Atomic bomb dropped on Japan’s Hiroshima 75 years ago still reverberates

Regular nosebleeds, three bouts with cancer and blinding cataracts.

It’s been 75 years since the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima — marking the end of World War II and the dawn of the nuclear age — but survivors like Masaaki Takano still live with the consequences.

“I’m mentally trying hard to pretend I’m OK,” Takano, 82, told NBC News by telephone from Japan in Japanese.

For decades Takano quietly lived with his ailments. He was not recognized as a “hibakusha” — a survivor of the bombing — because he was not within the immediate radius of the blast that killed an estimated 140,000 people, vaporizing them instantly or poisoning them slowly.

But last week, a Japanese court finally acknowledged that he and 83 other plaintiffs had been exposed to dangerous radiation from “black rain” — the nuclear fallout that poured from the skies in the aftermath of the explosion.

“We are doing this because we want to deliver the truth,” Takano said of the suit filed in 2015. “It’s too late to stand up after everyone dies.”

Although the case has renewed public consciousness of the bombing, and the technology that made it, some worry that the world hasn’t heeded the dangers of nuclear weapons. And today, the awesome and terrifying destructive power unleashed by “Little Boy,” as the Hiroshima bomb was known, still haunts the world in the form of vast stockpiles of nuclear weapons.

And as the aging Hibakusha die, many fear their stories will fade from the world’s memory.

Takano was at school about 12 miles from the bomb’s hypocenter, or detonation point, on Aug 6, 1945. He still recalls seeing a flash “bigger than lightning” and hearing a “massive explosion — bang!”

He was sent home while debris fell from the sky. Seven years old, Takano said he tried to catch some of the objects as they showered down.

In the following days, he had a high fever and diarrhea. Although he recovered, Takano later endured many illnesses because of the exposure to radiation. He also lost his mother to cancer 19 years after the bomb dropped.

For those closer to the hypocenter, the damage came faster.

Tetsushi Yonezawa, who turns 86 on Sunday, was traveling on a busy train just 820 yards from the bomb.

Once on the military truck that rescued him and his mother, he recalls seeing people with broken bones protruding from their flesh and blood flowing from their ears.

One elderly woman “held an eyeball with her hand to avoid it falling out completely.”

The effects lingered.

“I think the next day the war ended,” Yonezawa said. “When I woke up, I saw my pillow had turned black. Looking carefully, I noticed that it was covered with my hair. I was so surprised, I touched my hair and it fell onto the sheets. I ran to my mother and she had also lost her hair. Both of us lost all our hair on the same day.”

His mother’s symptoms worsened — including bleeding gums and purple spots all over her skin. She was dead less than a month later, Yonezawa said.

ere are an estimated 13,400 nuclear weapons in existence globally, according to the institute. The vast majority of them belong to the United States and Russia, with more than 6,000 weapons each.

Although it’s far fewer than the peak of about 65,000 weapons in the 1980s — a product of the Cold War — warheads today are far more powerful.

An exchange of fewer than 1,000 nuclear weapons could kill as many as 100 million people in a matter of hours, said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the nonpartisan Arms Control Association, based in Washington.

“A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought,” he said. “It’s in everyone’s interest to reduce the risk of this ever happening.”

Yet global tensions are at their highest since the end of the Cold War, Kimball said. Recent years have seen mounting threats among the U.S., Russia, North Korea and China. One nonproliferation treaty between the U.S. and Russia is also set to expire in February.

Even countries with smaller arsenals, such as India and Pakistan, with fewer than 200 warheads each, have increasingly been at odds, Kimball said.

“There needs to be a combination of leadership and creativity to head off additional competition and arms racing,” he said.

Yet, the U.S. has committed more than $1.7 trillion in the coming years to upgrading its arsenal, and Russia has similar plans, experts say.

The argument for the investment is less about the practical defense the weapons offer and more about technological developments and support for the economy, said Robert Jacobs, a history professor at the Hiroshima Peace Institute.

“These are militarily useless weapons,” Jacobs said. “The risks of starting down that path are uncontrollable.”

Amid the global economic challenges sparked by the coronavirus pandemic, experts say that now may be the moment to question whether governments should be funding military technologies designed for crises of a previous generation.

“No matter how much money we spend to harden our infrastructure against a terrorist threat, that does nothing to defend us against a tiny invisible virus,” Kimball said. “I think this is the time to seriously rethink the role of nuclear weapons.”

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10 Thoughts to “Atomic bomb dropped on Japan’s Hiroshima 75 years ago still reverberates”

  1. Iu3kids

    The people should have left Hiroshima, after all the leaflets fell from U.S. planes warning of what was coming. They were warned, unlike Pearl Harbor.

  2. mgmitch

    Well I am sure the Survivors of Pearl Harbor, the rape of Nanking, loved ones of the millions of Chinese killed , the Bataan death march, Korean Comfort girls, are still feeling the effect of Japanese brutality.

