Fallout by Lesley Blume [7/10]

Fans of Cold War history should examine “Fallout: The Hiroshima Cover-up and the Reporter Who Revealed It to the World,” a sure-footed, elegantly written account of what might seem an obscure byway in the annals of those times. Journalist Lesley Blume relates how John Hersey came to write Hiroshima, his bracing, superbly written account of the experiences of six Japanese citizens in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in August 1945. Blume relates how the New Yorker magazine heads plotted with Hersey (already, at the young age of 30, well-known, with a Pulitzer under his belt) to embed himself into the post-war occupation in Japan, travel to blitzed Hiroshima, fool his U.S. military minders, carry out interviews, and then, back in New York, write a full-issue article in secret. The resultant release on August 31, 1946, revealed both the Armageddon-like impact of that one bomb and its radioactive aftermath, and the American government’s successful (until then) media clamp. Without wasting a word, the author recreates the tension of the days and the article’s provenance. She must have read everything ever written about Hersey and the bomb, and the endnotes and bibliography are a role model of historical exactitude. Fallout would be rather specialist were it not for the ongoing, vital legacy of Hiroshima itself. Never out of print since 1946, John Hersey’s monument has been bought by three million people. It is available this very minute for US$7 and I recommend you read it first, weep, then sink into Fallout. And never forget.

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