Archive for the ‘personal stories’ Category

Survivors of nuclear Nagasaki: their personal stories

October 30, 2017

 http://www.nationalgeographic.com.au/people/how-5-people-survived-nagasakis-nuclear-hell.aspx   Three days after Hiroshima, an American B-29 dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki. A new book tells stories of those who lived through horror. on August 9, 1945, an American B-29 dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Nagasaki, obliterating much of it and killing 74,000 people, mostly civilians. It was only the second time in history an atomic bomb had been used as a weapon. BY SIMON WORRALL 14 SEPTEMBER 2017  In Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War, Susan Southard follows the lives of five hibakusha (survivors) who escaped the firestorm and through extraordinary courage and resilience went on to live happy, fulfilled lives.

Speaking from her home in Arizona, she talks about the battle for the truth over what happened in Nagasaki; how square dancing helped heal the wounds of war; and why the survivors no longer harbour feelings of animosity towards Americans.

Yours is the first book to tell this story. Why has it taken so long?

“Some people may know about Hiroshima, but they don’t know about Nagasaki. They say, “Oh, there was a second bombing?” Many people also don’t know that people survived the bombings.

One of the reasons is that the bombs were kept top secret. Very few military leaders knew they existed, except for the people who were creating the bombs and those directly overseeing them. After the bombs were dropped, several factors, both in the U.S. and Japan, contributed to people not knowing the effects.

One was direct denial of any radiation effects by key U.S. military leaders like General Leslie Groves, General Thomas Farrell and the U.S. War Department. During the U.S. occupation of Japan, which lasted from 1945 to 1952, General Douglas MacArthur also instituted a strict press code banning “false or destructive criticism” of the Allied powers out of concern that too much anger could put the thousands of U.S. troops in Japan at risk.

General Groves and others promoted the idea that the Japanese were using the effects of the bomb as anti-American propaganda. So, the people of Japan, other than the people in the cities directly affected, didn’t know for years what was happening in their own country. There was medical censorship as well. Physicians working with the survivors weren’t allowed to publish studies or findings of what was happening.

They also didn’t want the decision to use the bombs to be challenged in the U.S., by books like John Hersey’s Hiroshima. So President Truman and the Secretary of War, Henry Stimson, made a concerted effort to publish articles justifying the use of the bombs, excluding any information about what happened to the people beneath the atomic clouds.

The justifications were so airtight that they became the dominant way of perceiving the decision to use the bombs on Japan: that the two bombs ended the war and saved a million American lives.”

What made you want to write this book?

“It has deep roots in my life. In high school, I spent a year as an exchange student in Japan and happened to go on a field trip to the southern island of Kyushu, where I visited the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum. I stood next to my Japanese classmates as the only American and observed the destruction.

But the key event came in 1986, when one of the Nagasaki survivors, Taniguchi Sumiteru, who was 57 years old by then, came to Washington on a speaking tour. I went to hear him speak, then, through a series of unexpected events, his interpreter became unable to complete the last few days of his time in Washington, and I became his interpreter.

In between his presentations we spent hours together. I got to ask him questions and tried to grasp what his experience had been like; it was truly a horrific experience. His entire back had been burned off. From that time on I couldn’t get out of my mind what it would be like to have survived nuclear war.”

Explain the term “hypocenter” and describe the destructive power of the blast in relation to it.

“Contrary to what some of us might imagine, the bomb did not explode on the ground but about one-third of a mile above ground. The purpose was to maximize the blast force and the effect of the heat on the city because the blast and the heat would travel further.

The area directly beneath the blast is called the “hypocenter.” The heat on the ground directly below it was about 5,000 to 7,000 degrees Fahrenheit. For quite a long distance, buildings were pulverized and trees, plants, and animals were blown away or carbonized. It’s an unimaginable level of instantaneous destruction.”

You recount the stories of five survivors. I want to focus on two of them: Do-oh Mineko and Taniguchi. Where were they at the moment of impact and what happened to them?

“Taniguchi was 16 years old at the time. He was delivering mail in the northwestern part of the valley on his bicycle. He was facing away from the blast a little over a mile away. He was thrown off his bicycle and although he didn’t know it at the time, because he was in a daze, his entire back was burned off. He also had severe burns on his arms and legs.

