• Fallout

  • The Hiroshima Cover-Up and the Reporter Who Revealed It to the World
  • By: Lesley M.M. Blume
  • Narrated by: Fred Sanders
  • Length: 6 hrs and 52 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (251 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A New York Times Notable Book of 2020

New York Times best-selling author Lesley M.M. Blume reveals how one courageous American reporter uncovered one of the deadliest cover-ups of the 20th century - the true effects of the atom bomb - potentially saving millions of lives. 

Just days after the United States decimated Hiroshima and Nagasaki with nuclear bombs, the Japanese surrendered unconditionally. But even before the surrender, the US government and military had begun a secret propaganda and information suppression campaign to hide the devastating nature of these experimental weapons. The cover-up intensified as Occupation forces closed the atomic cities to Allied reporters, preventing leaks about the horrific long-term effects of radiation that would kill thousands during the months after the blast. For nearly a year the cover-up worked - until New Yorker journalist John Hersey got into Hiroshima and managed to report the truth to the world. 

As Hersey and his editors prepared his article for publication, they kept the story secret - even from most of their New Yorker colleagues. When the magazine published "Hiroshima" in August 1946, it became an instant global sensation and inspired pervasive horror about the hellish new threat that America had unleashed. Since 1945, no nuclear weapons have ever been deployed in war partly because Hersey alerted the world to their true, devastating impact. This knowledge has remained among the greatest deterrents to using them since the end of World War II.

Released on the 75th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, Fallout is an engrossing detective story, as well as an important piece of hidden history that shows how one heroic scoop saved - and can still save - the world.

©2020 Lesley M. M. Blume. All rights reserved. (P)2020 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Required reading (listening, too)!

This true-to-life story is a required lesson in humanity and democracy. The impact of John Hersey’s Hiroshima is renewed with contextual relevance to not only 1946, but also compellingly more than ever to today’s hair-trigger world. It is a civics lesson for young persons and old alike. It is a pointer to how powerful people write events and create histories colored by their own precepts, desires, and greed, and renews Americans’ obligation to question and assert.

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Powerful, but doesn't go nearly far enough

John Hersey should be considered a hero for his exposing this war crime, the coverup and spurring on the subsequent American government in a cynical and racist rebuttal, forever damaging the pretense of its moral superiority. We very probably would have learned of the aftermath of the bombings, the radiation and cancers, but his was a powerful and nearly immediate indictment of the indiscriminate use of atomic weapons. How much would we know about Dresden if Kurt Vonnegut hadn't written Slaughterhouse-5? Or about My Lai if Seymour Hersh hadn't reported about it? My beloved late grandmother would say that the difference with America is that we admit our mistakes. I loved her dearly, but I could never respect that kind of willful blindness.

At this point, nobody should be surprised that the American military has been guilty of war crimes as numerous and devastating, if not more so, than any of the most heinous regimes in history. Nor should it be a surprise that the American government has always only ever been interested in its own self-righteous, imperialist and expansionist plans, and would lie, steal and cheat to do anything to achieve those ends. Or that a significant part of the media would willing go along with a jingoistic loyalty. But where this book falls a bit short is the naive idea that the American people were merely deceived, or as ludicrously stated, fatigued of war. A nation on which no major battle was waged. The truth is that the public was nearly as complicit, and did not care. Full stop. It's high time we dispense with the farcical moniker of "the greatest generation" while engaging in the moral relativism that would accommodate Jim Crow, and military atrocities in Europe and Japan. The author unfortunately leaves the public relatively unscathed, no critical mirror left for us to view ourselves. The effects of the original Hiroshima story did not engender empathy, as the author claims. Imagining children incinerated in Cleveland or New York under an atomic bombing is not empathy. It's guilt, or fear of unleashing a force you have no control over, but above all selfishly motivated. Empathy is mourning and decrying the extermination of 100,000 people in a land thousand of miles away, with whom you have no familial or social connection. That is empathy.

