Hiroshima: The World's Bomb

By Andrew J. Rotter | Go to book overview

SIX
Japan: The Atomic Bombs
and War’s End

There was a loud boom—of course there was. A 30,000-pound bomb had exploded less than a mile above the city. But what people in Hiroshima remembered most about the morning of 6 August was silence. A fisherman tending his nets on the Inland Sea, 20 miles from Hiroshima, heard a great explosion, but few in Hiroshima claimed later to have heard any noise at all. The silence that followed the bombing, with its blast and light and burning heat, was profound. ‘The hurt ones were quiet,’ wrote John Hersey, albeit in retrospect. ‘No one wept, much less screamed in pain; no one complained; none of the many who died did so noisily; not even the children cried; very few people even spoke.’ Dr Michihiko Hachiya, who was among the bombed that morning and worked heroically to treat the wounded, observed that ‘one thing was common to everyone I saw—complete silence’. Kenzaburō Ōe was a boy on the quiet island of Shikoku in August 1945. He became a writer, and discovered the victims of Hiroshima in 1963. Ōe, too, found and recorded silences from that day: the silence of those with terrible injuries, of those who had suffered unimaginable loss, of those who ‘raising both hands skyward and making soundless groans’, jumped into the Ōta River ‘as though competing with one another’—even the silence, jealously insisted upon, of those survivors who steadfastly refused to talk about their experiences that day, demanding silence as their right as victims.1


1. Japan in retreat

By August 1945 Japan’s military position was parlous. Since the reversal at Midway Island in June 1942, victories had been few and short-lived, stalemates generally the best that could be hoped for, and defeats had come

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Hiroshima: The World's Bomb
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The Making of the Modern World ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Praise for Hiroshima vi
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Contents ix
  • Plates xi
  • Introduction - The World’s Bomb 1
  • One - The World’s Atom 7
  • Two - Great Britain- Refugees, Air Power, and the Possibility of the Bomb 31
  • Three - Japan and Germany- Paths Not Taken 59
  • Four - The United States I- Imagining and Building the Bomb 88
  • Five - The United States II- Using the Bomb 127
  • Six - Japan- The Atomic Bombs and War’s End 177
  • Seven - The Soviet Union- The Bomb and the Cold War 228
  • Eight - The World’s Bomb 270
  • Epilogue - Nightmares and Hopes 304
  • Notes 310
  • Bibliographical Essay 340
  • Credits 356
  • Index 357
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