Hiroshima survivors worry that world will forget
Exactly 15 minutes past eight in the morning on August 6th, 1945 Japanese time at the moment when the atomic bomb flashed above Hiroshi MMA Miss Yoshiko Sasaki, a clerk in the personnel department of the East Asia, 10 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 desk. That rather ordinary sentence is the opening to the extraordinary August 1946 New Yorker article titled Oshima. It was published a year after the United States dropped the first nuclear bomb on that city, a year in which the U. S government had gone to great lengths to conceal the human devastation caused And to depict the bomb as a conventional humane weapon. The writer of the Peace John Hursey, uncovered a very different story reporting on the ground in Japan, author and journalist Leslie Bloome chronicles foresees work and the reaction to it in her new book, Fallout. She joins me now from Los Angeles. Leslie Bloome. Welcome. Thank you. Start with Who? John Hursey Wass and how he came to be the one to tell this story. Oh, John. Her see was a young World War two correspondent who had covered action in different theaters throughout the war for Time magazine. And like many war correspondents, then he was pretty supportive of the U. S military. And he even wrote an almost overly complimentary wartime bio of General Douglas MacArthur and That the U. S military knew him entrusted him would be an important factor in my story and how he eventually got his story about Hiroshi MMA, and I don't want to give away too much. But I will say that how he got in was by being the perfect Trojan horse reporter, The perfect Trojan horse reporter. You've hooked us where we're intrigued when I got there. He didn't report this out as a war correspondent. He focused very much on ordinary people on he picked six of them. Why did he want to tell the story in that way? Well, I mean, the fact of the matter is is that the bombing of Hiroshima was widely reported when it happened, and it was reported as a very big end of days. Story mean there were pictures of the mushroom clouds that were released in pictures, the landscape devastation. But there were no pictures that were released or no stories that were released about the human toll that it happened on the ground there, and the government was really going to enormous lengths to cover up the reality of theater. Tomic aftermath in Hiroshima, Nagasaki They were very concerned with as the former secretary of war, put it, not being seen as having outdone, Hitler and atrocities. So her C and his editors at the New Yorker magazine became determined to tell the story from the point of view of survivors. You know, these are among the on ly humans who have ever experience what it's like to be on the receiving end of nuclear attack. He ultimately picked a widow with young kids, a young female clerk to medics, a priest and a minister with with a young family, and his idea was to create a sense of empathy. In his readers with these individuals, because, after all, not everybody could understand the physics of how the bombs works or visualized. You know, an all out nuclear attack that anyone could relate to being a mother or a father or colleague or doctor who's going about their everyday business. One catastrophe strikes I wonder if you would give us a sense of just one telling story of what he did find when he was there What it was that so shocked American readers who had no idea what was unfolding in Japan. One story that particularly resonated with him. He interviewed a young female clerk who was in her company when the bomb was detonated. This's the clerk I mentioned in the intro exactly one of the most famous introductions in journalistic history, and when the bomb exploded over her factory bookshelves fell upon her, and she was nearly crushed to death by books. And he thought How ironic it was to have somebody nearly crushed by books within the first moments of the atomic age, and literally when he was leaving here, Oshima and standing on the surprisingly intact train station platform, he thought that he was going to have to write about that line. And that's one of the incidents that most resonated with readers. So August 1946 The New Yorker publishes. What was the reaction? Both in the United States and around the world to this story. Well in her sees own words. The reaction was quote explosive mean, I try not to use that word in my book for obvious reasons. But he did, And the article was simply titled here, Oshima, and it comprised nearly the entire contents of the August 31st 1946 issue of The New Yorker. It's sold out immediately. You're even black market copies of it going for, you know, astronomical sums. It was syndicated in its entirety, and this is a 30,000 word story in newspapers across the country and around the world. And editors and reporters and readers were enraged. They were horrified by the testimonies in her sees here, Oshima, and they also began demanding to know what else was the U. S government withholding from the US public And then, when President Truman was asked by a reporter if he had personally read it, he retorted. I never read the New York ER. It just makes me bad. But the fact is, is that the government had been put very much on the defensive. That said, You know, they didn't want to look like they were on the defensive, but they were and they had to scramble to try to reclaim the narrative.