Testimony of Yasuhiko Taketa,
a survivor of Hiroshima


Mr. Taketa went to India and Pakistan last June as a member of a GENSUIUKIN delegation to talk about his experience of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.
Here is a written version of his testimony. Part 1 is a translation of an essay that accompanies his painting of the fireball he saw on the morning of August 6, 1945. He gave these handpainted pictures to organisers of meetings held in different cities in India and Pakistan. Part 2 is a translation of his speech which was used as the basis for the talks he gave at different places during his stay.


THE ATOMIC BOMB

drawing_of_the_atomic_bomb_by_Mr.Taketa

The sky was blue on the morning of August 6, 1945 when, suddenly, there was a blinding, searing flash of light, which cast a bluish haze over everything in sight. That was followed by a thunderous, earsplitting blast that shook the earth, and seemed to penetrate to the marrow of my bones.

An immense fireball crackled as it burned. Hellish orange flames raged, and a pillar of fire rose to the skies with terrifying momentum. It was an atomic bomb, and it claimed hundreds of thousands of precious lives.

Why do humans wage war after senseless, cruel war?

Unless wars cease, and nuclear weapons are eliminated, the Earth will be destroyed.

I hope and pray for world peace, to which the entire human race aspires. The attainment of a lasting peace is the very least we can do to honor the memories of the victims of war, and to fulfill our responsibility to our children.

Yasuhiko
[Seal: Yasuhiko]


TESTIMONY

(1) Profile

TAKETA Yasuhiko (65)

Member, Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of Atomic Bomb Sufferers' Organization Currently being treated for cirrhosis of the liver, low platelet count, and other ailments

Relatives and close friends who were killed by the atomic bomb.

Elder sister (second daughter): When the bomb was dropped, she was 1.7 kilometers away from the epicenter. Her house collapsed, and she was buried in the wreckage, but somehow managed to crawl out before her house and a storehouse burned to the ground. She underwent surgery for stomach cancer on June 10, 1997.

Elder sister (fourth daughter): Died on June 5, 1997, after undergoing surgery for bladder cancer.

Elder sister, Motoko (fifth daughter): A student at a vocational school, Motoko had been conscripted to serve in the student mobilization program, and was a member of the [Young Women's Volunteer Corps] and the [Students' Patriotic League]. She was on her way to work at a munitions factory, and was 1.4 kilometers from the epicenter when the bomb was dropped. She spent that night at Kyobashi River, and was brought home on the next day, August 9, only to die there. She was 16 years old.

Brother-in-law: A first-year middle-school student, he was working in the student mobilization program, at a factory, when the bomb was dropped. He died at Ninoshima, an island to the south of Hiroshima City.

Elementary-school classmates: Twenty-eight of my elementary- school classmates who had advanced to middle schools or girls' schools in Hiroshima City were killed by the atomic bomb.

My class (first-year middle-school students) had been working on a demolition project for evacuation purposes until the day before the bomb was dropped. We were told that we could take the next day (August 6) off. All 183 of the second-year students, who took our place that day, were killed by the atomic bomb.

(2) Life before the atomic bomb

At dawn on December 8, 1941, the Japanese Navy launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, which triggered the outbreak of the Pacific War.

At that time, I was nine years old, and a third-grade student in elementary school. As the fortunes of war turned against the Japanese, all of our school classes were characterized by strong military overtones. I remember that the principles of national morality and of Japanese education, as outlined in the Imperial Rescript on Education, were forced upon us until the end of the war.

We were taught to worship the Emperor, to serve him with unquestioning loyalty, and to selflessly give our lives for our nation. We were trained to be fearless of death (the Yamato spirit). The militaristic curriculum culminated in the drafting of students (in 1943). They were sent to war zones, and soon were used in a new battle tactic, the humanguided missile. Many young men, believing that Japan would ultimately be victorious, volunteered for these suicide squads, aimed their aircraft at enemy ships, and died heroic deaths.

Women and children engaged in fire drills, grew vegetables to increase a pitifully inadequate food supply, and practiced fighting with bamboo spears to prepare for a last, fight-to-the-death battle on Japanese soil.