The earth was shaking but he was able to stand up. He gathered the mail he could still see. All the children that had been playing around him were dead. He wandered to a factory and some men carried him to a hillside where they laid him on his stomach. He lay there for two nights, dipping in and out of consciousness, while his grandfather searched for him.

Do-oh was about three-fourths of a mile from the hypocenter, inside a Mitsubishi torpedo factory. The massive steel and concrete Mitsubishi factory collapsed on top of her and thousands of others. Remarkably, she was able to get up. She had a big gash in the back of her neck and was desperate to escape because fires were beginning to flare around her. She had to step over dead bodies to get to an embankment, where her father found her.”

Tanaguchi’s ordeal is of almost biblical proportions. Tell us about his first few years after the bombing.

“There were no hospitals or medical supplies in Nagasaki, so he was taken to a village outside Nagasaki with his grandfather and cared for in a very basic way for three months. He was finally taken to a naval hospital in Omura, 22 miles north of Nagasaki, where he finally began to get proper medical care.

He lay on his stomach in extraordinary agony for three years. As he wasn’t able to lie on his sides or his back, he got incredibly deep bedsores—so deep, that the doctors could see his internal organs, including his heart beating. He was finally released from the hospital on March 20, 1949, when he was 20 years old.”

One of the more bizarre actions taken by the Americans after the bombing was to introduce square dancing. What was that all about?

“It’s so crazy! And quite lovely in the end. It began in Nagasaki. The people assigned to lead the occupation efforts in Nagasaki were very sympathetic toward the suffering of the survivors and tried to find ways to help them. One night, the civilian education officer for the U.S. occupation in Nagasaki, Winfield Niblo, was at a dinner party with Japanese educators.

Afterwards, there was a presentation of Japanese folk dancing. Niblo decided to present some American square dancing to add to the festivities. It caught on nationally to become a post-war American contribution to Japanese life.”

One of the things that shocked me was the extent to which the hibakusha werediscriminated against and mocked by their fellow Japanese. They were even called “tempura face.”

“It was surprising to me as well. The children were made fun of and laughed at. Those who were disfigured, even after the economy recovered a decade later, had trouble getting jobs. Even those who had no physical disfigurement often kept their status as a hibakusha quiet. It made it difficult to get a job and their marriage prospects were almost completely eliminated. Anyone who found out they were hibakusha was afraid of the genetic effects that radiation would have on their children. Many of them married other hibakusha.”

It took many years for the survivors to tell their stories. Why was it so difficult for them to go public and what changed their minds?

“Recovering from nuclear war is a very long process—healthwise, psychologically and economically. Some lost every member of their family and all their friends. The survivors I write about were all in their teen years at the time of the bombing. It was something so extremely painful that they didn’t want to revisit it.

The people who did decide to speak out, including the five survivors I feature in my book, had very personal reasons. One told me that as he held his first granddaughter in his arms, he had a flashback of a baby’s charred body that he had to step over as he was helping in the relief effort. He suddenly realized I have to do something about this, I don’t want my beautiful granddaughter to ever experience what I experienced.

Together, he and other hibakusha are fighting to ensure that Nagasaki will be the last city to be destroyed by an atomic bomb.”

How did the survivors feel towards the United States?

“Each survivor is different. Two I know well had a lot of anger towards the U.S. for dropping the bomb and causing this suffering. Others were so preoccupied with survival and grief and trying to deal with the medical implications that they didn’t think about the Americans too much. They just had to survive. The five I know well no longer feel negatively toward Americans. They accept that it was the governments and militaries of each nation that waged war, not individuals.”

Do-oh’s story has a remarkable happy ending. Tell us about her afterlife in Tokyo.

“Do-oh lost all her hair after the bomb. It didn’t grow back for 10 years, so she remained in her house until she was 25 years old. Her father said she had to learn how to support herself as an adult.

Before the war, she had dreamed of being in fashion so she got a part time job in Nagasaki in a cosmetics shop and was eventually offered a job in Tokyo with that same company. Against her parents’ wishes and cultural norms, she went on her own to Tokyo and began a new life. She worked fiercely and over time rose in the ranks to become a Senior VP of Utena, one of Japan’s leading cosmetics companies. It was unheard of at that time for a woman to have such a high executive position with a corporation.

