Thursday, August 6, 2015

Books to Read In Observance: 70th Anniversary of Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

We mark the 70th anniversary of the first and only times the atom bomb was used in war on Thursday, August 6 and Saturday, August 9. Hiroshima's population was about 250,000; by the end of the day, approximately 100,000 had died. On August 9, another 40,000 - 80,000 people died in Nagasaki. Here is a list of books from which you can learn more about the development and use of nuclear weapons.

The Girls of Atomic City: the Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II  by Denise Kiernan (2014)

Kiernan interviewed 10 women who worked at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, one of the production sites for the Manhattan Project. Oak Ridge was the main site for uranium enrichment, but it was a city that you wouldn't find on any map of the time nor would you hear the word "uranium" used. The women worked in positions from janitor to engineer. Their common experiences include the secrecy of their work and the discrimination they all endured - racial segregation in the case of the janitor; sexism in the cases of the white women workers. An interesting book for those interested in Women's History as well as the development of the bomb. For more information about Oak Ridge, visit History

The Wives of Los Alamos by TaraShea  Nesbit  (2014)

This fictional treatment deals with women trying to live ordinary lives in Los Alamos, the principal research and design laboratory for nuclear weapons. They are bound by the secrecy of the project and later by the realization of their contribution to the development of the most destructive weapon in history. Nesbit grew up in Dayton, Ohio, one of the lesser known Manhattan Project locations.

109 East Palace: Robert Oppenheimer and the Secret City of Los Alamos by Jennet Conant (2005)

In 1943, a young widow named Dorothy McKibbin was hired as Oppenheimer's assistant to run the Santa Fe office of the secret weapons laboratory at Los Alamos. At 109 East Palace Avenue, she greeted newly arrived scientists, reminding them to use their aliases while in town and never to identify themselves as physicists. Conant, whose grandfather was a Manhattan Project administrator, mostly sidesteps political issues to focus on the absurdities of day-to-day life at the desert lab. McKibbin fielded numerous complaints from the scientists' wives, who had to struggle with massive coal-belching stoves, hand-churned washing machines, and a chronic shortage of diapers. Meanwhile, their husbands, when not handling plutonium, drank heavily and played pranks . . . .  Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker

Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War by Susan Southland (2015)

This book takes us from the morning of the bombing to the city today. In the first five months after the bombing, an estimated 74,000 people died. Southland provides the accounts of five survivors.

Ruin of Rain: a Photographic History of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by Donald M. Goldstein and J. Michael Wenger (1995)

President Truman used the phrase "rain of ruin" to warn Japan of the consequences of their refusal to surrender. Published for the 50th anniversary, the book includes over 400 photos of both cities before and after the bombings.

Hiroshima in America by Robert J. Lifton and Greg Mitchell (1996)

This book is a study of the bombings' effects in America and the reaction of the American people. Included is an analysis of President Truman's decision based on the diaries of the President and others involved in the process.

Children of the A-Bomb: Testament of the Boys and Girls of Hiroshima by Arata Osada and Jean Dan (1959)

Dr. Osada collected essays written by children six years after the bombs dropped. The book is divided into four parts by grades: from grammar school through college undergraduate.

Hiroshima Notes by Kenzaburo Oe

This collection of seven essays written between 1963 and 1965 concern the moral and political implications of nuclear war. Oe made frequent visits to Hiroshima and was struck by the dignity of the survivors, who later suffered discrimination, and by the courage of the medical personnel who cared for them.

Hiroshima by John Hersey (1946)

Originally published as a special edition of the New Yorker, this moving account tells the stories of six survivors. Hersey's book is one of the few required readings I remember from high school. Compelling and sad, it puts six faces on the thousands who suffered the horror of the bombings.

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