The main element supporting the primacy of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings as war crimes is their sheer power. The power of a single bomb wreaking unimaginable havoc on human populations. However, it may just as easily be said that the firebombing of Tokyo, as well as dozens of other cities, is at least as terrible an atrocity. Since that involved incendiary bombs, and required multiple decisions to drop thousands of the bombs on a civilian population, destroying half the city, killing over 100,000 people and leaving over a million homeless. They are all war crimes, plain and simple. Groves, LeMay, et al. are war criminals, and they all tried to cover it up. There's not justification. No false equivalency to Pearl Harbor, a military outpost 2,500 miles from America, only under US control because the government assisted in overthrowing the legitimate Hawai'ian government of Queen Liliʻuokalani a half decade earlier. Nor is legitimate the whataboutism of Nanking or Bataan. The former being hypocritical as most don't know any details but the name (though not about the shift in modern pronunciation), and don't really care about Chinese, anyway. And the latter, as it really is just evidence of valuing caucasian lives over all other (notice there's always reference to Americans in the death march, rarely Filipino). In any case, it's a death blow to "American exceptionalism", as war crimes are clearly committed by all combatants.

I recommend everyone who has the opportunity, to visit Hiroshima, the Atomic Dome, and the Peace Memorial Museum. It is a powerful and emotional experience. And for nothing so cynical as guilt or shame, but as a recognition of a shared humanity. If anyone can come out without tears, seeing and reading about the innocent victims, Sadako and others, I don't know what can save them. And for god sake, don't take selfies.

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great book


This is a wonderful story. it is well-written and the author uncovered a lot of interesting information about Mr. Hersey and the cover up by the US military.

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Darkly Beautiful and Disturbingly Relevant

Though well-versed in, and always learning more of U.S. History, I was unaware of elements of this story that, largely through the efforts of the subjects of this fine book, were common knowledge by the late 1940’s. But I was assured in high school and college that the nuclear attack on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were well-justified. I suppose that if I had been more astute, it could have occurred to me that the mere presence of those justifications indicated controversy as to their veracity. And I was unaware of the government effort to deceive the American public about the nature and extent of the havoc inflicted by nuclear weapons following their use in 1945. Apparently, the public learned their government lied to them, then they forgot, and taught their children nothing of this deception.

Today we are still surrounded by deception. Whether it's the obvious lies of a Donald Trump, or the more subtle - and therefore more permeating - lies proffered by the false promises of capitalism, we are all of us subjects of the whims of fabricated truth. All we can do is our best, of course, and in that sense, this book provides a certain sense of uplift, even justice. It augers the benefits of truth at a time when ever more people seem to need refuge from it. It serves as reinforcing the adages that there is no justice without truth, and that truth can set us free. Hatred, division, lassitude, corruption...all depend on lies. In this book, we see an instance when light was brought to bear, and the people responded.

We’ll never know whether further nuclear exchanges were forestalled thanks to the work referred to in Fallout. But we know we need journalists and truth tellers as much as ever. This book gave me hope that the truth will out, and a deep respect for the people who made it happen in 1946.

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The story behind the story

Though I read Hiroshima 50 years -after its writing I certainly will not forget it. Fallout is a wonderful companion to illustrate the extraordinary lengths taken to research write & publish the piece and the impact it made in so many ways.

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First-rate in every respect!

There are books I would suggest that are best, or at least as well, listened to as read. The narration here is superb, the substance readily grasped, and the subject matter both riveting and important. I could not recommend this book more highly.

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A must read!

The general public is unaware of the multitude of secret projects our government is conducting that may cause catastrophic consequences to all humanity.


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The Story Of Cause And Effect

Thank you to Ms. Blume for telling this story and once again shining light on the immense destructive power of nuclear weapons and the effort by the government to keep that power secret from the public. I can’t say that in that time, any of us might have made a different decision to use these weapons after such a long, dark conflict. It is easy to look back now, out of context of the time and say, “No, we can’t use this weapon”. Walking in history’s shoes is much easier decades later than when it is happening.

Still, there is always cause and effect for any action and the impact to Hiroshima, and later Nagasaki, was horrible on the people of Japan and later on the peoples of the world. Hersey’s story should be required reading for all time with Ms. Blume’s story as an addendum. Because cause and effect will always be with us when deciding which action to take. Thoughtful consideration of the many outcomes of any action to be taken is not weakness, but rather to honor those who are directly impacted and will follow.

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Captivating story

A well-narrated timeless story which certainly resonates today given the climate of attacks on press freedom, transparency and facts. Powerful epilogue.

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Riveting read

This gifted reporter does great justice in sharing the story of the landmark story that sent its own shock waves around the world. Blume not only reinvigorates a masterpiece but highlights the government’s shameful coverup by her own investigation. Fallout should be required high school reading for even the small chance that it would inspire future journalists to want to follow in Hersey’s and Blume’s honorable paths.