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Reading Group: Hiroshima

Fall 2017

November Schedule

Book Discussion
Nov. 2, 2015 7 – 9 p.m.
University Library Room 309
Parking on TTU Campus

Book Discussion
Nov. 9, 2015 7 – 9 p.m.
University Library Room 309 
Parking on TTU Campus

Documentary Film Screenings
Nov. 16, 2015 7 – 9 p.m.
University Library Room 309
Parking on TTU Campus

Speaker Bios

Nov. 2, 2015
Ron Milam  
Ron Milam is an Associate Professor of History, a Fulbright Scholar, and the Faculty Advisor to the Veteran’s Association at Texas Tech, and a recent recipient of a Ford Foundation Grant. His teaching duties include U.S. History Survey, the History of the Vietnam War, and graduate and undergraduate courses in Military History. His latest teaching interest is terrorism and insurgency.

Dr. Milam is the author of Not a Gentleman’s War: an Inside View of Junior Officers in the Vietnam War, published by the University of North Carolina Press. He currently has several book projects: "The Siege of Phy Nhon" and "Cambodia and Kent State: Killing in the Jungle and on the College Campuses." In addition, he is currently under contract to produce a two-volume book for ABC-CLIO entitled, "The Vietnam War and Popular Culture."

Dr. Milam is a member of the Texas Tech Vietnam Center Advisory Board and the Board of Directors of the David Westphall Veteran's Foundation and a combat veteran of the Vietnam War.

Stephen Cook
Stephen Cook is an Associate Professor of Counseling and a licensed Psychologist here in Texas. He is a member of several professional organizations: APA Continuing Education committee, Texas Psychological Association, and in the past served on the editorial boards for Journal of Counseling Psychology and Training and Education in Professional Psychology.

His publications are truly too numerous to mention, but include journal articles on the psychology of stress and coping, function of Christian prayer in the coping process, and post-traumatic growth following Hurricane Katrina. Dr. Cook's research interests include Psychology & Religion (Spirituality); Gender Issues; and Stress & Coping, i.e., examining how people deal with personal problems.

Nov. 9, 2015
Kevin Stoker
Kevin Stoker is an Associate Professor and Senior Academic Dean in the College of Media and Communication. His research specialties include the exploration of philosophical conflicts and contradictions in journalism history and public relations ethics and theory. He instructs courses in the Philosophy of Communication, Literary Journalism, and Media Ethics.
 

Hiroshima (the book)

The New Yorker Magazine article “Hiroshima,” and later the book by the same title, is the story of six survivors of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. It covers the period immediately before and one year after it was dropped on August 6, 1945.  

John Hersey’s report on the after-effects of the bomb appeared in the August 31, 1946 issue of The New Yorker. Two months later it appeared in book form and has never gone out of print. The article and the book contained detailed descriptions of the bomb’s effects on the human body. In it, Hersey described people with severe burns, melted eyes, and some completely vaporized, leaving only their shadows etched into walls or the sidewalk.

Americans' reactions to the book were mixed, as the book showed a different interpretation of the effects of the bomb than previously reported. One aspect of the book was the fact many Americans did not know what to think about the Japanese people’s response to the bomb. Many did not blame the United States for dropping the Atomic bomb, but their own government. Many Japanese believed that the dropping of the bomb shortened the war and saved lives.

It is hard to overestimate the book’s impact on the debate over Nuclear Weapons, which still continues. The book placed the bombing of Hiroshima at the center of the Nuclear Debate, with its graphic depictions of burned victims and its descriptions of radiation sickness.  

Hiroshima (the city)

The city of Hiroshima is the capital of Hiroshima Prefecture on the western side of the largest island of Japan. Its name means “Wide Island” in Japanese.  On the day the bomb was dropped, August 6, 1945, Hiroshima was a city of between 340,000 and 350,000 people.  The U.S. military targeted Hiroshima because it was the headquarters of a large army and marine base, a large depot for military supplies, and a naval shipping center. Until the dropping of the bomb, Hiroshima had remained relatively untouched by the U.S. Air Force.

The blast from the bomb killed more than 80,000 people outright, or 20% of the population of Hiroshima. By the end of the year the number of deaths attributed to the blast more than doubled to an estimated 166,000, or almost half the population. To make matters worse for the survivors, more than three-fourths of all the city’s structures were either destroyed or severely damaged, as well as most of the city’s infrastructure.

