by John Hersey

Hardcover, 1946




Alfred A. Knopf (1946)


On August 6, 1945, an atomic bomb destroyed the city of Hiroshima, Japan. In this book, Hersey reveals what happened that day. Told through the memories of the six survivors, it is a timeless, powerful and compassionate document.

User reviews

LibraryThing member dmzach
Found this in an antique shop: $5. Read it while sitting on my patio this evening. It's six eye witness accounts of the days after the bomb dropped. Nothing unexpected here. War is hell and even worse for the innocent bystanders. Always impressed by those who struggle to survive no matter what.
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Given the news from the current war between Israel and Hebollah in the Middle East - we may have to get used to that notion. Don't expect this to resolve anytime soon. We commit our sins in haste and repent them in leisure. The question is, what sort of God supports the innocent and condemns the aggressors?
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LibraryThing member Raychild
Excellent book. Horrifying. I actually went to John Hersey High School and we had to read it in English class. I'm glad I did.
LibraryThing member Schmerguls
On Feb 3, 1947, I said: "Tonight read John Hersy's Hiroshima: quite a book. Well, though simply written
LibraryThing member VirginiaGill
This book was a book club choice, not a book I would have picked up in a million years. Far too painful a subject. While I wouldn't consider it well written, or even gripping it does make it impossible to ignore the reality of what the human devastation in Hiroshima was. It brings home the impact
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of that moment in history far more than any textbook could. I sincerely home that one day I can erase the mental pictures I have as a result of reading this book...and yet I think everyone should read it.
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LibraryThing member MMWiseheart
It was hard to get through because it's so intense and full of information. It's definitely worthwhile though, if you can handle it.
LibraryThing member ACGalaga
Read this just after going there. While reading it I would suck my teeth and cringe at a happening in the story and everyone would wonder what's wrong. I'd just show them the title of the book.

It's riddled with horrid events and can be incredibly disturbing, but you continue to read for the
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survivors willingness to live as well as their desire help others.
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LibraryThing member speedy74
Hershey recounts the memories of six survivors following the dropping of the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. The last chapter of the book, "The Aftermath," details Hershey's work four decades later when he went back to Hiroshima to see the survivors again. Some of the details are
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chilling and force the reader to see the event through the eyes of the Japanese citizens.

This would be a good addition to any classroom studying the end to WW II and the controversy surrounding whether or not Americans should have used atomic weapons. Very interesting!
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LibraryThing member Jamesedel
100,000 died immediately. This book is the account of seven survivors and what they did with their lives. An interesting German priest who became naturalized because he loved Japan so much. Those who were really injured didn't work hard to get money and some didn't even collect for the first few
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years when they were allowed. Some became nuns and Christians.
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LibraryThing member briannad84
I first read this with my class in 9th grade. I like how Hersey tells the personal stories of actual people, but it feels very fast-paced, probably because it's aimed at a younger audience. It was in Nancy Pearl's Book Lust, so I thought I'd read it again.
LibraryThing member Stbalbach
Just as immediate today as it was nearly 70 years ago. The writing is timeless. The technique flawless. A true classic of narrative non-fiction and journalism. The chapter added in 1985 is not as strong and drags somewhat but helps with closure.
LibraryThing member econnick
Hiroshima is a detailed and horrifying account of 6 survivors of the atomic bomb. The last lines of the book - "His memory, like the world's, was getting spotty" (p. 152) make Hersey's words and the words of the six survivors even more memorable. This book takes on the perspective from the inside
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of the bomb with gruesome details and stories of heroes. It is hard to imagine the setting, the almost unbelievable stories, and the pain, both physical and emotional, that these men and women went through. Often reminding me of scenes on television from after Hurricane Katrina, I had to remind myself that this disaster was not natural, leaving a bitter pain in my heart as I turned the last page. This book would fit in a history or ELA unit on war. In an ELA class, this would work especially well when discussing perspective. How does your view of war, or what they call "total war," change after hearing these stories? This book can definitely be used as a mentor text in a high school setting because of the unique perspective, strong emotional stories, and well written prose.
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LibraryThing member Jmoreeda
One of the two atomic bombs dropped during WWII devastated Hiroshima, Japan. This book is an eye opening portrayal of the events leading up to the explosion and aftermath from a non-combatant prospective. Twenty years ago, this book was part of the required book list in the school I attended. I was
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devastated to discover that it is no longer. Students will gain insight into the other half of WWII and the collateral damage caused by the atomic bomb.
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LibraryThing member seabear
If I had to write a dictionary where the entry for each word was a reference to a book, this would be the entry for 'concise'. It takes a handful of people and follows them closely through the events of August 6, 1945 and the following days. It is both upsetting and numbing, as you'd imagine. It is
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not enough to gain a full appreciation of the events as history (there is no discussion related to anyone outside of the main cast), but that doesn't detract from its value.

