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70 Years Later, Remembering The Lives Lost And Shattered At Hiroshima

Aug 6, 2015
Originally published on August 7, 2015 3:37 pm
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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

On this day 70 years ago, the U.S. dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. One hundred-forty thousand people were killed immediately and in the days and weeks that followed.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Today a ceremonial bell rang at 8:15 a.m. in Hiroshima, marking the time American aircraft dropped the bomb.

BLOCK: When the Second World War ended, Americans were caught up in celebration. There were few reliable accounts of what had actually happened in Japan.

CORNISH: Nine months later, the New Yorker magazine sent John Hersey to interview survivors.

BLOCK: He wrote the story of six people recounting where they were and what they were doing when the bomb detonated. One of them was Toshiko Sasaki.

CORNISH: She was a clerk at the East Asia Tin Works. She told Hersey she was at her desk putting things away in a drawer when the room was filled with a blinding light. The building collapsed and Sasaki was buried underneath.

BLOCK: Rescuers pulled her from the rubble, and later in a courtyard, a man propped-up a tin sheet to protect her from the rain. Here's a passage from Hersey's article which describes the harrowing scene.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Reading) She was grateful, until he brought two horribly-wounded people - a woman with a whole breast sheared-off, and a man whose face was all raw from a burn - to share the simple shed with her. No one came back. Before nightfall, the three grotesques under the slanting piece of twisted iron began to smell quite bad.

CORNISH: John Hersey's vivid, sober writing made Hiroshima's victims real.

BLOCK: The New Yorker sold out in a few hours. Newspapers across the country serialized the article. Albert Einstein bought a thousand copies. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.