Thursday 6 August 2015

Hiroshima + 70, and a classic piece of journalism

I went to Hiroshima in 1992. It was a bizarre experience to be able to stand at the epicentre of the atomic bomb explosion of August 6, 1945, and to see the remains of the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall, now know as the A-bomb dome. Perhaps even more bizarrely the nearby pedestrian traffic lights played 'Coming Through the Rye' when it was time to cross the road.

One of the first real accounts of the effects of the bomb came in a classic piece of journalism by the American writer, John Hersey, who visited the city in May 1946, and interviewed survivors for his book, Hiroshima.

In measured, factual tones, he tells the story of the Methodist pastor, who was sitting in his friend's garden when he saw a blinding flash across the sky. He dived for cover as debris fell from the sky, and when he looked up, the house had disappeared, and day had turned to night.

Hersey tells how almost all Hiroshima's doctors and nurses were killed or injured, and how at the Red Cross hospital there was just one doctor left as an endless stream of badly burned casualties began to stream in. These are just a couple of the vivid human stories in a slim but compelling volume. You can read it in a couple of hours but you will remember it for a lifetime.

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