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Global Hibakusha

Global Hibakusha
Marshall Islands

Nelson Anjain
Rongelap Atoll Local Government
1999 World Conference against A & H Bombs, Hiroshima

My name is Nelson Anjain, coming from the Marshall Islands in the Pacific.   Rongelap Island, my native place, was exposed to the fallout of the Bravo H-bomb test conducted by the United States at Bikini Atoll in 1954.

This July I went to Rongelap, which was my third trip there.  The first phase of the resettlement project of Rongelap has started.  A Groundbreaking ceremony was held in March this year.  Now that an airport has been completed, you can go to Rongelap from the Capital Majuro by plane.  From now on roads and houses will be constructed.

As nobody has inhabited in Rongelap for a long time, trees and plants in the island were dead.  I felt very sad to see this and I remembered the good old days in Rongelap.  Rongelap consists of 80 islands.  There was an abundance of fish and crops.  We lived a comfortable life there.

Though the construction in preparation for the return of the islanders has started, I still feel anxiety.  I want to urge the U.S. to answer my question.  To what extent can our island be cleaned up?  Is it for sure that our island will be safe?  Bikini Atoll is made up of several islands.  The U.S. has spent 100 million dollars on the clean-up of the two islands in the Bikini Atoll where nuclear bombs were detonated.  However, these islands are still contaminated and the Bikini islanders have not yet returned there.

On the other hand, the U.S. promised only 45 million dollars to us for the clean-up of Rongelap Island.  Do you think this amount is adequate to secure the safety of Rongelap?  Is it enough for the islanders to return and live a life like in the old days?  It has already been decided that the northern part of Rongelap Island will be off-limits due to hazardous radiation contamination.

We want all plutonium contaminated soil to be removed from the island.  However, less than 30 cm of soil is to be removed.  It seems that a mixture of soil and potassium fertilizer will be put there in its place.  I don’t think this method is adequate.   The question of how to handle the contaminated soil is also a problem.

I said to my family, “Please forget about Rongelap”.  However, most of the islanders wish to go back to Rongelap and make a life in safe and affluent circumstances.

We were forced to evacuate Rongelap because it was destroyed by the H bomb in 1954.  Three years later, we returned to the island as the U.S. assured us of its safety.  However, we have had deformed babies; many islanders have fallen ill with a mysterious ailment and died one after another.  Feeling frightened, we fled from Rongelap and moved to Mejatto Island, which is in Kwajalein Atoll.  Mejatto is barren.  It was uninhabitable and we planted coconut trees.  Crops and fish are in such short supply that we are forced to rely on canned food and wheat which are shipped to us by the U.S. once every three months.

The U.S. compensation for Rongelap that is distributed to the islanders only amounts to 80 dollars per person for three months.  We only have to buy chikens and it runs out.  We are always hungry without enough food.

Another island in the same Kwajalein Atoll is Ebeye Island, on which many Rongelapese are living and my house is also located.  The whole of Kwajalein Island, another island in the Kwajalein Atoll, located next to Ebeye, is occupied by a U.S. military base.  Those who had lived there were driven out of the island by the U.S. military.  Every morning people in Ebeye go to the base for work by boat and they come back in the evening.  As there aren’t any jobs in the Marshalls and the wages in the base are high, Ebeye has been thronged with people who seek jobs at the base and rely on relatives who are working there.  Now about 16,000 people are living on the small island.  Here jobless young people who don’t have any hope are leading an unsettled life, repeating robbery and going about begging.  Children who are not fed well are living on the streets and dying a dog’s death.

The Kwajalein military base is used for an exercise of intercepting missiles launched from California, the United States.  Irikine Island in the Kwajalein Atoll is marked as the target of the missiles.  Some islands were mistakenly hit.  A power station was once hit and exploded.

On Rongelap we suffered damage from the nuclear tests so we fled to Mejatto.  But we are still threatened by the danger of missiles.  We are fed up with damage from nuclear weapons.  These weapons have not only made us suffer from diseases, but have destroyed the traditional life of the good old days.

We want relief and compensation to offset the damage we have suffered.  Give back a safe Rongelap to us.  Please ensure a peaceful life for us.

Since long ago, I have come to Japan many times, because I want to work together with you for a peaceful world.  We became direct victims of nuclear weapons.  As long as nuclear weapons continue to exist, our agony will not go away.  I am not sure how many people would sympathize with my appeal, but I am going to work hard with you for our common goal as long as I live.  I will appreciate your continuous support for us.  Thank you.

