Kirk Spitzer / USA TODAY – 2015-08-08 01:13:28
Hiroshima Marks 70 Years Since Atomic Bombing
With Calls to End ‘Absolute Evil’ of Nuclear Weapons
Kirk Spitzer / USA TODAY
HIROSHIMA, Japan (August 6, 2015) — Japan marked the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on Thursday, as its mayor renewed calls for global leaders to rid the world of nuclear weapons, calling them “the absolute evil and ultimate inhumanity.”
Tens of thousands of people stood for a minute of silence at a ceremony at 8:15 a.m. in Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park near the epicenter of the 1945 attack, marking the moment the bomb — code named “Little Boy” — made impact. US Ambassador Caroline Kennedy and representatives from more than 100 countries, including Britain, France and Russia, attended the ceremony.
“President Obama and other policymakers, please come to the A-bombed cities, hear the hibakusha (surviving victims) with your own ears, and encounter the reality of the atomic bombings,” said Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui, who criticized nuclear powers for keeping them as threats to achieve national interests. He said the world still bristles with more than 15,000 nuclear weapons.
Destruction from the explosion of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima, Japan, on Aug. 6, 1945. More than 200,000 people died in the combined Hiroshima and Nagasaki blasts. Japan surrendered unconditionally after the Aug. 9 bomb on Nagasaki to end World War II. AP
Sunao Tsuboi was on his way to class at Hiroshima Technical School on Aug. 6, 1945, when the atomic bomb — the world’s first — detonated.
Tsuboi remembers a blinding light, followed by a shock wave that hurled him 30 feet and knocked him unconscious. When he awoke, he was covered in burns and could barely walk. All around him was death, destruction and unimaginable horror.
“Houses gone. Bodies everywhere — no arms, no legs, everyone just dead. You look and you ask, ‘Were these really human beings?’ ” Tsuboi, 91, recalled in a recent interview.
The US dropped the bombs to avoid what would have been a bloody ground assault on the Japanese mainland, following the fierce battle for Japan’s southernmost Okinawan islands, which took 12,520 American lives and an estimated 200,000 Japanese, about half civilians.
An estimated 140,000 people died from the Hiroshima bombing, and even more were killed three days later in the attack on Nagasaki, on Aug. 9.
Of the 1 million-plus Japanese classified as hibakusha in the postwar years, only about 183,000 are still alive. Their average age is now 80 — only a few years below Japan’s average life expectancy. Many are still fighting illnesses and injuries traced to the bombings seven decades ago.
“The survivors are getting old and are disappearing, and there are fewer people to tell their stories. So we need to train people to pass along these stories and knowledge so that it doesn’t disappear,” said Ayami Shibata, a Hiroshima city official.
Time has not eased the burden. Decades after the bombings, survivors can be diagnosed with cancer and others illnesses linked to radiation.
“When the radiation began to appear, we were all shocked. We thought it was over. But 10 years, 20 years later, people were still dying and still suffering,” said Keiko Ogura, 78, a Hiroshima survivor who works as an interpreter and volunteer at the Peace Memorial Museum.
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