Today, in the center of Hiroshima, at ground zero, is the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. The park was built on an open field created by the bomb’s blast. There are a number of memorials, monuments, and museums in the park, which memorialize the victims, advocate for world peace, and keep in people’s memory the horror of nuclear weapons.

Sponsor

This Reading Group is sponsored in part by the Humanities Center at Texas Tech,
Dorothy Chansky, Director.

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Hiroshima

John Hersey

John Richard Hersey (June 17, 1917–March 24, 1993) was a Pulitzer Prize-winning author whose reporting of the aftermath of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima is considered by many as the finest piece of American journalistic writing in the 20th century.

Hersey, born in China to Protestant missionaries, spent the first ten years of his life in China and learned to speak Chinese before English. He returned to Asia throughout his life, reporting on World War II from there for Time Magazine, Life, and The New Yorker. But he was back in New York when he conceived of the idea and talked William Shawn, editor of The New Yorker, into publishing a lengthy article on the effects of the blast on its survivors.

The result of his reporting was the 31,000-word article Hiroshima, published August 31, 1946, that took up almost the entire issue of the magazine. The article appeared barely one year after the bomb devastated Hiroshima and was the first uncensored reporting on the after effects of the blast. The article and the book detailed the effects of the bomb on six Japanese citizens. In 1985 Hersey added the fifth chapter, “The Aftermath.”

Bibliography

Hiroshima Bibliography for Additional Reading

Books about the Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (listed alphabetically by author, call numbers included where available). Most books on this topic are in call number area D767.25 on Stack Level 1.

1.   Kort, Michael. The Columbia Guide to Hiroshima and the Bomb. New York: Columbia University Press, 2007. ISBN: 0231130163. University Library call number: D767.25.H6 K68 2007.

2.   Kurzman, Dan. Day of the Bomb: Hiroshima, 1945. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1985. ISBN: 0070356831. University Library call number: D767.25.H6 K865 1985.

3.   Lifton, Robert J. Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima. New York: Random House, 1968. Available online via ProQuest ebrary.

4.   Nagai, Takashi. The Bells of Nagasaki. Tokyo: Kodansha, 1949. ISBN: 9784770018458. University Library call number: D767.25.N3 N2843 1984.

5.   Pellegrino, Charles R. The Last Train from Hiroshima: The Survivors Look Back. New York: Henry Holt & Co., 2010. ISBN: 9780805087963. University Library call number: D767.25.H6 P45 2010.

6.   Takayama, Hitoshi. Hiroshima in Memoriam and Today: Hiroshima as a Testimony of Peace for Mankind. Hiroshima, Japan: BIC Co., 1973.

7.   Weller, George. (Anthony Weller, ed.) First into Nagasaki: The Censored Eyewitness Dispatches on Post-Atomic Japan and Its Prisoners of War. New York: Crown, 2006. ISBN: 0307342018. University Library call number: D767.25.N3 W45 2006.

8.   Yanagida, Kunio. A Blank in the Weather Map. [ 空白の天気図 / Kūhaku no tenkizu ]. Tokyo: Shinchosha, 1975.

Partially adapted from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bibliography_of_World_War_II


Books about John Hersey

1.   Lyman, Nancy. The Survival Tales of John Hersey. Troy, NY: Whiston Pub. Co., 1983. ISBN: 0878752382. University Library call number: PS3515.E7 Z63.

2.   Sanders, David. John Hersey. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1967. University Library call number: PS3515.E7 Z87.


Other Relevant Books

1.   Alperovitz, Gar. The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb and the Architecture of an American Myth. New York: Knopf, 1995. ISBN: 0679443312. University Library call number: D769.2 .A5 1995.

2.   Barnett, Erin, Phil Mariani, John W. Dower, Levy A. Harrison, and David Monteyne. Hiroshima: Ground Zero 1945. New York: International Center of Photography, 2011. ISBN: 9783869303345. University Library call number: OVERSZ TR820.5 .B365 2011.

3.   Dower, John W. Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II. New York: W.W. Norton & Co, 1999. ISBN: 0393046869. University Library call number: DS889 .D69 1999.

4.   Gosling, Francis G. The Manhattan Project: Making the Atomic Bomb. Washington, D.C.: Department of Energy, 2001. University Library Government Documents call number: E1.35/2:0002.

5.   Jungk, Robert. Brighter than a Thousand Suns: A Personal History of the Atomic Scientists. San Diego: Harcourt, 1958. University Library call number: QC773.J8 E5.

