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First Into Nagasaki: The Censored Eyewitness Dispatches on Post-Atomic Japan and Its Prisoners of War [Kindle Edition]

George Weller , Anthony Weller
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)

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Book Description

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 Weller through the smoldering ruins of Nagasaki, or hear the sagas of prisoners who have just learned that their torment is over, and watch one of the era’s most battle-experienced reporters trying to accurately and unsentimentally convey to the American people scenes unlike anything he—or anyone else—knew.

Weller died in 2002, believing it all lost forever. Months later, his son found a fragile copy in a crate of moldy papers. This historic body of work has never been published.

Along with reports from the brutal POW camps, a stirring saga of the worst of the Japanese “hellships” which carried U.S. prisoners into murder and even cannibalism, and a trove of Weller’s unseen photos, First into Nagasaki provides a moving, unparalleled look at the bomb that killed more than 70,000 people and ended WWII. Amid current disputes over the controlled embedding of journalists in war zones and a government’s right to keep secrets, it reminds us how such courageous rogue reporting is still essential to learning the truth.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

George Weller, a Pulitzer Prize– winning war correspondent for the Chicago Daily News, entered Nagasaki on September 6, 1945, four weeks after the atomic blast leveled the city. The first Westerner to tour the city's ruins, he talked with doctors at the makeshift hospitals and scoured the countryside in search of the POW camps scattered across southern Japan over several weeks. His eyewitness dispatches were intercepted and buried, however, by Gen. Douglas MacArthur's censors. Weller saved his carbons, but they disappeared in the hectic months after the war and remained lost for 60 years, until rediscovered after his death by his son Anthony, himself a journalist and a novelist (The Garden of the Peacocks). Weller's dispatches from Nagasaki are riveting even at this late date, though they are only a small part of the book. His extensive interviews with POWs mostly reinforce what we already know about their brutal treatment. The book also offers an account of one of the so-called "death ships" that carried POWs from the Philippines to Japan, and a 1966 essay on Weller's experiences in Nagasaki. On balance, Weller's dispatches are a welcome addition to the historical record. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

In September 1945, four weeks after the second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Weller, a reporter and photographer, disguised himself as an American officer and filed a series of dispatches and photos documenting the material and human devastation. Unfortunately, General MacArthur censored the dispatches, and Weller's account remained unpublished until his son found it. The account is, at first, curious. Weller describes the destruction of the city in a detached, unemotional manner; however, once he visits the shell of a hospital and views the suffering of children with acute radiation burns, his mask of objectivity falls away. Weller graphically recounts the slow, painful agony of children dying from radiation poisoning, yet he does not engage in guilt-ridden breast-beating over America's crime. With an equal tone of outrage, he also reports on the savage treatment of American POWs at camps on the outskirts of the city. As the number of nations capable of producing nuclear weapons appears to be growing, this gruesome glimpse at the results of nuclear war is timely and important. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 1429 KB
  • Print Length: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; Reprint edition (December 26, 2006)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000MAHC0O
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #456,207 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rescued from Oblivion January 25, 2007
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Anthony Weller has made a real contribution to history in locating and having published -- after over 60 years -- the dispatches of his renowned war correspondent father describing the first outsider's impressions of the atomic bomb attack on Nagasaki. These dispatches -- and those covering his visits to nearby POW camps where he interviewed the Allied victims of over three years of Japanese brutality -- were submitted by George Weller but fell afoul of General MacArthur's self-serving censorship and never saw the light of day -- until his son rescued the carbon copies of the dispatches from oblivion in 2002.

Also included in this remarkable volume are graphic descriptions -- published in part only -- of the POW experiences of two American civilians captured on Wake Island and of the 300 survivors of the 1600 American officers and enlisted men transferred under horrendous conditions -- including attacks by American submarines and aircraft -- from the Philippines to Japanese-held Formosa.

