‘Faceless body belonged to my sister’: Hiroshima, Nagasaki nuke survivors recall horrors 70 years on
The US was the first nation to use nuclear weapons against an enemy target when they dropped atomic bombs on Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II on August 6 and 9, 1945.
More than 80,000 civilians died immediately as a result of the Hiroshima bomb – a device nicknamed ‘Little Boy’ by the US Air Force – and other 80,000 were believed killed in the Nagasaki attack by ‘Fat Man’. Thousands died from radiation sickness in the months and years following the blasts.
As of August 2014 the memorials in Hiroshima and Nagasaki list the names of more than 450,000 people who died in the tragedy: 292,325 in Hiroshima and 165,409 in Nagasaki.
Chiyoko Kuwabara, a survivor of Hiroshima atomic bombing, told RT that she was only 13 years old when the tragedy happened but the moments that changed her life forever still “linger in her memory.”
“There were corpses all over the place and when a mother would walk looking for her kids she sometimes would hear cries calling ‘mom…mom…’ But even if they look at their children’s faces they couldn`t recognize them. It was the children who recognize their mothers,” Kuwabara said with tears in her eyes.
People like Kuwabara are called Hibakusha in Japan - a term for those who were exposed to radiation from the nuclear bombings.
Kuwabara led RT team to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum which displays the horrors of the atomic bombing of the city: the damages caused by the bomb as well as photos of dying or dead people.
“It makes me suffer to look at these pictures…Poor people…I think they all died,” she says, looking at the photos.
Kuwabara told RT that she feels disappointed by the current US administration of President Barack Obama.
"He [Obama] said he will reduce the nuclear weapons. Instead he is increasing it. Whatever beautiful words or acts he does I think America is not acting with sincerity. At least he should come to Hiroshima and Nagasaki and pay respects.”
RT also spoke to a survivor of atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Sumiteru Taniguchi, who back in August 9, 1945 was delivering mail when a bomb fell on the city.
“I was 16 years old. Two kilometers from the epicenter I was walking and got the blast from behind. I could see it was from behind the light I was thrown,” Taniguchi told RT.
The heat from the blast melted the skin on his back and left arm. The footage of his horrific injuries has become iconic and Taniguchi is now a living symbol of the suffering caused by the bombs.
The 86-year-old said that after the explosion he stayed in hospital three years and seven months and during his first year and nine months he was lying on his chest.
“My back was completely burned to the bones. And parts of my body hardened and the ribs got into my heart and lungs. It is very painful still today.”
One more survivor of the Nagasaki bombings, Sanae Ikeda, 82, recalls how he lost his brothers and a sister in the tragedy.
“The explosion took away the skin of my hand and I started to bleed. The light was green and then I couldn't see anything.”
In the middle of the road Ikeda saw someone – “a charred human being walking,” he described to RT. He even couldn't figure out if it was a man or woman.
“Survivors who were badly hurt had no place to escape so everyone went to soak into a narrow stream of water running in the nearby.”
Ikeda recalls horrible moment he saw the body of his sister which was completely deformed by the explosion.
“I found this body completely black, charred. I held it with my hands and it had no face Then I found that the string or ribbon of the waist of her pants. The outer part was all burned by the explosion, but inside the ribbon it was fine. I saw the little flowers and I could tell that this was the body of my little sister.”
The bombings were approved by then US President Harry S Truman, who repeatedly stated that attacking Japan had saved lives on both sides.
“I think that the bombs were believed at the time to be necessary. as General [George] Marshall, who was head of the US military during the war said after the war, ‘we didn’t want to have to invade Japan,’” Richard Rhodes, an American historian, journalist and author who won a Pulitzer Prize for his book ‘The Making of the Atomic Bomb’, told RT.
“We knew we would kill many Japanese, and many Americans would die as well,” he added.
But according to Peter Kuznick, professor of History and Director of the Nuclear Studies Institute at American University, the atomic bomb “wasn’t necessary at all” to end the World War II.
“I think you can’t come to any other conclusion than the bomb wasn’t necessary, the Soviet invasion was going to end the war, and the US invasion was not going to begin till November first, so we dropped the bomb on August 6 and 9 to avoid an invasion that was not going to take place for three more months. Why do we do it? Well you have to conclude that we wanted to do it.”
He added that if you look at the comments of US leaders at that time, “in fact, six or seven 5-star admirals and generals who got their fifth star during the war [WWII] are on record as saying that the bomb was either militarily unnecessary morally reprehensible or both.”