Nuclear Weapons

Never Again: Preserving the memory of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings

Every year, on August 6th and 9th, thousands of people around the world gather for solemn commemorations of the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But remembrance is more than commemoration. It is a powerful human force that can fuel healing and create a firm resolve to work to make the world a better place. And by preserving the story of these horrible events, we work to ensure history is never repeated.

I hope you will join us in honoring this 64th anniversary, and recommitting to the work of ensuring nuclear weapons are never used again, by doing these 2 simple things.

1. Fold a paper crane. Since making paper cranes has become a symbol of remembering and hope for atom bomb survivors, I found this video on YouTube that shows you how to make your own peace cranes. All you need is a piece of printer paper and about 10 minutes to do it.

2. Then take a picture of your crane and share it with us on our Facebook page. You can also set your crane picture as your profile picture for one week, and post a link to this blog post as your status update. Share your picture and the story of Sadako and the cranes with friends and family all this week.

Through these acts we remember the history of the day’s events. But we also pay our respects to the individual human lives transformed in the atomic blasts. In fact, the tradition of the paper cranes came into being around one of those people: Sadako Sasaki who was a 2 year old girl living in Hiroshima at the time of the blast. Sadako survived the blast, but developed luekemia when she was 10. There is a saying in Japan that if you fold a thousand paper cranes a wish is granted, so Sadako tried to fold a thousand to grant her wish of getting better. She was able to fold a few hundred before she died, so her friends did the rest in her memory. Since then folding paper cranes has been a way to remember those who died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The peace movement the world over has long been inspired by the activism and ongoing remembrance of the Hibakusha (the Japanese word for atom bomb survivors). The voices of the Hibakusha have motivated millions of people, including Peace Action West members, to work to make sure that the stories they survivors tell of those fateful days are never repeated.

Here’s one such story from Dr. Michihiko Hachiya who lived about 1 mile from the explosion’s epicenter. Soon after the explosion, Dr. Hachiya and his wife make their way to the street. As the homes around them collapse, they begin their journey to the hospital.

…Our progress towards the hospital was interminably slow, until finally, my legs, stiff from drying blood, refused to carry me farther. The strength, even the will, to go on deserted me, so I told my wife, who was almost as badly hurt as I, to go on alone. This she objected to, but there was no choice. She had to go ahead and try to find someone to come back for me.

Yaeko-san looked into my face for a moment, and then, without saying a word, turned away and began running towards the hospital. Once, she looked back and waved and in a moment she was swallowed up in the gloom. It was quite dark now, and with my wife gone, a feeling of dreadful loneliness overcame me.

…I paused to rest. Gradually things around me came into focus. There were the shadowy forms of people, some of whom looked like walking ghosts. Others moved as though in pain, like scarecrows, their arms held out from their bodies with forearms and hands dangling. These people puzzled me until I suddenly realized that they had been burned and were holding their arms out to prevent the painful friction of raw surfaces rubbing together. A naked woman carrying a naked baby came into view. I averted my gaze. Perhaps  they had been in the bath. But then I saw a naked man, and it occurred to me that, like myself, some strange thing had deprived them of their clothes. An old woman lay near me with an expression of suffering on her face; but she made no sound. Indeed, one thing was common to everyone I saw—complete silence.

Ms. Hiroko Fukada was 18 years old when the bomb was dropped. She was 1 km away from the center of the explosion. She lost her parents and one sister. Since the end of the war, she has been taking care of her two younger brothers who survived.

…The memory of that day seems to be gradually coming back to me…. Everybody was terribly injured. We were even embarrassed because we were not injured. I have no words to describe the scene. A flood of people went down this cliff just like dominoes down. …I was almost crashed and it was very hard to stay on this side [of the river]. And the other side was burning and a tremendous heat attached us on this side, too. And more and more people came from behind me crashing us and crashing us. And since it was so hot, I dipped my face under the water so many times.

