Hiroshima’s Ghosts

On August 6,  1945 the city of Hiroshima became the victim of the first recorded use of an atomic bomb dropped on a human population. President Truman, in a bid to end the bloody war with Japan, authorized the use of the newly developed atomic weapon. Nicknamed “Little Boy”, the bomb detonated 1,900 feet over Hiroshima. It eviscerated everything in its vicinity. It’s estimated that 67% of the city’s structures where destroyed or severely damaged, while a gut wrenching 70,000 people were killed in the initial blast. In total, its estimated that upwards of 200,000 people died as a result of radiation damage.

I won’t go into the details of the war. I will say that Hiroshima was selected to be the site of the first bomb because it had high concentration of troops, military facilities and factories not damaged in the war. Tragically, there was a large civilian population in the area. Thousands of children and women died as collateral damage in this attack.

No one knew the attack was coming. It was a calm and sunny Monday morning. People were casually going about their daily morning routines. When the bomb detonated, those closest to the explosion died instantly. Their bodies turned to black char and ash. The white light acted like a giant flashbulb, burning dark patterns of clothing onto the skins of people and created shadows on walls indicating the places where people died. After the detonation there was a “blast wave” that knocked people off their feet. One boy was blown through the windows of his house and across the street as the building collapsed behind him. Within minutes, 9 out of 10 people who where half a mile or less from ground zero were dead. In a blink of an eye thousands of humans where wiped off the face of the earth.

After the bombing, many doubted that Hiroshima could ever recover from such a devastating attack. Yet (somehow) it has, maybe to a fault. Today the only building in Hiroshima that has not been razed or rebuilt is the Genbaku Domu. It survived the blast because it was located exactly below where the bomb detonated. The damage radiated outward, allowing this building to survive. It was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. Today it’s the only building from that event that (hauntingly) remains standing.

So the question is, how do you preserve the history of this tragedy as a reminder of why we should never allow the use of an atomic bomb ever again?

An impossible task that somehow the Japanese have managed to pull off with the moving “Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum”. The focus of this museum is on the human causalities. Through pictures, personal artifacts and stories of the human devastation the event is perfectly memorialized. When I walked through this museum there was a solemn quiet. I couldn’t help but shed tears over the victims stories.

Below are some of the most moving displays:


Shinichi Tetsutani (age: 4) was playing on his beloved tricycle when the bomb detonated. He and his bike were badly burnt. He died later that night. His father felt that he was too young to be buried in a lonely grave. So he buried him in his backyard with his bike, thinking he could still play with it. 40 years later his father moved his sons remains to a family grave site.
Shinichi Tetsutani (age: 4) was playing on his beloved tricycle when the bomb detonated. He and his bike were badly burnt. He died later that night. His father felt that he was too young to be buried in a lonely grave. So he buried him in his backyard with his bike, thinking he could still play with it.   40 years later his father moved his sons remains to a family grave site.

 

Shigeru Orimen was a first year high school student. His mother found his body clutching his lunch box. His lunch was charred black.
Shigeru Orimen was a first year high school student. His mother found his body clutching his lunch box. His lunch was charred black.

 

Nobuko Shoda (age: 14) a second year student in high school. She suffered burns over her entire body. She was carried on her parents backs to the Red Cross Hospital, but only got minimal treatment. Her parents took her home where she died on August 10th
Nobuko Shoda (age: 14)  a second year student in high school. She suffered burns over her entire body. She was carried on her parents backs to the Red Cross but only got minimal treatment. Her parents took her home where she died on August 10th




Jiro Hataguchi (age: 31) was at worked at the Railway Bureau. His wife and older brother looked for him for 4 days. They finally dug up his belt and watch from under a toppled safe near his work. They carried these home along with bones they found near by.
Jiro Hataguchi (age: 31) was at worked at the Railway Bureau. His wife and older brother looked for him for 4 days. They finally dug up his belt and watch from under a toppled safe near his work. They carried these home along with bones they found near by.

 

Survivors who wore dark clothes, had the patterns burnt on their skin.
Survivors who wore dark clothes, had the patterns burnt on their skin.

 

Pictures of horrific burn victims in the bombing
Pictures of victims with horrific burns from the bombing

 

Survivors of the atomic bombing continued to suffer long after the event. Many people developed Keloids, which are growths that appears on the faces, necks, backs and joints that caused tremendous physical and emotional pain to their victims.
Survivors of the atomic bombing continued to suffer long after the event. Many people developed Keloids, which are growths that appeared on their faces, necks, backs and joints that caused tremendous physical and emotional pain.

 

Sadako was exposed to the atomic bomb at the age of two but escaped without apparent injury. She grew into strong healthy girl, but 10 years later she suddenly contracted leukemia and was hospitalized. She heard a story that if she folded a thousand paper cranes she would be cured. So she tirelessly folded cranes, but sadly it was in vain. 8 months later she passed away. In 1958 a statue of Sadako holding a golden crane was unveiled in Hiroshima's Peace Memorial. They also finished off making the paper cranes which she had believed in. At the foot of the statue is a plaque that reads: "This is our cry. This is our prayer. Peace in the world."
Sadako was exposed to the atomic bomb at the age of two but escaped without apparent injury. She grew into a strong healthy girl, but 10 years later she suddenly contracted leukemia and was hospitalized. She heard a story that if she folded a thousand paper cranes she would be cured. So she tirelessly folded cranes, but sadly it was in vain. 8 months later she passed away. In 1958 a statue of Sadako holding a golden crane was unveiled in Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial. They also finished making the paper cranes which she had believed in. At the foot of the statue is a plaque that reads: “This is our cry. This is our prayer. Peace in the world.”

 


At the exit of the Museum there are video kiosks sharing survivor’s stories. In the video below, a woman tells the story of how her life was ruined after the bombing when she lost her husband and two young children. It’s obvious from the video that she never recovered and her life was never the same.