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Free Study Guide-Hiroshima by John Hersey-Free Online Book Notes Summary
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CHAPTER THREE: Details Are Being Investigated


In this chapter, the reader witnesses the first installment of the Japanese governmentís inadequate response to the atomic disaster. Even considering its war-drained condition, the government fails to assist the survivors in both the first days after the bombing and the months and years of rebuilding their lives and ravaged bodies. It takes days for other cities to send in doctors, a naval ship promises help but never comes back, and the authorities withhold information about what has happened. Hiroshimaís people are largely left to fend for themselves, at least for the first few days.

The government also refuses to allow accurate information about the bomb to reach the people of the city. They are extremely secretive in the days following the disaster, so that Hiroshima does not even hear that the same bomb was dropped on Nagasaki three days later. As a result, rumors are rampant as to what kind of weapon was used. A good example of the wide-spread misinformation is how Father Cieslik tells Dr. Fujii that he heard from a Japanese newspaperman (a supposedly reliable source) that the bomb was actually magnesium powder sprayed all over the city, which exploded when it touched the power lines. Even when the people finally hear about the atomic nature of the bomb, newspaper statements about this are kept so general that people believe it no more than the rumors.

The people of Hiroshima, along with all of Japan, hear in this chapter the Emperorís voice for the first time, over the radio. This alone would be earth-shattering for a Japanese, taught all their life that the Emperor is God-like and unapproachable at a human level. The Emperorís announcement of Japanís surrender, however, is even more significant, as it changes their lifeís focus instantaneously. As we see from Rev. Tanimotoís description at the end of the chapter, the Japanese people, and surely the major characters, accept the Emperorís words immediately and rededicate themselves from war efforts to peace and rebuilding efforts. This shows the Japanese peopleís utter devotion to the Emperor during the war and the power of his words on their individual lives. Mrs. Nakamuraís first reaction, when her sister tells her of Japanís surrender, is to tell her sister that she shouldnít say such foolish things, but when the sister says it was the Emperor who announced it, Mrs. Nakamura accepts it without question.

The story of Rev. Tanimoto reading a psalm to the dying Mr. Tanaka illustrates how the bomb humbled all its victims to the same helpless state, whether rich or poor, great or base. Mr. Tanaka, proud, wealthy and an enemy of Rev. Tanimoto, discovers in the wake of the bomb that his former status does nothing to gain him medical treatment. After spending all his strength angrily searching for doctors, he concedes his impending death. At that moment of weakness, he calls for Rev. Tanimoto to comfort him with religion. Rev. Tanimotoís service to Mr. Tanaka shows his pastor heart and Christian forgiveness, as well his recognition that all people deserve help when they are in desperate condition.

Miss Sasaki continued to be moved from crowded hospital to crowded hospital, until she landed at the Red Cross Hospital back in Hiroshima. Shocked to see the cityís devastation for the first time, she found the fresh vegetation covering burned out buildings and trees very strange. The bomb had stimulated the underground organs of greenery, and the city was indeed covered in new plants, among them panic grass and feverfew. Dr. Sasaki became her doctor at the Red Cross Hospital, and focused on nourishing her and lowering her fever, since he had no equipment with which to put her leg in a cast. At the end of October, he made several incisions in her leg to drain the pus. Meanwhile, Miss Sasakiís spirits fell and she wondered about her fiancée who neglected to come and see her. After some visits from Father Kleinsorge, Miss Sasaki became open to the Catholic faith, and by summer decided to convert. She found hope in her budding faith and she improved physically.

Dr. Sasaki was overworked, sleeping only six hours per night at the hospital, and had lost twenty pounds from his small frame. Medical equipment remained inadequate for six months, consisting entirely of small donations from other cities. Dr. Sasakiís appetite stayed low but he regained some semblance of normal life, even marrying in March.

Dr. Fujii went to live in the summer house of a friend, which lay on the banks of the Ota River. His injuries improved and he even found the strength to treat the basic wounds of other survivors living nearby. He encountered bad luck, however, when a flood carried off that summer house and he was forced to flee up the mountain to a peasantís home. Other Hiroshima survivors and doctors researching their strange symptoms drowned in this flood. Dr. Fujii stayed with the peasant for a few days, until he heard of a clinic for sale in a suburb of Hiroshima. He rebuilt a successful practice and enjoyed entertaining members of the U.S. occupational forces in the evenings.

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