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Letters from the End of the World: A Firsthand Account of the Bombing of Hiroshima    by Toyofumi Ogura order for
Letters from the End of the World
by Toyofumi Ogura
Order:  USA  Can
Kodansha International, 2002 (1997)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Toyofumi Ogura says 'We have no one but ourselves to blame for the fact that we allowed our military leaders to stay in power and that we submitted to their authority. We have to accept the dropping of the bomb in expiation of these sins. In any case, that is my own view. Mankind, and the Japanese in particular, must strive to become wiser and more prudent in the future, so that the question of the right or need to use nuclear weapons will not arise.'

In Letters from the End of the World, the author chronicles first hand the blast from the atomic bomb that was dropped from the sky by American B-29 bombers on Hiroshima on August 6th, 1945 and its immediate aftermath. Charred bodies and flattened or disintegrated buildings were commonplace as the author wandered the city searching for his wife and son. He stepped over bodies whose skin had peeled from their flesh and watched hysterical mothers frantically trying to rescue children from beneath the burning wreckage of their homes. He eventually found his wife, only to discover that she was already dying from radiation poisoning.

I was a child when this occurred. I remember being horrified at what was deemed necessary to end the war. But I was also elated because maybe that would mean that my brother would come home from the Pacific theater. My mother lost her twin brother, who was taken prisoner by the Japanese with General Wainwright at Corregidor and never came home. And a second brother lost a leg in that same part of the world. As years went on, there was guilt at the terrible toll this action took. The Japanese were ready, commanded by their government, to die to the last man to win this useless war. As bad as this horrendous blast was, perhaps lives were saved by bringing the war to an earlier end than there would have been otherwise.

This is the first time I have read of any Japanese citizen assuming a responsibility for what happened. Ogura wrote the account of the first year following the blast in letters to his dead wife, in an emotional rendering of a horrific time in human history. One that we might all read and learn from. If for nothing else than to recognize the horror of war and the madness of those who wage it.

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