(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

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 Dr. Fujii are among the few physicians who survive the bombing. Dr. Sasaki, having taken a pair of glasses from an injured nurse to replace his broken ones, treats the wounded and dying. Dr. Fujii has to extricate himself from the crossed beams of his ruined home and private hospital. With a broken collarbone and many lesser injuries, he is not able to care for other wounded people. He walks to his family’s house on the outskirts of town to spend the first night after the bombing.

Until the surrender of Japan on August 15, Mr. Tanimoto continues to help others, procuring rice from an army aid station and taking water to survivors in Asano Park. Dr. Sasaki treats the wounded at the hospital for three days after the bombing, working with almost no sleep. He goes to his mother’s house to rest for a day, then returns to the hospital. Father Kleinsorge also helps and comforts the wounded in Asano Park and helps take survivors to the Novitiate in the hills beyond the edge of the city.

Miss Sasaki is moved from a military hospital to a school that has quickly been converted to a hospital. Mrs. Nakamura and her children, who also suffer from the effects of the bomb, leave the city to stay with family. During the year after the war ended, Mrs. Nakamura manages to rent a small wooden shack and send her children back to school. She spends...

(The entire section is 1152 words.)

Hiroshima Chapter Summaries

Hiroshima 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...

(The entire section is 878 words.)

Hiroshima Part 2 Summary

The Fire

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 wounded and dying,

Dr. Sasaki lost all sense of profession and stopped working as a skillful surgeon and a sympathetic man; he became an automaton, mechanically wiping, daubing, winding, wiping, daubing, winding.

Miss Sasaki passed in and out of consciousness for three hours, buried under the bookcase and books, with a sharp pain coming and going in her left leg. She could hear other voices nearby saying, “Please help! Get us out!”

Many of the houses around the Jesuit mission were now burning, and the wind was whipping...

(The entire section is 1239 words.)

Hiroshima 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...

(The entire section is 1254 words.)

Hiroshima 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...

(The entire section is 1163 words.)