Very short too -- I read it in about 24 hours.
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LibraryThing member BookAddict
Eyewitness accounts of the horrific effects of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima documented less than a year after the attack. Amongst the expected experiences of the survivors is intertwined the most surprising resiliancy to death, pain, suffering, and loss of every kind. The Japanese distaste for self
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pity is most commendable and their resignation and strength to endure all for the love of their country inspiring.

This book can be read in one sitting.
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LibraryThing member BondLamberty
Classic text on the atomic bombing
LibraryThing member AnilLevi
Exceptional journalism by John Hersey and well written too! August 6th, 1945, the bomb dropped and changed the world we live in forever. The gut wrenching ordeal of the common folk in Hiroshima is documented with care. John strikes a balance between being too gory and conveying the gravity of the
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pain inflicted.

The book follows a set of different everyday folks from differing economic and social constructs as they lived life in Hiroshima. It starts on the day the bomb dropped and follows them loosely through for an year. The aftermath of the bomb, its destructive power and its effects are horrifying. The change in the lives of the people, the delay in governmental support and the tenacity of the human spirit to live through is quite touching. This account was published in the New Yorker magazine in 1946.

The author went back after 40 years and added another chapter to his book. Its very interesting how the events of this day shaped the lives of the folks that John Hersey followed. Its a quick read but the content is sobering. Like the cover says - Read it!
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LibraryThing member rmckeown
I discovered The Saturday Review of Literature in the early seventies, after reading an article about Norman Cousins, the then editor. About a decade later, the magazine ceased publication. The second thing which struck me was a blurb on John Hersey’s Hiroshima: “Everyone able to read should
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read it.” The early seventies were the days of antiwar rallies, and calls to ban nuclear weapons. Of course I had heard of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and all the justifications for using the atomic bomb in 1945 as a way to end World War II quickly and save many millions of military and civilian lives. John Hersey’s work really opened my eyes to the horrors of nuclear weapons.

The original history was updated about four decades later to show the long term effects of the bomb. Hersey tells the story through the memoirs of six civilians who were in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 at 8:15 AM when the bomb exploded. The curious thing is the completely random steps these individuals had taken which took them out of the direct effects of the blast.

Hersey wrote, “At exactly fifteen minutes past eight in the morning, on August 6, 1945, Japanese time, at the moment when the atomic bomb flashed above Hiroshima, Miss Toshiko Sasaki, a clerk in the personnel department of the East Asia Tin Works, had just sat down at her place in the plant office and was turning her head to speak to the girl at the next guess. At that same moment, Dr. Masakazu Fuijii was settling down to read the Osaka Asahi on the porch of his private hospital, […]; Mrs. Hatsuyo Nakamura, a tailor’s widow, stood by the window of her kitchen, watching a neighbor tearing down his house because it lay in the path of an air-raid-defense fire lane; Father Wilhelm Kleinsorge, a German priest of the Society of Jesus, reclined in his underwear on a cot on the top floor of his order’s three-story mission house, […]; Dr. Terufumi Sasaki, a young member of the surgical staff of the city’s large, modern Red Cross Hospital, walked along one of the hospital corridors with a blood specimen […]; and the Revernd Mr. Kiyoshi Tanimoto, pastor of the Hiroshima Methodist Church, paused at the door of a rich man’s house in Koi, the city’s western suburb, and prepared to unload a handcart full of things he had evacuated from the town in fair of the massive B-29 [bomber] raid which everyone expected Hiroshima to suffer” (3-4). These six individuals lived to describe the aftermath of the explosion.

