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2015 World Conference against A and H Bombs
International Meeting - Greetings on Behalf of the A-Bomb Survivors

Wada Masako

Assistant Secretary General

Japan Confederation of A-and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations (HIDANKYO

 

 

Message for friends who are working together for peace

 

 

My name is Wada Masako from the Japan Confederation of A-and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations, Nihon Hidankyo. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak to you.

 

Seventy years have passed since the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

 

The Hibakusha are aging. The average age of certified Hibakusha reportedly exceeded 80 for the first time. While voices against the threat of nuclear weapons and nuclear wars are increasing, illnesses caused by exposure to atomic bomb radiation are fading away as old memories as time goes by.

 

Allow me to talk about what happened on that day. I was born in Nagasaki in 1943, so I’m one of the youngest Hibakusha. I was only 22 months old at the time, so I was too young to remember what happened. I cannot talk about the indescribable hardships that older Hibakusha might have gone through, but I was there with my mother and grandfather. Here is the story of my mother’s atomic bomb experience as she related it to me.

 

*             *             *             *             *

 

On August 9th -- it was a sweltering hot day. I was preparing lunch with some food stuff used as a replacement for rice. There was no air-raid warning. My eldest daughter, Masako, who was born in October 1943, was playing alone on the dirt floor of the entrance of the house. I had told her to stay in the house to avoid the summer heat. We spent quiet hours before lunch. 

 

It was 11:02 am. All of a sudden there came a Kaboom! When I came to myself I found that the floor of the room of my house was covered with 30 centimeters of dirt overburden. My house was in Imahakata-machi, 2.9 kilometers (1.8 miles) from the hypocenter. The windows, shoji sliding doors, lattice doors, clay walls and everything had crumbled into dust. I had no idea what had happened. I saw orange smoke hanging in the air. I could see none of the houses that had existed across the street from my house. People were crying, “A bomb fell on my house!” The tiles of every house in the area had slid off the roof to one side like scales scraped off a fish. The green mountains surrounding the city had turned brown.

 

After a while I saw a startling scene on the brown mountain path. A long black line, like a march of ants, was slowly moving down Mount Kompira to Tateyama. They came over the mountains fleeing from the fire that had broken out in Urakami, the hypocenter, and looking for water. They were suffering from burns and were wounded. They were almost naked. Their hair was stuck together with blood like horns. Many people may have died along the way.

 

The land next to my house was left vacant since the family was forced to evacuate[PW1] . There was a well in my backyard. Those who were suffering severe burns or injuries came one after another to the well for water. Carrying Masako on my back, I cleaned the wounds of countless people. Pieces of cloth sterilized in boiling water, which I had collected, were helpful. There is no knowing what happened to these people afterwards.

 

In the evacuated land, bodies were cremated day after day, from morning till night. Due to the frightful stench of death, I was unable to eat at all. Box-shape garbage carts loaded with bodies arrived there. People collected roadside bodies and threw them into the cart, just like collecting the garbage. Charred hands and legs were seen sticking out of the cart like dolls. Each day we talked about whether a large or small number of bodies had been collected. Everybody became numb to sights like this.

 

What is human dignity? How can we tolerate this kind of treatment of human beings?

 

On August 15th, when the War ended, I went to the gymnasium of the present school of economics of Nagasaki University to help the medical team treating the people for injuries and burns. It is difficult to describe how these people were and what the scene was like in the gym where they were laid on the floor. When the doctor visited each patient for treatment I accompanied him with antiseptic solution. But I was frightened to see their severe wounds. I screamed, “Please take this antiseptic solution!” then fainted. Medicines were invaluable at the time. When I was pulled back to consciousness, I found myself lying down on the gym floor as well. They said they didn’t need a nurse like me and I was told to do cleaning. My job was to remove maggots with a broom from festered wounds. Maggots were crawling around all over the patients’ bodies. They had grown as big as a thumb. I had never seen, and will never see such big maggots or so many.

 

A friend of mine, who lived in the Nishizaka district of the city near Nagasaki Station, told me that after the air-raid warning was lifted, she saw from the window upstairs a B29 overhead drop three cocoon-like balls and fly away. Immediately after she saw them moving away toward Urakami, there was a flash. Her younger brother quickly threw himself on her. She was saved from the heat. But her brother suffered burns to his back and died. I recently learned that the cocoon-like balls which she saw were parachutes equipped with radio sensors used to monitor the effects of the bombing.    

 

Many Koreans, Chinese and even Allied military personnel who had been taken prisoners were among the many victims of the atomic bombing. They were people who happened to be there at that moment, regardless of nationality and race. I wonder if that recording device only reported to the US military the effect of the A-bomb, and not the state of each one of us, our families, and the preciousness of human life.

 

*             *             *             *             *

 

This is the account I heard many times from my mother. She died four years ago at the age of 89. She had suffered from stomach cancer, liver cancer and various other diseases, and had been hospitalized 28 times. She seemed pretty unsatisfied when she read this memorandum I wrote. That may be because she thought that her experience of hell on earth couldn’t be described in such words. I am sure that other Hibakusha would feel the same. The two atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki have left many Hibakusha and their families with diseases, agony, sorrow, anger and anxiety.

 

But we have never thought of taking reprisals. That’s because we never want anyone else to experience the same tragedy. What is nuclear deterrent? Why are nuclear weapons necessary as a deterrent?

 

We have been calling for ”No More Hiroshimas, No More Nagasakis, and No More Wars”. This call should be the deterrent! You cannot deter anyone with many nuclear weapons. The first step to creating a world without war can only be taken when those who experienced war and those who heard about war experiences clearly understand how awful and insane it is to hurt each other or kill each other. The 2015 NPT Review Conference ended without a final agreement. That’s very regrettable and disappointing. But the government of 156 countries proclaimed the inhumane nature of nuclear weapons. We will continue to take action with strong support from civil society.

 

You are in Hiroshima today. I ask you to visit the Peace Museum and listen to more Hibakusha so that you can better understand how horrible nuclear weapons are. Now it’s your turn. Please tell your families, friends and people around you what you have heard from the Hibakusha. That would be the first step toward a world free of nuclear weapons. Let us move forward together to a world where human beings will never again lose their lives like “mere objects”.       

      

Thank you for your attention