…I was pushed into the river with many other people. And since I thought it would be dangerous to stay on this side, I swam over to the other side. It was so frightening. …Well an awful thing happened when I reached the other side, and was relieved. I was suddenly spun around by the current. And then large pieces of hail begin to fall and my face started hurting. So to avoid that I again plunged my face into the water time and time again. And then I spun around again and again. It just didn’t stop. …The water was swirling around me and later I learned that was a tornado. And my friends somehow managed to survive it. …The faces of my family came to my mind one after another. And I really thought I was dying because I drank a lot of water, too.

Ms. Taeko Teramae was 0.5 kilometers away from the hypocenter when the bomb what dropped.

When the bomb fell, I was 15 years old. …I saw something shining in the clear blue sky. I wondered what it was, so I stared at it. As the light grew bigger, the shining thing got bigger as well. And at the moment when I spoke to my friend, there was a flash, far brighter than one used for a camera. It exploded right in front of my eyes. There was a tremendous noise when all the buildings around me collapsed. I also heard people crying for help and for their mothers. I was caught under something which prevented me from moving freely. I was so shocked that I couldn’t believe what had happened. I thought maybe I was having some kind of nightmare, but of course, I wasn’t. …I tried very hard to move my arms and my legs and finally I was able to move a little. I was so surprised to see the dark sky with all the red flames through the window because it was only a few minutes before when the sky was blue and clear. It was all quiet and the city was wrapped, enveloped in red flames. Mr. Wakita came to help me. He asked me if I wanted to swim across the river. …I had no choice. I could barely see by then, though. And Mr. Wakita took my arms and told me to swim across the river together with him, so together we went into the river and began to swim. …Finally, we reached the other side. What surprised me so much was that all the cries of the students for help and for their mothers. It just didn’t stop. I couldn’t see anything. …I asked my teacher, I asked him what was going on. Mr. Wakita explained to me how the high school students were burnt and crouching in pain in the streets. …There were many students who were mobilized to destroy buildings to widen the streets …that day. And since they were outside, they were directly exposed to the bomb. Many of them died, many of them died right there. Someone called for help in vain, and some jumped into the river and drown to death. If my teacher, Mr. Wakita had not come to help me, I would have died in the river.

Mr. Isao Kita was 33 years old when the bomb fell. He was working for the Hiroshima District Weather Bureau 3.7 km from the hypocenter. He kept observing the weather even after he was exposed.

…It was not really a big flash. But still it drew my attention. In a few seconds, the heat wave arrived. …Even though there was a window glass in front of me, I felt really hot. It was as if I was looking directly into a kitchen oven. I couldn’t bear the heat for a long time. …I realized that the bomb had been dropped. As I had been instructed, I pushed aside the chair and lay with my face on the floor. …And I started to count. You may feel that I was rather heartless just to start counting. But for us, who observed the weather, it is a duty to record the process of time, of various phenomena. So I started counting with the light flash. When I counted to 5 seconds, I heard the groaning sound. At the same time, the window glass was blown off and the building shook from the bomb blast. So the blast reached that place about 5 seconds after the explosion. We later measured the distance between the hypocenter and our place. And with these two figures, we calculated that the speed of the blast was about 700 meters per second. The speed of sound is about 330 meters per second, which means that the speed of the blast was about twice as fast as the speed of sound. It didn’t move as fast as the speed of light but it moved quite rapidly.

From Koi, looking towards Hiroshima Station, you could see the black rain falling. …based on the information I heard later, it seems that the rain fell quite heavy over a period of several hours. It was a black and sticky rain. It stuck everything. When it fell on trees and leaves, it stayed and turned everything black. When it fell on people’s clothing, the clothing turned black. It also stuck on people’s hands and feet. And it couldn’t be washed off. …The atomic bomb does not discriminate. Of course, those who were fighting may have to suffer. But the atomic bomb kills everyone from little babies to old people. And it’s not an easy death. It’s a very cruel and very painful way to die. I think that this cannot be allowed to happen again anywhere in the world. I don’t say this just because I’m a Japanese atomic bomb survivor. I feel that people all over the world must speak out.

For me reading and honoring these stories makes me want to redouble my resolve to make the world a more peaceful place.