She then returned to Nagasaki for retirement. She was an artist and poet as well, and she created this beautiful work of art, with green stems and a purple flowering iris. In Japanese writing from the top right, down, she says, “Thank you for a good life.”

How did the time you spent with these survivors change your life, Susan?

“It expanded my appreciation of human courage, resilience and strength. I also learned to appreciate the complexity of political and military actions and decisions, the consequences of those decisions, and how we respond and react to them.

I’ve been changed very profoundly by getting to know these people and being allowed to know the many difficult, intimate moments of their lives, which were split in half by nuclear war.”

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Mrs Yoshiko Kajimoto’s personal history of the 1945 atomic bombing of Japan

October 30, 2017

A Hiroshima survivor’s apocalyptic tale underscores Japanese abhorrence for the Bomb, Straits Times, Ravi Velloor, Associate Editor, 9 Sept 17  “……Mrs Yoshiko Kajimoto, now a sprightly 86, experienced the blast first-hand. She knows something of wars: She had just entered secondary school when the Second Sino-Japanese War broke out and in the sixth grade when the Pacific War, as Japanese call World War II, broke out. And she was in the 9th grade when the bomb arrived.

Middle school kids were mobilised for the war effort. For this reason, she was in a factory making propeller parts, 2.5km from the blast centre when the moment came.

“It was a clear day without the trace of a cloud,” she said, hands and voice steady as she recounted the trauma. “It had been warm since early morning and there were no warnings of an air raid.”

Then, a flash of light.

“The faces of my parents and my grandfather passed before my eyes and I thought I was dead. It was as though Earth had exploded.”

As she had been trained to do, Mrs Kajimoto pressed her fingers to her eyes to prevent them from falling out of their sockets, as the shock wave arrived moments later, meanwhile trying to scramble to safety under the machines.

“My body was lifted up and I passed out of consciousness. When I came to, my friend, stuck under a machine was whimpering: ‘Help me, Mother. Help me, Teacher!’ My shoulders and legs were trapped. I shook my head and the ash fell from my mouth. The flesh had been ripped off my bones. The factory roof had collapsed. I knew I was alive only because of the pain. People had gone insane. In the distance, I heard someone wail: ‘Hiroshima is gone’.”

Mrs Kajimoto tore off her blouse to put a tourniquet on her bleeding friend, and used her school headband to fasten it further. Around her was a scene so ghoulish that it was worse than the worst nightmares.

People had their nails ripped out, faces had puffed up like balloons, lips had turned inside out. A fellow student approached her, one hand holding a nearly torn-off arm. Suddenly, she knelt before her, and slumped to the ground, dead.

Fires raged everywhere. A mother holding a dead baby was spinning around, insanely.

Then, incredibly, the 14-year-old felt fear leave her as she stepped over bodies and on shiny skin as she helped carry friends to nearby Oshiba Park.

Then, the cremations started and a foul smell spread through the city. There were maggots everywhere, including on her own body.

On the third day, she heard her own neighbourhood was safe, and she staggered towards her home, meeting her father along the way. He had gone to the factory and turned over each body as he looked for her. Seeing her, he broke down and extracted a ball of rice he had been carrying in his pocket as a good luck charm.

For the next few weeks, she was bed-ridden, her grandmother removing maggots from her body with chopsticks.

Two months later, a doctor arrived to remove glass shards from her body. A year and a half later, the father died vomiting blood.

“He had probably been affected by the radiation from walking three days in the city,” she said. “Those days there was no concept of radiation, because it is colourless and odourless.”

Mrs Kajimoto herself suffered gastric cancer in later years and had two-thirds of her stomach removed.

Then peace arrived, and so did poverty. She had to provide for three brothers and food was frequently short.

“For the dead it was hell. For the survivors it was hell too.”

Mrs Kajimoto’s husband died 17 years ago, and she has two daughters, eight grandkids and two great grandchildren. Her fortunes have improved but for five decades, she said, she didn’t want to talk about her experience, until a grandson convinced her she must tell her story. That’s how I got to hear of it.

