Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

The human toll on the survivors of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki

They were so badly disfigured by the blast that it not only took them years to recover some kind of health, but they were also hesitant to reveal themselves in public. Children would cry or run away from them, thinking they were monsters. Younger survivors were often bullied at school. Atom-bomb victims (hibakusha) found it hard to find marriage partners, because people were afraid of passing genetic diseases to their offspring.

Nagasaki-drawing-1

The only reason we know about the people described by Southard is that all of them overcame their deep embarrassment and “came out,” as it were, as kataribe, or “storytellers” about the atom bomb, reminding people of the horrors of nuclear war by speaking in public, at schools, conferences and peace gatherings all over the world.

The merits of Southard’s book are clear. It was bad enough for the Americans to have killed so many people, and then hide the gruesome facts for many years after the war. To forget about the massacre now would be an added insult to the victims. Southard has helped to make sure that this will not happen yet.

 

book Nagasaki Life After Nuclear War‘Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War,’ by Susan Southard,

NYT, By IAN BURUMAJULY 28, 2015 “………..Susan Southard’s harrowing descriptions give us some idea of what it must have been like for people who were unlucky enough not to be killed instantly: “A woman who covered her eyes from the flash lowered her hands to find that the skin of her face had melted into her palms”; “Hundreds of field workers and others staggered by, moaning and crying. Some were missing body parts, and others were so badly burned that even though they were naked, Yoshida couldn’t tell if they were men or women. He saw one person whose eyeballs hung down his face, the sockets empty.”

Gen. Leslie Groves, the director of the Manhattan Project, which had developed the atom bomb, testified before the United States Senate that death from high-dose radiation was “without undue suffering,” and indeed “a very pleasant way to die.”

Many survivors died later, always very unpleasantly, of radiation sickness. Their hair would fall out, they would be covered in purple spots, their skin would rot. And those who survived the first wave of sickness after the war had a much higher than average chance of dying of leukemia or other cancers even decades later.

What made things worse for Japanese doctors who tried to ease the suffering of atom-bomb victims is that information about the bomb and its effects was censored by the American administration occupying Japan until the early 1950s. Even as readers here were shocked in 1946 by John Hersey’s description of the Hiroshima bomb in The New Yorker, the ensuing book was banned in Japan. Films and photographs of the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as medical data, were confiscated by American authorities.

The strength of Southard’s book is that her account is remarkably free of abstractions. She is a theater director, albeit one with an M.F.A. in creative writing, and her interest in the story began in 1986, when she was hired as a translator for one of her subjects who was on a speaking tour in the United States. Instead of statistics, she concentrates, like Hersey, on the fates of individuals. We read about Wada Koichi, an 18-year-old student worker for the municipal streetcar company, as well as a 16-year-old schoolgirl named Nagano Etsuko, another teenage girl named Do-oh Mineko, a 13-year-old boy named Yoshida Katsuji, and several others.

They were so badly disfigured by the blast that it not only took them years to recover some kind of health, but they were also hesitant to reveal themselves in public. Children would cry or run away from them, thinking they were monsters. Younger survivors were often bullied at school. Atom-bomb victims (hibakusha) found it hard to find marriage partners, because people were afraid of passing genetic diseases to their offspring.

The only reason we know about the people described by Southard is that all of them overcame their deep embarrassment and “came out,” as it were, as kataribe, or “storytellers” about the atom bomb, reminding people of the horrors of nuclear war by speaking in public, at schools, conferences and peace gatherings all over the world.

The merits of Southard’s book are clear. It was bad enough for the Americans to have killed so many people, and then hide the gruesome facts for many years after the war. To forget about the massacre now would be an added insult to the victims. Southard has helped to make sure that this will not happen yet.

NAGASAKI

Life After Nuclear War

By Susan Southard

Illustrated. 389 pp. Viking. $28.95. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/02/books/review/nagasaki-life-after-nuclear-war-by-susan-southard.html?_r=0

 

 

August 7, 2015 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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