Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Six people begin their day routinely on August 6, 1945. Dr. Fujii sits on his porch in his underwear, reading the newspaper. Dr. Sasaki arrives at Red Cross Hospital a little earlier than usual and begins treating patients. The Reverend Tanimoto helps a parishioner move belongings from a house in the suburbs. Father Kleinsorge lies down on his cot to read after morning mass. Mrs. Nakamura gives her three children some peanuts to eat while they rest on their mats. Miss Sasaki sits down at her desk to begin work. Each of these people survives the explosion of an atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima at 8:15 that morning.
Immediately following the explosion, Mr. Tanimoto begins to help others, often feeling ashamed that he has not been injured. He accompanies many of the members of his neighborhood association to Asano Park, a designated gathering place for the group. Father Kleinsorge and his fellow Jesuits also go to Asano Park because their designated “safe area” is afire. Mrs. Nakamura takes her children to Asano Park, where they wait with others for food and help.
Miss Sasaki spends the hours after the explosion caught under bookcases and building beams that have twisted and broken her left leg under her; the rubble and her injuries prevent her from pulling herself out of the ruins of her office. After several men extricate her and prop her up under a metal lean-to, she waits with two other badly wounded survivors.
Dr. Sasaki and...
(The entire section is 1152 words.)
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Part 1 Summary
A Noiseless Flash
Reverend Mr. Kiyoshi Tanimoto was the pastor of the Hiroshima Methodist Church. Mrs. Hatsuyo Nakamura was a tailor’s widow. Dr. Masakazu Fujii ran a private hospital. Father Wilhelm Kleinsorge was a German priest with the Society of Jesus. Dr. Terafumi Sasaki was a surgeon at the Red Cross Hospital. Miss Toshiko Sasaki was a clerk in the personnel department at the East Asia Tin Works. Those six people survived the atomic bomb blast at Hiroshima while approximately 100,000 were killed. They know that they were saved by small decisions they made that day.
Mr. Tanimoto was a “small man, quick to talk, laugh, and cry.” He was educated in the United States and spoke English fluently. Because of this, he was viewed with suspicion by some and was even questioned several times by the police. He had been moving items from his church to a house away from the center of the town in anticipation of an attack. He got up at 5 a.m. the morning of the attack. His wife and baby were in another town, Ushida. The people of Hiroshima were worried about a possible attack from American B-29s, because Hiroshima, unlike many other major Japanese cities, had not yet been bombed. Air raid warnings had gone off several times the night before. While Mr. Tanimoto was helping a friend move furniture into a house, he saw a brilliant flash of light and dove behind a rock. He thought that the house had been hit by a bomb. He did not hear an explosion, but he did see soldiers coming out of a hillside dugout bloodied and dazed.
Mrs. Hatsuyo Nakamura was a widow who lived in a section of Hiroshima called Noboricho. The night before, she had taken her three children to the designated “safe area” when the radio advised that B-29s were approaching the city. At about 2 a.m., she and her children returned to their house and decided to stay there even after another warning was issued. In the morning, Mrs. Nakamura was watching her neighbor tear down his house when “everything flashed whiter than any white she had ever seen.” The force of the blast knocked her through the air and buried her and her children. When she threw the debris off of her, she could hear and see only one of her children.
Dr. Masakazu Fujii was a successful doctor. His home was also a small hospital, which at the time had only two patients. His wife and four children were living in other cities, safely out of...
(The entire section is 878 words.)
Part 2 Summary
Mr. Tanimoto helped an old woman and her young son get to a school that was meant to be used as a temporary hospital in the event of an attack. By the time they arrived, there were already fifty to sixty injured people waiting for help. He climbed to a higher elevation and looked down over Hiroshima and saw that much of the city appeared to be burning. He was amazed that so much damage could have been done when he had heard no explosion. Large, marble-sized raindrops began to fall as Mr. Tanimoto thought of his family down in the destruction. He began to run toward the city.
Mrs. Nakamura’s house had fallen down around her and her children as a result of the blast. She found one child half buried but safe, then heard the other two calling for help. Although the children had been sleeping ten feet apart, the blast had blown them together. Mrs. Nakamura was able to dig them out. All three children were able to escape being cut or seriously hurt.
Mrs. Nakamura took the children outside, where it was now dark from the smoke and dust. She decided to join her neighbor, Mrs. Hataya, and go to the local evacuation area, Asano Park. On her way, she saw Father Kleinsorge leaving the Jesuit mission house.
Father Kleinsorge and several other priests began helping others dig out of the wreckage of their homes. When Kleinsorge returned to his room he found some things disturbed and some things just as they had been before the blast. His suitcase, which contained money, was not damaged, so he put it in the air-raid shelter. Several other priests had tried to make it to Dr. Fujii’s hospital but were blocked by fire. They still assumed that the damage was local.
