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Survivors recount their tragic tales of 1945's A-bomb attacks on Japan
By ELAINE ROSE, Staff Writer, 609-272-7215 | Posted: Friday, August 7, 2009 | 0 comments Font Size: Default font size Larger font size
Katsuyuki Nagahisa, left, and Shigemitsu Tanaka, survivors of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan, wait to speak about their experiences on the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing at Richard Stockton College.
GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP - Katsuyuki Nagahisa was 10 years old and playing in his schoolyard the morning of Aug. 6, 1945, when he and his classmates noticed a mushroom-shaped cloud rising from the direction of Hiroshima, he told about 60 people Thursday night. The children exchanged a few words about the unusual sight, and resumed their play.
It wasn't until the next night, when a neighbor returned from Hiroshima "badly burned and smutty with soot," that his town learned about the atomic bomb that had been dropped by the U.S. military, said Nagahisa, speaking Japanese with Ocean City resident Shiho Burke translating.
The gathering was held at Richard Stockton College on the 64th anniversary of the bombing. The local Coalition for Peace and Justice has sponsored a commemoration every year since 1982, Executive Director Norm Cohen said. Three other groups co-sponsored the event.
Nagahisa said his father took him to Hiroshima to look for relatives four days after the bomb fell. They had to walk the final distance, since the bomb had destroyed the railroad tracks. The boy was astounded at the destruction, including the mangled remains of a department store, the skeleton of a tram car and a dead horse lying amid the ruins.
Nagahisa and his father slept in the ruins of his grandmother's house and spent days searching for their family, he said. They finally found their relatives, badly injured and being cared for by friends in nearby Yano.
"How could they have walked such a long distance with such terrible injuries, I wondered," Nagahisa said. "Tears kept filling my eyes."
Nagasaki native Shigemitsu Tanaka told the group he was 5 years old and playing with his younger brother and grandfather in the garden the morning of Aug. 9, 1945, when he heard a plane coming.
"I watched a dazzling flash in the sky," Tanaka said, also speaking in Japanese. "And a sound like a thunderbolt reverberated and blew a hot blast of wind. I was surprised and horrified and cried, 'That mountain has been bombed!'"
The windows and doors were blown out of his family's home, Tanaka said. His mother went into town to help care for the injured, despite having no gauze and no medications.
His previously healthy mother developed severe diarrhea and spots all over her body as a result of her work at ground zero and was hospitalized more than 20 times, Tanaka said. He said his father became impatient and began to abuse her, and she cried every day and night.
"We had enjoyed a happy life, but it changed into a sad one, and we were forced to lead a miserable life because of the atomic bomb," Tanaka said. "Nuclear weapons are weapons of mass murder. They kill human beings with the radiation, the heat ray and the blast in a split second. They are weapons of (the) devil."
Before Nagahisa and Tanaka spoke, Stockton professor Michael Hayse gave a brief history lesson.
About 200,000 people were killed, injured or missing as a result of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Hayse said.
It is important to remember the context of World War II, which led the United States to detonate nuclear weapons, Hayse said, adding that the 20th century saw an escalation of violence against civilians during wartime. In World War I, one-fourth of casualties were civilians, but three-fourths of the World War II victims were nonmilitary.
Nagahisa admitted Japan bears some blame for starting the war. Both he and Tanaka said they were gratified to hear President Barack Obama say in April that the United States, as the only country to use nuclear weapons, has a special responsibility to stop their spread.
Burke, who was born and raised in Hiroshima, told her story, her voice often choking with emotion.
Her mother was 10 years old and in a schoolhouse about a half-mile from where the Hiroshima bomb hit, Burke said. She was one of about 15 people of the 600 in the school to survive the blast. She suffered radiation sickness, and at age 27 a doctor told her she had three months to live. But with the help of Eastern medicine, she survived, and Burke was born in 1974.
As a young woman in Japan, Burke said she was in a movie and a documentary about survivors of the nuclear attacks.
"My parents' experience of the bombing has been the main feature of my life," she said.