The Japanese people were forced to endure poverty and suffering. Food and clothing were rationed. "We will wish for nothing until we are victorious" became our slogan.

There were other slogans, too: "[Kill] the American and British beasts," "We will defend our nation through all eternity," and "Honorable death before surrender." We endured meager meals and hunger pangs. Constant air raid warnings left us so apprehensive that we couldn't sleep at night.

In March 1945, I took the entrance examination for a prefectural middle school, with five of my elementary-school classmates. I was the only one who didn't pass, and I was so bitter and disappointed that I wept. (My five classmates were all killed by the bomb.) Left with no other choice, I enrolled in a private middle school, where I began the first-year course. However, classes soon ceased. We were conscripted to serve in the Student Mobilization Corps. Following the orders of the military, we dug air raid shelters, worked at the military base and, as part of the effort to increase the food supply, cultivated the soil at the drill ground. In August, we began working on a demolition project for evacuation purposes.

The day before the bomb was dropped, we were working behind Hiroshima City Hall. At the end of the day, our supervisor, a military instructor named Mr. T., told us, "You boys take tomorrow off, and get a good rest. The second-year students will take your place." We set out for our homes, delighted at this opportunity. That was my last look at the city of Hiroshima as I had known it.

(3) August 6, 1945

On the morning of August 6, when I was thinking about what I was going to do that day, my mother asked me to deliver some miso (bean paste) to my sister (second daughter), who had moved to Hiroshima when she got married. I wasn't very happy about having to do that errand, but I headed for the train station. I remember looking up at the blue sky during my walk to the station, and thinking, "It's going to be another hot day." The air-raid siren went off, so I turned around and went back home. My mother scolded me, so I set out once again for the station, but the train had already departed.

I sat on the railing at the ticket gate to wait for the next train. When I thought it should be coming in at any moment, I looked at the station clock. It read a little after 8:10 a.m.

All of a sudden, there was a dazzling flash of light, brighter even than the sun. For a while, I was blinded. The station building and the tracks looked bluish-white, as though magnesium were being burned in front of the station.

Seconds later, I heard an earsplitting roar, the sound of a massive explosion. My ears were ringing. The ground trembled under my feet, and all the buildings in the area were shaking. Window panes were blown out and shattered. I was knocked hard onto my back, and thought that my bowels were going to burst out of my abdomen.

My forehead felt hot, and I unconsciously touched it with my hand. When I looked at the sky over Hiroshima, I saw a tiny, glittering, white object, about the size of a grain of rice, tinged with yellow, and red, which soon grew into a monstrous fireball. It was travelling in my direction, and I felt as though it was going to envelop me.

I was paralyzed with fear and shock, so much so that I had trouble breathing. I tried to escape, but realized that was impossible. I took shelter under a nearby bench. I was terrified by the booming sounds I heard, thinking that enemy planes were strafing the city.

Then the noise stopped. Cautiously, I crawled out of my hiding place and looked around. I saw an enormous, bright red pillar of fire (I was told later that it measured 200 meters in diameter and rose 10,000 meters in the air), which increased in size minute by minute, reaching high in the sky.

From the ground up, the pillar of fire rose toward the sky, with tremendous force. Sometimes it was hollow at the center. At other times, broiling, leaping flames blew out of the center. The sight was so horrifying that I can find no words to describe it. An army officer standing on the platform, surveying the area with binoculars, told me that the ammunition dump at the armory had been hit.

Within minutes, one atomic bomb had transformed the entire city of Hiroshima, now under that huge fireball, into a sea of flames. I never imagined that a weapon could create a gruesome, miserable living hell. (The atomic bomb was dropped from a height of 9,000 meters above the hypocenter, ground zero. The explosion occurred at a height of approximately 600 meters. Surface temperature was 6,000 Centigrade. Radiation emitted by the bomb and the force of its blast burned and killed humans and animals, and destroyed buildings for miles around.)

Soon the elementary school in our town became a temporary first-aid station, its classrooms transformed into hospital wards. The bombing victims were lined up there, waiting for help.

