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Tourist site tells of war horror
Leotes Marie T. Lugo
Business World, Manila

HIROSHIMA, Japan - Two Philippine cities joined Japan this summer in commemorating the anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb during World War II in this city and nearby Nagasaki that claimed 200,000 lives. Officials from Muntinlupa and Valenzuela were among representatives from 450 cities worldwide that took part in the fifth World Conference of Mayors for Peace through Inter-City Solidarity.

The conference was held in Hiroshima and Nagasaki as part of the activities to mark the nuclear attack against the two cities 56 years ago. Atty. Henry A. Reyes, Muntinlupa administrator, told BusinessWorld his city and Valenzuela participated in the conference representing the Philippines, whose Constitution mandates the country to be nuclear- free. "In our country, civil society is always a formidable force in shaping our nation. The Filipinos themselves make sure the country to be free of any devastating weapon," Mr. Reyes said in his speech during one of the conference sessions.

Muntinlupa was reelected as vice-president of the Mayors for Peace, the only Asian city to become an executive official of the organization, formed to help drum up public support in realizing a nuclear-free world. The organization, which holds a global conference every four years, is headed by Hiroshima, with Nagasaki, Como in Italy, Hannover in Germany, Malakoff in France, Manchester in the United Kingdom and Volgograd in Russia as vice-presidents, along with Muntinlupa. Hiroshima and Nagasaki officials, however, noted despite the end of the "century of war" and the dawning of the 21st century, the threat of nuclear annihilation remains.

They noted no fewer than 30,000 nuclear warheads exist on the surface of earth and the nuclear threat is now on the verge of expanding into space, referring to the United States' moves to create a missile defense shield. There are also worries the US might renege on international commitments to nuclear disarmament.

Some citizens groups that attended the peace ceremonies also called on other participants to join the planned worldwide protest dubbed as anti-MDT (Missile Defense Treaty) day on Oct. 13.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki officials also called on the Japanese government to play a key role in enacting a global treaty banning nuclear weapons and work for the creation of a Northeast Asian nuclear-weapon-free zone.

"The calendar end to the 'century of war' has not automatically ushered in a century of peace and humanity," Tadoshi Akiba, mayor of Hiroshima, said in his address during the peace memorial ceremony here last Aug. 6.

At 8:15 am on Aug. 6, 1945, United States B-29 bomber Enola Gay dropped on Hiroshima the first atomic bomb to explode in history. Named "Little Boy" due to its size, the gun-barrel-type atomic bomb containing uranium 235 leveled out in an instant everything within two kilometers of the hypocenter, reducing the city into a scorched plain.

Hiroshima conservatively estimated the dead as of December 1945 to reach 140,000, although the total number of those directly exposed to the bomb was placed at 350,000. The figure includes Koreans who were forced to work in factories around the area to supplement Japan's labor shortage due to the war, exchange students from China and other countries in Southeast Asia and prisoners of war belonging to the Allied Forces.

Hiroshima was chosen as a target for the A-bomb as the city had a high concentration of troops, military facilities and military factories that had not yet been damaged by US air attacks on Japan. The size and topography of the city also allowed the US to observe effects of the A-Bomb.


Three days after the Hiroshima attack, another US B-29 bomber plane named Bockscar dropped at 11:02 am another atomic bomb, this time containing plutonium 239, above the Mitsubishi Arms Factory in Nagasaki.

The bomb, which was called "Fat Man" because it was larger and round, also nearly wiped out the city, killed 74,000 people and left 75,000 others injured. The attack finally forced Japan to surrender to the Allied Forces on Aug. 15.

Kokura, an industrial center in the northern coast of Japan's Kyushu island, was the original target for the second A-bomb attack. But due to heavy clouds, the B-29 bomber diverted and through an opening in the heavy clouds saw the Mitsubishi Arms Factory in Nagasaki in western Kyushu.

Seventy-two-year-old Some Ichinose recalled her ordeal in a talk with BusinessWorld. She was among the thousands of the so-called Hibakusha victims who survived the A-bomb attack on Nagasaki.

"I remember well that day. I, and a classmate were forced to work at Mitsubishi to help produce (firearms). I remember the big sound when the bomb was dropped," she said in Japanese.

Ms. Ichinose was a 16-year-old high school student at the time, and suffered wounds and burns in her arms and face. She survived the blast by hiding in a manhole with a classmate.

She said she has been going around high schools in Nagasaki giving talks to students on her experience to make them aware of the horrors of the A- bomb. Sanae Ikeda, another A-bomb survivor, is now also involved in activities to retell the experience of the atomic bombing to younger generations to gather support against the proliferation of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.

Mr. Ikeda was 12 at the time of the Nagasaki bombing. He had five other brothers and sisters - all died in a span of a few days after the bombing due to exposure from the blast.

"It will take time to bring about the elimination of nuclear weapons. But the tide of efforts for peace is rising among young people, particularly high school students. As an atomic bomb survivor, I pledge my determination to continue working with young people for peace and the elimination of nuclear weapons," Mr. Ikeda added.

But even to this day, survivors of the A-bomb continue to suffer from radiation and other effects of the bombing and calls are mounting for the Japanese government to extend more assistant to these survivors.

"The passage of 56 years has not at all alleviated the physical and mental anguish of the atomic bomb survivors who are growing increasingly elderly," Iccho Itoh, mayor of Nagasaki City, said in his speech during the peace ceremony on Aug. 9.

He also said Nagasaki City, with the cooperation of concerned groups, will intensify efforts in its pursuit for peace. "We, the citizens of Nagasaki, hereby pledge to exert every possible effort to ensure that the 21st century is an age of peace, free from nuclear weapons and from war itself," the mayor added.

Leotes Marie Lugo is guest researcher with the Asahi Shimbun Asia Network.


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