Global Hibakusha
Marshall Islands

Abacca Anjain-Maddison
Senator, Rongelap Atoll
2001 World Conference against A & H Bombs, Hiroshima

I bring you warm greetings from the people of Rongelap, Konichiwa and Iakwe!

We are here again today sharing our ideas and experience, fighting for peace and justice for the sake of our children and generations to come.  In solidarity we will prevail!

Rongelapese people continued to be displaced ever since they fled their homeland of Rongelap.  While the principle community is in exile on a very small and desolate islet called Mejatto, Kwajerain Atoll, Rongelap Atoll is being built and prepared for resettlement.

Remediation and infrastructure make up phase I of the resettlement project and it is almost at an end.  The paved runway will be finished in December and the dock in April next year.  The Phase II plan was approved last week by the council in their community meeting.  Now it has to be approved by Congress.  Construction of the dispensary, school buildings, terminal, initial housing (to name a few) makes up phase II.  Careful planning is highly important because funding is very limited.  We will continue to lobby the US for funding.

Rongelapese people are the victim of many bombs, but it was the hydrogen bomb called “Bravo” exploded in 1954 that really affected them.  Bravo was the same bomb that contaminated the Daigo Fukuryu Maru(a fishing boat, the 5th Lucky Dragon).  This was 1,000 times greater than the bombs exploded on Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined.  A total of 67 bombs were exploded in the Republic of the Marshall Islands under the U.S. nuclear testing program from 1946 to 1958.

The impact of the U.S. bomb testing program, as ethnographic research findings and scientific literature support as resulted in the contamination of the land, short and long term exposure to radiation substances, and alienation from land and other critical resources.  Nuclear testing destroyed the physical means to sustain and reproduce a self-sufficient way of life for the people of Rongelap.

Radioactive contamination and involuntary relocation radically altered health, subsistence strategies, sociopolitical organization, and community integrity.  A lifetime service as human subjects in a wide range of biomedical experiments further harmed the health and psychosocial well being of the people of Rongelap.

We filed a claim with the Nuclear Claims Tribunal for damages and injuries and consequences for compensation, which must reflect individual injuries and experiences, including pain and suffering, and hardship as well as the corporate experience of the people of Rongelap, whose health, vitality and way of life have been fundamentally altered by the United States’ nuclear weapon testing programs.  But all this depends on the approval of a petition that we submitted for US Congress approval.

Having said this, I came to this Conference not only to give you my support but to seek your usual support, especially from our US friends attending this Conference to lobby your representative in Congress for their votes.

To all of us, the Rongelap Peace Museum plan still exists, except the funding.  To turn this project into reality we depend on the fundraiser efforts.

Ladies and gentlemen, your help and contribution is solicited.  The purpose of this musium is to portray the solidarity of the two countries, and the experiences of the Hibakusha of Rongelap Atoll, Hiroshima and Nagasaki and to educate the public especially the young people, about the horror caused by nuclear bombs.

To finish, I’d like to thank the Organizing Committee for the opportunity for Rongelapese people to voice their story and concerns.  Rongelapese people are very grateful to Gensuikyo for your generosity, continued support and most of all your friendship.

We say Kommol Tata!

Global Hibakusha
Marshall Islands

Abacca Anjain-Maddison
Senator, Rongelap Atoll
2000 World Conference against A & H Bombs, Hiroshima

I bring you greetings from the people of Rongelap – we say ‘Iakwe’.  It is a great honor and privilege for me to join you, the peacemakers from Japan and other part of the world, here in Hiroshima at this Conference on the theme of “Action and Cooperation for Nuclear Free 21st Century”.

We are here today to commemorate the lives of innocent people who died and those who have suffered from inhuman action of the world through nuclear weapons.  It is because of the damage done to our land, environment, our people and children and to protect our future generations that we are fighting for peace.

In the Marshalls, immediately after World War II the United States engaged in a nuclear testing program in the northern part of the country until the early sixties.  Of all 87 bombs detonated in the Marshall Islands, it was because of the hydrogen bomb explosion on March 1st, 1954, also known as ‘the day of the two suns,’ that the lives of the islanders would never be the same again.  The bomb was 1,000 times the size of the weapon dropped here in Hiroshima.

Like the fishermen on ‘Daigo Fukuryumaru’ (The Fifth Lucky Dragon), the 86 people including children on Rongelap at the time suffered from acute exposure to radiation.  In later years, the people suffered from thyroid, bone, brain, skin and stomach cancer, leukemia, dwarfism, stillbirths, miscarriages and gave birth to monster-like babies.   Over the years the people were not only used as guinea pigs, they were lied to that Rongelap was safe.  Finally, with the help of Greenpeace, the people decided to flee for their lives and moved.  Today the community is divided.  They live all over the Marshall Islands, and many have moved  overseas.  But the main population is on Majuro with Ebeye and Mejatto on Kwajalein Atoll the second largest Rongelapese population.  Our elders are dying too quickly and the chances of the younger generation to learn the traditional ways of living as Rongelapese is too slim.

