Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Book 96: First Into Nagaski: The Censored Eyewitness Accounts on Post-Atomic Japan and its Prisoners of War by George Weller and Anthony Weller (Audiobook)

George Weller was a foreign war correspondent with the Chicago Daily News embedded with troops at the time of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atom bombings. He was able to gain access into Nagasaki within a few weeks of the bombs were dropped. He was hurt badly and treated aboard the hospital ship "Haven." There he met countless soldiers who had withstood horrifyingly brutal treatment by the Japanese as prisoners of war. They recounted their experiences within the Mitsui coal mine and as passengers on the Oryoko Maru, a Japanese cargo ship. Weller recorded every word, feeling it was his personal duty to ensure America heard the men's stories.

Weller dutifully sent his dispatches back to his newspaper, by way of the U.S. government press channels. His dispatches were censored almost completely. He lost the carbons, and went to his grave never seeing their publication, although he published several other books on the subject of the atomic bomb.

More than 50 years later, George's son Anthony Weller found the carbons of his father's telegraph dispatches and decided to compile them into this book. Walter Cronkite wrote the preface; he said that the soldiers in this story deserve to have their stories told. I could not agree more.

First into Nagasaki was not the most pleasant reading experience; it was gruesome. I don't know how any of the soldiers (U.S., British, and Australian were represented) survived to give their own accounts. They lived for months (some for years) with very little food or water. The Red Cross packages that were airdropped, in most cases, never reached any of the prisoners; they were stockpiled and rationed by the Japanese officers and guards.

Somehow, there were Americans who kept their heads despite being surrounded by utter insanity. As I reflect upon the conviction and leadership abilities of the officers, well, let's just say that "admirable" or "commendable" don't really make the point very well.

Anthony Weller, I salute you for bringing this hidden history to light and for finishing your father's work. I can only imagine what it must have been like to discover those carbons all those years ago. I am in awe of your dedication to your father's mission.

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