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First Into Nagasaki

2006 non-fiction book by George Weller and Anthony Weller

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An extremely important addition to the historical record of World War II.

  • Jun 3, 2010
It was perhaps the most underreported story of World War II.  Very little has ever appeared in print about the incredibly inhumane treatment of American soldiers and civilians in Japanese POW camps.  Until now.  In the days immediately following the surrender of the Japanese empire, Chicago Sun Times reporter George Weller, who Walter Cronkite charactorizes as "one of our best war correspondents" slipped quitely and without authorization into Nagasaki, Japan to see for himself the legacy of the atomic bomb that had been dropped just four weeks earlier.  In terms of press coverage of this horrifying and historic event Mr. Weller was indeed "First Into Nagasaki".

Upon his arrival in Nagasaki George Weller immediately embarked on a tour of the devastated city. What he saw shocked him.  There was devastation everywhere.  He learned from various officials that at least 21,000 people had already died and that thousands more were injured.  He saw first hand those people who were suffering from what he referred to as "Disease X".  These doomed individuals were destined to die a slow and painful death due to atomic radiation.  George Weller reported his findings in a series of dispatches to his newspaper.   Unfortunately for him General Douglas MacArthur was not particularly disposed to having any negative news coming out of Japan.  Unbeknownst to George Weller, his reports were being 100% censored by the United States military.  After completing his tour of the city proper Weller moved on to a number of the POW camps in the city, among them Omuta and Izuka.  He interviewed scores of American POWs along the way.  These former POW's told Weller of the inhumane and sadistic treatment they had received at the hands of their Japanese captors.  Once again, Weller sent another series of dispatches to the Chicago Sun-Times only to have them totally censored by our own military!   For a host of political and security reasons, the American people would never hear the troubling stories George Weller was trying to tell.  His reports it seemed had been lost forever.  He had made carbon copies of all of them but these too seemed to have disappeared.  After George Weller died in 2002 his son Anthony was sifting through some of his dad's papers in an old trunk when lo and behold he came upon those tattered and yellowing copies.

And so now, more than six decades after these historic events took place "First Into Nagasaki" finally presents George Weller's compelling dispatches for all to read and digest.  This is powerful stuff folks!  Over the decades much has been written about the atrocities in Nazi POW camps. Curiously, very little has ever been disclosed about the inhumane conditions that existed in Japanese POW camps.  "First Into Nagasaki:  The Censored Eyewitness Dispatches On Post-Atomic Japan and Its Prisoners of War" does much to set the record straight.  This is an extremely important book and one that should prove to be a real eye opener to those like myself who were born after the end of World War II.  It might be useful to conclude this review by quoting George Weller on the subject of censorship: "The moment when it could have been understood politically is missed, surpressed. The possibility of comprehension will never again return...And the porcelain men of history will pose forever in these lying attitudes.  The aim of well-timed censorship is to instill this simple idea:  it probably never happened."   Something to consider when one ponders the prospect of the so-called "Fairness Doctrine".   Very highly recommended!
An extremely important addition to the historical record of World War II. An extremely important addition to the historical record of World War II. An extremely important addition to the historical record of World War II. An extremely important addition to the historical record of World War II.

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June 19, 2010
I really want to read this book now.
About the reviewer
Paul Tognetti ()
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I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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George Weller was a Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter who covered World War II across Europe, Africa, and Asia. At the war's end in September 1945, under General MacArthur's media blackout, correspondents were forbidden to enter both Nagasaki and Hiroshima. But instead of obediently staying with the press corps in northern Japan, Weller broke away. The intrepid newspaperman reached Nagasaki just weeks after the atomic bomb hit the city. Boldly presenting himself as a U.S. colonel to the Japanese military, Weller set out to explore the devastation.

As Nagasaki's first outside observer, long before any American medical aid arrived, Weller witnessed the bomb's effects and wrote "the anatomy of radiated man." He interviewed doctors trying to cure those dying mysteriously from "Disease X." He typed far into every night, sending his forbidden dispatches back to MacArthur's censors, assuming their importance would make them unstoppable. He was wrong: the U.S. government censored every word, and the dispatches vanished from history.

Weller also became the first to enter the nearby Allied POW camps. From hundreds of prisoners he gathered accounts of watching the atomic explosions bring an end to years of torture and merciless labor in Japanese mines. Their dramatic testimonies sum up one of the least-known chapters of the war—but those stories, too, were silenced.

It is a powerful experience, more than 60 years later, to walk with ...

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ISBN-10: 0307342018 (hbk.)
ISBN-13: 9780307342010 (hbk.)
Author: George Weller
Genre: History, Military, World War II
Publisher: Crown
Date Published: December 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover
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