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Publisher's Summary

"Nobody is more disturbed," said President Truman, three days after the destruction of Nagasaki in 1945, "over the use of the atomic bombs than I am, but I was greatly disturbed over the unwarranted attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor and their murder of our prisoners of war. The only language [the Japanese] seem to understand is the one we have been using to bombard them. When you have to deal with a beast you have to treat him as a beast. It is most regrettable but nevertheless true."

The atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed more than 100,000 instantly, mostly women, children, and the elderly. Many hundreds of thousands more succumbed to their horrific injuries later, or slowly perished of radiation-related sickness. Yet the bombs were "our least abhorrent choice", American leaders claimed at the time - and still today most people believe they ended the Pacific War and saved millions of American and Japanese lives. Ham challenges this view, arguing that the bombings, when Japan was on its knees, were the culmination of a strategic Allied air war on enemy civilians that began in Germany and had till then exacted its most horrific death tolls in Dresden and Tokyo.

The war in Europe may have ended but it continued in the Pacific against a regime still looking to save face. Ham describes the political manoeuvring and the scientific race to build the new atomic weapon. He also gives powerful witness to its destruction through the eyes of 80 survivors, from 12-year-olds forced to work in war factories to wives and children who faced it alone, reminding us that these two cities were full of ordinary people who suddenly, out of a clear blue summer's sky, felt the sun fall on their heads.

©2011 Paul Ham (P)2012 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd

What listeners say about Hiroshima Nagasaki

Average Customer Ratings
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

While extraordinary, I can only give it 3 stars

This only rates a three because it drags, and it's so repetitive, I damned near cried a few times. It's a truly emotionally charged issue, and up front, let me just say it: I was one of those strident mouthy types who, without thought, pointed out that, after someone said, quite harshly, that the US was the only country to have used atomic weapons, we used them on a country, Japan, that was nowhere near the happy, pappy, anime loving people they are now. At the time of the use of atomic weaponry, there was some unspeakable brutality going on: in China, in the camps, in their very ideas on how life should be lived, in their code that it was better to spread death and die, than, well, here, suffice it to say: blah, blah, heinous, blah.
But Ham has made me rethink this with very indepth reporting of what was going on from all angles.
And therein lies the problem.
The humanity is lost.
You want the horror? You want to realize that what happened was wrong and that it happened to people who were just as misguided as any people who happened to follow leaders who led them astray? Read/listen to "Hiroshima Diary."
But skip the eeeeeeendlessssss politics that Ham wallows in. Brilliantly researched, yes. Well-narrated, without a doubt. Boring, holy cow, I'm off to take a nap!

12 people found this helpful

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Amazingly detailed and balanced account.

Paul Ham did a great job, the research is evident in the details and the story is very well balanced, many different perspectives and facts that go well beyond the surface.

3 people found this helpful

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What we thought we knew, but didn't.

I've asked numerous friends their belief about what caused the Japanese surrender at the end of WWII, and all answered 'the dropping of the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki'. Paul Ham provides convincing evidence that the first (and fortunately only) use of atomic weapons in war had almost no influence on the surrender decision taken by the doomed government in Japan. Encircled, and economically strangled by naval blockade, its major cities razed by systematic fire-bombing, Japan chose to surrender to the US and its allies to avoid invasion by the Russians who surged across the Manchurian border only days after the devastation of Hiroshima, but before the significance of that event had even begun to be understood. Ham arrives at this point after providing the detailed political, military and scientific context in which it occurred. He is a superb historian and skilled narrator, who has changed my view of the end of WWII with this marvellous book. I could not recommend it more highly.

3 people found this helpful

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Engrossing and detailed

I couldn’t stop listening. This book is extremely detailed and well researched but despite being such a detailed history of the invention and use of the atomic bomb and the aftermath, it is totally engrossing. The book covers a lot of history on WWII to give context for the impetus behind the Manhattan project and its predecessors. It gives history on Japan so you understand the mindset and culture of that country during the war. The book covers the people who contributed to the invention of the bomb, the politicians in charge of the world powers who influenced the decision to use the bomb, the background of the decision and the selection of targets, the actual bombing itself, and the horrific effects of that bombing on the people of Japan. It is an important history and tells the story in a factual manner that does not seem to lean one way or the other politically. The book then covers the impact on world thought and world politics of the bomb following Japan’s surrender and the end of WWII. This is an excellent book. Highly recommend for anyone interested in history.