Nevertheless, it took a lot of time for Congress to finally admit what they have done to the people.  Remediation of Rongelap is progressing under the U.S. Congress funded Rongelap Resettlement Project.   On September 19th of this year, a hearing on the land claim is scheduled with the Nuclear Claims Tribunal.  It took 8 years to put together this claim and to come this far.   This is to claim all three atolls: Rongelap, Rongerik and for the following reasons:

1) Remediation of the whole atoll
2) Loss of use; and
3) Hardship.

This is the fundamental means to restore the people’s lives, therefore it is extremely important that Rongelap is awarded to its fullest.  At the same time, we continue to ask the United States to provide medical care and compensation through the Change of Circumstances clause of as the Compact of Free Association as this compact is nearing it’s ending  in October 2001, next year.

On the other hand, a project is at the dream stage.  A project that will contribute to, as well as to the restrain of the Rongelapese peoples lives.  It is the Museum project that I announced early this year at the Bikini Day conference.  Prior to Hiroshima, I attended the Mother’s Congress.  It was a very successful meeting and I commend the organization.  The museum project was also introduced to many women in the meeting and in return they have given their support.  Now I am seeking yours.  Please help make this dream come to reality.

The museum project is targeted to open in the 50th Anniversary of Bikini Day, that is year 2004.  The target  amount is 20 million yen, equivalent to $200,000.  Temporarily the museum will be built on Majuro using removable/portable materials awaiting the result of the clean up of Rongelap.  Since the name for the museum is not yet final, it is called Rongelap Peace Museum. The objectives are as follows:

- To educate the citizens, especially children, about the damage caused by nuclear weapons
- To use as a center to promote Japanese assistance to the  Rongelapese people through medical care, education assistance, and information, etc.
- To showcase the Solidarity with the Hibaksuha of Japan and Rongelap.
- To provide cultural education to the younger generation

Let me tell you a true story.  Before I came to the Bikini Day conference back in March, I introduced my proposed project to George Anjain whom many of you know.  Without hesitation he supported the idea.  He too agreed that Rongelapese people should be remembered for the pain and sufferings they went through.  When I discussed this dream with George I didn’t think that his memories would be in the museum too soon.  But now, George is gone.  He died 3 days before I arrived home from the Bikini Day Conference.  So he doesn’t know that a lot of you supported the idea and it’s a go.  George was 3 years old when Bravo exploded and would have been 50 years old next year.  He had many complications to his health all his life, but he died of negligence, inadequate medical supplies and equipment.  George was a councilman, a prominent landowner, who is regarded as a warrior for the interests of Rongelap, especially with the U.S. for justice to the people.

In addition to my appeal, I’d like to invite anyone of you to the Marshall Islands and to Rongelap, especially doctors and scientists.  We need your assistance in this matter as well.

I regret having to leave tomorrow, but I have to attend the parliament session starting next Monday.   However, my uncle Nelson Anjain and my cousin Hiroko will be with you throughout the conference.  Hiroko is a Hibakusha and she will tell her story, her pain and sufferings caused by nuclear weapons.  It has been a pleasure meeting new international friends.  I wish you success in your deliberations.  And you have my support.  Last but not the least, my gratitude to Gensuikyo for the invitation and for all the assistance they have provided to the Rongelapese people.

Kommol tata and Domo Arigato

Global Hibakusha
Marshall Islands

Elio Boas
Rongelap Atoll Local Government
1997 Bikini Day, Shizuoka

Thank you master of ceremonies. Honored guests, distinguished ladies and gentlemen. I appreciate this opportunity to say a few words on behalf of my brothers and sisters from Rongelap, Ailingnae, and Rongerik atolls.

I sincerely appreciate the meetings in Shizuoka and the ongoing series of symposia on the damage from the nuclear bombing here in Japan and the nuclear testing in Bikini and Enewetak which affected the people of Rongelap and Utirik in the Marshall islands and the nuclear testing that went on elsewhere, even in the most recent past.

Thank you for giving me this opporttjnity to share in the commemoration of the March 1, 1954 Bravo bomb.  Many years ago on this date, I was a little boy playing in the surf when my life was forever changed. I am one of the victims of exposure, and I believe my children and their children are also victims.