The victims' hair was frizzled, and their faces bloated and dark red from burns. Pieces of their skin were hanging down from open wounds, and their clothing was scorched. They were covered with blood. Many of them were brought in on shutters that served as stretchers. They looked like ghosts, lying there, their internal organs bulging through their hands. Some people were simply moaning. Others were calling out the names of family members, and still others begged, "Water, please. Give me water," as they were carried out on stretchers or in wheelbarrows. It was an indescribably hideous scene.

All the Women's National Defense League members could do was attempt to comfort the victims, since there was no medicine whatsoever. When victims stopped moaning, we knew that they had died. As the dead increased in number, hole after hole was dug on the grounds of the crematorium. Pine boughs were placed on top of the corpses, oil was poured over them, and they were cremated. Day after day, from morning to late at night, the air was filled with smoke and the stench of rotting flesh.

My elder sister's (second daughter) lived 1.7 kilometers from the hypocenter. The bomb destroyed her house, trapping her in the wreckage, but she managed through sheer will power to extricate herself and get to our home.

Another sister, Moto (fifth daughter), who was just ahead of me in sibling order, a member of the Young Women's Volunteer Corps and the Students' Patriotic League, had been working at a munitions factory. She was about 1.4 kilometers away from the hypocenter. With four of her friends, she tried to return to her school, but when they got there they saw that it was engulfed in flames. The group then headed for Hiroshima Station, but once the girls reached the Kyobashi River, they collapsed, exhausted. They spent the night there. The area around them was filledwith so many of the dead and dying that there was hardly room to move.

One after another, the victims, desperate for water, entered the river, until there were too many to count. They were carried downstream by the current.

The night wore on, but the sky over Hiroshima was still bright red. I was exhausted and enervated by what I had experienced that day and, at some point, fell asleep. When I awakened in the middle of the night, I saw my mother sitting on the veranda, looking up at the sky, unable to sleep. I said, "Mother, go to sleep right away," but she didn't answer me.

Now that I have children and grandchildren, I know how parents worry about their children. It pains me to think about my mother, praying for the safe return of her daughter, and my poor, wounded sister, lying the midst of corpses, waiting and waiting to be rescued.

Early the next morning, a man came to our house, a stranger who said that he'd been asked to tell us where my sister was. My brother-in-law, elder sister (third daughter), and my cousin got a wheelbarrow, and headed toward Hiroshima. Late that night, they returned, carrying Moto on a door.

When she saw my mother, Moto said, "Mother, I'm sorry that I made you worry." My mother replied, "I'm so relieved to see you. It must have hurt a lot, and you must have been terribly frightened."

Moto's hair was scorched and frizzled. The dark-colored portions of her work clothes were charred, and her skin was raw from burns. Her knapsack and socks were faded and tattered.

In the middle of the night, a relative living in the next town came to us. He had had to climb a mountain to get to our house. He brought a 1.8-liter bottle of sesame oil to apply to my sister's burns.

An attempt was made to remove her clothing so that the oil could be applied, but it was stuck to her skin. Moto was told to bear the pain of having her clothing cut away from her skin with scissors. Finally, the oil was applied to her wounds.

On the night of August 8, Moto pleaded, "Mother, help me!" over and over again. She breathed her last at noon on August 9. She was only 16.

Moto, you were always so nice to me. You would always take me with you when you went out to play. Why were you born onto this Earth? Even 50 years later, the memory of the way she looked that day remains indelible.

Early in the morning, two days after the atomic bomb was dropped, I reported to my middle school, together with three of my classmates. I was shocked at the sight of Hiroshima. The entire city was enveloped in smoke, and fires were still smoldering here and there. The stench was horrible. Now and then we could see buildings through the smoke. Only a few reinforced concrete buildings remained standing. I could not believe my eyes.

We walked toward our school in silence, crossing the crumbling bridge, taking care to avoid fires that were still burning amid mountains of debris. All the people we encountered on the way, people searching for a loved one, people seeking aid, were wild-eyed from the trauma they had experienced. Now and then, a military truck carrying the dead would pass by. I saw bodies of people on whom walls had fallen, bodies blackened by fire, half-burned bodies kept walking, I said a silent prayer for them. When we crossed the bridge, I noticed several corpses floating downstream, perhaps because it was high tide. The bridge's railing had been blown off, and was lying in the river. When I arrived at the middle school, I saw that the two-story building had been crushed, even though it was located 2.4 kilometers away from the hypocenter.