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A Must Read

Very good background on the building, secrecy and testing of the bomb; but also a significant read covering the horrible effects and after effects of what at the time seemed the only way to save many American lives, families, and the future of the United States. WWII was a sad and atrocious war for the entire world. An ending was inevitable but communism didn’t have to be. The bomb saved many countries though severely damaging one almost beyond repair and changing Japan’s way of life forever. This book, in my opinion, is one of the best books covering this part of WWII and I’ve read so many of them. Hear both sides, but come away with a better understanding of both,

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Excellent research, great book.

If Paul Ham wrote a menu, I’d buy that menu. His depth of research and readable, engaging writing are 2nd to none.

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A comprehensive study about a fundamental moment.

What made the experience of listening to Hiroshima Nagasaki the most enjoyable?

The diverse aspects about the bombs.

What other book might you compare Hiroshima Nagasaki to and why?

6 months in 1945

Which scene was your favorite?

The description of the two bombs effects

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

the same

1 person found this helpful

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Detailed and harrowing

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

The section describing the immediate aftermath of the bombing of Hiroshima is quite harrowing, with personal and graphic descriptions that took me back to my visit of the Hiroshima Peace Museum and the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims.

1 person found this helpful

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If you want drivel, this isn't it

This well-documented and well-argued book is contrary to the accepted drivel we were all taught

1 person found this helpful

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Honest and balanced account

What did you love best about Hiroshima Nagasaki?

Paul Ham presents a honest and balanced account of the atomic bombings. Ham shows that no decisions, whether horrific or insignificant, can be pigeon holed as either a black or white finality by later day armchair historians. Ham presents the cacophony of voices that spoke for and against the use of atomic weapons and gives flesh to a few of the Japanese who survived the attack. I thoroughly enjoyed that Ham presented all sides, facts, opinions, and innuendoes and did not lead the reader, but allowed you to come to your own conclusions about this time in our history.
I learned more about the Manhattan Project and the results of its work than any other source I have yet read. "Hiroshima Nagasaki" reads like a historic novel where I sometimes forget I already know the ending.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Hiroshima Nagasaki?

It was very illuminating to learn about the real reasons for Japan's surrender.

Which character – as performed by Robert Meldrum – was your favorite?

I thought Mr. Meldrum portrayed all characters very well, but I enjoyed his rendition of Roosevelt the most.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

Another Day of Infamy

1 person found this helpful

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  • N. Wade
  • 09-08-20

Long slog - but utterly compelling!

If you have a passing interest in the end of World War 2, the birth of the atomic era, the human element of the first atomic detonations and everything that links them, then settle in and let the facts and figures (and emotions) wash over you. Highly recommended.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-02-13

Fascinating and Informative

What did you like most about Hiroshima Nagasaki?

This was a new and comprehensive perspective on the effect and causes of the bombings.

What did you like best about this story?

It placed everything in its total context.

Have you listened to any of Robert Meldrum’s other performances? How does this one compare?

No

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No

Any additional comments?

It made me think differently about the war againts Japan.

1 person found this helpful

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  • The Nautrual
  • 09-06-20