I hope that this August you will be able to participate in your own act of remembrance, however simple, that is meaningful to you. Now, 64 years after the atomic bomb attacks, we stand on the verge of serious progress towards nuclear disarmament. We can channel this August’s remembrance into activism the rest of the year as we push for a nuclear weapons free world.

29 replies »

  1. Dissecting the horror is beyond my means. All I could hope for, is a nuclear arms free world; becoz it’ll be difficult to predict promptness of a nuclear nation, at it’s insanity. Thanks.

  2. Growing up in suberban Washington D.C. I used to have nightmares of the nuclear explosions that would blanket that prime target (especially during the Reagan years when hundreds of billions of dollars were being spent to build more and more nuclear weapons to the stockpile we already had and there was insane talk of surviving and winning such a conflict). When I hear today’s politicians try to gin up fear with “the terrorist threat” it is nothing compared to the spector of all out nuclear war planned and payed for by citizens of the nuclear nations. NOTHING.

    And then I see today our own government exposes a CIA agent whose job it was to track nuclear materials to keep them out of the hands of terrorists. So much for really wanting to keep us safe. As long as there is money and power to be gained from war it will be a threat to all of us.

  3. The horror of those bombs lives on and affected many more than the immediate victims. My Aunt Betty, my father’s youngest sister, was among the first U.S. Marines into Hiroshima after the surrender of Japan and the U.S. occupation. Little did she, or anyone else, know what the lingering radiation from the bomb would do. While she went on to get a business education, and owned a very successful oil business in California, her later years were racked with pain and suffering as she contracted leukemia from her exposure to radiation poisoning in Hiroshima.
    I can only wonder how many hundreds or thousands of U.S. servicemen and women shared my Aunt Betty’s fate. In the end, they all had more in common with the Japanese victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki then they would have ever realized.
    Let us pray for peace.

  4. I agree. We must see that this never happens again to anyone, black, white, yellow
    or green. This kind of thing must never be seen again.

    Thank you for your devoted work to this issue. I made my crane and it will
    be a symbol of this cause and I will pray about it every day.

  5. The man who ordered those bombs to be dropped–the man ultimately responsible was Harry Truman. He also, in a different context was given the catchy identifying moniker of “Give Um Hell, Harry.”

    Well Harry, you certain gave a lot of people “hell.”

  6. I believe war of any kind is a tragic loss for humanity. My heart goes out to anyone who has had to suffer through it. It is a needless waste of money, property, and people. Man has accomplished many amazing things like going to the moon and creating an automobile so why is it that we can’t raise above our differences?

  7. I wish those wedded to an ethos of winning at any cost would stop to think about the tragic, senseless, and unwarranted loss of lives, innocent or otherwise. tragically, it is those with the terrible weapons who have chosen to use them- and will probably do so again at the drop of a hat. what we must fear are not the so-called ‘rogue regimes’ but those masquerading as otherwise. the rogues are in our midst and destruction will come from within, not from without. What if we were the recipients of the brutalities we visit on those we consider expendable, if not less than human? Clearly, we are not at a point of recognizing the sanctity of all human life!

  8. In 1960 I got my high school Oak Leaf Award in poetry for writing some lines inspired by the book HIROSHIMA, and by the film with Tony Perkins, ON THE BEACH. The poem described a world destroyed by WWIII’s hydrogen and atomic bombs. I recall little of the poem save that it described a very quiet world and ended with the line, “Where did they go? They went home to die.”
    I found the best site to go to to get a clear and scientific understanding of the social relations that can bring us to fascism in the US and to atomic warfare. – REVCOM.US. Please spend time in there and scientifically evaluate its message.
    Best to all.

  9. The storeis of these events should be told for years to come, so that future generations will know about them and will also know to not repeat history.

  10. There will be no more nuclear bombs going off on people as we FINALLY approach peace on Earth, WE ARE closer than many imagine . Peace is near , BELIEVE IT and it will be so.

    “Sometimes we must be what WE are not, to be what WE ARE.”

