75th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki

Today, August 9th commemorates 75 years since the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Nagasaki in World War II.
You can view NHK World News’ coverage of the ceremony from the Nagasaki Peace Park here:


This event is very personal to me, however. My grandparents both lived just north of Nagasaki City when the atomic bomb detonated. Even I cannot fully imagine or understand how severe and horrible this must have been to somebody who lived through the bombing and its aftermath.

Thankfully, at that time, my grandmother went to school farther away from the bombing and was largely spared of the effects.

It is important for the experiences of the 被爆者, the survivors of the bombing, to be passed along to others.
I will tell you the story of my grandfather, my お爺さん, on August 9th, 1945. He was 13 years old. (Apologies for any inaccuracies; it has been some time since I originally heard this story.)

Before the bomb was dropped, he was in school, like any other day. Just before the bombing, he went out to the school’s garden to tend to the plants and vegetables. I do not know why he was in the garden at that particular time, but that most likely saved his life. The garden had a strong stone wall on its southern edge, and the bomb detonated only a few miles south of his school.

Even so, he was still knocked out from the force of the atomic bomb. When he came to, he tried to go back inside his school, only to find that many of his classmates and teachers had fared far worse than him. Some had already died or were dying from the effects.

His father (my great-grandfather) was a sort of emergency worker (I do not remember which, he may have been a firefighter, or an EMS, or something else). He was sent to assist near the bombing site, and rescue people. My grandfather’s school’s gymnasium became a sort of emergency shelter for those who were rescued. Many of those brought in were already dead, or suffering from extreme burns or other conditions caused by the bomb and were dying as well. My grandfather tried to assist those in the gymnasium to the extent he could as a 12-year-old boy. I truly cannot imagine how traumatizing it must have been for a child to experience all of the suffering and death that surrounded him.

The war soon ended, and cleanup efforts began. Nagasaki has fully recovered from the bombing.
As for my grandfather, he still lives in the same town north of Nagasaki, which he has lived in all his life. He lives together with his wife (my grandmother), and is relatively strong and healthy, even in his old age. He is a kind, hardworking man who I love with all my heart.

Thank you for reading. I hope that nothing like this happens again in our lifetime, or ever. :two_hearts:

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Thank you for sharing your grandfather’s story! I agree: Let’s keep the memory of the people who lived through this catastrophe alive by passing on their stories. And let’s hope atomic bombs will never again be used.

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Oh no, you made me cry…

It reminded me of this picture I saw not that long ago. It made me shake with fear and rage at the same time. If we dropped a nuclear bomb the likes of which are available today, it would dwarf the disaster you just talked about. Something that dwarfs a catastrophe is not something humanity should be proud of building and yet we keep increasing the power all the time. This is not the pic I was looking for but it does put things into perceptive. Hiroshima’s bomb was a little bit smaller than Nagasaki’s.

When I took history classes in the US (I’m french and I was in uni in the US), we had an assignment to interview our grand parents if possible. In my house, war talk had been so taboo I was very hesitant to ask. But I was a young adult so I called home. My grandma had lost all brothers but one in the war. All I knew was that one of them was executed for hiding chocolate bars at the bottom of milk vats for the children. The pain from having gone through the war was so severe for her that even wearing black was frowned upon because of forced years of mourning.

Anyhow, my grand pere spent lots of time telling me stories about the war in the end (he was very young as well). One special one was about helping route all the troupes that came down from normandy.

If you have family that’s gone through any war, it’s important to have at least one conversation about it with them, just listening, if you have a chance I think. For me, it was a massive eye opener and I have vivid memories of the conversation even though it was quite a while ago. I also think that if it comes from asking, the stories somehow come out different from maybe some that keep getting repeated over and over. My family was not into talking about it but I know in some families, war stories become something no one wants to hear of anymore.

Thanks again for sharing.

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Thank you for sharing your family’s story. The atomic bombings of Japan are one of the most evil actions humanity has ever committed, and if anybody is still under the impression they were necessary to end World War II, I strongly encourage them to further read about and research the subject.

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Yeah AFAIK currently the historians in the field believe that the Japanese surrendered because of the Soviet Union invading Manchuria, rather than the bombs. The leaders’ plans were to get the Soviet Union to broker a peace with the United States, since the Soviets wouldn’t want American control of the Pacific. They didn’t expect the Soviets to break the nonagression pact.

This is particularly apparent when you consider that the nukes weren’t even as destructive as some of the bombing campaigns the US already did over the previous months.

It was a convinient narrative that the bombs were the cause of the surrender for both sides. It gave the Japanese leaders an out for the failure of the war (how could we predict the atom bomb?) while also letting the US project power in East Asia rather than the Soviet Union.

Edit: Here is a great article on it from Foreign Policy

Edit 2: Along the same lines, it should be pointed out that the non nuclear bombing was even more horrific and killed even more people. Terror bombing to crush morale didn’t against the Nazis, it didn’t work against the British, and it didn’t work against the Japanese. The most disgusting part of the narrative is that it justifies the horrific campaigns which failed to achieve the ends they claimed to. Bombing people creates unity, not fracture it.

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Thanks for sharing this story. I am lucky that no one in my family had to go through something like this.

War is an awful thing. The fewer wars there are the better. Atomic bombs only make them worse. I can’t imagine how it is to have to live with memories like this.

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The bombings aren’t near the top in fatalities for events in WWII, but what separates them (other than imagery, of course) is the speed. Stalingrad claimed 1.7 millions lives; however, it was over a period of 5 months. On the snap of a finger, 80 thousand died in Hiroshima. Obviously, this decision is the most hotly debated topic in WWII to this day. The Youtube channel Oversimplified in its WWII video kinda hits it on the head with it when it get to the war conclusion part of the video.

