Chapter Five is actually a postscript written forty years after the original edition. It traces the six characters’ lives in the years after the bomb.
Many employers are reluctant to hire people with A-bomb sickness in the years after the war, and as a result, Nakamura-san (as Hersey now refers to Nakamura) faces tremendous poverty and difficulty for a long time. She ends up working for thirteen years at a mothball factory, and when her son Toshio begins working to support the family, she is finally able to retire. Once her children marry and move away, Nakamura-san lives off her pension. In 1975 a new law is passed, granting a monthly allowance to her and to other victims of the atomic bomb. She begins to live comfortably, taking up dancing and embroidery, and forty years after the bomb, she dances along Peace Boulevard in a flower festival in Hiroshima.
In the years after the bomb, Dr. Sasaki spends most of his time at the Red Cross Hospital dealing with keloids—red, rubbery scars that grow over the bad burns of many of the hibakusha (a Japanese word for the victims, literally “explosion-affected persons”). In 1951, haunted by his awful experiences there, he quits the hospital and eventually sets up a private clinic in Mukaihara. Tragedy strikes Dr. Sasaki’s life again, however. In 1963 he nearly dies when an operation to remove one of his lungs goes awry; in 1972, his wife dies of breast cancer. These two experiences drive him to devote his life to his work. He uses the success of his clinic to build bigger and better medical facilities, and forty years after the bomb, we find him working as hard as ever to help people.
Father Kleinsorge becomes a Japanese citizen and takes the name Father Makoto Takakura. He never gets over his radiation sickness and eventually works himself to exhaustion trying to help and convert people in Hiroshima. In 1961 he moves to a tiny church in Mukaihara, where he begins a close friendship with his cook and eventual nurse, Satsue Yoshiki. His health continues to fade, and in 1976 he falls on an icy path and fractures vertebrae in his back. He is bedridden from then on and dies in 1977 with Yoshiki-san at his side. Hersey notes that there are almost always fresh flowers on his grave.
Miss Sasaki, now Sasaki-san in Hersey’s narrative, works in orphanages for a time and has three operations to help repair her leg, which never fully recovers. With the urging of Father Kleinsorge, she takes her vows in 1957 and becomes a nun, Sister Dominique Sasaki. She has a distinguished career and travels around the world. In 1980 she is honored at a dinner in Tokyo; in her speech she declares that she had been given a “spare life” when she survived the atomic bomb and she vows to “keep moving forward.”
Dr. Fujii rebuilds his Hiroshima clinic in 1948 and lives by the idea that pleasure—drinking, partying, and playing golf—is the best cure for pain. He travels to New York with the Hiroshima Maidens, unmarried young female burn victims who require plastic surgery. In 1963, he is found unconscious with a heater leaking gas into his bedroom. He is taken to the hospital, and after a few weeks of apparent recovery, he suddenly lapses into a coma. He remains helpless and unresponsive until he dies in 1973.
Mr. Tanimoto vows to work for peace for the rest of his life, and travels to America to give speeches and raise money for a peace center in Japan. He makes contact with the prominent author Pearl Buck and the editor Norman Cousins. Cousins includes Tanimoto’s peace memorandum, under the title “Hiroshima’s Idea,” as an editorial in the Saturday Review. With Cousins’ help, Tanimoto makes a name for himself in America, gives the opening prayer at the U.S. Senate, and even appears on the television show “This Is Your Life.” The producers take him by surprise by having him appear with one of the pilots of the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the bomb. He and Cousins also take up the cause of the Hiroshima Maidens, although this ends up backfiring on Tanimoto, and many people in Japan and America label him a publicity seeker. At the end of the chapter, his peace center is little more than an adoption agency run out of his home, and he is retired from the pulpit, living off his pension with his wife.