  11. We in the United States have not had a significant war on our soil since the Civil War. It is easy to forget how awful war can be. Atomic war is an especially dreadful specter to contemplate. I pray that both North Korea and Iran will stop their pursuit of nuclear weapons and weapons delivery, and that the nuclear nations progress in their own destruction of atomic weapons. It is famously said that those who do not learn from history are destined to re-live it. There is no reason to suppose that the horror of Hiroshima and Nagasaki would not qualify as a history lesson of the most severe sort.

    My aunt, too, went to Japan as a member of the Marine Corps right after the end of the war. She was one of those who poked through the ruins of Hiroshima. She subsequently had cancer in both breasts, and then in the colon. She was fortunate and survived in good health for another 20 years.

  12. When most people think of nuclear warfare, they only think of something that explodes and releases a hideous amount of energy. What most don’t consider is depleted uranium (DU) ammunition that has been fired all over the Balkans, the Middle East, including Iraq and Afghanistan. In its ammunition form, it is virtually harmless, but once fired it becomes as dangerous as any expended nuclear weapon, but without the flash. When the fine radioactive powder gets into your body, it will reek havoc on the person, whose life expectancy has just been shortened. The multiple cancer rates in the aforementioned areas has doctors and other medical professionals extremely concerned, as this is a very recent phenomenon, relative to the use of DU ammunition. Munitions manufacturers get the stuff for free, so they will continue to make it until someone catches on and taxes them for nuclear waste disposal and other things so it is no longer profitable. DU needs to be replaced with a dense, non radioactive metal.

    • Depleted Uranium has nothing in common with the two atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Uranium-238 is a very weakly naturally occuring radioactive isotope. There is more uranium in the fly ash of coal fired power plants than has been used in war time. DU is not used in bombs; it was used in kinetic energy penetrators, solid small diameter rods of DU alloyed with titanium that when fired at high velocity from tank and two types of aircraft cannons punched right through Soviet manufactured tank armor. As such, DU has not likely been used since the 2003 run into Baghdad. DU probably never was used in Afghanistan; the claims of DU being in bombs, particularly bunker buster bombs are false. There were no tank-to-tank battles in Afghanistan and the A-10 tank killing aircraft was not deployed to Afghanistan until after the Taliban had been vanquished. The UN Environment Programme Post Conflict Branch has extensively studied DU in the Balkans and has looked for, but could not find DU in Lebanon. UNEP also released a report that provides the natural uranium level at a former SCUD missile site in Afghanistan and had an Iraqi team investigate suspected sites of DU usage in Southern Iraq around Basra. A similar series of reports like those from the Balkans was planned after the Gulf War, the first use of DU penetrators in war time, but Saddam Hussein prefered to continue his successful anti-DU propaganda program and denied the UN team entry to Iraq. The International Atomic Energy Agency did similar field and laboratory research in Kuwait. A key feature of this research was that IAEA scientists blew DU containing desert sands high into the air and found that it travelled at most a 100 meters from the site of the explosion. This research confirmed that there is no DU dust cloud in the Mid East. Each of these reports can be accessed from Message 88 linked to my name. The UNEP Bosnia-Herzergovina report can be found at http://postconflict.unep.ch/publications/BiH_DU_report.pdf and the team makeup is discussed on page 23

      “The UNEP DU mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina was undertaken by an 18-member team,
      most of whom were involved in the two earlier UNEP DU assessments. Experts came from
      UNEP, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Swedish Radiation Protection
      Authority (SSI), the United States Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine
      (USACHPPM), the Nuclear Safety Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the
      Greek Atomic Energy Commission, WHO, the University of Bristol (UK), and two national
      laboratories: the Swiss Spiez Laboratory and the Italian Environmental Protection Agency
      and Technical Services (APAT). The WHO health expert did not visit any of the sites, but
      was involved with meeting government health officials and local hospital representatives.
      Due to the heavy mine and unexploded ordnance situation, a security expert, formerly of the
      Finnish Institute of International Affairs, advised the team throughout the mission.”