Today we do not live on our atoll of Rongelap, we are forced to live elsewhere.  The atoll is our identity, our homeland.  We do not even have the option to live on our atoll.  It is too radioactive, even today.  The turn of events on March 1, 1954 was the most cruel to the people of our atoll.  The wind shifted, the sun rose in the west, and the children played in the “snow”.  We were not evacuated because we were not supposed to be affected.  Today we know differently.

For a time, the people of Rongelap were told to return to their islands, only to be told, after a few years, to leave again.  This was because local leaders insisted that the island was still not safe.  New calculations proved them right.  That was over ten years ago. Today, the Rongelaplese live on a leased island.  Not their own land. It takes about nine hours to reach the leased island by boat, and there is no airstrip.

We are continuing to attempt to resettle Rongelap atoll.  It is our home.  The scientists are telling us that before we go back, they have to put special fertilizer down so that we can eat some of the locally-grown food.  And even then, we have to be very careful to only include a set percentage of locally-grown food in our diet.  We will have to supplement our diet with canned food from outside.  The scientists are also telling us that they may have to be scraped off all the topsoil in our atoll before it is safe for us to live there.

When I talk to men and women in my father's generation, they tell me about their sons and daughters playing in the surf as young students, as I was, on March 1st, they tell me about days and nights of fishing in the beautiful waters, they remind me about my homeland.  They, as I do, want to go back to our homeland and live in the beautiful splendor of the outer islands.  We have been waiting many years.

Over the years, our people have been heard by the international community.  Steps have begun to be taken to resettle our atoll.  But we must be sure that we can live on our islands without fearing any further harm to us and to our children and their children.  We owe it to them.

As time goes on, we are finding more evidence of continued exposure to our people.  Most recently we were notified that even after the bravo bomb destruction on Rongelap, some of the victims were unknowingly subjected to further human radiation experiments in the form of injections of radiation. We were never provided the names of those victims. Our struggle continues.

I want to thank Gensuikyo for their unflinching and continued support to our effort.  Gensuikyo has allowed us a forum to be heard, and provides logistic support in bringing us here so that we can be heard.  Thank you all for your support to our efforts.  We very much appreciate this date in history, and appreciate that it is remembered.  It has helped us get our message across.  Thank you.

Global Hibakusha
Marshall Islands

Hiroko Langinbelik
Council member
Rongelap Atoll Local Government/Victim of the 1954 Bikini hydrogen bomb test
2000 World Conference against A & H Bombs, Hiroshima

Greeting from me to you and also from the people and our Mayor who sent me here to represent them to this meeting.  Now I will tell you a true story of what happened in the first Day of March.

I saw the flash all over the horizon and after, the strong wind.  It was Monday in Rongelap and we went to school.  After school my sister, three other girls, a boy and me went to Jabuaan to find some coconuts.  When we came back we had something on our eyes, the powder of the bombs and the evening we were itching all our body and we could not sleep.  The next morning we had vomiting and we did not want to eat and at the same day there was a plane came.  The men in the plane went straight to the well, examined the well and didn’t say anything but they went to Kwajalein.  And early the next day there was a plane and the big battleship which came and picked up all the people and went to Aelenae to take the people there.  We went to Kwajalein.  Every day in Kwajalein we go to the beach to soak us until noon.  After lunch we went again to the beach until five o’clock.  After Kwajalei we got to Ejit and spent two year there and went back to Rongelap.  When we were there, they tested some more bombs.  That is why we have more cancers.  We have brain cancers, thyroid cancers, stomak cancers, leukemia and so forth.

Now I will come to how they help the people with money.  They give me 25,000 dollars when they removed my thyroid.  As for now under the Compact of Free Association, we are paid quarterly if we are lucky $108 for each.  But sometimes $85 for each person.  Now our doctors are Marshallese and only 3-4 American doctors.

Well, before I close my speech I want to thank you once more for the invitation from the Gensuikyo through the Senator and she also wants me to accompany here.  I want also to give my sincere thanks to Gensuikyo to invite Nelson-san and the municipal of Rongelap sent to come to this meeting on behalf of them.  I thank you million times.

Global Hibakusha
Marshall Islands

James Matayoshi
Longelap Atoll Local Government
1997 March 1 Bikni Day, Shizuoka

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,              .

Greetings to you all from the People of Rongelap Atoll..

