Children of the Atomic Bomb

An American Physician’s Memoir of Nagasaki, Hiroshima, and the Marshall Islands

Children of the Atomic Bomb

Asia-Pacific: Culture, Politics, and Society

More about this series

Book Pages: 200 Illustrations: 5 photographs, 9 illustrations, 4 maps Published: August 1995

Asian American Studies, Asian Studies > East Asia, General Interest > Biography, Letters, Memoirs

Despite familiar images of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan and the controversy over its fiftieth anniversary, the human impact of those horrific events often seems lost to view. In this uncommon memoir, Dr. James N. Yamazaki tells us in personal and moving terms of the human toll of nuclear warfare and the specific vulnerability of children to the effects of these weapons. Giving voice to the brutal ironies of racial and cultural conflict, of war and sacrifice, his story creates an inspiring and humbling portrait of events whose lessons remain difficult and troubling fifty years later.
Children of the Atomic Bomb is Dr. Yamazaki’s account of a lifelong effort to understand and document the impact of nuclear explosions on children, particularly the children conceived but not yet born at the time of the explosions. Assigned in 1949 as Physician-in-Charge of the United States Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission in Nagasaki, Yamazaki had served as a combat surgeon at the Battle of the Bulge where he had been captured and held as a prisoner of war by the Germans. In Japan he was confronted with violence of another dimension—the devastating impact of a nuclear blast and the particularly insidious effects of radiation on children.
Yamazaki’s story is also one of striking juxtapositions, an account of a Japanese-American’s encounter with racism, the story of a man who fought for his country while his parents were interned in a concentration camp in Arkansas. Once the object of discrimination at home, Yamazaki paradoxically found himself in Japan for the first time as an American, part of the Allied occupation forces, and again an outsider. This experience resonates through his work with the children of Nagasaki and Hiroshima and with the Marshallese people who bore the brunt of America’s postwar testing of nuclear weapons in the Pacific.
Recalling a career that has spanned five decades, Dr. Yamazaki chronicles the discoveries that helped chart the dangers of nuclear radiation and presents powerful observations of both the medical and social effects of the bomb. He offers an indelible picture of human tragedy, a tale of unimaginable suffering, and a dedication to healing that is ultimately an unwavering, impassioned plea for peace.


“Testimonies by innocent children provide powerful descriptions of death and destruction from the atomic bombings of 50 years ago and the aftereffects on the survivors. Dr. Yamazaki has woven their message into his interesting autobiographical work. . . . Yamazaki’s story in a single lifetime portrays racial prejudice in the United States, war in Europe, and the human impact of the atomic bomb. He was not prepared for the Nagasaki and Hiroshima death tolls or for the many children who died and were disabled. . . . This fine book is his ‘way of remembering.’ . . . Read it so that you too may remember.” — George L. Voelz MD , JAMA

“Yamazaki, a Japanese-American doctor who served in World War II, has written an absorbing memoir that is also a sobering account of the continuing effects of radiation and nuclear weapons. . . .” — Meg Dyer , Bloomsbury Review

"Dr. Yamazaki provides a spellbinding, engrossing manual on the effects of atomic bomb-produced radiation on children, particularly on the developing brain, after birth and in utero. Told within the framework of his autobiography, this accurate handbook of the hazards of atomic radiation and other effects of the bomb reveals a compassionate pediatrician who has devoted his career to the study of the long-term effects of the atomic bomb on the Japanese and Marshallese children who have been its victims." — D. Carleton Gajdusek, Chief, Lab of Central Nervous System Studies, NIH; Nobel Laureate in Medicine (1976)

"Dr. Yamazaki’s painfully concise observations of children affected by the atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki force us to see what actually took place beneath the mushroom cloud. While his parents were held in a U.S. internment camp, Yamazaki fought for his country in Europe during World War II. After witnessing firsthand the atrocities of war as a young soldier, Yamazaki went on to study devastation on an even more horrific scale: the impact of a nuclear blast on the children of Hiroshima and Nagasaki." — Daniel K. Inouye, United States Senator, Hawaii

"I praise Dr. Yamazaki for drawing international attention to the plight of children who are suffering as a direct result of atomic weapons. The nuclear weapons testing program in the Marshall Islands dramatically affected the health of the people, the environment, the economy, and the culture. I thank Dr. Yamazaki for helping to tell a story that most of the world has turned its back on for too long." — Wilfred I. Kendall, Ambassador to the United States of America, Republic of the Marshall Islands

"It is my earnest hope that Children of the Atomic Bomb, published on the important occasion of the 50th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, will be read around the world and help to enhance public awareness of the threat of nuclear weapons and thus promote nuclear disarmament." — Hitoshi Motoshima, Mayor of Nagasaki


Availability: In stock
Price: $29.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

James N. Yamazaki is Clinical Professor of Pediatrics in the School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Louis B. Fleming is a former foreign correspondent and editorial writer for the Los Angeles Times.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Foreword / John W. Dower vii

Acknowledgments xi

Prologue xv

1. Nagasaki 1

2. Born in America 12

3. Pearl Harbor's Impact 21

4. Love and War in 1944 30

5. Homecoming and the Bomb 42

6. To Japan at Last 51

7. Getting Organized 59

8. The Thunderbolt 69

9. Expanding Research 76

10. Through Guileless Eyes 86

11. Lobbying and Researching 94

12. Emerging Answers 104

13. The Genetic Puzzle 118

14. Farewell in Hiroshima 126

"The Peacemaker" 145

Appendix 147

Glossary 149

Notes 161

References 169
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing

James N. Yamazaki received the Order of the Sacred Treasure, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon by the Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs in Los Angeles in May 1996.

Additional InformationBack to Top
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-1658-9
Publicity material