My name is Eduardo Pablo Zaragoza and I am 79 years-old. I was born and raised in a coal mining community, Dawson, in Northern New Mexico. Life with my family was good. I had wonderful parents, and four sisters and two brothers, a harmonious family in every way. I liked school and excelled at sports.
In January, 1945, when I was 17 years-old, I joined the Navy. I served in the South Pacific on the USS Wayne, an attack amphibious transport. Our first destination was Guam, where we unloaded Navy personnel and Marines who were replacement troops. We then went on to Saipan, where we picked up the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines of the 2nd Division, who were to be the occupation forces in Nagasaki.
On September 23, 1945, we anchored in Nagasaki Harbor, then loaded small boats with Marine troops, and transported them onto land. I spent four days in Nagasaki. As our boat was landing, I saw steel ships, burned up and destroyed, in the water. Everywhere I looked everything was destroyed, melted. I also saw a horrible sight: many, many bloated bodies floating on the water. These were the bodies of dead Nagasaki citizens who had died in the days and weeks after the bomb was dropped. The Japanese people had disposed of them in the water. I could not believe what I saw! Even today I can still see the bloated bodies floating in the harbor.
Once ashore in Nagasaki, we walked all over the place and we saw the devastation of the city and its inhabitants. I was numb. At 17 years of age, I could not take it all in! It was overwhelming. It didn’t help that we soldiers were in no way prepared by the Navy for what we would see there in Nagasaki. I walked all around. They allowed us to walk up to one mile from the hypocenter. Everything was burnt to the ground, burnt material everywhere. The only buildings I remember seeing left standing were a church and a hospital. Besides us U.S. military, there were also Japanese crews cleaning up the debris. As I looked around, I saw many imprints of bodies in the cement where charred bodies had been removed. I could smell flesh all over the place. To my amazement, I also saw the shadows of people who had been vaporized by the bomb. All over the city, Japanese vendors were selling rice balls with sardines to anyone who would buy it from them. I can still remember the smell of the rice with sardines.
My first day in Nagasaki, I walked through the hospital there which housed the victims of the bomb. I walked through two wards: one for men and one for babies and children. It seemed to me they were all dying. The nurses were removing maggots from the patients’ burnt and rotting flesh. The men were crying out in agony, reaching out to me, moaning and pleading with me in their language, a language I did not know at all. All the time I was thinking, “They want me to help them. What can I do? I can do nothing!” I was shocked to see so many children badly burned and bandaged, in so much pain and dying. I have thought about this horrible scene over and over in my mind for 60 years. I try to forget it, but I can’t. I still see people in that hospital, even today remembering their faces, their burned bodies, reaching their hands out to me, as though it was yesterday.
I was honorably discharged in 1966. I came back a changed man. I have experienced depression and PTSD my whole life since then. Ever since my discharge from the Navy, I have had awful nightmares, flailing my arms, thrashing in bed. I hear the children crying and I go outside the house to look for them, but they are not there. In other nightmares, I see the bodies all bloated in the water. And that has stayed with me all these years.
The bomb on Nagasaki was a plutonium bomb. I have read much about the effects of radiation on the body, especially the lifelong effects of expose to Plutonium. I have experienced all of these medical conditions which are designated by the VA on their list of conditions caused by exposure to radiation: hemorrhaging nostrils (a few days after leaving Nagasaki), severe tonsillitis (2 years after Nagasaki), non-malignant thyroid disease, subcapsular cataracts, prostate cancer, diabetes, chronic fatigue and anemia.
I have also read that Plutonium, an incredibly dangerous substance, settles in men’s testes. Doctors have told me that my wife, Lily’s illnesses could be attributed to the radiation I received in Nagasaki. She has experienced cervical cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and kidney shutdown. Lily suffered 3 miscarriages and we had one stillborn baby. Of our 4 children, all but one died at a young age. Jose Maria, our son, lived only 24 hours. The doctor said he had incredibly delicate skin. Our son, Ron, died at 32, ending his long ordeal with myasthenia gravis. Our daughter, Rita, also was afflicted with myasthenia gravis, and died at the age of 45. Our doctor told us that it is extremely rare for two members of the same family to have the disease. Our only living child, daughter, Theresa, has had thyroid cancer.
To anyone who would say that our family just experienced more than our share of “bad luck” with all of these medical problems, I would point out that Lily’s and my parents lived to a ripe old age and there is no history of cancer, birth defects or serious disease in either of our families. Radiation is the weapon that keeps on killing through one’s lifetime, and our family sadly has found this to be true over these many years.
What I want people to know about the atomic bombing of Nagasaki is that it never should have happened! I would like the people to know that it is so hard to live a happy life after you’ve gone through something like this. You have to actually see it to comprehend it. I went through it, I’ve lived it, and to this day, after 60 years, I still carry radiation in my body. As far as I know, there’s no medical cure for it.
And I know the Japanese people have really suffered from these nuclear bombings that they experienced, up to today. There’s many, many Japanese who are worse off than I am. They have severe medical problems, cancers and so many different diseases that were caused by the radiation, and keloids from the horrible burns all over their bodies. The Japanese survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have really, really suffered, including those people who went back into the city to look for their relatives, and were contaminated by the radiation. Some of these people lived 1 year, 2 years, 5 years. And those who have survived, the Hibakusha, are still having medical problems caused by nuclear radiation 60 years ago.
It seems to me that the Japanese now want the people all over the world to know how bad this experience was. The Japanese want people to unite to stop all of these governments from making any more nuclear weapons, because they know that most of the people in the world are for stopping the governments from making nuclear weapons.
Right now, the United States has the biggest supply of bombs, and especially here in Albuquerque, where we have more than 2,400 nuclear bombs stored at Kirtland AFB. And Sandia and Los Alamos labs are thinking of making a more powerful bomb, a bomb that penetrates deep into the ground. What we have to do is unite and see if we can stop them from proceeding and getting these powerful, powerful bombs. And if we unite, I know that we can stop them.
We want the United States government, and all governments, to stop producing any more weapons of mass destruction, because if they don’t, our future generations will suffer like the Hibakusha of Japan. It’s a crime to leave this inheritance for our children and our grandchildren. May they live in peace.