Dr. Fujii’s hospital had collapsed into the Kyo River. Dr. Fujii, with some difficulty, worked his way out from between two timbers and onto the riverbank. As he surveyed the area from the Kyo Bridge he noticed only a few fires, but there was a strong wind, and the fires began to spread.
Many of the doctors and nurses in Hiroshima had been killed or injured in the blast. Dr. Sasaki was the only member of the Red Cross Hospital who was left uninjured. As people began to pour into the hospital, Dr. Sasaki decided to focus on those who were seriously bleeding. Of the 245,000 residents of Hiroshima, 100,000 had “been killed or doomed at one blow. 100,000 more were hurt.” Because of the mass influx of...
(The entire section is 1239 words.)
Part 3 Summary
Details Are Being Investigated
In the evening, on the day of the blast, victims near the seven Hiroshima rivers saw a Japanese naval launch. A sailor on the ship, shouting through a megaphone, told the people on the riverbanks that a hospital ship would be coming.
Six members of the Jesuit Novitiate arrived to help get the wounded priests to safety. Mr. Tanimoto helped move the rescuing priests up the river to find a clear roadway on which to transport Fathers LaSalle and Schiffer safely. Father Kleinsorge had now become so weak that they decided not to move him until the next day.
Mr. Tanimoto helped get twenty badly injured people across the river and onto the slope of the riverbank. The work was difficult:
Their backs and breasts were clammy, and he remembered uneasily what the great burns he had seen during the day had been like: yellow at first, then red and swollen, with the skin sloughed off, and finally, in the evening, suppurated and smelly.
He continued to lift these weak, injured people onto his boat for transport.
That night there were ten thousand victims at the Red Cross Hospital. Dr. Sasaki and the other doctors and nurses who could work spent the night treating the worst cuts and burns. Injured people had gathered outside the hospital as well. When he could work no more, Dr. Sasaki tried to get some sleep, but was awakened by some victims and went back to work.
Father Schiffer and Father LaSalle were transported by wooden litter to the outskirts of town, where several other priests were waiting to take them to the Novitiate. The rector of the Novitiate “cleaned the wounds of the two priests and put them to bed between clean sheets, and they thanked God for the care they had received.”
Miss Sasaki spent a very painful, sleepless night with the two other victims under the lean-to. There was no one to help her, and because of the pain in her left leg, she was unable to sleep.
Overnight, one of the city’s gas storage tanks exploded. When Mr. Tanimoto awoke, he saw that the injured people he had moved across the river had drowned in the rising tide.
That day, August 7, the following statement was broadcast by the Japanese government:
Hiroshima suffered considerable damage as the result of an attack by a few B-29s. It is believed...
(The entire section is 1254 words.)
Part 4 Summary
Panic Grass and Feverfew
On August 18, Father Kleinsorge walked back into Hiroshima on his way to the bank. In the streets he saw “a macabre traffic—hundreds of crumpled bicycles, shells of streetcars and automobiles, all halted in mid-motion.” The Yokohoma Bank was open, and he deposited the money he had taken with him from the mission after the blast. On the way back to the Novitiate he became very weak. By the time he got back, he was thoroughly exhausted and his wounds “had suddenly opened wider and were swollen and inflamed.”
Mrs. Nakamura noticed that her hair had started falling out. It kept happening until she became bald. Then, on August 26, she and her daughter Myeko “woke up feeling extremely weak and tired and they stayed on their bedrolls.”
Mr. Tanimoto also started to feel weak and to run a fever at this time. Father Kleinsorge, Mrs. Nakamura, Myeko, and Mr. Tanimoto had all begun to suffer from a disease they had never heard of: radiation sickness.
Miss Sasaki was moved to the Red Cross Hospital in Hiroshima. On her way, she was amazed to see that, amid the destruction, many weeds and wild flowers were already growing. At the Red Cross Hospital, Miss Sasaki was cared for by Dr. Sasaki, who had lost twenty pounds since the blast. The hospital, although still under-staffed and under-supplied, was progressing in its ability to help patients. Miss Sasaki, although still suffering from the broken leg that had not yet been set, “exhibited only one of the queer symptoms so many of his patients were just then beginning to show—the spot hemorrhages.”
Dr. Fujii moved in with Mr. Okuma in Fukawa. When it began to rain persistently in September, he and Okuma moved into a neighbor’s house at a higher elevation:
Down in Hiroshima, the flood took up where the bomb had left off—swept away bridges that had survived the blast, washed out streets....
Mr. Okuma’s house collapsed and was “washed altogether away.”
A rumor began to spread that the bomb had contained a poison that would affect people for seven years and make it impossible to go back into Hiroshima. This sparked resentment and hatred for the Americans. When Japanese physicists, however, went into Hiroshima to measure radiation, they found that the levels were safe enough for people to return. They also found strange...
(The entire section is 1163 words.)