When the first atomic bomb fell on Hiroshima, Japan at 8:15 a.m. on 6
August 1945, Dr. Michihiko Hachiya was trying to snatch some sleep at
home after spending most of the previous night on air raid warden duty
at his hospital. Hiroshima Diary is his account of the bombing
itself and the ensuing several weeks in the city, especially at the
Hiroshima Communications Hospital where he served as director.
Dr. Hachiya did not realise at first that a bomb had fallen: he
describes a brilliant flash of light which illuminated the garden
brightly enough to eliminate shadows, followed by darkness like night,
strong winds, collapsing houses, firestorms, and heavy rain.
Severely injured, he survived only through the perseverance of his wife
who found him help, and friends who carried him ahead of the racing
fire and treated his injuries at his hospital.
Dr. Hachiya’s eye-witness account of watching houses collapse and burst
into flame, of fleeing from fire, of heroic efforts to treat and
comfort survivors with no running water, no electricity, few drugs, and
no instruments vividly helps the reader to visualise the scene.
He presents details of case histories in a way that brings individuals
to life for the reader, though most of those individuals died in
agony. Because this is a diary, the reader relives the
bewilderment of the doctors trying to understand why
apparently-uninjured people sicken and die while others who are badly
wounded survive, of the frustration of trying to treat the sick without
even a thermometer or adequate food or beds, and no light.
As Dr. Hachiya recovered his health and friends started to visit, he
recorded some of their stories. One man met people whose faces
had melted, so they had no ears, nose or mouth.
crowds standing on a riverbank when balls of fire blew across the river
setting the forest behind them on fire and forcing them into the water,
where most drowned. Yet another described meeting four schoolboys
who knew they were dying and asked only for shade and a little
water. A colleague described his hands spontaneously bursting
into flame. Dr. Hachiya himself describes how those in Hiroshima
when the bomb fell recounted a flash of light and silence, while those
in the suburbs recalled a loud boom and a mushroom cloud rising over
Despite the degrading conditions in which the survivors lived, this is
a story of great dignity. Dr. Hachiya describes scenes of looting
and selfishness which, he says, cause him great shame, but these follow
after the initial few weeks, when people are starting to deal with
defeat in war and having to provide for themselves since they did not
die. His views on culpability for the war, particularly regarding
the emperor and the Japanese military are, perhaps, surprising to a
westerner. It is particularly surprising that at no point does he
blame the Allies for dropping the bomb.
Hiroshima Diary should be read by every student of the Second World War
and all who imagine that atomic weapons should remain part of the