“I do not ask for disarmament, but I demand abolition of nuclear weapons,” she told me. “Nuclear weapons are an absolute evil and cannot exist with human beings. I do not want Hiroshima, or Nagasaki, to be repeated anywhere.”

“Am I concerned over the North Korean situation? Of course, I am. And I believe, that is the sentiment with the young as well. I say that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe should visit North Korea (for talks) even at the risk of his life.”

Is this point of view limited to the few thousands still around who saw the curse of Hiroshima? Not hardly. After a week in Japan, I’d say that there are millions who share the same view.

Japan has all the technology in place to build a nuclear arsenal. From the moment a decision is taken to having ready bombs will probably take a few weeks, no more. But it will be a brave Japanese prime minister who orders those final turns of the screws for Japan’s first atomic bomb. http://www.straitstimes.com/opinion/a-hiroshima-survivors-apocalyptic-tale-underscores-japanese-abhorrence-for-the-bomb

The mothers who fight for a cleanup of St Louis radioactive waste

July 24, 2017

The Fallout, In St. Louis, America’s nuclear history creeps into the present, leaching into streams and bodies. Guernica, 

Joe Trunko from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources … told Dawn that there is a landfill near her home, that it is an EPA Superfund site contaminated with toxic chemicals, that there has been an underground fire burning there since 2010. “These things happen sometimes in landfills,” he said. “But this one is really not good.”

Joe told Dawn that this landfill fire measures six football fields across and more than a hundred and fifty feet deep; it is in the floodplain of the Missouri River, less than two miles from the water itself, roughly twenty-seven miles upstream from where the Missouri River joins the Mississippi River before flowing out to the sea. “But to be honest, it’s not even the fire you should be worrying about,” Joe continued. “It’s the nuclear waste buried less than one thousand feet away.”

Joe explained how almost fifty thousand tons of nuclear waste left over from the Manhattan Project was dumped in the landfill illegally in 1973…….

Weeks later, she found herself standing outside the chain-link fence that surrounds the landfill with half a dozen environmental activists who had gotten hold of some air-sampling equipment……..

Karen Nickel didn’t know much about the landfill—she’d only just learned about it a few weeks before—but she knew about the waste……

Karen did look into it and learned that many of her classmates and neighbors and childhood friends had died of leukemias and brain cancers and appendix cancers—rare in the general population, but, again, apparently common among those who live or had lived near the creek. It couldn’t possibly be a coincidence…..

When Dawn and Karen learned what the EPA had proposed years earlier, in their Record of Decision, they immediately pushed back. They called the media, gave interviews, started a Facebook page. “I remember getting so excited when we hit two hundred members,” Karen told me. “Now we have over seventeen thousand.” They all lobbied their representatives, their senators, City Council members, mayors…….

“We’re just moms!” Karen and Dawn would answer. “We’re just citizens concerned about the health and safety of our kids and our community!”

Soon after, Karen and Dawn, along with another resident, Beth Strohmeyer, officially formed Just Moms STL………

After a few weeks of making these graphs, they realized the fire wasn’t under control, it wasn’t going out. It was, in fact, moving toward the waste, inching toward the known edge, spreading through the old limestone quarry. Now one thousand feet away. Now seven hundred………

Robbin and Mike Dailey moved to this house in 1999, after their kids had moved out and started families of their own. It’s a relief their children never lived here, she tells me. In this neighborhood children fall ill. There are brain cancers and appendix cancers, leukemias and salivary-gland cancers. Up the street from Robin and Mike there’s a couple with lung and stomach cancer. They bought their home just after it was built in the late 1960s.

I ask what they think might happen if the fire ever reaches the waste. The question hangs in the air for a moment as the TV flickers from the far wall. “Look, we know it won’t explode,” Robbin explains. “We’re not stupid. We know that’s not how it works. But just because there’s no explosion doesn’t mean there won’t be fallout.”…….

I’ve looked at thousands of pictures of this landfill, aerial photos and historical photos, elevation photos and topographical maps, but nothing has prepared me to see it in person, this giant belching mound of tubes and pumps and pipes. There’s some kind of engineered cover over the dirt itself, which is supposed to suffocate the fire and capture the fumes. It looks like little more than a green plastic tarp patched together over a hundred acres of sagging hills.

