In 1946, just after the first anniversary of the destruction of Hiroshima, "The New Yorker" magazine's Aug. 31 issue published the complete text of John Hersey's portrait of the atom bomb and its effects on the Japanese city.

At the end of the war, in 1945, Hersey was in Japan writing about the reconstruction of the devastated country when he happened across an account written by a Jesuit priest who had survived the Hiroshima destruction. It was he who introduced the reporter to other survivors.

From these, Hersey chose six individuals: two doctors, a minister, a widowed seamstress, a young woman who worked in a factory, and the priest himself. These became the principal characters in an account that melded nonfiction reportage with the stylistic devices of the novel, all expressed through the plainest of styles.