I am deeply honored to be here today on behalf of the People of Rongelap, especially those of us who were exposed directly by the fallout on March 1, 1954 in the Marshall Islands.  Because of the events which took place in the Marshall Islands involving the testing of atomic and hydrogen bombs, we, the people of Rongelap share the same common bond with the peoples of Hiroshima and Nagasaki back in 1946.  Like you we were physically exposed to the March 1, 1954 bomb dropped on Bikini atoll.  This bomb, code named “Bravo”, was one of the series of 66 known nuclear bombs and the strongest of all nuclear bombs, tested on Bikini and Enewetak atolls between 1946 - 1958.

Today, I am not here to share with you the experience my people went through, the same experience you've been through, because you already know.  But I am here to share with you the kinds of livelihood we now have after the nuclear testing legacy.

In 1985 we were forced to move from our ancestral home islands because serious medical problems among my people began appearing. Nearly one third of the people on Rongelap had their thyroid glands surgically removed.  As a result to these continuing medical problems, we moved to Mejatto island in 1985.

Mejatto is a small, isolated , but uncontaminated island on the northern tip of Kwajalein Atoll.  Although it is not contaminated with radiation.  Mejatto is not a good place to live.  On Mejatto, the conditions, supplies, and the resources are sparse.  It is here, on Mejatto that we are far away from doctors and hospitals.  It is here, on Mejatto island that we are not at home.

Although this is the 43rd year for us since March 1, 1954, the Rongelap legacy continues.

Recent negotiations with the United States is showing good sign of progress, but an untimely one.  I say this in regret, because most of our elders who are descendants of our forefathers who found Rongelap many thousands of years ago are gone.  And our land will take many years before the radiation residues on Rongelap’s northern part of the atoll will be acceptable to live, without any compromise in taking remedial actions to clean the environment.

For these reasons, the challenges we are facing today are both political and moral ones, The mentality that nuclear weapons and the testing of them, and as a result, their consequences continues to nourish even today.  And we as victims are bringing a message to those of you who have suffered the same, our solidarity in joining you in our efforts to stop all nuclear weapons and its creation.  And this mentality, my dear friends, is our only chance to safeguard the future generations to come and its living things,

This, my friend, is our common bond.
Our common bond which binds for all humanity.
Thank you for your attention, and I pray that we all live in Peace.


Global Hibakusha
Marshall Islands

Eldon Note
Bikini Atoll Local Government
2001 World Conference against A & H Bombs, Hiroshima

Excellences, Honorable delegates, Distinguish guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

It is a privilege and honor for me to stand here before you today on behalf of my fellow citizens to share with you our thoughts and ideas.  I have traveled thousands and thousands of miles to be part of this historic occasion that marked the 56th Anniversary of hardship, suffering, and sorrow.

I’m from Bikini Atoll.  Bikini atoll is one of the 29 atolls and five islands that composed the Marshall Islands.  These atolls of the Marshalls are scattered over 357,000 square miles of a lonely part of the World located north of the equator in the Pacific Ocean.  Back in the December of year 1945, President Harry S. Truman of the United States Government issued a directive to Army and Navy officials that joint testing of nuclear weapon would be necessary “to determine the effect of atomic bombs on American warship at Bikini atoll,” because of its location away from regular air and sea routes.  A year later, Commodore Ben H. Wytt of the military governor to the Marshall Islands traveled to Bikini to ask if they would be willing to leave their atoll temporarily so that the United States could begin testing atomic bombs for “the good of mankind and to end all world wars.”  King Juda, then the leader of the Bikinian people stood up after much confused and sorrowful deliberation among his people and announced, “We will go, believing that everything is in the hands of God.”  Ladies and Gentlemen, Victimized friends from A & H bombs “let us indeed stand together and campaign against Nuclear Weapons without delay.”

Repeatedly, about 56 years ago my people have experience the same feeling that has lived in your heart and mind through the long devastated years.  It is indeed a great lost and regret.  Fifty-six year ago, my island (Bikini atoll) was chosen as a target test site.  As a result, we have been exile for more than 56 years.  We have been away from our God-given land.  We have been away from our heritage island.  We have been away for long.  As of today you have given me a hope to strengthen my thoughts and to show me how you have coped with your feelings and you have amazed me with the development that your country has reached despite the devastation of the bombs.  I believe we live in a global world where countries are inter-dependant on each other, an era in which wisdom and knowledge are needed among ourselves.

History of the U.S. Nuclear Testing Program in the Marshall Islands such as Bikini and Enewetak atolls:
The United States Government tested 67 atomic and thermonuclear weapons between 1946 and 1958, at Bikini and Enewetak atolls.  In March 1, 1954, the U.S. detonated its most destructive nuclear weapon, code-named “Bravo” at Bikini.  The Bravo shot was 1000 times stronger than the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs.

