Thursday, December 31, 2020

Book review: 'Fallout: The Hiroshima Cover-up' is highly recommended


The chief message to journalists: Don't give up.

If I were in charge of reading lists for journalism students, this would be on it, a story within a story of how a civilization was decimated by the atomic bomb, and how the people bombed lived to tell about it.

Which they did to John Hersey, reporter and novelist who won the Pulitzer Prize for A Bell for Adano, his first novel, the year before the bomb was dropped.

Lesley M. M. Blume's Fallout: The Hiroshima Coverup and the Reporter Who Revealed It to the World (2020) follows Mr. Hersey's account of his interviews with six bomb victims and the secret production of the story in the New Yorker which published the report in a 31,000 word issue, the first time it devoted its entire issue to a single topic.

In the article which came out a little more than a year after the bomb dropped, Mr. Hersey describes the U.S. government's efforts to withhold the effects.

The story portrayed for the first time, Japanese as human beings, like me and you, ordinary people (p. 127). Until the story, Americans resisted considering their enemy across the sea as anything but murderers intent on destroying their nation. But the bomb drop on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 shattered the lives of civilians, children, families, people.

First atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan by B-29 superfortresses on August 6, 1945. Title from item. "Official photograph furnished by Headquarters, A.A.F. AC/AS-2"--stamped on back of print. "If published credit U.S. Army, A.A.F. photo"--stamped on back of print. Photo number: A-58914 AC. Forms part of the National Committee on Atomic Information records at the Library of Congress. PR 13 CN 1995:068 (1 AA size box)

Ms. Blum describes Mr. Hersey's three weeks in Japan interviewing survivors who became the focus of his article. How he got there and got "in" Hiroshima are important pieces of the story's puzzle.

His collaboration with the New Yorker's co-founder, Harold Ross, and an editor, William Shawn, were so secret, they kept the subject hidden from the magazine's staff who wondered about content missing for the next edition.

Two other journalists had earlier written about Hiroshima, but their reports were dismissed, although their reporting led to a requirement that reporters must be accompanied by an official.

Australian journalist Wilfred Burchett ridiculed "housetrained reporters" who simply wrote what the U.S. government wished (p. 30).

Worried about the U.S. military's response to the article, the New Yorker's trio passed it pre-publication for muster to Leslie Groves, the director of the Manhattan Project which developed the bomb. Surprisingly, with slight edits, he okayed it.

Tormented throughout his work, Hersey was horrified that a single bomb could cause so much destruction (p. 72).

One of the victims described eyes which melted, the liquid flowing down what used to be faces on people still alive.

Many ran naked through the streets.

Skin peeled off.

A baby choked on dirt swallowed in a collapsed house. The mother refused to relinquish her child's decomposing body for days (p. 85).

To escape the fires, some jumped into one of Hiroshima's seven rivers where bodies of massacred victims floated (p. 92).

Civilians appeared "like a procession of ghosts," one survivor told Mr. Hersey (p. 84).

Of 300 doctors in Hiroshima, 270 died or were wounded; nurses lost 1,654 of their 1,780 to death or injury (p. 89).

By November 30, 1945 the death count reached 78,000 with 14,000 people still missing.

Burned legs show the effects of atomic bombs on people who survived.Otis Historical Archives of “National Museum of Health & Medicine” (OTIS Archive 1)/Creative Commons, Wikipedia.

Partially incinerated child in Nagasaki. Photo from Japanese photographer Yōsuke Yamahata, one day after the blast and building fires had subsided. Once the American forces had Japan under military control, they imposed censorship on all such images including those from the conventional bombing of Tokyo which prevented the distribution of Yamahata's photographs. These restrictions were lifted in 1952, Public Domain, 

On a press tour of facilities in New Mexico, Lieutenant General Groves told reporters that the number of Japanese who died from radiation was "very small" (p. 45) and that Hiroshima was "essentially radiation-free" (p. 46).

Speaking to the Senate Special Committee on Atomic Energy, he quoted doctors who said death by radiation "is a very pleasant way to die" (p. 47). Mr. Groves had no apologies for the bomb drop, unlike some scientists who showed misgivings (p. 146).

The day after Victory over Japan was declared on August 14, 1945, a poll showed the majority of Americans approved the bombings, and almost 25% said they wished America had bombed more (p. 24).

After the story was published, the eyewitness subjects applauded Mr. Hersey's acuity in retelling their lives.