At first, they all thought a bomb had hit close to their location, but when they emerged from the wreckage, the amount of destruction was beyond imagination. As time passed and those who had lived through the terror, did not want to refer to themselves as “survivors” in fear of causing some slight insult to the victims. Instead, they referred to themselves as “hibakusha” or literally, “explosion-affected persons” (92). The “hibakusha” struggled for years to hold together what remained off their families, friends, and their own lives. For example, it wasn’t until 1951 that Mrs. Nakamura was able to move into a new house. Dr. Sasaki spent the next five years removing ugly keloid scars from residents of the city. Of course, as long term effects of the explosion began to surface, the full extent of the horrors of nuclear war emerged.

Yet today, we live on the brink of nuclear annihilation. Nations struggle to build nuclear weapons. Some call for using these weapons to further religious, political, or economic interests. As is the case in so many examples of war, some have forgotten the lessons of history. The Saturday Review was correct: “Everyone able to read [John Hersey’s book] should read it. 5 stars.

--Jim, 12/6/16
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LibraryThing member nmele
The impact of Hershey's reportage in the aftermath of Japan's 1945 surrender has only grown with each tri I take to Japan and each attempt by policy makers to revive the concept of a nuclear deterrent.
LibraryThing member electrascaife
An account of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima through the lives of 6 of its victims.
Interesting, although I found it a little difficult to keep some of the people straight. I'm not certain whether that's the fault of the writing or my doing other things while trying to listen to the audiobook...
LibraryThing member schatzi
Growing up, both in high school and college, I never learned much about the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. If they were mentioned at all, it was either in a way that expressed that 1) it was completely unavoidable and/or saved numerous lives, or 2) should have been accompanied by
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chants of USA USA, WE'RE #1, USA USA. The mentions that fall under the first category were brief, and the instructors were quick to move on to another topic of discussion; the mentions that fall under the second category were rather scary, but, fortunately, usually also brief.

The book doesn't attempt to argue that the bombs weren't necessary, and so that isn't going to be part of my review, either. Instead, the book focuses on six people who were present in Hiroshima on the day that the atomic bomb was dropped, and for a variety of reasons, somehow survived to tell their stories. There's a German priest, two doctors, a Japanese Christian minister, a factory worker, and a widow who was at home with her children. Some suffered grave and lasting bodily injury; others were left remarkably unscathed, at least when it came to physical damage. Some lost their entire families; others had their whole families survive.

The common thread amongst them, of course, is that they saw damage on a scale that is really unimaginable, even once you've seen the pictures of a devastated Hiroshima. To have everything, and nearly everyone, you know wiped away in a single instant; to be left in a wreckage that was once your home and not able to even trust if the water is safe to drink now; to see so much suffering and death. Many of them had absolutely no idea what had happened for quite some time - one woman believed that she had been the cause of it, that something had exploded because she hadn't been shifting the train she was on correctly.

It's an eye-opening book, even now, many decades after the events. I can only imagine how much more eye-opening it was when it was first published. The book is a little dated, but that is easy to look past because, ultimately, people are people, even in different places and different times. There's also an update that took place forty years after the bomb was dropped, when the author followed up with all six people who were originally profiled in the book to see how their lives had, or had not, been affected.

