Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War

Published today, Susan Southard’s Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War follows the previously unknown stories of five survivors and their families, in the aftermath of the atomic bomb attack on Nagasaki.

On August 9th, 1945, the US dropped ‘Fat Man’ on the Japanese city of Nagasaki, only three days after a similar attack on Hiroshima.

“The five-ton plutonium bomb plunged toward the city at 614 miles per hour. Forty-seven seconds later, a powerful implosion forced its plutonium core to compress from the size of a grapefruit to the size of a tennis ball, generating a nearly instantaneous chain reaction of nuclear fission. With colossal force and energy, the bomb detonated a third of a mile of above the Urakami Valley and its thirty thousand residents and workers, a mile and a half north of the intended target.

At 11.02am, a superbrilliant flash lit up the sky – visible from as far away as Omura Naval Hospital more than ten miles over the mountains – followed by a thunderous explosion equal to the power of twenty-one thousand tons of TNT. The entire city convulsed.”

It killed a third of the population instantly, and the survivors, or hibakusha, would be affected by the life-altering medical conditions caused by the radiation for the rest of their lives. They were also marked with the stigma of their exposure to radiation, and fears of the consequences for their children.

Susan Southard spent ten years interviewing and researching the lives of the hibakusha, raw, emotive eye-witness accounts, which reconstruct the days, months and years after the bombing, the isolation of their hospitalisation and recovery, the difficulty of re-entering daily life and the enduring impact of life as the only people in history who have lived through a nuclear attack and its aftermath. Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War captures the full range of pain, fear, bravery and compassion unleashed by the destruction of a city.

“A year after the bombing, tens of thousands of survivors remained severely injured and ill from radiation exposure. Others, like Wada, had significantly recovered. Following his grandmother’s bidding, he had continued to drink her persimmon tea each day. Eventually his gums had stopped bleeding and he no longer observed blood in his urine. Still, overall weakness caused him to miss work sometimes – and his hair would not grow back. “I was nineteen years old, and I was embarrassed,” he said. At times he thought it might be better to die than to live through any more hardships.”

Published for the 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs, this is the first study to be based on eye-witness accounts of Nagasaki in the style of John Hersey’s Hiroshima.

Nagasaki cover

Praise for Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War

“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.”
Washington Post

“Susan Southard’s remarkable book… This is indeed a topical but enduringly relevant testament and one that should be read as widely as possible.”
Jeremy Corbyn

“Our time to understand the survivors’ experience of nuclear war is running out. Only they can tell us what it was like and their lives are coming to an end.”
New York Times

“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

“It is the personal accounts that speak loudest.”
The Economist

“Moving as an intimate chronicle of individual lives: like a good documentary film-maker, Southard allows her subjects, with all their attractive and quirky qualities, to speak for themselves.”
Financial Times

“Provides the material and personal stories of one of the darkest days in human history… One of the definitive histories of the end of World War II. Essential.”
Library Journal

Quotes taken from Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War by Susan Southard, now available in hardback (ISBN: 9780285643277) and eBook (ISBN: 9780285643284), £20.


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