A thoroughly engaging tale of the true story of the atomic bombings of Japan

Loved the wonderful building of this grand story. The story of the A-bombs. A story with its roots in the fantastical physics discoveries of the early 20th century, made by some of the greatest scientists in history. Many of these men and women who initially lead the pure research on atomic physics would later also became the authors of the scientific work (the atomic secret) that would finally be used to build humanity’s ultimate weapon of mass destruction. The book juxtaposes the scientific, the moral, the political and the military imperatives of the time, all of which were competing like rival camps in a fierce battle above that of the actual war itself. The ultimate casualty of that battle was first and foremost the truth, followed closely by the second casualty, human morality, by the notion that science should ultimately be only for them good of mankind, and finally and above all, by the greatest the greatest of casualties... the many innocent Japanese civilians the lucky ones vaporized in a fraction of a second, the unlucky ones suffering deaths of indescribable pain and horror. As is almost always the case with politics of war, the book disturbingly shows how Americas collective requirement and lust for revenge easily triumphs over it’s sense of human decency and moral rectitude, the very decency and rectitude the Americans and their Allies were ostensibly fighting this war to uphold. The culmination of the battles between all these forces results ultimately in the worlds worst and most destructive weapon being used to carry out the apotheosis of scientifico-military experiments, and the committing of a ‘war crime’ unparalleled in history for its unbelievable swiftness yet with tragically enduring consequences for many of those on which it was perpetrated. This crime was carried out in a ‘let’s-sock-it-to-em’ and ‘lets-see-what-happens’ experiment in which’s the worlds deadliest ever weapon was unleashed not on enemy combatants but on civilians, It was then falsely marketed, spun, to those at home as the decisive and final strike required to bring the war to an end and save millions of American and Allied lives. Paul Ham expertly and clearly lays out all the evidence that unequivocally puts the lie to this convenient, manufactured and revisionist version of truth. Hey shows the atomic Bombings of Japan, for what they truly were...

5 people found this helpful

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  • Dale Wark
  • 05-05-18

Pronunciation

This was a very informative book and whilst Robert Meldrum has a very easy the listen to narrating voice I was found his continual mispronunciation of the name of the southern island of Kyushu and the word for water a distraction from the otherwise great performance.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Ian Simpson
  • 09-21-17

Gravitas that is well examined

A thought provoking look at one of the key historical events of the twentieth century assisted by an excellent narrator.

5 people found this helpful

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  • The reader who failed English!
  • 07-15-17

A remarkable documentary

Would you consider the audio edition of Hiroshima Nagasaki to be better than the print version?

Absolutely, the expression and verbal presentation adds an incredible amount of fulfilment to the documentary

What was one of the most memorable moments of Hiroshima Nagasaki?

The description of a mother finding her daughters aluminium lunch box, with the chopsticks still attached to the lid and still holding her lunch. But never finding her daughter. It is an exhibit in the Peace Museum in Hiroshima, it's something I'd like to see one day.

What does Robert Meldrum bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

The expression and character of the individuals and their thoughts. It's as if you are listening to the actual people at times.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Many

Any additional comments?

I have also listened to "Australia, The Vietnam War". I am an ex serviceman of the Australian Army and even though I did not serv in Vietnam I served with many who did. There are moments in that book that I can relate to individuals whom which I served under. This is another "You Must Read" There will be times that will simply take your breath away, as there are similar in this book.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Konar
  • 04-19-16

Greatest Understanding Of Events

Robert Meldrum has presented Paul Hams book well. I now feel like my knowledge of the events leading up to and thereafter the bomb, are factual and expansive.
well presented.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Deirdre E Siegel
  • 09-24-21

Brilliant, the same history we were taught in school in the 1970’s :-)

An excellent book that looks at the historic ugliness surrounding the uncalled for dropping of atomic bombs by the US Administration on civilians of Japan.
Thanks for a superb read/listen Paul, much appreciated :-)

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  • Dom
  • 09-10-21

very moving

very moving and at times hard to not be affected by the suffering of the victims towards the end of the book.
overall a great account of development of the bomb and historical landscape of the times.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 09-03-21

great story. excellent narration.

im sure some of the Japanese pronunciation is off but if your like me and know 0 Japanese then it doesn't make a difference. epilogue felt like it dragged a bit but doesn't detract from the rest of the book at all and is still full of good info.

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  • Sauce Seeker
  • 08-22-21

A comprehen examination of this horrific war crime

This is a comprehensive telling of the lead up, actual and aftermath of this horrific event in humanities history. I found it cuts though the self righteous American propaganda and gets to the heart of the matter. Very well narrated. 5 star recommendation!

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  • hans
  • 05-29-16

Dry - and lackluster

What would have made Hiroshima Nagasaki better?

Write it with the reader in mind...

Did the narration match the pace of the story?

Narration did not match the pace of the story - and then again, one wonders why would this happen anyways... the book is mismanaged from the very first word

2 people found this helpful