Without the benefit of his lost 1945 dispatches, George Weller did manage to have his recollections of his Nagasaki experience published in 1966 as a essay, focusing on the veil of censorship that dogged his efforts 21 years earlier, and that full account is also included in this volume. In addition to making all this material available in one place, a major effort of research, Anthony Weller has contributed his own essay analyzing his father's struggles with wartime censorship and the controversial "atomic bomb" issue that was so sensitive immediately after World War II. In all, this book is highly recommended by the reviewer to anyone concerned about the Nagasaki attack and the effects of censorshp in World War II -- and afterwards -- who is sympathetic to the efforts of honest and dedicated reporters like George Weller to get the truth out.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
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.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Splendid Book of Little Known World War II Events January 18, 2007
This is a splendid report from a reporter who actually chose to report rather than just be a mouthpiece for MacArthur in Japan. For unknown reasons, the areas around Hiroshima and Nagasaki were declared off limits to American reporters. Mr. Weller managed to get assigned to a visit to a air base in Southern Japan he then 'escaped' from supervision by an Army PR type and made his way to Nagasaki.

I was particularly struck by an exchange between he and a Japanese lieutenant.

'What do you think of the culture of a people who could drop such a terrible weapon on the people of Japan?'

'To give you an honest reply, I would have to ask my own people. And of course I would have to begin with those who were walking to church on Sunday on Red Hill in Hawaii when your planes struck them.'

My own discussions with young Japanese of today have them almost thinking that the story of World War II was basically that the US began dropping Atomic bombs on them for no reason.

In travels around Southern Japan Mr. Weller visited POW camps near Nagasaki and interviewed dozens of American POWs who told stories of torture, starvation, murder and above all of their travel in a 'hellship' which carried US prisoners.

A splendid book that brings to light several stories that have been little reported.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The truth about the Japanese in war. February 26, 2007
George Weller's First into Nagasaki is one of the best books I've read of late. Much of what Weller tells us about the bombing of Nagasaki we already new, at least in total. Weller provides details the make the aftermath of the bombing vivid in the mind of the reader. It is such a shame that it took two atomic bombs to get the Japanese to surrender.

What I found particularly moving were the interviews that Weller conducted with surviving allied prisoners of war. The brutality of the Japanese toward helpless prisoners is still mind blowing even after all these years. Those of the "greatest generation" who fought the Japanese had ber strong feelings. On page 120 of First Into Nagasaki, Marine Sergeant Charles Eckstein summed up the opinions of most Americans who fought in the Pacific when he said "I believe the Japs are the lowest people on earth, and I would rather have spent my three years on Alcatraz." I don't think the revisionist historians can deny the truth as brought to us by Weller.

I'm also amused by a story told by Weller and reported by another reviewer by a Japanese who asked Weller what he thought about a people who would drop such a bomb on the people of Nagasaki. Weller quickly reminded the Japanese of the unprovoked sneak attach on Pearl Harbor.

First Into Nagasaki should be required reading in every high school in America.

A superb read.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 1 month ago by Gary E.
4.0 out of 5 stars The Big Bomb and what it did
This is a true story and should be read by everyone born after 1945.
Published 2 months ago by Clayton
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
This is a must read. These bombings of Japan will reaffirm their need to end the war. Thanks Truman
Published 2 months ago by seasalvor
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Interesting personal account of Japan immediately after the surrender.
Published 6 months ago by Michael L. Muth
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This is a great first hand narrative of a piece of WW2 history that has been largely glossed over. It starts out as an intrepid war correspondant's tour-de-force into post atomic... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Al Zee
5.0 out of 5 stars great book!
Not politically correct but I am so happy these dispatches survived. I got it for my 90 year old dad who was stationed in Japan after the war. He loved it too!
Published 13 months ago by Ms barbara
5.0 out of 5 stars Page 88- First Into Nagasaki
The New Mexican, Oscar Otero, mentioned on page 88 carried a little Japanese pocket notepad, where he kept particular Japanese phrases. His Colonel was Col. Sholtz? Read more
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It is impossible not to sympathize with the civilians who were killed, some slowly, by the atomic bombs. Read more
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5.0 out of 5 stars All nuclear disarmers should read this book
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5.0 out of 5 stars A lost story scoops today's war reports
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