The speed, and the power: that’s pretty scary. The bombs have gotten only more powerful since, and can completely raze any city to the ground. And the U.S. may or may not have lost 14 bombs since 1950, so sleep well tonight.

Wars never help the common folk, and only seek to benefit the arms dealers at the expense of citizens lives. Conflicts will arise, just hopefully not at that scale. Thank you for sharing your story.

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I am so thankful that you shared this.

Lots of fun and games go on here at WK. But we have some serious international issues going on now, and it is good for all of us to recall the tragic international events of the past.

It seems to me that Japan is just about the only country with an absolute “ban nuclear bombs” stance. One of the duties of the prime minister is to stand up and say, each year, wide out loud, “get rid of these bombs.” It is just about the only time throughout the year that you hear the leader of any country advocate so frankly for peace.

Also, you were fortunate to get this story straight from your grandfather. I find that elderly relatives are often very reluctant to share any such memories with younger generations.

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To think the Soviets tested a 50 MT hydrogen bomb, considerably larger than Castle Bravo and they had the potential to do a 100 MT, I don’t even want to see that chart.

Had an opportunity to visit the Nuclear Museum in New Mexico, among the many displays was Einstein’s 1939 letter to Roosevelt, warning the potential of nuclear weaponization, specifically to Germany and their access to uranium. In effect, this directly resulted in Roosevelt creating several committees which eventually evolved into the Manhattan project. Einstein came to later regret this letter as we know now Germany was not even close in their pursuits and of course Japan’s atomic bombing which were mostly civilian deaths. And then there is the leaked info from the MP contributing to nuclear proliferation…the official narrative is debated but likely contributed alot more to the Soviet’s nuclear program than willing to admit.

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I totally agree. I love the (for the most part) lightheartedness of the WK forums, but such relevant issues are also important, and I feel safe knowing that I won’t be harshly called out for doing such here.

I must admit, while I got much of this from my grandfather, there were some extra details my father (my grandfather’s son) passed along to me as well. My grandfather also spoke in a documentary some years ago, which I also got more information from.
But yes, I should consider myself lucky that he shared some of his memories directly with me (albeit with some help from my father translating, I didn’t really know sufficient Japanese back then and also kinda still don’t now lol).

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While I am still in a morose mood, I think that I might watch Grave of Fireflies today. It has been a few years.
Which makes me think, have you ever seen Rhapsody In August? It is a 1980’s movie, with Richard Gere, that takes place in 長崎. It is a deceptively good movie. There are small things about it which have impressed me more each time that I have watched it. The elderly woman in the movie lost her husband in the bombing. Events transpire which make her relive that day.

I learned nothing from my grandparents about their lives. My grandfather showed me how to make and cut corn mush. That is it. I didn’t know that there was something to know when I was that young.

When I was in my late teens, I started to take the opportunity to ask older people their experiences. I have talked to several people who fought in Europe in WWII, and several in the South Pacific. I have talked to people who remember that there were still American Civil War survivors around when they were young. One man spent the whole war as a POW in Germany. One security guard where I worked could not stand the smell of sugar in coffee, because that reminded him of the flies in the South Pacific that around the dead bodies, that you could hear for miles in the jungle. (the sugar in coffee would attract the flies)

My father is probably a little older than your grandfather. Recently, I have tricked him into telling me stories of his childhood, by asking questions while digitizing his old slides. I will return to that project this winter, and I look forward to to picking his brain some more. His older sister is still around and sharp, so I mean to interrogate her too. Their parents and grandparents were all Italian immigrants. Though some detective work, I figured out that the highest grade any of the immigrant generation (my grandfather) attended was 3. In other words, all of them left school at age 8 to work full time.

Different times.

I am sorry to get sidetracked from Nagasaki.

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I was thinking this as well while reading, I liked it too. A Kurosawa film from 91’ I believe, he was over 80 when he directed it.

The Emperor in August I liked alot as well though a much different film; a non-fiction historical drama of Japan’s high command in 1945 (remake of Japan’s Longest Day which I never saw).

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I can’t seem to find the article, I remember reading somewhere that volunteers where pairing up with survivors to record their personal stories to be able to pass them on for future generations.

EDIT: found it “denshosha volunteer”

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I read that Foreign Policy article, I found it very very interesting!! Thank you for that link.

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I went to the Atomic Bomb museum in Nagasaki last year. I recommend it to everyone.

By the way, the coastal city is so beautiful.

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Thank you for sharing. I visited the Hiroshima peace museum in 2016 (a day before Obama’s visit) and I found it to be a very moving experience. I did sign the nuclear de-armament petition whilst there, of course.

Slightly off topic but... war talk

Saying all that, I see that Japan does not teach the youth about the atrocities that they committed during the war (of course siding with the Nazis and The Asian Holocaust, etc). Of course war and atomic weapons should be something of the past - we all need to learn to cooperate on a global scale. Which is why I like this website so much, The Good Country Index. Seems like right now, Finland is the place to be!

Yes, but this might have something to do with the fact that they are not allowed to have any for themselves :slight_smile:

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Excuse me, but it looks to me that North Korea is so good that it isn’t even on the list. Obviously that’s the place where you want to be

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TORILLE! Sry, it’s a Finnish meme for everytime Finland is mentioned. ^^

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Thats a tough one, because on the topic of war Finland is 51st in International Peace & Security, they export alot of arms.

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This might be what you are looking for, I remember seeing it in one of vsauce’s videos years ago. Note the units on the y axis are in megatonnes, not the possible height. The picture is just for visual representation. Tsar Bomba is just the most destructive bomb tested.

And yes if anyone does visit Japan I highly recommend going to the Hiroshima peace memorial museum, well worth the visit.

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