The Youngest Survivor
By Nakanishi Eiji, Kita Ward, Tokyo
Voices: My Hiroshima A-bomb Experience by Miyanaga Ryuma
I was born in Hiroshima in October 1941. When I was a two month-old baby, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and the Pacific War began. The Japanese government proclaimed themselves to be the “Leaders of Peace in the Orient” and began the war stating that they would “Liberate the people of Asia from the control of Europe and the United States.” In reality, Japan aligned itself with Hitler Germany and became the enemy of the entire world. They engaged in a war of aggression using brute force to control other countries. The responsibility for starting this war, which claimed more than twenty million casualties in Asia and the Pacific alone, lies with Japan.
From a young age I have always wanted to know from the adults around me, “Why did you start this war?” I was still only three years old when, as a result of the war started by the Japanese government, the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. My family lived 2.5 kilometers from the hypocenter. On that day my father, my older sister and I were at home. According to the stories of my parents, at the moment of the blast a large portion of our house was completely blown away and my father was thrown from a downstairs room into the garden. My older sister, who was on the second floor, tumbled down the stairs that had just collapsed and filled with dust and began to look for me.
Apparently I was sitting right outside the front door playing by my self. Miraculously, I was completely uninjured. Covered head to foot in ash, I was totally white. When my sister found me she grabbed me and hugged me as tight as she could. What is so miraculous about all of this is that at that very instant the woman from next door was walking on the road very close to me and was severely burned by the thermal rays. I just happened to be in the shade, and that housewife from next door just by chance was walking outside in the sun.
Our fates were decided by the thinnest of margins. With the A-bomb, the difference between life and death, between being injured or emerging unscathed, is completely random. Only ten days before the bomb was dropped, my family had moved away from an area that was close to the city center. My aunt’s family remained in this area and their house was totally razed to the ground by fire. Her husband was killed when he was pinned under a burning support column. My aunt, unable to do anything to save him, watched her husband burn to death before her very eyes. I have heard that her husband died screaming, “Are you just going to stand there and watch me die? You evil bitch!”
If our move had just been ten days later, my family would have been struck by the same tragedy. The A-bomb killed more than 100,000 people in the immediate period following the blast. Furthermore, it is a terrifying weapon which continues to kill people through fallout from radiation and which continues to cause pain and suffering in peoples lives many years later. My father’s older brother was uninjured in the blast but by the end of 1945 he had died from radiation sickness in a hospital in Kyushu.
I will never forget the scene of two brothers who were friends of mine in tears one evening, rushing their mother to the hospital in a wheelbarrow because she had suddenly taken a turn for the worse. Their mother was dead by the end of the day. Suffering from the A-bomb as a three year old and watching so many people die around me, I have grown up with the fear that someday my turn will come.
When I was twenty-two I became engaged to be married. However, the woman’s family opposed the marriage saying, “We will not let our daughter marry an A-bomb survivor”, and the marriage never happened. I later married a different woman and together we had a son. When he was born, I counted each and every finger and toe to make sure he had all ten. The first time he came down with a fever, I spent the whole night cradling him in my arms and cried about what I would do if he ever started to show the effects of the A-bomb. I cursed the A-bomb for its never-ending presence in my life. Even as the “youngest survivor” who suffered from the atomic bombing at the age of three, the A-bomb is a lifelong burden that I must carry.
Those who were killed or injured by the bomb were not soldiers or the military. They were noncombatants, the nameless people of Hiroshima. The A-bomb incinerated in a single stoke ten of thousands, indeed hundreds of thousands of people like you and I who have the right to live in peace and happiness, and it continues to rob people of their lives through residual radiation illness even half a century later. This is not a weapon to be used for military victory. It is a weapon for the annihilation of the human race.
I have something I would like to say to President Bush and the leaders of all the countries which possess nuclear weapons. Imagine a relative of yours being burned by the atomic bomb. You are forced to watch them die while they scream that you are an “evil bitch” because you can’t do anything to save them. Imagine a scene of hundreds of thousands of good people writhing in pure agony while they are burned all over their bodies. Imagine two young brothers in tears while they watch over their mother as she dies from radiation illness. Would you still use the A-bomb?
As the sole witnesses to the scenes of the annihilation of humanity that took place in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, A-bomb survivors have continued for half a century to offer a warning to the world. The world cannot have anymore atomic bomb survivors. That is our cry. Although I am the “youngest survivor”, I believe it is my job to pass on this desire of older A-bomb survivors to the next generation. I am sixty-one years old and this is my first trip abroad. I am finally realizing my lifelong dream of visiting the United States to apologize for the war my country started, but also to speak out against nuclear weapons. From the bottom of my heart I wish to take this opportunity to become friends with all of you.