SpeecheTestimony of the Atomic Bombing - Teruko Yokoyama
My Testimony of the Atomic Bombing
Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Survivors Council
My name is Teruko Yokoyama from Nagasaki, Japan. Thank you very much for giving me this opportunity to speak before you in Ghent, Belgium.
Following Hiroshima of August 6, 1945, Nagasaki became the second victim city of the U.S. atomic bombing on August 9. The single atomic bomb devastated the city in an instant. A large number of people were killed and injured by its heat rays, blast and radiation. By the end of the year, a total of 75,000 people died in Nagasaki. People were charred by the heat rays of 4,000 degrees Celsius, which could even melt iron, and were blown away by the mighty blast. It knocked down houses, factories, schools, hospitals or trees and burned them completely. Nagasaki was turned into ruins. Even those who barely escaped the instant death had to go through sufferings from heavy burns, injuries and illnesses and fear caused by radiation. The atomic bomb continues to torment the Hibakusha even now, 70 years later.
Allow me to share the story of my family with you. Around the end of July 1945, as the U.S. air raids grew in intensity, I was taken by my grandparents, together with my two older sisters, to their countryside to take refuge. I had just turned 4 years old then. My parents and baby sister Ritsuko (1 year and 4 months) stayed at home in Nagasaki. The A-bomb attack was made on them soon after.
My Father was caught by the bomb at a school building which was used as a temporary weapon factory, located at 1.2 kilometers from ground zero. With the enormous blast, he was blown over the schoolyard down to the ground at the bottom of a hill.
My mother and baby sister were at home, 4 kilometers from the blast center. Mother was about to dress Ritsuko, who was playing naked in the garden. Seeing a B29 plane flying over the sky, Mother called to her “Ritschan.” At the same time, she felt a blinding flash. Instinctively Mother hovered over the baby to protect her. After a while, she was in the midst of darkness and saw something like golden sands falling from the sky. Inside the house, she found all chest of drawers fallen off, straw tatami mats on the floor uplifted and the fragments of the windowpane stuck all over the floor and walls.
Father did not come home in the evening of that day, and not even the next day. Mother was unable to go into the city carrying her baby in the midst of air raids which still continued. Finally on the third day, accompanied by a neighbor, she went into the city to look for him. But telephone poles and buildings were still on fire and it was dangerous to go near the area where Father was supposed to be.
In the evening of the 4th day, the news came that Father got seriously injured and was carried into the air raid shelter of a company. Carrying the baby on her back, Mother hurried there, only wishing him to be alive. His face was bleeding. Both eyes were swollen and purplish. He got severe burns and was bloated, with his clothes stained heavily by blood. He did not look like a human being.
Until August 15 when the news came about the end of the war, Mother and the baby sister stayed beside him. Inside the shelter was so foul. Rain drops were falling on him from the leaked ceiling. He was laid on a thin straw mat on the ground, but below the mat was sludge mixture of dirt, vomit and maggots from other victims and too filthy to lay the baby on his side. Fortunately Father survived, but with some splinters stuck in the eye, he lost sight in his right eye.
My little sister Ritsuko started to have a problem in her lymphatic gland in September, and had a surgery. But she constantly wheezed and gasped for air, keeping my parents lack of sleep every night. When she was 5 years old, she had another surgery on her throat. In the same hospital with her, children were dying of leukemia one after another. There was even a young woman who killed herself by jumping off the rooftop of the hospital.
Ever since then, Ritsuko’s voice turned hoarse. Due to repeated hospitalization, she was admitted to a junior high school 3 years later than other students. But her health condition allowed her to go to school only for the first few months, and she had to spend most of the rest of her life in hospital until she died at age 44. By then she had lost her eyesight in both eyes. In the darkness she once asked me, “Why do I have to suffer so many difficulties? What am I paying the penalty for?” I could not answer her.
I remember that my mother often said, “Last night I dreamed of Ritsuko speaking in a clear voice”, and we sisters used to ask her, “What kind of voice did you hear?” How dearly my little sister wanted to enjoy going to beaches or mountains with us and yell out “Yee-ha!” or sing songs with her original voice! If only the war had not been fought or the A-bomb not used, her life could have been completely different and beautiful. Every time I think about my sister, I feel sad and miserable, and am filled with resentment of war and the atomic bombing.
Several days after the bombing, I was brought by my grandmother back to Nagasaki. I was terrified and shocked to see devastation all around. It was as if I entered a dead town. I myself have been suffering from intense anemia ever since.
My youngest sister was born 3 years after the bombing. When she was an elementary school student, purple spots started to appear on her body. In the immediate aftermath of the atomic bombing, such spots appeared on survivors’ bodies, and many of them soon died. We were frightened to see them appearing on the little girl many years after. Fortunately my sister survived, but such aftereffects of the bomb have terrified many survivors and their families.
Most of the time we missed someone in our family members as there was always someone being hospitalized and Mother was taking care of the patient. But Mother died of stomach cancer in 1972 when she was 64. Three years later Father died of lung cancer, after suffering so much from thyroid disorder.
My eldest sister, who had hurried back to Nagasaki from the place of evacuation immediately after the atomic bombing, is suffering from leukemia for two years now. My second eldest sister died last year from biliary cancer, after contracting various cancers over the years, including skin cancer.
If only the A-bomb attack had not been made, all my family members could have enjoyed a healthy life. The atomic bomb not only inflicted terrible damage on that day, but continues to torment survivors even now, and also into the future. Nuclear weapons are totally against humanity.
Nuclear-armed states, including the United States and Russia, still possess more than 16,000 nuclear warheads. Each one has a destructive power several tens or hundreds times greater than the Hiroshima or Nagasaki type bombs. They will bring total destruction to the entire planet. There is absolutely no place on this planet for even a single nuclear weapon to exist.
Dear friends in Belgium, let us work together to create a peaceful world set free of nuclear weapons and wars. Thank you.