      The IEAE report on Kuwait is at http://www-pub.iaea.org/MTCD/publications/PDF/Pub1164_web.pdf

      The UNEP report on Lebanon is at http://postconflict.unep.ch/publications/UNEP_Lebanon.pdf

      You can learn a lot more about Uranium 238, including a video of dinner being eaten from a bright orange popular Art Decco Fiesta Ware plate with DU enamel at http://www.depletedcranium.com

      After you read this, I expect that pickets will go up outside of the Four Corners coal burning power plants demanding that they shut down and put LA in the dark – well, probably not, but this is uranium dust, not just uranium-238 (depleted uranium) dust –
      http://www.ornl.gov/info/ornlreview/rev26-34/text/colmain.html

  13. Most Americans do not realize that America is the only country that has ever used nuclear bombs. Or, if they know that much history, they parrot the party line that it was necessary to save lives (probably a lie, I wasn’t born yet, so I can’t judge). Americans are generally uneducated and ignorant. But if we could break through the denial through education, it would be a good lesson. The denial is that people do not want to admit any flaws. It certainly was a dark chapter in our country’s history.

    • Nori,

      In a 2000 article in Progressive titled The Bombs of August, historian and author Howard Zinn argues that the bombs were not necessary to save lives. Read the article at http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Zinn/Bombs_August.html. A longer treatment of the subject may be found at http://polymer.bu.edu/~amaral/Personal/zinn.html.
      When I taught U.S. History at SUNY Geneseo I had my students read the first article and debated it in class against the standard arguments. It was often heated and passionate.
      Zinn was in WWII but I was only an infant so I defer to his experience. Mine was a later unjustified war.
      As stated elsewhere, it is time to end the madness and to beat our swords into plowshares.

  14. Peace must be our mission in the world now, to keep the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki from ever happening again. We can’t change the past, but we can make sure they don’t occur in the future.

  15. In my lifetime, only two national goals were set and completed. One sent us to the moon, and the other delivered to us the evil reality of nuclear weapons.
    Nothing humankind has done can compare with the ultimate evil of nuclear weapons, and is our everlasting shame. The ONLY way out of this deadly danger is the complete and immediate elimination of ALL nuclear devices.

  16. The only way we can ever have a lasting Peace in the World is by eliminating the threat and the fear of War..A huge first step would be elinating all nuclear bombs, then start talking with our “enemies” and find out why they are angry with us, and then try to do something about it!

  17. The real weapon we should fear is not some aspect of technology. Technology has, is and will always be misused by those who value control over freedom or dogma over truth. The thing we should fear most is the fanatics within our own groups. History has shown over and over again that once fanatics gain influence and power through politics, economics or theology the technology used to bring suffering only grows in proportion to it’s lethality. Can you imagine the human lives that would have been lost if the Nazis had developed the atomic bomb first? What if Hitler had shared that technology with his ally the Japanese to turn the tide of war in the Pacific? Can you imagine for even a second the monumental loss of life and the ecological impact had either fanatical regime deployed nuclear weapons?

    Dr. Emanuel Tanay, a well known and well respected psychiatrist. A man, whose family was of German aristocracy prior to World War II, owned a number of large industries and estates.When asked how many German people were true Nazis, the answer he gave can guide our attitude toward fanaticism ‘Very few people were true Nazis,’ he said, ‘but many enjoyed the return of German pride, and many more were too busy to care. I was one of those who just thought the Nazis were a bunch of fools. So, the majority just sat back and let it all happen. Then, before we knew it, they owned us, we had lost control and the end of them(our) world had come. My family lost everything, I ended up in a concentration camp and the Allies destroyed my factories.’

    The hard quantifiable fact is that the peaceful majority, the ‘silent majority,’ is cowed and extraneous whenever fanatics sieze political control.

    Communist Russia was comprised of Russians who just wanted to live in peace, yet the fanatics who controlled the Russian Communists were responsible for the murder of about
    20 million people. The peaceful majority were irrelevant.

    China’s huge population was peaceful as well, but fanatic Chinese Communists managed to kill a staggering 70 million people.

