Mr. Tanaka lived only 6 kilometers from ground zero in Nagasaki City in August 1945. His father had been stationed at an army base 60 km away from Nagasaki and the young boy lived with his grandfather, grandmother, mother, and two brothers. Like Mr. Nagahisa, he described a day born of innocence.
"I spread out a mat under a persimmon tree and was playing with my young brother and grandfather in the garden. As soon as I said "Grandpa, I hear a plane coming,' I watched the dazzling flash in the sky. And a sound like a thunderbolt reverberated and blew a hot blast of wind. I was surprised and horrified."
After fleeing with his family to a hill behind his house, they returned to find a house with no doors and windows that had been broken. But, it was the unseen damage that day that would begin a lifetime of pain.
His mother had gone immediately the next day to a school to care for those seriously injured. "Almost all of the patients," he described, "had injuries so severe that you could not even tell if they were male or female. Putrid smells emanated from the dead bodies. Though my mother wanted to treat the injured, there was no medicine and no gauze. Their wounds were covered with flies and the next day she found them crawling with maggots." Mrs. Tanaka returned from ground zero exhausted.
Mr. Tanaka explained that before the bombing his mother had been "proud of her health, but she began to suffer from severe diarrhea of unknown origin and had many spots all over her body. She developed liver trouble and was in and out of the hospital more than 20 times because of having thyroid surgery. My father worked at ground zero to dispose of bodies and take away a lot of debris after the explosion. He always said he was exhausted."
The stress of their situation created a tremendous strain in their relationship forcing his mother to leave home several times because her husband was violently taking his frustrations out on her.
Mr. Tanaka recalls "We had enjoyed a happy life but it changed into a sad one and we were forced to lead a miserable life because of the atomic bomb."
For many Americans, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are pages in a history book. Perhaps more would be compelled to assist the Hibakusha and organizations like NJ Peace Action if their school books were traded in for an afternoon with Mr. Nagahisa and Mr. Tanaka.
"Sixty-four years ago," said Mr. Tanaka "the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki turned the city to ruins in a split second. People were evaporated instantly and were burned by its heat and fire ball. People were under rubble which had fallen and were burned alive. In Nagasaki, more than 70,000 people were burned to ashes. In Hiroshima more than 140,000 people died in agony, burned to ashes. Moreover, the bomb destroyed our human dignity. After battling atom-bomb illness, poverty and unjustified discrimination tortured many Hibakusha and led them to suicide. Many atomic-bomb survivors still regret now that they could not give their hands to the people who asked for help."
Mr. Tanaka went on to explain that in Japan, there is a Hibakusha Aid Act. Unfortunately, despite the law, he charges that the Japanese government has underestimated the effects of the bombing "because it embraces the idea that Japan enjoys the protection of the "nuclear umbrella' provided by the United States. The government has ignored the spirit of the law and has denied extending legitimate support measures to the Hibakusha."
Pressing even harder, Mr. Tanaka stated nuclear weapons "not only kill humans, but destroy every life form on earth. They are the weapons of devil. The use of nuclear weapons is the biggest crime one could commit against humanity."
In response to President Barack Obama's speech in Prague this Spring, Mr. Tanaka commented "We know that he has made a landmark remark in Prague on April 5, this year when he said that the United States has a moral responsibility to seek a world without nuclear weapons as the only country that has used such weapon."
He expressed excitement that a U.S. President had made such a statement, but acknowledged that talks of an abolition of nuclear weapons had just begun.
President Obama announced this goal in April. Specifically, he said "So today, I state clearly and with conviction America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. I'm not naive. This goal will not be reached quickly "" perhaps not in my lifetime. It will take patience and persistence. But now we, too, must ignore the voices who tell us that the world cannot change. We have to insist, "Yes, we can."
Mr. Obama stated that in order to reduce our warheads and stockpiles the U.S. would negotiate a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with the Russians this year. He also stated, "To achieve a global ban on nuclear testing my administration will immediately and aggressively pursue U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty." He also called for a strengthening of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Despite the fact that no National Intelligence Estimate on Iran has been produced since 2007 when it stated that among its findings, "We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program," President Obama declared that "Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile activity poses a real threat, not just to the United States, but to Iran's neighbors and our allies."