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Messages from Hiroshima

Japanese version

Mieko Ginbayashi (female)
'Chokubaku'  1.8 km from the hypocenter / 17 years old at the time / current resident of Tokyo

The scenes of the A-bombed city are introduced here. The photographs are not directly connected with the messages. I was one of the first students of Hiroshima Women's Higher Normal School, which was opened in 1945, and I came to Hiroshima from my native province of Wakayama on July 20, just two weeks before the atomic bombing. I was exposed to the A-bomb in a classroom on the second floor of a wooden school building in Senda-machi.

1. The memory of two junior high school boys who were crying bitterly, has always stayed in my mind. Lying alongside me at a first-aid station on August 15, they sobbed and yelled "How outrageous! Truly outrageous!", and said "We're sure we'll get our revenge on them!" I had been brought up to be patriotic, even militaristic, and I later reflected on how that education had a formidable influence on me, and how important education can be.

2. Thinking of my friends who were in the same classroom at the time of the bombing but didn't survive, I realize that life and death were decided merely by chance; having survived for as long as 60 years, I feel so sorry for those classmates.

3. We must never have a war again, and I pray that every single life will be respected!

Having suffered from rheumatism since last year, I have difficulty with writing and my handwriting is a mess. Therefore I enclose a copy of my article which I wrote for Hisen [No War], an article that was published three years ago.

A "retaliatory war" as witnessed from under the mushroom cloud

"Weren't the recent terrorist attacks the handiwork of Japanese in retaliation for the U.S. atomic bombing?"--This is what was said in the media in Brazil just after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. This was the first topic of conversation when I met the President of the Association of Atomic Bomb Victims in Brazil. I met Mr. Takashi Morita and his wife Ayako, at Narita Airport at the beginning of October in 2001.
They had been invited to attend the third meeting for overseas A-bomb victims organized by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. According to the Moritas, their daughter heard about the same report and said, "I'm afraid the FBI may come to investigate Dad." We had a laugh at it. However, I was shocked by the fact that such an unimaginable view could be heard in other countries than Japan. Brazil is a country on the opposite side of the earth from Japan, and it takes one whole day to reach New York from either Brazil or Japan.

Mr. Morita and his fellow members, after surviving the atomic bombing, emigrated to Brazil, seduced by the honeyed words of the Japanese government which was promoting its emigration policy. While going through constant hardships in the strange land, they established the A-bomb Victims Association and, through various campaigns, have been telling the story of what an inhumane, indiscriminate weapon of mass killing the A-bomb is. These media reports may have resulted from Brazilians' understanding that America's use of the A-bomb was an inexcusable act and therefore Japan's retaliation would be understandable. This view could have been fostered by the campaigns of the Association. I also heard that in some countries, the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center buildings, which were a symbol of American civilization, as well as the hijacking of the airplanes, were seen as comparable to the Japanese kamikaze suicide attacks.

Born in 1928, I spent my childhood amidst the fifteen year conflict between China and Japan which began with the Manchurian Incident in 1931. Meanwhile I was brought up to believe that it was an honor to give one's life to the nation and to the Emperor. When I was at girls' high school, I was mobilized to work at a Kawasaki Aircraft plant in Akashi, where I was once caught in an American air raid with 400 B-29 bombers coming overnight. Then I experienced the atomic bombing. Because I admired Albert Einstein and Marie Curie, I wanted to contribute to my homeland through science, and I entered the newly established Hiroshima Women's Higher Normal School on July 20, 1945, during my seventeenth summer. Two weeks later, on August 6, I suddenly saw a weird flash from a classroom on the second floor, and the next moment I found myself buried under the fallen wooden school building.

As I barely crept out of the debris lying on me, I looked around the city. The hellish sight of an annihilated Hiroshima is still vivid in my mind. It was Miss Hasegawa who helped me, as I had a serious injury on the back of my left knee. As Miss Hasegawa was from Shizuoka and I from Wakayama, neither of us was familiar with the local town, so we got on a rescue truck and went to the Ujina first-aid station. My left leg was sewn up with eight stitches without even anesthesia. Unable to leave Hiroshima until the end of August, I was still staying at the first-aid station when the war ended on the 15th. Two junior high school boys whom I befriended there were sobbing and yelling "How outrageous! Truly outrageous!" They found fault with me, who was not open with my feelings, saying "Don't you feel mortified?" One of the boys suffered an injury to his leg as serious as mine, and the other, who was a bit timid, had burns all over his face, leaving painful red scars with the skin peeled off. Both were students living in Hiroshima, but their families' whereabouts were unknown and nobody came to pick them up. I don't know what happened to them after that.