    The average Japanese individual prior to World War II was not a warmongering sadist. Yet, the fanatic Japanese regime murdered and slaughtered its way across South East Asia in an orgy of killing that included the systematic murder of 12 million Chinese civilians; most killed by sword, shovel, and bayonet.

    And, who with images of butchery and horrific accounts in Rwanda still fresh in our hearts and minds, which was led by fanatics and collapsed into madness. Could it not be said that the majority of Rwandans were peace loving’?

    Peace-loving Germans, Japanese, Chinese, Russians, Rwandans, Serbs, Afghans, Iraqis, Palestinians, Somalis, Nigerians, Algerians, and many others have died because the peaceful majority did not speak up until it was too late.

    As for us who observe events unfold and see the growth of fundamentalism worldwide, we must pay attention to the only group that counts; the fanatics around the world who would threaten or even destroy the human race regardless of the technology deployed.

  18. hello folks:.

    thank you PAW for all you do..

    what is special is how fortunate we are now to have so many sensitive aware folks to reflect with.. for those of us in need of healing please realize we have an abundance of finite + infinite energy available to us if we become aware of how to use our inner tools, so as to open our sensors + allow our energy to calmly flow, for it is us that block + allow it’s resistence…

    we have the ability to coevolve + transform, redirect the displaced, disassociated energy left in our body from misuse, those leaving negative effects that we failed to see early to avoid, or we have become codependent on their products/services/information, that left negative effects upon us.. that has kept us from using our own inner tools efficently, leaving us incomplete. well we can become aware + now hold people accountable locally + globally..

    i’m so sorry for all of our suffering, but we can either stay restricted with it, unbalanced energy/emotions/our feelings from past + present left scarred, etc. remaining within us, enslaving us or we can fortunately bring ourself to calm now, by self-massage, allowing our energy to once again regain balance so our sensors become sharp. our minds become clear + bodies strong to once again speak + restore with positive insight, allowing the same destructive energy to be harnessed + enrich our live, so we can once again live in the moment, making responsible choices..

    we then can reflect with the many good folks now that live in peace.. sharing awareness thru a number of networks, learning to calm our self + focus with those sensitive + create policy, update old thought + transform while we coevolve political dysfunctions..

    enrich with music, share a bombfire as we will do on august 6, in celebration that we are alive + we are so fortunate to have such good folks + tools to support our healing from so much suffering that continually takes place..

    we can feel whole as we self-sustain now with our self + our life energy. we don’t have to relive this internal suffering.. we can appreciate what is while we acknowledge what was.. if we locally become responsible + support our local communities as we network so all can define support to do the same.

    use this virtual tool now to come together if suffering + open to our love we have for each other.. as we all work toward peace now for all. this will not happen until we all join in this peace movement together, part time, comfortably enjoying how we can coevolve, utilizing all our tools, + not stop until all on this planet + beyond can live locally in harmony the same. for we are all a living organism dependent on our natural world + we are all of the same human family.

    this amazingly fuels our creative energy to continue our exploration. so follow thru with the many nice folks met as you continue to explore + balance self along the way.. we can enjoy + learn from the many earthly offerings from those that have survived by living close to nature..

    peace is here for us all now if we network it, kara

  19. How very unfortunate the Nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were. We now live under the same disastrous threat every day. Always remember that Japan was warned of impending disaster and chose to continue fighting a futile war where thousands of people were being killed or maimed every day. Instead of wasting paper folding paper cranes, I am proposing my rainbow photos as a reminder to refrain from any sort of thought of violence. Thoughts are things. The culmination of all these thoughts can eventually deliver destruction to the whole human race through nuclear weapons. Start to fix the problem at its roots; the belief that violence will bring peace and happiness through empire building. Visit my website at: mauidreamdesigns.com . Contribute and I will distribute your best rainbow photo electronically Remember these sayings, “I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts” and “There Is No Place Like OM!”. Use these phrases as your Mantra! If you want to go OM as soon as possible, visit Self Realization Fellowship or their web page.