Choosing Life: My Father’s Journey in Film from Hollywood to Hiroshima

Leslie. A. Sussan

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Historical, Biographical

In 1946, with the war  over and Japan occupied, 2nd Lt. Herbert Sussan received a plum  assignment. He would get to use his training as a cinematographer and  join a Strategic Bombing Survey crew to record the results of the atomic  bombings in Nagasaki and Hiroshima. From his first arrival in Nagasaki,  he knew that something completely novel and appalling had happened and  that he had to preserve a record of the results, especially the ongoing  suffering of those affected by the bomb (known as hibakusha) even months  later. 

When the U.S. government decided that the gruesome footage  would not be "of interest" to the American public and therefore  classified it top secret, he spent decades arguing for its release. His  last wish was that his ashes be scattered at ground zero in Hiroshima. 

The  author, his daughter, followed his footsteps in 1987, met survivors he  had filmed more than 40 years before. And found that she met there a  father she never really knew in life.

This book recounts Herbert  Sussan's experiences (drawn directly from an oral history he left  behind), his daughter's quest to understand what he saw in Japan, and  the stories of some of the survivors with whose lives both father and  daughter intersected. This nuclear legacy captures the ripples of the  atomic bombing down through decades and generations.
The braided tale  brings human scale and understanding to the horrors of nuclear war and  the ongoing need for healing and peacemaking.

Book of the Month: January 2021