“… as hibakusha I think I have the responsibility inform people of the danger of the bomb, the radiation and the effect it has on human beings, because there are a lot of people still in Hiroshima who have suffering from the radiation. And as for my self I haven’t had anything serious but I have been going to the doctor ever since the dropping of the bomb.” (Hiro Takeda)
Mr. Takeda was born in 1919. He was living with his mother and brother on the outskirts of Hiroshima when the atomic bomb was dropped there on August 6, 1945. He is a hibakusha, a Hiroshima survivor. Stefania Capodaglio is the 1999 Ruth Floyd Human Rights intern at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation office in Santa Barbara. She spoke with Mr. Takeda during August 1999 about his experiences during and after the bombing of Hiroshima. Mr. Takeda is a US citizen and lives now in Southern California.
Stefania Capodaglio: One thing that struck me about your description of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombing at the Sadako Peace Day event in Santa Barbara this year is the vivid memory that you have of those days. I imagine it is a difficult process for you to awake to those memories. Please tell me a bit about what you remember of those days and what did you and your family do immediately after the dropping of the bomb.
Hiro Takeda: In my memory it was one of my most frightful and horrendous experience I ever had in my life. Because when they bomb fell there was a big BOOM and then a flash in the BOOM. That is what they call PIKADUN (PIKA means flash). We did not know what kind of bomb was dropped and it was very, very powerful. Fortunately injured because I was sleeping and it pushed the ceiling up, it pushed the walls up. Fortunately we did not loose any windows because my mother had all the windows open because it was a very hot day. But the neighbors who had all the windows closed, the windows shattered and it blew the glass across the room. There were sliding doors and a lot of people got hurt on their head. We were lucky . We thought maybe the when the bomb fell we thought: What happened? Then towards afternoon, towards evening the whole city was in flame so I said: My God what is that! Then there was this awesome sight I ever seen : the whole city was all in flame and we just couldn’t comprehend , what was going on. And that evening my brother and I, we turned on the radio, the “Philco Radio” that we took with us from here (US) and it was a small radio with a short wave on that, but we never used that until we have used that radio because we were afraid , because if we were caught with the short wave being American who knew what would have happened.
That night, on August 6th, my brother and I, were very very anxious of what was going on, so we turned on the radio and then we caught one of the stations in Australia, we caught the news and then they announced it was an A-bomb that was dropped over Hiroshima and we never heard about A-bomb and radiation. And then I understand ……will grow in the city… we were kind of shocked and just speechless. So what we did the following day, we saw a lot of people coming in a way from (away from) Hiroshima city. They were men all worried about their relatives, friends, and neighbors. So I got my mother on the back of my bicycle and we went out to the city. The first place we went to was the temple because they told us that all the victims were in the temples, shrines and schools. So this was the first place where we went to was the temple, and when we saw all these people they were languishing and disfigured, well my mother and I, we couldn’t even stand, we couldn’t even go forward, we were just frozen dead and we couldn’t believe what we saw and I don’t know, it was one of the most frightful sight I ever seen in a They were all just burned and I saw many many We went to the next place. It was the shrine and it was the same thing and then the school ground. There were 100 and 1000 of people all in classrooms all way along that of course almost all the buildings were quiet damaged because of the blast, but then there were in this room we went to, this room was full of dead people, and then in the other room there were people who were dying, we saw many of them dying in front of our eyes. Some of these things is something that hit me really hard, and still we couldn’t believe….I do not know how to say that!! Have we known that the radiation effect was dangerous we would have maybe been afraid to go even to the city, but we didn’t know anything about that. A-bomb, radiation, nothing! We never heard about that thing, so we were desperate trying to look for relatives, friends, and neighbors. And one of the next sight I saw and I think I have already mentioned that on August 6 Peace Day : a young lady standing, she was just standing with her burned skin that was peeling and she was…. I do not know how to describe her. The next thing that really hurt me, even now when I think about it and I cry is this young boy. I do not know how old he was but I couldn’t recognize him because his face was blown and it was just like a balloon. He was just crying “Mammy, Mammy” and then “water, water”, and then that pitiful and painful voice and I can’t still…..I’ll never forget that little boy!! And we didn’t know what to do, we wanted to do something but we just didn’t know what to do! And this was one of the most frightful experience I ever had: seeing a 100 a 1000 people all around the school ground. Some of the people were disfigured and when I saw them I thought they were in great pain. The people who died without having been identified by their relatives were cremated in the school ground. And these are sights that I think I’ll never forget as long as I live. I saw many movies about Hiroshima and the dropping of the A-bomb, but they were nothing compared to what I actually witnessed. A lot of people aren’t quite aware yet of how dangerous and harmful the story behind is.