Effects: The U.S. Nuclear Weapon Testing caused environmental, physical, psychological, Mental, social, and cultural effects.

Environment: Six Islands in Bikini were vaporized by the tests.  Enewetak, and Rongelap atolls are still uninhabited due to high levels of radiation.

Physical: A thyroid study conducted by Japanese physicians in 1994-1995 confirmed hundreds of thyroid tumors among Marshall Islanders from islands throughout the Republic.  This led U.S. Congressional leaders to comment in 1994 that the thyroid cancer rate in the Marshall Islands was 100 times higher than anywhere else in the world.  The radiological illnesses in the Marshall Islands include thyroid cancer, breast cancer, stomach cancer, cancer of the brain, cancer of the liver, cancer of the ovary, and cancer of the bone.

Mental: There are cases of mentally retarded victims of the nuclear testing.  The film Half-Life shows a mentally retarded child, son of a lady from Rongelap atoll.

Psychological: Many people in the Marshall Islands associate health problems with the nuclear testing.  This is so because the RMI Nuclear Claims Tribunal compensated many cases of medical conditions.  Moreover, there are illnesses with unknown cases, which we did not have before the nuclear testing program, such as skin diseases.

And social: The people of Bikini, Enewetak, and Rongelap atolls were relocated to other islands and atolls where they are not really free to do whatever they want, because they do not have land rights.  For instance, the Bikini people were relocated to Kili Island which we don’t have land rights.

Cultural: We changed our way of living and values drastically.  The people became dependent on western foods after our traditional foods were contaminated.  We live on Kili Island where we no longer using our skill of a making canoes.  This prevented our men from going out to fish.

The United States provided $150 million to the Republic of the Marshall Islands to create a fund that means to address past, present, and future consequences of the U.S. Nuclear testing program, including the resolution of resultant claims (preamble of the section 177 agreement).

As of August 15, 2000, the Nuclear Claims Tribunal established pursuant to 177 Agreement had awarded $72,634,750 for personal injuries, an amount $26.9 million more than the $45.75 million total available under Article II, Section 6© for payment of all awards, including property damage, over the Compact period.  To date, at least 712 of these awardees (45%) have died without receiving their full award (Attachment IV, Decision of the Nuclear Claims Tribunal, to the Changed Circumstances Petition).

Section 177 of the Compact of Free Association between the United States and the Republic of the Marshall islands provided that “The Government of the United States accepts the responsibilities for the compensation owing to the citizen of the Marshall Islands–for loss of or damage to property and person–resulting from the Nuclear Testing Program which the Government of the United States conducted in the Northern Marshall Islands between June 30, 1946, and August 18, 1958.

In closing, let us join hands and stand strong against A- and H- bombs.
Thank you Mr. Chairman.

Global Hibakusha
Marshall Islands

Matashichi Oishi
Former crew member of the Fifth Lucky Dragon
International Symposium; “Fifty Years since the Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki”, August 1995, Hiroshima

Peace Setting Back

I am very grateful to be able to participate as Hibakusha of Bikini in this important meeting, the International Symposium commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  I would also like to give my heartfelt thanks to Hajime Kikima, head of Hamamatsu city clinic, for his assistance in giving me the opportunity to speak here.

I am one of the 23 crew members of the Fifth Lucky Dragon, the Japanese fishing boat exposed to the Hydrogen bomb test in the Bikini atoll.  I am here to speak about what I experienced.

I am sure that you know well about what happened at Bikini; but to make sure, I want to say that it was a big event caused by the large-scale hydrogen bomb test carried out by the U.S. forces under the code name "Bravo" in the Bikini Atoll of the Marshall Islands, on March 1, 1954, nine years after the A-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  The hydrogen bomb used in the test was said to be 1,000 times more powerful than the Hiroshima-type A-bomb, and it produced a mushroom cloud 40km across, spouting up in the sky as high as 34,000 meters.  The fallout, containing more than 20 kinds of radionuclides, was carried by the jet stream covering the earth, and a huge amount of it fell on the Pacific.  The radioactivity had effects on fish and all living things.  It was regarded as the worst environmental pollution of the earth that the century has seen.

On our Fifth Lucky Dragon, fishing tuna 160 km to the east of the explosion at that time, so much fell as snow-white fallout to leave footprints.  In the meantime symptoms such as dizziness, nausea and diarrhea appeared among the crew; they got blisters on the spots where the fallout fell, and their hair began to fall out.  It is said that the amount of radiation to which we had been exposed during the 14 days until we came back to a Japanese port totaled 200-300 roentgen.  I have heard that for human beings, the rate of mortality from exposure to 200 roentgen of exterior radioactivity amounts to 10%.  People were very much worried about us because we had breathed in fallout through our noses and mouths.  As the diagnosis in our case revealed that we all had atomic disease due to radiation, we were transferred from Yaizu to a hospital in Tokyo.  By that time some of us had suffered a decreased count of white blood corpuscles to the level of 100, and had become unable even to eat without help; we almost gave up all hope of survival.

