When Oppenheimer Visited Japan

Reprinted with permission from Greg Mitchell’s newsletter Oppenheimer: From Hiroshima to Hollywood.

A headline on Washington Post story today: ‘Disturbing’ decline in global nuclear security, watchdog says.

Nuclear security risks are rising for the first time in a decade, according to an annual index released Tuesday by the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a Washington-based watchdog nonprofit that looks beyond the well-known nuclear threats such as weapons proliferation, and toward less widely considered problems, such as the storage of weapons-usable uranium that could be exploited by terrorist groups or the safety of nuclear sites during conflicts. “This diminishing commitment to reducing nuclear risks is deeply disturbing.”

But they say release of “Oppenheimer” might spark positive actions. Continue reading “When Oppenheimer Visited Japan”

Inside a Mound in Hiroshima

Reprinted with permission from Greg Mitchell’s newsletter Oppenheimer: From Hiroshima to Hollywood.

A reminder (inadequately supplied by Oppenheimer) of what happened at the other end of the bomb in Hiroshima. Based on my visit. Excerpted from my book Atomic Cover-up.

In the northwestern corner of the Peace Park, amid a quiet grove of trees, the earth suddenly swells. It is not much of a mound – only about ten feet high and sixty feet across. Unlike most mounds, however, this one is hollow, and within it rests the greatest concentration of human residue in the world.

Grey clouds rising from sticks of incense hang in the air, spookily. Tourists do not dawdle here. Visitors searching for the Peace Bell, directly ahead, or the Children’s Monument, down the path to right, hurry past it without so much as a sideways glance. Still, it has a strange beauty: a lump of earth (not quite lush) topped by a small monument that resembles the tip of a pagoda.

Continue reading “Inside a Mound in Hiroshima”

What We Didn’t See in Oppenheimer

Reprinted with permission from Greg Mitchell’s newsletter Oppenheimer: From Hiroshima to Hollywood.

Strong response to this new bloggy newsletter and my various articles and media appearances in past week or so has been gratifying, especially since it has drawn attention to key issues surrounding nuclear dangers that I have been raising since, oh, 1982. Among other things, there’s been a run on my book “Atomic Cover-up,” whose story really launched my nuclear obsession that year. I also enjoyed Will Bunch at the Philadelphia Inquirer hailing me as “pioneering rock journalist.” Now that is another story…

I’m also getting Oppenheimer-related “tips,” including this one (although I had to dig up the footage) from BookLockdown over at the Site Formerly Known as Twitter. I complained here yesterday, and in previous posts and an article, that while Christopher Nolan briefly shows Oppenheimer in a screening room watching film from post-bomb Hiroshima, he only covers his facial reaction, not the footage. Not even a glimpse. It’s a critical omission in the movie; Nolan could have shot it a number of ways that would have been powerful and not overwhelmingly graphic.

Continue reading “What We Didn’t See in Oppenheimer

When Oppenheimer Named Names, and Another Untold Story: The Nuclear Testing Tragedy

Reprinted with permission from Greg Mitchell’s newsletter Oppenheimer: From Hiroshima to Hollywood.

My appearance on Democracy Now! yesterday morning led to a lot of social media interest and links and inquiries. Happy to continue to talk to old and new audiences as (maybe) Oppenheimer drives fresh interest and (maybe) compelling activism. On one zoom chat with about 75 antinuclear activists and experts one of the attendees was the daughter of Stanley Kramer, director of the earliest big-budget Hollywood movie (Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner) depicting the end of the world due to nuclear bomb blasts, On the Beach. Nice that I got another invite from Amy Goodman, as I had been on the show just a couple of months back around my PBS film Memorial Day Massacre and book.

And here’s a new audio interview with me just posted at the great books site, LitHub. Also got a couple of nice shout outs from my old Nuclear Times colleague (1982-1985) David Corn at Mother Jones in his newsletter today, don’t miss it.

Yesterday I posted the 14-minute segment from the Democracy Now! show but we kept talking post-show and now they’ve published that 41-minute bonus which delves deeper but also much wider.

Continue reading “When Oppenheimer Named Names, and Another Untold Story: The Nuclear Testing Tragedy”

Greg Mitchell: The Oppenheimer Countdown Begins

After months of hype, the Christopher Nolan film debuts this week. But related offerings are already here, including my own book.

I knew this was coming and now it has just been posted to the New York Times site, the story of how two of my friends, Marty Sherwin and Kai Bird, collaborated on their bio of Robert Oppenheimer that now serves as the source book for the Christopher Nolan movie (and is back on the bestsellers list). I happen to know something about this.

For years in the 1990s, Marty and I both attended the annual October meetings in Wellfleet, MA. hosted by my friend and co-author on two books, Robert Jay Lifton. Every year, when we went around the table, often joined by folks like Dan Elsberg and Norman Mailer, Marty would, with a chuckle, explain that, damn it, his Oppenheimer book, already long overdue, was still not coming together. He’d done all the research but couldn’t get the writing going, at all. We talked about some of the content, but that was it. An annual rite.

Continue reading “Greg Mitchell: The Oppenheimer Countdown Begins”

75 Years Ago: Did Truman Read John Hersey’s Hiroshima?

Seventy-five years ago this week, an article by novelist and war reporter John Hersey, titled simply “Hiroshima,” occupied the entire feature section of the August 31, 1946, issue of The New Yorker.  Soon it would be hailed by many as one of the most important magazine stories of the century.   Its impact, arriving at a time when few Americans had been exposed to the extent of the atomic bomb’s horrific and lingering effects on Japanese civilians, was immediate and profound.   Copies sold out within hours (Albert Einstein himself ordered a thousand); it was read in its entirely over nationwide radio; newspaper commentators instructed everyone to read it. 

For officials and military leaders who took part in the decision to deploy the new weapon over the center of two cities, killing over 200,000 (the vast majority of them civilians), however, the Hersey piece posed a threat to the narrative they had promoted on why this use was necessary.   But what did the man with ultimate responsibility for that, President Harry S. Truman, think about the article?  

Continue reading “75 Years Ago: Did Truman Read John Hersey’s Hiroshima?”