Hiroshima: Out of the Ashes (1990)




Director:     Peter Werner. 

Starring:     Max von Sydow (Father Siemes), Judd Nelson (Pete Dunham), Mako (Sgt. Moritaki), Tamlyn Tomita (Sally), Stan Egi (Dr. Hara), Brady Tsurutani (Yoshi), Sab Shimono, Shizuko Hoshi (Nurse Yama), Ben Wright (Tom Reese), Pat Morita (Yoodo Toda), Kim Miyori (Mrs. Ota), Natsuko Ohama (Elizabeth Sung), Rodney Kageyama, Ping Wu.

Made for TV. 

emphasis on the damage done to the people of Hiroshima


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

August 5, 1945.  Young Japanese boys in school practice bayonet techniques for the Allied invasion of Japan. 

The flight carrying the atomic bomb (though the name of the bomb is not used until after it is dropped) is set.  The flight will go over Iwo Jima and on to Hiroshima Bay.  They will have no fighter escort.  The target is Hiroshima with some 350,000 residents.  They are targeting Hiroshima Castle in the center of the city where Japanese Divisional Headquarters is located.  The new crew member Tom Reese is introduced to the other crew members. 

In Japan Mrs. Togawa is pregnant.  She was born in United States and still has family in the USA.  Her husband was on Iwo Jima, but his fate is unknown as of yet.  Dr. Hara is a bit critical of her for not being enough of a loyal Japanese woman.

The European Father Siemes scolds Japanese Brother Shiro for not remembering all of the Latin phrases. He says no to a woman named Mrs. Sato who wants her grandson's ashes blessed because he was not Catholic. 

The air crew that we met earlier is now in the air over Hiroshima dropping leaflets.  The crew runs into anti-aircraft fire and engine number 3 is hit by flack and knocked out.  The crew all jump out of the plane.  Reese lands o.k., but another crew member hangs dead from a tree.  The local peasants surround Reese and take him prisoner. 

An air warden comes to speak with Mrs. Togawa. It is absolutely forbidden for citizens to pick up leaflets dropped from American planes and yet she picked up one of the leaflets.  It has been decided to give her only a warning.  The warden then gives her a letter from the US.  Knowing that the Japanese censor all the letters, she asks the warden what her mother wrote her.  The warden ignores that remark, but laughs at the idea that the Americans still think they will win the war.

Mrs. Togawa does not get along well with her sister-in-law who hates Americans.  She asks her sister-in-law if they have to fight each other all the time.  Grandpa comes home and the sister-in-law's young son tells grandpa that the women have been fighting all day.   But Grandpa is not too harsh with the women.  He blames the tension caused by the "stupid" war. 

The air wardens go around making sure that all the lights are extinguished.  Even Father Siemes gets scolded for carrying a lantern.  At home Mrs. Togawa listens to American music.  Reese is brought to Hiroshima Castle where he is thrown in a prison cell along with the surviving members of his crew. 

The sister-in-law receives a note that her cousin in the center city is very sick.  She has to go to center city.  Mrs. Togawa asks her to please leave her son with her.  Sister-in-law agrees.

Reese demands that some of the injured POWs be send to the hospital for care.  They ignore him, but they do take the captain of the crew to Tokyo.  One of the boys in school notices that a single B-29 plane flies over Hiroshima.  Then suddenly there is a blinding light that spreads everywhere in Hiroshima followed by an atomic blast.  Only three of the air crew in Hiroshima survive: Reese, Pete Dunham and a badly wounded man survive.  The two healthy crew members walk the wounded man over to an open cesspool and jump in along with some Hiroshima residents. 

Most of the school boys are dead.   One boy survives.  He checks on his friend who is dying.  The dying boy asks his friend to please take his notebook and give it to his mother.  He agrees to take the notebook.  Father Siemes' church is destroyed, but he and the two brothers with him survive.  The Father tries to help some of the wounded people, but he is soon overwhelmed.  A young Japanese girl comes to him and tells him that she feels very sick.  He has her sit down and promises to return to her.  But when he does, he realizes she has died right where she sat.  The POWs decide to get out of the cesspool.  Pete realizes that their wounded crew member is dead.  Pete gets out and then helps Reese get out.  A group of Japanese soldiers try to kill Father Siemes by shooting him, but the brothers with him finally convince them that Father Siemes is not American.  Father Siemes offers refuge to two lost girls.  They are at first scared of him, but he gradually wins them over.  They go with him.  Reese goes to check on a bunch of Japanese in the back of an army truck who look like they are frozen in place.  He soon learns, however, that all these people have been blinded by the blast.   The many scenes of  the wounded and dead Japanese are very quite horrendous at times.  As with a badly burned mother still carrying her baby on her back who has been virtually burned to a crisp.