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Posted in Atlantic on Friday, August 7, 2009 3:10 am Updated: 6:42 am.
survivors to speak
Two survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki will speak Aug. 6 at the Richard Stockton College in Galloway Township.
The free event starts at 7 p.m. in Room F-111.
Katsuyuki Nagahisa was 10 years old and Shigemitsu Tanaka was 4 when the bombings occurred 64 years ago, according to a statement from the Coalition for Peace and Justice.
They are traveling from Japan to talk about the impact of the event on their health and families and take questions from the audience.
The coalition is sponsoring the talk, along with the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the South Jersey Shore, the Atlantic City Area Friends Meeting and the Sara & Sam Schoffer Holocaust Center at Stockton.
Organizers will decorate the room with paper cranes, an international symbol of peace. They are encouraging attendees to bring homemade cranes to add to the display.
More information is available from Norm Cohen 609-601-8583.
To submit news and information on Galloway Township, please e-mail Emily Previti at EPreviti@Pressofac.com
Posted in Atlantic on Wednesday, July 22, 2009 3:10 am Updated: 4:02 am.
Coalition for Peace and Justice, and the UNPLUG Salem Campaign;
609-601-8583 phone and fax; www.coalitionforpeaceandjustice.org; www.unplugsalem.org
Hiroshima and Nagasaki Survivors to Speak at Stockton
Katsuyuki Nagahisa and Shigemitsu Tanaka, survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively, will speak at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, Room F-111 at 7 p.m. on August 6.
The talk is sponsored by the Coalition for Peace and Justice, the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the South Jersey Shore, the Atlantic City Area Friends Meeting and the Sara & Sam Schoffer Holocaust Center of Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.
Mr. Nagahisa was 10 years old and Mr. Tanaka was four when the bombings occurred in 1945, with the first bomb dropped on Hiroshima on Aug. 6 followed by the bombing of Nagasaki three days later. Sixty-four years later, the two men are known as Hibakusha, or A-bomb survivors. They will speak about their first-hand experiences, including the impact of the bombings on their health and families, and take questions from the audience.
Michael Hayse, Associate Professor of History at Stockton College, will introduce the men and provide historical perspective.
"This commemoration is not about placing blame or questioning the decision to drop the bombs," notes Norm Cohen, executive director of the Coalition for Peace and Justice.
"We do not mean to be disrespectful to Americans who fought in World War II, but we turn to the only two examples of nuclear weapons being used in war to remind ourselves that nuclear weapons must never be used again.
"As the A-bomb survivors age, it is increasingly difficult to find eyewitness testimony to these events. So we encourage all to attend this powerful event, which is free and open to the public," Cohen said.
The room will be decorated with paper cranes, an international symbol of peace. Members of the public are encouraged to bring homemade cranes to add to the display. For more information, contact Norm Cohen, Coalition for Peace and Justice, at 601-8583.
ATLANTIC CITY - Watching ROTC members march down the hallways in full uniform with rifles is very impressive to young teens, David Alcantara told the school board Thursday.
But he believes those promoting peace should also have their chance to influence students.
"I request you permit equal access to the hallways of Atlantic City High School to literature and alternatives to ROTC and military recruitment here," he said.
Alcantara was one of three Coalition for Peace and Justice members who addressed the board Thursday night.
"Mind you, I am proud of our military," the city attorney said. "That's very important to note. At the same time, there are peace groups and other professionals that seek to bring our children equal access in other careers."
"We're not against the military," said Norm Cohen, the coalition's executive director. "All we want is equality."
No Child Left Behind mandates that military recruiters be given the same access to students as college recruiters. But, Cohen noted, some local districts have limited all recruiters.
"Give us some access," he said. "Get recruiters out of the cafeteria and bring them into the guidance office, where they belong."
"It's not a military institution,
Board President Shay Steele said the concerns were addressed at the committee level and there would be feedback.
"I think, as parents, we want our children to have choices, especially about their career paths," Rosemary Malloy said. "They need to have information about which path they take. It would help them at least come to where they decide as a free choice