6.   Maruki, Iri, Toshi Maruka, John W. Dower, and John Junkerman. The Hiroshima Murals: The Art of Iri Maruka and Toshi Maruki. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1985. ISBN: 0870117351. University Library call number: ND1059.M3 H57 1985.

7.   Maruki, Toshi. Hiroshima No Pika. New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books. ISBN: 0688012973. University Library call number: OVERSZ PZ9.M329 H687.

8.   Rhodes, Richard. The Making of the Atomic Bomb. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1986. ISBN: 0671441337. University Library call number: QC773 .R46 1986.


Other New Yorker Articles about Hiroshima

1.   Kelts, Roland. “The Details of Hiroshima.” The New Yorker 6 Aug. 2013. Available online at http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/the-details-of-hiroshima.

2.   Samuels, David. “Atomic John.” The New Yorker 15 Dec. 2008. Available online at http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2008/12/15/atomic-john.

3.   Sayle, Murray. “Did the Bomb End the War?” The New Yorker 31 Jul. 1995. Available online at http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1995/07/31/did-the-bomb-end-the-war.

4.   Stillman, Sarah. “Hiroshima and the Inheritance of Trauma.” The New Yorker 12 Aug. 2014. Available online at http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/hiroshima-inheritance-trauma.

Points to Ponder while Reading—Discussion Questions

  1. Is Hiroshima a work of fiction or non-fiction? John Hersey was known for his outstanding newspaper reporting. How does Hiroshima differ from a newspaper account?
  2. Was this a hard book for you to read? Was it written like you thought it would be?
  3. How would you describe Hersey's writing style? Would you have liked a different style or tone?
  4. We learned of six people in the book. Why do you think they survived?
  5. The author, John Hersey, credits the Japanese people's ability to wait patiently and help others as a cultural trait. Do you agree? How does this differ from the way American people would act in a similar situation?
  6. Have your opinions changed about the use of Atomic weapons since reading this book?
  7. One example of Hersey’s use of facts or details is his description of the abnormal water drops after the bombing. What, if anything, did this level of detail bring to the story?
  8. Can you draw some comparisons from Hiroshima to 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina?
  9. There are some eerie descriptions of how plant life was affected by the bomb blast. Why do you think the author included these? How did the descriptions affect you?
  10. Is Hiroshima basically a story of survival?
  11. Do you think the bombing of Hiroshima shortened the war?
  12. John Hersey states in his book that many Japanese and even some who survived the blast at Hiroshima do not blame the U.S. for using the bomb. Some say it shortened the war. How do you feel about this?
  13. Why do you think the book has remained popular for over 50 years?
  14. The final chapter, "The Aftermath," was written in 1985, 39 years after the rest of the book. Does the final chapter add anything to the book?
  15. Do you think Americans' attitudes about the Japanese affected the way we thought of the Vietnamese before the war in Southeast Asia?

New Journalism

Hersey is often grouped with other writers who are considered practitioners of “New Journalism,” a style that emphasized emotions, impressions and images—all elements of fiction—in their writing.  Hersey was uncomfortable being grouped with them, although his style shared common elements with theirs.  Many popular (and successful) writers of the 1960s, 70s, & 80s used elements of New Journalism and much of their work appeared in magazines rather than newspapers.

Some of the writers who flourished using the New Journalism style were Tom Wolfe, Norman Mailer, Truman Capote, Gay Talese, and Hunter S. Thompson. Their work could be found in The Atlantic Monthly, Rolling Stone, Harper’s, and The New Yorker.  

People disagree on exactly what New Journalism is, but it is generally agreed it is an artistic, creative form of reporting incorporating three basic traits: the use of dramatic literary techniques; the author’s total immersion or saturation with the subject matter; and the fact that the writer can be subjective at times. 

Trauma

Survivors of Hiroshima suffered from serious trauma, similar to what other people have suffered following a terrible disaster, whether it was a natural disaster or man-made. Little, if any, was known about the trauma induced by an events described in Hiroshima and the long-lasting effects it would have on the survivors.    

For years, many survivors suffered from unexplained anxiety, nightmares, insomnia, fatigue, unexplained fear and rage, similar to those suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Research on Hiroshima survivors as well as other survivors strongly suggests that the effects of extreme trauma may have long-lasting, multi-generational effects, which can span generations, entire families, and even communities. This “secondary trauma” can have lasting effects on survivors’ spouses, children, and other family members.