The article was printed as a book, Hiroshima, which became a worldwide phenomenon which has never gone out of print, selling three million copies and available in several languages. At publication it was picked up by 500 radio stations, including the BBC, and thrust Mr. Hersey into the limelight, a position he resisted.

The welcome epilogue brings the reader up-to-date with key characters, but a glossary of them would have amplified the content and made it easier to follow, a wish I have for most books I read.

This is a small book with an index of almost 100 pages which consumes almost a third of the total pages. I wished for more research, a longer book with additional "behind-the-scenes" descriptions.

Still, a book to be reckoned with and acknowledged as another chapter in America's gruesome past.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Update: This Christmas ain't what it's supposed to be

A close-up of one of the 2012  White House Christmas trees when President Obama was in office/by Patricia Leslie

How about a little clam chowder mixed with carrot cake? 


It all started with my son telling me on the day before I was supposed to leave for Thanksgiving in Nashville, that I'd better not come. 

Thanks, William! (I don't think I'm as bad as my ex-mother-in-law, but my daughter-in-law might disagree.)
 An explosion of clam chowder/by Patricia Leslie

Then I decided, because of all the covid-fears, to cancel my Christmas trip to Orlando to see my sister which really relieved me of a lot of stress and saved me tons of money because I have to stay in a hotel, rent a car, buy food, etc. (I fly "free" on Southwest!)
A mixture of clam chowder and carrot cake with "lunch (somethings)" thrown in/by Patricia Leslie

My sister lives in a 35-years-old +++ mobile home with a sagging roof and an inside zoo (no charge for admission!). Really, the odors which waft from said zoo are enough to keep a relative outside which is where I stay when I visit.

We celebrate Christmas in her driveway in folding chairs, opening presents and drinking mimosas. When I used to go inside, her gnarling pit bull and Doberman Pinscher constantly circled my chair and were a bit unnerving. (She had to call the police more than once to separate those two. You ever read any Flannery O'Connor?)

So far, my Christmas gifts have included a used pair of Uggs (unwrapped), a drugstore calendar, and (via UPS) a smashed container of clam chowder mixed with the carrot cake in a dented plastic container, the edibles from my sister who also sent a pretty Christmas cocktail napkin and a paper plate in another box.

I'm not a big fan of carrot cake anyway, but digging among the ruins in the box, I was able to salvage some parts which tasted pretty good and were particularly moist.

Isn't clam chowder in a plastic container supposed to be refrigerated?

When I opened the box, the chowder which was not clinging to the sides of the box and had not soaked the carrot cake, splattered my brown winter coat which I wear indoors where, for many reasons, the thermostat is set at 58 (sometimes 55) degrees Fahrenheit.

The explosion and mixture of white on brown were rather Christmasy after all, like snowflakes on a mountain.

My sister also sent a whisk (?)... to stir the chowder and the carrot cake?

She works at the Walmart and to hear her tell it, you'd think she was there 90 hours a week which are actually 12 or 16.

Yesterday she left me a message that her food stamps had been cut off. At the library she forgot her password to log on for her food stamps so she called the governor's office and someone called her back the next day and set her straight on her food stamps. 

The family which sent me the drugstore calendar usually sends nuts or cookies, but the calendar was my gift this year. You know what a drugstore calendar is, right?

Yep, a free calendar you get at the drugstore!

I know, I know, I know! I am a horrible person, especially in this horrible of horrible years and I should be grateful for anything.  I  a-m  g-r-a-t-e-f-u-l.  Thank you, friends and relatives for these wonderful gifts!

And let's see what tomorrow brings!!

Update: Tomorrow did not bring grapefruit my daughter and her family usually send. I love that grapefruit. Where, oh where can my grapefruit be?

Instead, they sent two little boxes. Unless the contents are diamonds or some other equally comparable gem, they cannot compare with grapefruit. With the slooowwww post office deliveries this year (thanks, Trump, and your new post office honcho who I hope President-Elect Biden replaces on January 20), I am hoping the grapefruit is delayed, and it is coming, coming, coming, right?

But this Christmas ain't what it's supposed to be.

Another update:  On January 12, 2021 grapefruit arrived!  Thank you, family!  This Christmas became what I wanted it to be!  Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Book review: Bob Woodward's 'Rage'

Readers, he's much worse than you thought.