“This is the burning side,” Robbin tells me. “The radwaste is on the other side.” The patchwork is topographical and bureaucratic: the burning side is the southern section of the landfill and falls under the jurisdiction of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources; the radioactive waste is mostly on the northern side, and under EPA jurisdiction. On the burning side, workers drive over the tarp on utility carts, wearing hard hats and work clothes. No gloves, no masks, no protection from the destruction buried underneath their feet……….https://www.guernicamag.com/the-fallout/

 

William Perry and his granddaughter work to prevent nuclear doom

May 18, 2017

The former defense secretary is spending his twilight years sounding the alarm with his 29-year-old granddaughter.

“When my kids were getting under desks at their school and going through nuclear drills — the danger today is actually greater. We’re just not aware of it,” says Perry.

At 89, he works with granddaughter to prevent nuclear doom

Before Forever Changes

MARCH 11, 2017, BY CNN WIRE Picture a nondescript packing crate labeled “agricultural equipment” being loaded onto a delivery truck, which drives along Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., until it stops midway between the White House and the Capitol.

The nuclear bomb explodes with the power of 15 kilotons. There are more than 80,000 deaths, from the highest ranking members of government to the youngest schoolchildren. All major news outlets then report receiving an identical claim: that five more nuclear bombs are hidden in five major cities.

Such is the nightmare nuclear scenario that former US Defense Secretary William Perry says may seem remote, but the consequences, if realized, would be disastrous.

“I do not like to be a prophet of doom,” says Perry, 89, with the gentle grace of a decadeslong diplomat who has negotiated with countries both hostile and friendly to US interests. Then he bluntly gets to the point. “What we’re talking about is no less than the end of civilization.”

Perry doesn’t believe an intentional terrorist attack or all-out nuclear war is the greatest risk — he fears a “blunder” that plunges the globe into a nuclear conflict.

Perry says with a more aggressive Russia, and a brash and at times unpredictable President Donald Trump, “the possibility of a nuclear catastrophe is probably greater than it has ever been, greater than any time in the Cold War.”

CNN reached out to the White House for comment on Perry’s statements. It did not respond.

While he’s long been out of government, Perry’s uses his extensive policy chops and background to engage the public — through speeches, presentations and online courses.

He worries that tensions between the Koreas, and possibly Japan, could turn into a conventional conflict that could go nuclear. A bellicose and expansion-minded Russia could draw the United States into a situation that could escalate, Perry says. And the District of Columbia scenario shows how devastation can result from a crude bomb.

“When my kids were getting under desks at their school and going through nuclear drills — the danger today is actually greater. We’re just not aware of it,” says Perry.

The former defense secretary is spending his twilight years sounding the alarm with his 29-year-old granddaughter. They’re trying to awaken a new audience on social media with the William J. Perry Project, an advocacy group dedicated to helping end the nuclear threat.

“We’re really just out there trying to reach a generation that isn’t really engaged on this issue right now,” says Lisa Perry, the digital communications manager for the project. “It’s something we learned in history class. There was no conversation about what’s happening now.”

“The dangers will never go away as long as we have nuclear weapons,” William Perry explains. “But we should take every action to lower the dangers and I think it can be done.”

A lifetime dealing with the nuclear threat

Perry served three years under President Bill Clinton, a time when more than 8,000 nuclear weapons were dismantled. His nuclear knowledge traces back to his days as a CIA analyst working with the Kennedy administration during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He was tapped to evaluate photos showing Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba and recalls it as one of the scariest times in his life.

“We made miscalculations,” recalls Perry about those anxious two weeks. “It’s a miracle they did not lead to war.”

Perry lists the risks: US-Russia hostilities. A nuclear terror attack. A regional crisis.

On a regional conflict, Perry sees North Korea as an unpredictable nuclear threat. The regime’s growing arsenal and history of bold actions, Perry says, could be met by an escalated response by South Korea or even the United States. Not necessarily a deliberate attack, says Perry, but he fears a “blunder” that plunges the globe into a nuclear conflict.

“When a crisis reaches a boiling point then you have a possibility of a miscalculation,” warns Perry.

Trump and the nuclear threat……….http://wtkr.com/2017/03/11/at-89-he-works-with-granddaughter-to-prevent-nuclear-doom/