In the hospital, of all the doctors on staff, only Dr. Hara survived the blast.  Now he is very overworked and very tired.  A woman asks him to look at her young son.  She says that her son has no strength, has very little appetite and throws up the little food that he does take in.   The two surviving POWs are attacked by a large number of Japanese hurt by the explosion.  But a Japanese officer intervenes and saves them.  He tells the people that the men are his prisoners.  At home Mrs. Togawa is very angry about the explosion and its negative effects.  She starts pulling off the photos from her bedroom walls. 

A woman is told that her son is in a hospital on an island in Hiroshima Bay.  She and the mother of one of her son's class mates go together to see if they can find one or both of the sons.  The recaptured POWs are thrown into a huge ditch.  Mrs. Togawa's sister-in-law returns home.  Her face is extremely red.  She sees an ash-carrying urn and rightly concludes that her father has died.  Dr. Hara tries to recognize patterns among the casualties of the huge blast.  He then learns from his head nurse that the same type of bomb has been dropped on Nagasaki.  It is known as an "atomic bomb".  Dr. Hara is very happy to learn this because now he knows that he is dealing with "radiation sickness".  It's a sickness with which few doctors have any experience. 

Nobody knows where is the hospital on the island in Hiroshima Bay.  The women give their wedding rings to pay a boatman to help them find the hospital. 

Mrs. Togawa's sister-in-law asks her for a comb and a mirror.  She is shocked at what she sees in the mirror.  But then she is virtually destroyed when she starts to comb her hair and it starts coming out in huge clumps.  She immediately tells Mrs. Togawa to leave her alone in the bedroom.   

Dr. Hara learns that the young man with a very weak appetite has died of radiation sickness.  The emperor of Japan is going to speak live on the radio.  He says that the Japanese have to begin enduring the unendurable.  Japan has surrendered.

Reese and Pete will be taken to a place where the Japanese are holding a great many Allied POWs.   Reese, however, begins to think that his driver is taking them in a different direction.  He demands that they be taken to a hospital because his buddy Pete is in immediate need of treatment.  The driver stops the truck, takes out his pistol and forces Reese out of the back of the truck.  Reese tries to tell the driver that killing him won't help him in any way.  But the driver tells Reese that he is not going to kill him.  He only wants to show Reese what is left of his city of Hiroshima.  And that's not much.   Reese takes a look and sees a great expanse of  destroyed city. 

Reese and Pete finally get to the hospital being run by Dr. Hara.  The head nurse refuses to allow any Americans to be seen in the hospital, but Dr. Hara overrules her.  He takes a look at Pete only to find that the pilot is already dead of radiation sickness. 

Sergeant Moritaki takes a liking to the only surviving boy from the school in central Hiroshima.  He tells the boy that the occupation forces are coming.  Everyone's scared he says, but he's not.  He is going home.  The boy tells him that he is upset because he lost the notebook of a dying school chum.  The sergeant tells him to take the notebook to his mother and apologize. 

Father Siemes has to say good-bye to the two Japanese girls he befriended.  He tells them that he will come to visit them.  Mrs. Sato picks up the girls to take them to their new home.  Father Siemes tells her that he will say a mass for her grandson.  She smiles widely. 

The boy at the hospital on an island in the bay sees his mother who has finally landed on the right island.  She is extremely excited to see her son.  They run to each other and hug.  Mrs. Ota asks her son's schoolmate about her boy.  He tells her that her son is dead and he apologizes for losing his notebook.  He says:  "I dishonored our friendship."  Mrs. Ota tells him:  "My son has a very good friend."

Mrs. Togawa is taking her sister-in-law and nephew somewhere when her baby is showing signs of wanting to be born.  Luckily for her, two American radiologists come by in a jeep.  Mrs. Togawa starts talking to them in perfect English.  They are astounded.  She tells them that she was born in Oceanside, California and they both get big grins on their faces.  The radiologists give her a ride to the hospital. 

Dr. Hara wonders what he will say to the two American radiologists who are coming to see him.  The mother of the boy who died under Dr. Hara's care tells him to say that now that my house has burned down, I have a much better view of the moon. 


Good movie.  Both my wife and I liked it.  It kept our interest throughout.  Seeing the many scenes of the terrible-looking wounded and dead brings out the reality in the statistics of the atomic bomb and the wounded, sick and dead from Hiroshima. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


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