  3. Adrienne

    What about Nagasaki? An atomic bomb was unleashed there as well.

  4. The covid-19 pandemic from China has killed 160K+ Americans in approx. 5 months. It would seem that the next “nuclear” weapon is a virus delivered via “not my fault” gibberish to an unprepared and unassuming world. i.e.: the same philosophy as nuclear war ….. kill a bunch of civilians to win a political/economic victory. 19.6M cases and 725K deaths globally. Anyone sense the probability of an engineered virus?

  5. JMB

    More “pie in the sky” from the useful idiots. If EVERY NATION was on board with decreasing nukes, fine; trusting nations like Iran, North Korea, Russia, China, and others is questionable at best due to the actions & lies from their leaders.
    Nukes are kept so the OTHER GUY doesn’t use theirs, period. For that reason, I don’t see nations running to get rid of their stockpiles anytime soon.
    Truth be told, with the events today to destroy national statues and such, some (dem-o-ratts come to mind) want to erase/rewrite history…… THAT is the biggest threat to nuclear safety because (as the saying goes): Those that don’t learn from history are destined to repeat it.
    Finally, the article doesn’t mention relivance r/t the dropping of rhe 2nd atomic bomh.
    The decision was made TO SAVE LIVES.
    Estimates ran as high as a million American lives and 100,000’s Japinese lives lost if a land invasion took place!
    Context IS always important in historic hindsight and articles(lost on the MSM and other far left groups).
    Everyone, stay safe and avoid the lunitics since they seem to have taken over the asylum:)

  6. Era

    Yes I remember the day the bomb feal and all the people dying . it was a very sad time for every one.
    I lost my best friend in that war, it still sadendes me today.
    It is long past due to do every thing we can do about having such power , it is never good for people to have power like this , we dont alwayse use it in the best way for every one !
    SO DO AWAY WITH IT WHILE WE ARE STILL SANE ENOUGH TO KNOW WHAT IS THE BEST THIMG TO DO!
    Over the years i have watched people suddley get POWER that they were not used to dealing with it, way like giving them some kind of drugs that efected thier brains.
    So it made me very aware off what a small amount off power can do to a person !

  7. May he gets the justice he deserves . . . We know MUCH more about NUCLEAR Aftermath and it’s time to COMPENSATE. One Enlightened Patriot. Team Trump and his allies 2020.

  8. russell hammond

    well your country started that war by bombing pearl harbor so tuff shit get over it.

  9. Larry W Sanders

    I am about the same age as Takano. I don’t remember hearing about the bomb being dropped. I do remember my father coming home from work at a defense plant and telling my mother, who was hanging clothes, that the war was over. He said it without emotion.

  10. Phil S.

    Of course the atomic bombing was horrible and produced long lasting effects. So does having limbs ripped off, organs destroyed and minds maddened by being blown up by artillery or conventional bombs, run over by tanks, shot, stabbed or gassed. All horrible. Consider that even after the SECOND atomic bomb was dropped, the 6 man War Cabinet that ran Japan tied at 3 -3 to end the war or keep fighting. Finally the Emperor broke the tie and the war was over, although a fanatic element tried to assassinate him on the way to deliver his radio broadcast.

    The allies were preparing to invade Kyushu, the first of two planned attacks. The Japanese had moved some of their most experienced troops to Kyushu. Almost 1,000,000 soldiers waited to defend Kyushu, and the Japanese were continuing to pour troops onto the island. They were backed by all the civilians, armed with everything from simple bombs to pointed sticks. 4,000 kamikaze planes stood ready. Hundreds of suicide submarines waited to attack allied ships. There would have been a blood bath of epic proportions, exceeding Stalingrad and the battle of Berlin. Consider that the 1st Marine Division, 22,000 strong, was to land on the day of the invasion. No mention of them after the 3rd day, as it was assumed that casualties in the infantry regiments would have exceeded 50%. And it was just ONE of the spearhead divisions.

    Millions of Japanese and hundreds of thousands of Americans owe their lives to the decision to drop the bombs. Veterans poised to attack Japan were overjoyed. They got to live. I’ve personally spoken to many.

    Japan was run by an fanatic nationalist element. They stated in official documents that Japan should be prepared to sacrifice 100 MILLION ‘Broken Jewels’ to save the ‘National Essence’. The Japanese people were spared that thanks to Truman’s decision.

    The nuclear genie was coming out of the bottle sometime. Someone was going to develop it. What if it was developed and no one knew the horrors, and instead of two relatively small bombs, hundreds were unleashed at once? 75 years and no one since has unleashed that horror. Hopefully no one will.

    Col Paul TIbbets on critics of the bomb drop: “It wasn’t their balls on that cold, hard, chopping block”.

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