"People don’t want to confront... that their government could have done something like this unless it was absolutely necessary. ...it’s almost like people find some sort of relief in the idea that sometimes you have to just mass murder tens, hundreds of thousands of innocent people... that it’s unrealistic to think the world could work differently."
In the summer of 1963, Japanese novelist Kenzaburo Oe was asked to go to Hiroshima to write about the Ninth World Conference against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs. Oe covered the conference and also met with some of the bomb’s surviving victims and the doctors who worked to treat them. The result of this and subsequent trips over the next couple of years, became the essays that make up Hiroshima Notes published in 1965.
It was a pivotal time in Oe’s own life: His first son had just been born with a large growth on his head that would have to be removed if he were to survive. The doctors warned that the surgery would most likely leave the boy severely disabled and barely able to function. They encouraged the couple to let the boy die. As he embarked for Hiroshima, Oe and his wife had not yet decided what they would do.
It was eighteen years after the bombs had been dropped, but only twelve since the lifting of an officially enforced silence about their effects. Following the Japanese defeat, the Allied Occupation government had issued a press code that prohibited public discussion or publication of any information related to damages from the A-bomb – including information about medical treatment. This press code remained in place until 1951.Today, we take for granted knowledge about the deadly effects of nuclear weapons. In fact, this knowledge was hard-won, and not with the aid of government grants and oversight but quite the opposite. Doctors and researchers had to fight the official keepers of public opinion in order to first discover and then reveal the truth about the effects of these weapons.