|Hiroshima in 1946|
un matin où le miel devient feu
devient sable --
où tout se brouille
Hibakusha recalls horror of bombing,
pain of stigmatization, and road to healing
|Hibakusha Tamiko Shiraishi|
HIROSHIMA – It took Tamiko Shiraishi nearly seven decades before she could come to terms with her experience surviving the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in August 1945.
Before she began speaking about her life as a hibakusha in 2013, she’d spent the better part of it despising the country that destroyed her hometown. She had long shunned studying English, seeing it as the enemy’s language, and had cringed at the sight of an airplane, a reminder of her traumatic memory.
But with the passage of time she was slowly able to heal.
“It’s not that my hatred of America is completely gone, but I hardly hold a grudge anymore,” Shiraishi, 77, said in a recent interview with The Japan Times at Ground Zero in Hiroshima.
“I feel like it’s time we forgave each other. I want to be a forgiving person,” she said.
On that fateful day of Aug. 6, 1945, Shiraishi, then 7, was at her school in the city of Ujina.
She caught a “bluish white light” out of the corner of her eye, and in the next moment a deafening blast sent fragments of broken glass flying like shrapnel across her classroom. Shiraishi was too stunned to realize what had just happened.
She was so shocked that it was only after she trod back home, barefoot, that she discovered blood dripping down her face from a head injury. The soles of her feet were pierced with glass.
After her mother treated her wounds, Shiraishi, an only child who had already lost her father in the war, spent the rest of the day at home.
Little did she imagine, the real horror — one that still haunts her to this day — was yet to come.
“That night, before I went to sleep, I heard this slithering sound coming from outside. I thought about going out to see, but I was so tired I just dozed off.”
The next morning, she awoke to the same noise. Drawing the curtains, what she saw has been seared in her memory for life.
“What I saw were people walking with their melted skin dangling from their bodies. They were all severely burned and their hair was curled upward. It turned out the sound was their skin scraping along the sandy road as they marched on,” Shiraishi said.
Terrified, she wanted to stay home but her mother insisted they go to look for Shiraishi’s grandmother, who was missing.
What she saw outside was hell.
Source: Japan Times, Tomohiro Osaki, May 26, 2016
WWII fighter pilot’s Japan experience:
From foe to family
|Former U.S. Army Air Corps Capt. Jerry Yellin|
The long and circuitous life of 92-year-old World War II veteran Jerry Yellin reads like a work of fiction.
From his time as a fighter pilot during the war, strafing enemy sites from a P-51 and escorting B-29s over Japan, to watching his half-Japanese granddaughter lay a wreath this March in remembrance of victims of one of the war’s fiercest battles, it’s no stretch to say he has come full circle.
But for Yellin, known as the fighter pilot who flew the last combat mission of World War II, it hasn’t been an easy journey.
Fully 16 of Yellin’s comrades were killed during the war, including 11 in the skies over Japan.
“I watched B-29s drop bombs on Tokyo, square miles of the city was on fire,” Yellin, 92, told The Japan Times in an interview. “It never occurred to me that the Japanese were human beings or people. They were our enemy and we were at war. You go to war, you learn how to use weapons to kill other people, and that’s what war’s about.”
Above Japan, U.S. Army Air Corps Capt. Yellin unleashed those weapons on his target: the enemy, the Japanese. The B-29s would drop one or two big bombs or 1,000 or 2,000 small ones, it didn’t matter — whatever got the job done.
On Aug. 6, 1945, Yellin returned to Iwo Jima, and was greeted with the news of Hiroshima. The Americans had harnessed the power of the atom and unleashed it on the city. Thousands were killed instantly, both civilian and military.
“I was strafing airfields on Aug. 6 near Tokyo,” Yellin said. “I landed back on Iwo Jima and a fellow jumped on my wing and said ‘we dropped one bomb, wiped out a city, the war’s over.'”
After the war, for the better part of three decades, he suffered from what is now known as post-traumatic stress disorder, scarred from what he saw and who he lost in the conflict.