The first quarter of Rage is rather ho-hum, nothing much new as Bob Woodward sets the stage.  Momentum picks up when the Trump interviews begin.

This, with Michael Cohen's Disloyal, serve up a man as scatter-brained, tempestuous, vindictive, immature, hateful and superficial as one can possibly imagine any fictional character to be, but he is real, and, praise God, soon to leave Washington, D.C. for, we hope, forever.  Goodbye, you n'er do well!  2021 is looking better and better.

These books confirm my observation that Trump is not that smart. He's more like a toddler throwing temper tantrums. It's all for him or nothing. "I want my way! I want my way!" he bellows, and like a subservient parent, the media gives him "his way" (Cohen). The media elected him, says Cohen. Wait, this is a review of Woodward's book, not Cohen's. Where was I? (Now on to Bolton's.)

Interspersed in Rage are sections on Dr. Anthony Fauci, who, of course, plays a key role as coronavirus takes the spotlight and control from Trump and his sycophants.  The revelations about covid-19's strangulation of the U.S. brings one of the book's few humorous parts when Dr. Fauci describes Trump on page 354:  "His attention span is like a minus number.... His sole purpose is to get re-elected." 

No wonder Trump kicks up a fuss when he loses!  He will not believe it, and no one will tell the emperor he has no clothes.  He's nothing but a blunderbuss who recalcitrant Retrumplicans (Chris Cuomo) are afraid to challenge since the bully may sick a sickophant (sic!) their way! 

Mr. Woodward and Trump give serious discussion to the possibility that China deliberately set the U.S. on virus fire mimicking the SARS outbreak in 2002.

Mr. Woodward's epilogue ends:

 "When his performance as president is taken in its entirety, I can only reach one conclusion:  Trump is the wrong man for the job."  

For a second Rage edition, may I suggest the addition of a leaderboard for readers like me who find it somewhat difficult to keep all the players straight.   

Also, a correction for the location of the Feb. 11, 2020 event (page 244) found in "Source Notes" (p. 411) with Dr. Fauci at the Aspen Institute: It was held here, at Aspen's offices in Washington, D.C. not in Colorado . I know because I was there, and although unlikely, it is possible that the panel presented the same subject on the same day at the Aspen offices in Colorado. (One of the panelists was Ron Klain, later appointed to be President-Elect Biden's chief of staff. Also, it was the same day coronavirus got its official name, covid-19.

About the number of presidents (p. 391):  Although there have been 45 presidencies, there have only been 44 presidents since Grover Cleveland served two non-consecutive terms (1885-1889 and 1893-1897).

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Bike, stroll, rock and roll the Mt. Vernon Trail

On the Mt. Vernon Trail in Alexandria, you can fish solo and ponder the meaning of ......? You choose/By Patricia Leslie
 Or fish with a friend/By Patricia Leslie
 Or ride/By Patricia Leslie
 Run/By Patricia Leslie
 Run almost naked in 50 degree weather/By Patricia Leslie
 Ponder solo/By Patricia Leslie
 Ponder with a friend/By Patricia Leslie
 Bike/By Patricia Leslie
 Rendezvous or find sculpture in wood/By Patricia Leslie
 Fish with a group/By Patricia Leslie
 Contemplate a science project/By Patricia Leslie

 Find Mother Nature/By Patricia Leslie
 Study Mother's effects/By Patricia Leslie

It's heave ho on the Mt. Vernon Trail/By Patricia Leslie

 Admire the sinewy trunk that remains/By Patricia Leslie
 All the way up to the tippy-top and wonder when it will fall/By Patricia Leslie
 Find beauty everywhere and admire the craftsmanship of bridge designers. The 18.5 mile trail will celebrate its 50th birthday in 2023/By Patricia Leslie
 See the gorgeous Potomac River sights/By Patricia Leslie
 Bike with friends/By Patricia Leslie

Walk instead of ride the challenging last mile before Mt Vernon, George's home/By Patricia Leslie
But if you get a running start and think you can ..../By Patricia Leslie
 You can!/By Patricia Leslie
 It's a demanding finish/By Patricia Leslie
 Easier to walk/By Patricia Leslie
 Than ride/By Patricia Leslie

 Or strategize on the best way to top it/By Patricia Leslie
Whatever you do, enjoying the outdoors and escaping inner space are delightful on the Mt. Vernon Trail. Thank you, National Park Service!/By Patricia Leslie