The 9/11 terrorist attacks were horrible. However, compared to seeing video of the attacks themselves, I was even more upset because of what I watched on TV just after the incident, seeing the U.S. President declaring a "retaliatory war," and hearing Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi pledging all-out support, as he wore his Self-Defense Forces jacket at a press conference. My greatest concern is the possible effect of using nuclear weapons and bombings on nuclear power plants. I cannot help remembering Hiroshima a half century ago. I sincerely hope that there will be no more war, but things are only getting worse.

B-29 bombers have been replaced by bigger and more advanced B-52s, and more ferocious bombs have been developed to surpass A-bombs, which have not been used since the bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Therefore, contemporary air bombs can cause greater disasters than before. At the same time, it is obvious that other aspects of modern warfare can also leave terrible ill effects afterwards, as was well illustrated by the defoliants in the Vietnam War and depleted uranium bombs in the Gulf War. Hundreds of bombers coming along day and night and dropping innumerable fearful bombs, many civilians and children who are innocent of terrorist attacks killed like worms, and the land becoming contaminated and wasted afterwards….

War is absolute evil. What did Japan learn from World War II? I couldn't stay calm and have been visiting the Diet in session to protest against Japan's support for war, and joining anti-war meetings, demonstrations, and also sit-ins initiated by the "Downtown Women's Society Who Do Not Excuse a Road to War." While I was walking around advocating "Stop war right now! Japan should not assist any war!" my left knee began to hurt again, and I couldn't walk for a while. My doctor told me that aging accounted for it and there was nothing to worry about. I could have lost my left leg, or even my life itself, in the atomic bombing, but fortunately I survived with my leg, thanks to the hospitality of my friends. But it started hurting now, just as the people of Afghanistan are threatened by air raids. I couldn't help thinking about those Afghan people.

How outrageous it is to think about war in retaliation! The U.S. atomic bombing was on one hand an act of retaliation for Pearl Harbor, but the U.S. justifies the atomic bombing as a means to end the war. After Japan's defeat we certainly learned that the war we undertook for justice was in reality a war of aggression in which Japan committed indescribable atrocities on other Asian people. I fully recognize Japan's responsibility for the war that culminated in the atomic bombings. However, it doesn't follow that we should acquiesce to the use of indiscriminate weapons of mass killing. In a similar manner, A-bomb victims do not want a "war in revenge for their suffering."

Since the devilish nuclear weapon was created, war has turned into something that not only destroys everything on the earth but also can lead to extinction of the earth itself. We learned it under the mushroom cloud. We A-bomb victims are calling for the total abolition of nuclear weapons so that A-bombs will not be used upon anyone again. This anti-war and anti-nuclear enthusiasm is shared by Mr. Morita and his colleagues in Brazil, and other A-bomb victims living in North America, Korea and Japan. I'd like to ask all those concerned to stop war as soon as possible, and to make efforts to eliminate the causes of terrorism. May a peaceful society be realized in which every single life is respected.

1. I recall those second-year junior high school boys. One had an injury to his leg and the other had burns all over his face which had left red scars after the skin peeled off. No one came to pick them up, so they must have become A-bomb orphans. I'm concerned about their life thereafter, and hope they lived happily.

2. I strongly feel the horror and threat of nuclear weapons. Because I had an injury to my leg, I couldn't leave Hiroshima right after the bombing, and I stayed at an aid-station for about 20 days. Recently I've found out that the soldiers who were assigned to rescue operations were more likely to suffer from radioactive damage than those directly hit by the bomb. It was as if we occupied their lodgings as their barracks were utilized as first-aid stations. I feel sorry for those who managed to carry on rescue operations while camping out.