“It was undiagnosed,” he said. “People said, ‘Well, just forget about it — the war’s over.’ Well, when you learn how to kill somebody and you kill somebody, kill the Japanese people, you flew with guys who died fighting for your country, you never get over it. It never goes away. Never.”
After discovering transcendental meditation in 1975, Yellin used it to beat back his depression. Eight years later, fate stepped in, once again thrusting Japan, his once-hated enemy, into the forefront of his life.
“In 1983, I was asked by the Mitsui Banking Group to go to Japan, and I looked at the guy who asked me like he was crazy,” Yellin said. “I said, ‘No, I’m not going to Japan.'”
Yellin’s wife, however, was having none of that.
“I came home, and I told my wife — she liked bonsai and liked the architecture — so I said I turned down the invite. And she said, ‘Jerry, you never asked me if I wanted to go to Japan.'”
Soon, they were on their way to the Land of the Rising Sun.
Arriving in the country, Yellin was shocked to see that the image of Japan that had been seared into his memory was no longer applicable.
“I was blown away by the civility and the culture,” he said. “I went out in the countryside and I was amazed at what kind of a country it was and what kind of people were there.”
So taken aback were Yellin and his wife that they decided to give their soon-to-graduate son, Robert, a six-week home-stay as a present a year later.
Thirty-two years on, the elder Yellin said, his son hasn’t come back yet.
But he has returned something to his father. Marrying the daughter of a former Japanese Zero pilot, he gave his father a Japanese family and three half-Japanese grandchildren.
“Japan is my home,” the elder Yellin said. “It’s as much a home to me as America. It changed my life dramatically. It changed my wife’s life dramatically. It changed my children’s and my family’s lives. I have three incredible grandchildren.”
Source: Japan Times, Jesse Johnson, May 26, 2016
Barack Obama becomes
the first US president to visit Hiroshima
the first US president to visit Hiroshima
A US B-29 bomber dropped 'Little Boy' on Hiroshima at 8.15am on August 6, 1945 devastating the coastal city.
|President Obama, right, paused briefly and bowed his head as he laid|
the wreath at the site of the world's first nuclear attack. May 27, 2016
|Standing beside Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, left, Obama|
said the bomb demonstrated 'mankind had the power to destroy itself'
|President Obama shook hands with Sunao Tsuboi, who survived the attack and|
expressed gratitude for the historic visit. Tsuboi said he never thought the US President
would visit Hiroshima during his lifetime and warmly welcomed Obama to the city.
"Those who died, they are like us."
Technological progress without an equivalent progress in human institutions can doom us. The scientific revolution that led to the splitting of an atom requires a moral revolution as well.
That is why we come to this place. We stand here, in the middle of this city and force ourselves to imagine the moment the bomb fell. We force ourselves to feel the dread of children confused by what they see. We listen to a silent cry.
We remember all the innocents killed across the arc of that terrible war and the wars that came before and the wars that would follow. Mere words cannot give voice to such suffering, but we have a shared responsibility to look into the eye of history and ask what we must do differently to curb such suffering again.
Someday the voices of the hibakusha will no longer be with us to bear witness, but the memory of the morning of Aug. 6, 1945, must never fade.[S]taying true to that story is worth the effort. It is an ideal to be strived for, an ideal that extends across continents and across oceans, the irreducible worth of every person, the insistence that every life is precious, the radical and necessary notion that we are part of a single human family. That is the story that we all must tell.
That is why we come to Hiroshima, so that we might think of people we love, the first smile from our children in the morning, the gentle touch from a spouse over the kitchen table, the comforting embrace of a parent.
We can think of those things and know that those same precious moments took place here 71 years ago.
Those who died, they are like us. Ordinary people understand this, I think. They do not want more war. They would rather that the wonders of science be focused on improving life and not eliminating it.
-- U.S. President Barack Obama, Hiroshima, May 27, 2016 (Full transcript here)