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Scars, horrors that were August 6th 1945 in Hiroshima City

August 6th has stubbornly refused to leave the minds of the Japanese, more so residents of Hiroshima. It is the day that in 1945 hell broke loose visiting a major catastrophe upon Hiroshima, when the United States and its allies detonated the first-ever atomic bomb on human population, and the only one so far.

The Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for Atomic Bomb Victims stands out resolute in Hiroshima City some 4-hour journey from Tokyo by bullet train. The Museum is a living reminder of what happened 78 years ago that ended one of the most vicious wars in global history.

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Meeting 90-year-old Sadae Kasaoke at the lecture room at the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for Atomic Bomb Victims, was nostalgic. This was the person I had only been reading about, but now she was right in front of me.

With the language barrier as she can only speak Japanese, we had to use the universal language, simply smile. Then our guide and translator stepped in to help with the translations.

It is here that she tells the tales of the pain and anguish that the Japanese went through at 8:15am, on August 6th 1945. As a young 12-year-old, Kasaoka, like many other children, had been conscripted to offer services in the war.

“Even when I didn’t go to school, it was time to practice the fighting just in case the enemy attacked,’ she offers.

She was set to join high school, but the call to duty for the country came first. On this day, she had completed an assignment together with others, of demolishing buildings to create spaces between houses that would act as fire buffers in case of a fire outbreak.

On material day, Kasaoka had been assigned to report to the factory that was used in smelting metals to make bullets to be used at the frontline. These metals included any metallic objects that would be collected from homes and everywhere else and delivered to the factory for smelting. “As I made her way to the factory, I was reminded that there was a blackout due to power rationing so we would not be working,” she said and adds, “so I rushed home to do my domestic chores.”

KBC Journalist Judith Akolo and Hiroshima atomic bomb survivor Sadae Kasaoke after an interview at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima, Japan.

Her parents had left earlier in the morning to help another family that was moving house to make way for the demolition of their house. While hanging her laundry, there was a deafening sound, then immense heat, she run to her grandmother’s house as they had been instructed and together they hid in the bunker, on coming out, everywhere was dark, it was raining black rain.

“At 8:15am on August 6th 1945 the world’s first atomic bomb was dropped on the city of Hiroshima, it was the worst day of our lives,” she says, “we knew it would happen, but this magnitude was too great.”

The closeness to the hypocentre just 3.5 kilometres from their house meant that they were in real danger. Her brothers were already conscripted into the military. Today any mention of war brings sad memories of the happenings of August 6th, 1945. Her lectures at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum have centred on the need to maintain peace around the world. The need to resolve conflict through persuasion and dialogue. They have remained a source of inspiration as well as of the need for disarmament and to maintain a just and peaceful world.

“There should never be another atomic bomb, there should never be another war,” she says, “war makes people suffer, it destroys happy families, more especially the elderly, children and those in a vulnerable situation are the ones who suffer the most.”

Her pain is underpinned by the loss of her parents at a very tender age, “I wish I would have lived with my parents, to get parental love, there should be never another war, let us preach peace around the world.

Inside the museum are various artifacts and plaques, one that stands out is that of 3-years old Shinichi Tetsutani who was riding his tricycle near their home some 1,500 meters from the Hypocentre of the attack, when the bomb exploded, he suffered serious injuries and severe burns, he died that night, but the bicycle and the helmet remain preserved at the Museum together with the plaque of Shinichi and his sister.

The second world war may have ended, but the scars linger on.

Judith Akolo
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