The United States bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, on August 6 and August 9, 1945, respectively. Together, the atomic devices instantly vaporized thousands of Japanese citizens, seriously harmed others, and permanently burned victims' shadows into the ground. The devices leveled two cities and changed the history of armed conflict forever.
It was a tragic end to WWII, but since then, survivors have shared their stories of the horrific experiences. The devastating effects of the attacks have been immortalized in photographs, but the immediate destruction often overshadows those who continued to suffer decades after. Japanese citizens who survived the atomic attacks have faced serious illness, PTSD, and stigmatization due to a lack of understanding about the effects of radiation. Despite their tragedy, many have dedicated their lives to eradicating atomic devices so the same atrocities can never happen again.
Those Hurt Laid In Hospitals, Fearing Their Demise
Fujio Torikoshi was a child when the United States dropped an atomic device on Hiroshima. The force of the device sent him flying backward, and he passed out in front of a stone container filled with water. When he regained consciousness, he attempted to soothe his burns by submersing them in the water, but it only increased the pain.
Torikoshi was in and out of consciousness for several days. When he came to, doctors told him he would only live until age 20. He has survived to be over 80 years old, and says every day he "[prays] - earnestly, relentlessly - for world peace."
They Couldn't Give Water To Parched Victims
On the day of the Nagasaki attack, Inosuke Hayasaki recalls passing burn victims crying out for water. A passerby told him that giving the victims water would harm them. He had to make the difficult decision of providing those who weren't going to survive with what would be their last drink of water or of possibly preserving their lives for just a while longer.
Hayasaki decided to find a water source for the burn victims. He tore a piece of fabric off a futon and dunked it in a rice patty. He then wrung out the fabric over the 40 burn victims' mouths, running back and forth from the rice patty to the victims.
All of those Hayasaki gave water to that day perished. The decision continued to haunt him every day, even into old age. Dr. Hiroo Dohy of Hiroshima Red Cross Hospital & Atomic Bomb Survivors Hospital, says it's possible that giving victims water may increase their blood flow and result in further bleeding, but it's hard to generalize, as the science is largely dependent on an individual's condition.
Many Children Were Left Orphaned And Alone
Ryouga Suwa was in Miyoshi-shi at the time of the attack on Hiroshima, approximately 50 kilometers from the hypocenter. The rest of his family was in Hiroshima, however, and his parents and sister likely perished in the attack - although his parents are still considered missing to this day. At just 12 years old, he was left a genbaku-koji, or an orphan of the atomic attack. Suwa is one of 2,000 children orphaned by the attack.
When he returned to Hiroshima a little over one month later, he was shocked at the level of devastation:
What remained of the [temple's] property was a cluster of overturned tombstones from the... cemetery. Hiroshima was a flat wasteland. I remember feeling shocked that I could make out the Setonai Islands in the distance, which used to be inhibited by buildings.
It Took Years For Some People To Fully Heal
During the US attack on Nagasaki, Sumiteru Taniguchi was delivering mail. When the device hit, the skin peeled off his back and arms. He stayed in a hospital in Omura, forced to lie on his stomach for one year and nine months. He formed bed sores that left scars up until his passing in 2017.
Altogether, Taniguchi stayed in the hospital for three years. However, he didn't receive the treatment he needed until 15 years after the event. He suffered chronic pain and developed a cancerous tumor at the site of his burns. Radiation-related illnesses took his life in 2017.