On September 23, after being in the hospital for six months, chief radio operator Aikichi Kuboyama died in spite of the medical treatment from the best medical science in Japan.  An autopsy determined that the cause of his death was radioactive illness; almost all his internal organs were so affected by radioactivity as to be visible to the naked eye.  As I saw him die suffering much pain in the same room, I imagined that I myself would die in the same way as he did, and became more and more prepared for death day by day, which was sure to come to me sooner or later.

Fortunately the other 22 were able to be out hospital after a year and two months.  We were relieved for a moment, but radioactive illness took the lives of my colleagues one after another slowly but without fail.  Eight had died by then of functional disorder of the liver, cancer and other diseases that were common to all.  Among the 15 of us who were able to survive, some have had operations for stomach cancer, liver cancer or skin cancer.  There are those whose wives suffered stillbirths or sterility, and those whose grandchildren were affected.  They have never been able to talk about such unpleasant experiences as these.  Being unable to speak or write about what they had to go through, they could do nothing but endure the hardships all by themselves.  Though many of us have suffered disease or effects which should be attributed to radioactivity, there has been no reliable follow-up study made on our cases, and there is no way for us to know the causal relationships.

Every time I see people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki working actively for the abolition of nuclear weapons, I am aware of the difference of the two cases.  You became united, backed up by public opinion which rose with the occurrence of the Bikini incident, and have been making continuous efforts to let the world know the cruelty of nuclear weapons, calling for compensation to victims and the right to live.  In contrast to this, in the Bikini incident, though more than 1,000 ships suffered damages, many crewmen of which were affected, crew members did not unite nor did they appeal to the people.  Rather, they hid themselves, leaving the Bikini incident known only by name.

However, there are some reasons for this.  In the devastating situation after the war, fishermen were still poor and weak.  Besides, on the sea they were always isolated from each other, on board each ship, small limited place.  Different from the case of the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki who were affected by the A-bomb explosions, we were affected by radiation internally through sea water and fallout.  With few external wounds, we were able to work.  If we had carelessly said we were exposed to radiation, we would not have been able to go fishing.  And if we could not go fishing, we would have had a hard time making a living.  All of us shut our mouths, wishing not to get involved in the incident.  We were not aware of nor willing to think about the aftereffects, whose seriousness is widely known today.

After all, our opponent was too big.  It was a case that fishermen of defeated Japan got involved in the top military secret of the United States, the victorious state which had it all its own way.  Though the peace treaty had been concluded, the Japanese government was still under the thumb of the United States and could not help but yield to the strong pressure from the United States.  As diplomatic documents show, the Foreign Ministry admitted at first the illegality of the act conducted by the United States.  But in the meantime it changed its attitude and began to say that Japan would cooperate with the U.S. nuclear tests, which is unbelievable today.  As for the U.S. government, far from apologizing for the damage, branded us as spies, and even made inquiries into our background on the unjust charge of taking fallout to the former Soviet Union.  They completely ignored our physical conditions.

On the other hand, ordinary citizens, angry at the danger of radioactive tuna and rain due to fallout, started to take actions.  A signature collecting campaign against nuclear tests was launched and spread with rage, achieving the collection of 32 million signatures.  Anti-American sentiment became stronger and stronger.  In a flurry, the governments of the United States and Japan hurried to make a settlement of the matter, and before the end of the year they reached the political conclusion to provide a small amount of compensation.

The U.S. government would never admit that the Bikini incident was an illegal act, and tried to make a complete settlement of the matter by paying 2 million dollars (720 million yen) in damage as solatium.  By receiving this amount of money, the Japanese government promised the U.S. side not to call the U.S. to account any further in this case.  Actually as of August that year the amount of damage had exceeded 2.6 billion yen.  The settlement given by the two governments provoked anger among those working in the fishing industry who were not paid compensation, and some of them vented their anger on the crew members of the Fifth Lucky Dragon who had the received solatium.  We were caught in sufferings both from illness and intensified envy.

While we were put in a severe situation over compensation from the US, another negotiation between Japan and the US on nuclear issues was going on in secret.  I later learned that they were negotiating over such issues as the supply of technology on nuclear energy and atomic reactors, and the reversion of the Ogasawara Islands to Japan.