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LibraryThing member Eric_the_Hamster
A powerful and painful eyewitness account of the aftermath of the dropping of the Bomb on Hiroshima. First published in the New Yorker.
LibraryThing member riskedom
Yesterday, August 7th, 2020, I re-read this short but detailed classic of six eyewitness experiences of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. I was amazed at how garbled my memory of it was and that I hadn't even remembered the back and forth narratives of the six eye witnesses. My main memory was of
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the experiences of the Japanese Methodist pastor and the German Jesuit priest. I had even melded these two into one character as the years had passed. About halfway through the book it dawned on me. Just as I was now reading Hersey's classic the day after the 75th anniversary of the ushering in of the atomic ago, I had originally read the book because of the 50th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing. At age 49, that is more than half a lifetime ago! How important it is to re-read important books. The journalistic style makes the telling very powerful. The six characters lives, an office clerk, two doctors, two clergy, and a widow with young children, move back and forth in a readable, understandable and yet bewildering style. They are all confused, scared, horrified, curious and yet strangely calm. The level of destruction and human suffering is like nothing they have ever seen or even imagined. Perhaps, the most graphically powerful image is that of the German Kleinsorge offering a hand to help a burn victim only to have the skin slip off like a glove. The most spiritually haunting moment may be the first time the injured office clerk, Sasaki is able to see firsthand the center of Hiroshima towards the end of August. While she was clearly horrified it was the "blanket of fresh, vivid, lush, optimistic, green" and Sickle Senna at the center of the blast, as if with the bomb came also a shower of seeds, "that particularly gave her the creeps." Like a great journalist, Hersey presents the findings of Japanese doctors, researchers, scientists and statisticians. The stages of radiation sickness are explained. The methods for calculating actual death tolls compared to "official numbers" is covered. Japanese scientists uncovered the details of the size, power and temperature of the atomic bomb even though mention of the atomic bomb was theoretically banned from scientific publications in Japan during the Allied occupation. It's a shame this was not required reading while I was in high school. Even though I read it on my own as a young twenty something, I obviously put it down without the communal discussion that is so necessary for this topic. Hersey does not present an opinion about the morality of the bomb but he presents the process that some of his witnesses and the Japanese people went through to come to grips with the fact of the atomic bomb. Fatalism seemed to be the most common feeling. Hopefully, by writing this review I can finally contribute to the public discussion and encourage others to read this very important work. If you start reading it on a free weekend evening, you will be finished reading by the next morning. God willing you will not be able to stop thinking and feeling the reality of the atomic age before you go back to work on Monday.
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LibraryThing member TomMcGreevy
A book that should be read. The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended the Second World War. This book is about the experience of six survivors of Hiroshima. It describes their lives from before the explosion until one year later. All were diminished in quality. The stories tell of unimaginable
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conditions forced upon people unprepared for them. And the author raises questions about the ethics of nuclear war. I pray that this never happens again.
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LibraryThing member SeriousGrace
Isn't it strange that in times of intense tragedy (like your country being at war), that one could be lulled into a false sense of security just because of the Boy Who Cried Wolf syndrome? When the village of Hiroshima was bombed many people didn't heed the warnings. Even those responsible for
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alerting others to oncoming attacks didn't see it coming. What are you supposed to do when the system you are taught to trust gives the "all clear" signal? How are you supposed to react?
Hiroshima follows the lives of six Hiroshima bombing survivors from the moments before the blast on August 6th, 1945 at 8:15 a.m. to the aftermath of the following year: Miss Toshiko Sasaki, Dr. Masakazu Fujii, Mrs. Hatsyo Nakamura, Dr. Terufumi Sasaki (no relation to Miss Toshiko), Father Wilhelm Kleinsorge, and Reverend Mr. Kiyoshi Tanimoto.
Fair warning: you will be privy to excruciating details about their injuries and subsequent health issues. People with no outward visible wounds had a delayed response to radiation sickness with symptoms difficult to fathom. Your heart will break to read of their confusion when trying to understand what happened to them. Theories and rumors about the "strange weapon" abounded. For example, for a while people assumed powdered magnesium was dumped on power lines, creating explosions and subsequent fires. Survivors believed they were doused with gasoline.
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LibraryThing member A.Godhelm
A seminal change in reporting style, the zoomed in view of a handful of people to represent the tragedies of the bombing has a very gripping narrative of the events and aftermath, but becomes increasingly diffuse as it continues to follow their lives long after the events of the bombing. It
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completes the stories of their lives and the rebuilding efforts, but at the same time dilutes the catastrophe of the bombing itself. Is it more honest to continue the story as life just goes on? Would it have been just gratuitous to linger? Certainly the report itself seems to conclude most people did not reflect deeply on the whys, and either dealt with the trauma and medical aftermath - or not.
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