic bomb on the six characters right away from that very moment of explosion to the rest of their lives.
Doctor Terufumi Sasaki is a prominent character featuring in Mr. Hersey’s book. Doctor Sasaki was a member of surgical staff working in Red Cross Hospital. He was just twenty five years old and had recently successfully graduated from Eastern Medical University in Tsingtao, China. According to the article, Red Cross Hospital was the largest and modernized hospital in Hiroshima. The night prior to the deadly attack, Dr. Sasaki is said to have had a terrible dream that was a reflection of what actually happened on that day. According to the article, Dr. Sasaki was reluctant to go to work that morning since he was feeling uneasy and a bit sluggish, however, due to duty call and passion he had for the job, he decided to report to work. When the blast occurred, Dr. Sasaki was preparing to undertake a Wassermann test of blood sample he had collected from one of his patients. Dr. Sasaki describes the start of the explosion of the atomic bomb as a gigantic photographic flash. Fortunately, Dr. Sasaki never got hurt during the blast, only the glasses he was wearing got off from his eyes.
Dr. Sasaki describes the state of the hospital as terrifying and horrible one a few moments after the blast; blood spilled all over the place, window glasses and heavy objects had fallen on the patients, medical instruments damaged and scattered all over, scores of patients injured, and many running up and down screaming for help. “The scene outside was so terrible and so compelling that it had not occurred to him to ask what had happened beyond the windows and doors” (Hersey 69). Dr. Sasaki was the only doctor in Red Cross Hospital who was not harmed during the bomb attack. Initially, Dr. Sasaki thought that only the building where the hospital was located had been attacked. Surprisingly, he was shocked by continuous influx of many maimed and dying people in the hospital. Nevertheless, Dr. Sasaki worked tireless moving from one patient to another in an attempt to save their lives. Generally, the blast had adverse impacts on lives of many Japanese citizens with many of them becoming physically and mentality disabled, orphans, and windows, and property worth millions destroyed. The entire experience haunted Dr. Sasaki psychologically for the rest of his life.
In his article John Hersey has devoted a lot of effort in describing individual anecdotes life before the atomic bomb attack. The main purpose for using anecdotes is to try to show the magnitude of the deadly weapon used in Hiroshima. He describes the life of survivors as normal and worth before the attack occurred. However, after the attack the life of those survivors changed completely. Many were subjected to various forms of disabilities, others endured emotional and psychological trauma, some faced the wrath of social stigma, and the rest became financially disabled. For instance, Miss Sasaki, one of the survival characters from the article, after the bomb attack could not cater for her family needs. In addition, her body underwent numerous operations. In fact, her life after the bomb attack a miserable as opposed to happy life she had enjoyed before the attack.
The atomic bomb attack did not only result in loss of lives and property but also in radiation side effects. Notable side effects that resulted from the atomic radiations included:
Loss of hair: According to various studies, those exposed to atomic radiations lost hair from their skin.
Keloids: Reportedly, thermal radiations caused harsh keloids.
Birth defects: Hiroshima atomic radiations led to abnormal births and gene mutations in children.
Cancer: Radiation exposure increased risks of contradicting to cancer.
Thermal burns: Research has shown that exposure to infra-red radiations was responsible for thermal burns witnessed in Hiroshima.
The medical and rescue efforts had little impact on ensuring survival of Hiroshima victims. John Hersey attributes the efforts to have been weakened by a number of factors. Firstly is a lack of adequate medical assistance. For example in Red Cross Hospital where Dr. Sasaki was working there were not enough medical practitioners to meet an increasing number of injured citizens, “In the biggest hospital, that of Red Cross, only six doctors out of thirty were able to function, and only ten nurses out of more than two hundred” (Hersey 41).
Another reason why many people died when they could otherwise have survived, was massive destruction of medical facilities including hospitals. “The lot of Drs. Fujii, Kanda, and Machi right after explosion-and as of these three were typical, that of majority of the physicians and surgeons of Hiroshima-with their offices and hospitals destroyed, their equipment scattered”(Hersey 40).
Hersey, John. Hiroshima. Vintage, 1985.