SC: The United States dropped the A-bomb on your country on August 6th, 1945. Do you hate the US for what it did to your country?
HT: I don’t hate countries for doing that, but I have a grudge against President Truman for ordering that. But then an other thing is why did they have to drop the bomb knowing that 100 of thousands of innocent people would have died? Why couldn’t they drop the bomb in some place in a remote area to show them what powerful weapon they had instead of killing 140,000 innocent people? I know of a friend of mine, his sun whose name was Kasu (Kaso), they could never find him! And we lost quite a few of our neighbors. Five or six days later my brother and I went to look for our teacher who was like a second father. We were so concerned about him! To go to our teacher we had to cross the whole city and we had to go through the epicenter. We spent the whole day to go through the epicenter and the stench of death was all over the place, and finally, I don’t know how we ever managed to cross some of the bridges that were all destroyed, but somehow we managed to find the house. Of course it was completely destroyed, and the daughter was there at the house by herself and she said that her father died three days ago and he was cremated.
SC: Do you believe that your personal witness could influence people and make them reflect more seriously about the atrocities committed with the dropping of the bomb?
HT: I would think so! When I talked to the people about what I went through and all that, they were quiet astonished. Well when I talk to the people they try to understand or realize , and of course it is hard for them to even visualize or imagine what effect it had on the human being. They can say it was awful, horrible, but this doesn’t describe anything because there is no words in a dictionary to describe what I saw. They cannot imagine what happened, there are no words to describe what happened. When I tell people about that thing they say: Oh, this is awful!! This is something that we should be aware of and then try to prevent a nuclear war. And this is the only thing they can really do or say. So I have these wishes: at least try get along to each other and prevent war as much as we can. But this is something really difficult. Even right now there are some countries making nuclear warheads and I think about my grandson who have to through all that.
SC: How do you think your memories and stories can best be shared with students and young people in order to increase their understanding of the need to eliminate nuclear weapons?
HT: I made speeches at school, even in Japan, at the University in Tokushima and then at the Grammar School in Koku Kopu) and here in SB and I even made a speech in LA. I made these speeches at least to make them aware of how awful an A-bomb is, and of course a lot of students were shocked. But the students at the University in Tokushima they didn’t even know about the A-bomb and this was something surprising to me. I’m sure they heard about it but they didn’t know how much destructive it was or how much effect it had on human beings. So I believe that educating people in extent is a good I idea.
SC: What do you think about Japanese and American military expenditures for conventional weapons and other sophisticated weapon’ technologies? Do you believe they are still useful after what happened at Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
HT: If they could avoid using them it would be the best thing, but to prevent that is an other question. Because there is Pakistan, India, China and Korea that are still building them. To prevent an other country to launch a missile in a certain way is necessary, but to spend all that money on nuclear weapons is ridiculous because there are so many people who need to be helped, a lot of people who suffer for hunger. Why cannot they use the money towards helping the people instead of building arms? So sometimes I wonder if this is the right way to go!! But then when you see other countries building something like that because they are trying to attack or something like that, well it is a necessity, but then I hope they have at least something to prevent that thing to happen.
SC: How do you see your role as an “hibakusha”?
HT: Well I tried not to spread that I’m an hibakusha, but as hibakusha I think I have the responsibility inform people of the danger of the bomb, the radiation and the effect it has on human beings, because there are a lot of people still in Hiroshima who have suffering from the radiation. And as for my self I haven’t had anything serious but I have been going to the doctor ever since the dropping of the bomb. But I was lucky to be able to still survive and be able to tell people of my experience and I think this is one of my responsibilities.
SC: If there is one lesson you could share with the next generation, what would it be?
HT: Well I will simply tell them the truth and tell them how terrible the A-bomb is! I would like to tell them to have good relations with other countries, starting with their neighbors. And build friendship and understanding and prevent all these arguments. That’s all I have to say about this! I have been telling my children about the A-bomb and I’m sure they heard something else from their friends, so in this way you can make people aware of the danger of the A-bomb and then I’m sure they will do everything possible to work towards peace instead of trying to create more walls between countries.
SC: What effect the bomb had on your family: your mother, your brother ..?
HT: As far as the health my brother and my sister did pretty well, of course my sister she had some problems but then she is O.K.! It hurt my mother more than anything and I think my mother died because of the radiation. Because right after the A-bomb all the people were in the school and my mother used to go and help to cook and nurse these people not knowing the danger of the radiation and she was there every day. So it may affect her health in this way and of course she was very sad that she lost a very good friend in the A-bomb.