After all, the Bikini incident was brought to a conclusion through political tactics between the governments of the United States and Japan, and it is considered to be completely settled.  But have we ever recovered our health with this settlement?

Chief radio operator Aikichi Kuboyama who had died before the political settlement was made, was treated politely as a hydrogen bomb test victim.  But the other seven crew members who died after the settlement, were treated coldly, as though they did not have anything to do with the exposure to the hydrogen bomb any more.  In no way can I accept such treatment.

To mention what happened to myself, I suffered a lot from radioactive disease just the same as other crew members did.  After I was put in hospital, I suffered a decreased count of white blood corpuscles and functional disorder of the liver.  The functional disorder of the liver later developed into chronic hepatitis, which I am still suffering from even today.  After I was out of hospital, I had diarrhea for a while, and then my appendix became swollen so extraordinarily that it had to be taken out.  There is a record indicating that the incidence of appendicitis increased extraordinarily in crew members of other fishing boats around the time when the United States began nuclear testing in the Pacific.  What I had been afraid of most happened to me.  My wife delivered a stillborn baby; it should have been our first child.  The chronic hepatitis I was suffering from turned out to be C-type viral hepatitis, and liver cancer was found in November, 1993.  I had an operation for removal of the liver cancer.  After the operation the doctor kept watch on my physical condition and just recently he told me that a shadow was found on another spot.  I was shocked at his words.  I am under close examination.

Apart from disease, there is another problem I am troubled with.  That is the prejudice and discrimination against Hibakusha leveled at me.  Once you are labeled with this prejudice and discrimination, you can never be free of it, no matter how hard you try to hide or shake it off.  It will steal deep into your family, standing in your way in every aspect of your family life, including the marriage of your children.  When this happened to my child, I had no word to cheer her/him up.  My wife, unable to bear watching us any more, told me in a low voice to stop speaking about my experience of exposure.  Many times I decided to keep silent, and not to speak any more.  But remembering the unacceptable, unreasonable treatment against us, and thinking of my colleagues dying with no word to express their feelings, I cannot remain silent after all.  Such ugly words are cast even on the dead, saying that they had to die because their way of living was bad, or due to their own health problems.  I am sure that those who died must also feel mortified.

Feeling that I have to speak of my experience as the time left for me is limited, I often go to the museum of the Fifth Lucky Dragon in Yumenoshima, Tokyo.  The Fifth Lucky Dragon, reborn as a symbol of peace, is displayed there.  It is the fishing boat that led to the holding of the first World Conference against A and H Bombs in Hiroshima 40 years ago.  Different kinds of organizations as well as students coming from neighboring prefectures or on school excursions visit the museum for peace education, and learn the horribleness of nuclear weapons and radioactivity, listening to the detailed explanation.  I hope that as many people as possible will see the Fifth Lucky Dragon and become aware of the preciousness of peace.

The nuclear arms race has victimized a huge number of innocent people.  All of residents living near the test sites have health problems.  And nuclear victims are still suffering today.  On the other hand, the five big powers have decided to continue possessing nuclear weapons forever.  The attitude of China and France to still try to continue nuclear testing comes to a question.  Nuclear weapons will by no means make humans happy.  They are the devil's property.  It is needless to say that we should never leave them to our children, who bear the future.

Scientists and leaders who are responsible for inventing such weapons should be strictly punished in the name of God.  Their name should be recorded in history as criminals who aimed to lead humanity to ruin.

Thank you very much for giving me this opportunity to speak in this fine hall about  what has been always in my mind.  I am resolved to use more of the time left for me to speak of the Bikini incident, for peace and the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Names of the former crew member of the Fifth Lucky Dragon who died 
 Name (age)   Duty   Death Cause    Death Date
 I.Kuboyama (40)  Chief radio operator   Liver functional disorder, Radioactive disease  1954/ 9/23
 M. Kawashima(47)  Chief deck hand  Liver functional disorder, Liver cancer   1975/ 4/11
 S. Masuda (45)  Deck hand  Liver cancer; septicemia  1979/12/ 2
 S. Suzuki (57)  Engineer   Cirrhosis, traffic accident  1982/ 6/18
 Y. Masuda (50)  Engineer  Cirrhosis, brain disorder  1985/11/ 4
 S. Yamamoto (59)  Chief Engineer   Liver, lung, colon cancer   1987/ 3/ 6
 T. Suzuki (59)  Deck hand  Liver cancer  1989/ 4/29
 K. Takagi (66)  Engineer   Liver functional disorder,Liver cancer   1989/12/ 8

Solidarity with Hibakusha

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