My future wife's brother, who was also my classmate, had been working on a demolition project for evacuation purposes. After the bomb fell, he was transported to a small island four kilometers off Hiroshima City. He died on August 8, calling for his mother and father.

Twenty-eight of my elementary-school classmates were killed by the bomb. One of them appeared to be uninjured. Another was wounded by a shower of glass shards. Both of them died several days later. One of my earliest childhood friends was severely injured when the school building was destroyed. He survived, but only until the war ended. Hearing B-29's overhead, he uttered his last words: "I hate B-29's."

The 183 second-year students who had taken the place of our class at work were all killed by the bomb while working on a demolition project for evacuation purposes. I shudder when I think what would have happened if my class hadn't been given a day off.

I don't remember how long Hiroshima continued to burn. The bomb claimed not only humans as its victims, but also many horses, dogs, cats, chickens and other animals.

Hiroshima was cleansed by rain, which transformed it into a silent ruin, a city of death. The railing on the bridge had been blown away, and the force of the shock wave reflected by the surface of the river had torn up its 30-centimeter-thick pavement. The train tracks were twisted, like melted taffy. The railroad bridge had burned and was leaning.The shadows of incinerated human bodies had been burned into the stone steps, and the gas tank bore the shadows of its valves.

Everywhere I looked in the city, I saw reminders of the horrible force of the atomic bomb.

(4) Damage Wrought by the Atomic Bomb

In the skies over Hiroshima, an atomic bomb was exploded, for the first time in human history. By the end of that year, the enormous blast, thermal rays, and radioactivity had killed some 140,000 people. The fires that it caused destroyed 92% of the 76,000 buildings in the city.

Those who survived the blast, but went to Hiroshima City to search for relatives or to help the victims were exposed to radioactivity. The death toll rose when they were affected by residual radiation. As of August 6, 1997, there were 202,118 names on the cenotaph in Hiroshima Peace Park. The actual number of victims is probably larger than that.

Even today, more than 50 years later, atomic bomb victims are still suffering physical and emotional trauma. They live in terror of diseases, the symptoms of which could arise at any time, (liver, stomach, lung, and thyroid cancer, as well as leukemia, all caused by residual radiation). Many of them live in the shadow of death, in terrible pain.

Unlike conventional weapons, one blast of a nuclear weapon can, in a moment, extinguish the lives of several hundred thousand people. Another terrifying aspect of nuclear weapons is the aftereffects of exposure to radioactivity. Radiation enters the body through the mouth and nose and, after a period of time, causes many types of cancer and birth defects, and sometimes death.

An increasing number of children residing in the vicinity or downwind of nuclear test sites and atomic power plant accident sites have reportedly contracted thyroid cancer or leukemia, which cause great suffering and an increasing number of deaths.

To date, more than 2,000 nuclear tests have been conducted at various locations in the world. The tests have contributed to the further destruction of the Earth's environment, polluting our air, water, oceans, and soil. CO2 and dioxin pollution are now a serious threat to all living creatures.

If more nuclear tests are to be conducted all over the world, pollution of the Earth's environment by the "ashes of death," dangerous radioactive material, will worsen, endangering human lives. If nuclear weapons are used in a war, not only the nations involved in the conflict, but also all other nations on Earth will be affected.

I believe that nuclear weapons cannot create true peace, though they are certainly capable of destroying the human race. I also believe that there is no such thing as peace for one nation. If we wish to save our planet from destruction, all the people of the world must unite in an earnest desire for world peace, and make sincere efforts toward its achievement. If we are to accomplish that goal, nations possessing nuclear weapons should destroy them, all of them, at the earliest possible moment, until there are no nuclear weapons remaining on this planet.

I hope and pray that India and Pakistan will succeed in rising above their differences, deepen their understanding of each other, and work hand-in-hand toward a lasting world peace.

The legacy I would like to leave for my children and grandchildren in the twenty-first century is a peaceful world, a world where there are no wars and no nuclear weapons. If I can leave them such a world, I will have accomplished my duty as an adult and a parent, and the countless victims of wars will not have died in vain.

(Translation by Connie Prener)


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