On Thursday, the world commemorated the 70th anniversary of the first atomic bomb attack, dropped by US aircraft on the Japanese city of Hiroshima.
It instantly killed 70,000 people, and affected thousands of others with life-inhibiting radiation-poisoning. Literally flattening the city, the only building to survive the explosion – the skeletal Atomic Bomb Dome – now stands as a memorial to the victims.
The last thing anyone expected was for it to happen again, and yet, three days later, on 9th August 1945, another atomic bomb was dropped on the Japanese city of Nagasaki.
It killed a third of the population instantly, and as with the survivors of the Hiroshima bombing, or hibakusha, many would spend their lives suffering with radiation poisoning or marked by the stigma of their exposure to it.
Published now for the first time, with detailed maps and photographs, Susan Southard’s Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War is the first study to be based on eye-witness accounts of Nagasaki, in the style of John Hershey’s Hiroshima.
One thing highlighted by the 70th anniversary is the age of the survivors, and the urgent need to pass on their stories – according to The Times, 5,359 have died in the last year.
Over many years, Susan Southard has interviewed the hibakusha and her intimate portraits of their lives show the devastating consequences of nuclear war. Following the previously unknown stories of five survivors and their families from 1945 to the present day, it captures the full range of pain, fear, bravery and compassion unleashed by the destruction of the nuclear attack.
“Politicians debating the nuclear deal with Iran would do well to spend some time with Southard’s ‘Nagasaki’. It does not tell us what to do. It only reminds us of the stakes.”
“Does for Nagasaki what John Hersey did for Hiroshima… Takes us beneath the mushroom cloud with harrowing, damning, eloquent intimacy.”
John W. Dower, Pulitzer-winning author of Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of WWII
Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War (ISBN: 978-0285643277, £20), will be published on 19th November. It is available to pre-order in HB and eBook now.