Confederation of A-and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations (HIDANKYO）
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.
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