I remember some of the world history text books from my adolescence. The events of WWII always warranted at minimum one chapter, and the bombs that were dropped at Hiroshima and Nagasaki always had a few paragraphs dedicated to them. Honestly, I didn't know very much about Hiroshima prior to this book, and the information that I did know was very basic. I knew about Pearl Harbor and the state of the world as a whole during the 40's. I understood why the U.S. would think that dropping these bombs would end the war, but all this information was given to me in a very sterilized form. Everything was displayed very systematically without giving much detail to what happened to the victims or the aftermath left in the wake of these bombs.
Hershey hauntingly wrote, "[...] hundreds and hundreds [...] every one of them seemed to be hurt in some way. The eyebrows of some were burned off and skin hung from their faces and hands.[...] Some were vomiting as they walked. Many were naked or in shreds of clothing" (page 29).
I think the most meaningful thing that I found about the book is how unflinching John Hersey was with his depiction of the events before, during, and after the explosion. He took me from my sterilized, academic pedestal, and he brought me down to the dirty and devastating reality of the bomb. He showed me the wholly brutalized victims and the hopeless world the people surrounding Hiroshima found themselves in. He made it feel like all the of victims collectively closed their eyes for only a few seconds only to open them up to find themselves in a gruesome hell. I can only hope that I never experience anything close to that, and I may never forget the description of these victims.
On a somewhat brighter note, I know I'll never forget the actions of Mr. Tanimoto. For me, he basically embodies all the men and women that tried there best to help those who were devastated and hurt from the explosion. Tanimoto simply stands out as a hero in my mind for staying in the thick of the situation when so many people ran away while openly leaving others to die. I am not saying these people were wrong for wanting to escape. I am just saying he was very brave and honorable for wanting to assist those who couldn't help themselves. Though Tanimoto missed the antinuclear and peace movements in Japan, which he originally envisioned being a part of, he was still a man of peace and he spent the rest of his life trying to help victims that still suffered in the aftermath. I was glad to read that his old age seemed to occur without any abnormalities when many of contemporaries were suffering the effects of being exposed to radiation, which made me glad to know he wasn't suffering.
Hershey states, " Kiyoshi Tanimoto was over seventy [...] he lived in a snug little house[...] He got up at six every morning and took an hour's walk with his small woolly dog, Chiko. He was slowing down a bit. His memory, like the world's, was getting spotty."
The subject that I chose to look into was Franklin D. Roosevelt's public and private position on the creation and use of atomic weapons. Now, from what I could find it seems that publically F.D.R. seemed to be very unconcerned with the advent of atomic weaponry. It seems as if he were attempting to feign ignorance or disinterest over the matter. Prior to our involvement in WWII, the United States was actually in a time of peace, so it would have raised the suspicions of the world to see the U.S. actively pursue research over the matter. Also, some could argue that if F.D.R. openly advocated this research that it could've been deemed an act of war, which would have only served to hasten the involvement of the United States at a time in which they were unwilling to do so.
Privately, he actually understood the power that would be generated from nuclear fission, and once he received a secret letter from Albert Einstein, which detailed Einstein's understanding of the potential bomb that could be created based on nuclear fission and Germany's desire to create such a weapon, Roosevelt was convinced that the U.S. had to be the first country to harness this weaponry. From 1939-1946, the United States, with the help of the United Kingdom and Canada, tested the potency of nuclear fission, which ultimately led to the creation of the atomic bomb. This testing and bomb creation was all done in secrecy under the code name the Manhattan Project.
With the unofficial support of F.D.R., the Manhattan Project became one of the first government funded scientific research and development projects, which was unheard of during this time in history as most research projects were privately funded by investors or colleges. Once again, Roosevelt kept his support to this project a secret to avoid any concerns from enemy forces or complaints from the U.S. congress, and in this secrecy all talk about nuclear fission within our country was immediately silenced. Come 1945, when the bombs finally dropped on Japan the world, as a whole, became horribly aware of the relentless destruction these new bombs could create as the world was shoved into the Atomic Age.
Einstein's first letter to Franklin D. Roosevelt