ATB_EP_8

Survivors of the Bomb

The nightmare of a nuclear attack remains largely theoretical — except for those persons who were in Hiroshima or Nagasaki in August 1945. In those two cities, more than 200,000 people died, and thousands of those who survived suffered terribly from burns, trauma, radiation sickness, and later cancers. Survivors of the atomic bombs were called “Hibakusha”; the word in Japanese means “explosion-affected persons." We can’t talk about the dangers of nuclear weapons without examining the effects of these weapons on those who actually experienced them. In this episode, we hear from three Hiroshima hibakusha.

Shigeko Sasamori was 13 in 1945; she recalls her excitement at seeing the shiny airplane and watching the parachute that slowed the descent of the “Little Boy” atomic bomb. Shigeko survived but suffered from terrible burns over much of her body.

Setsuko Nakamura was also 13 and also in downtown Hiroshima on August 6th, helping the city government. She was the only survivor in her class that day, but her psychic scars remain to this day. She suffered from acute radiation exposure, which killed many who initially survived.

Dr. Michihiko Hachiya was the director of the Hiroshima Communications Hospital who was wounded in the attack. He would spent the next few weeks in a desperate but largely futile attempt to treat the thousands suffering from injuries, burns, and what later is revealed as radiation sickness.

Expert Dr. Ira Helfand, of the Physicians for Social Responsibility, explains the physical effects of the bomb that people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki experienced, and the consequences of these effects on human bodies. Dr. Helfand also points out the utter inability of the medical establishment to deal with such an overwhelming catastrophe and emphasizes that the situation would not be noticeably better in a nuclear attack today.

After their horrific and traumatizing experiences, these hibakusha reflect on how they were able to continue living, and what they would like the world to know about the realities of nuclear weapons.

Dr. Michihiko Hachiya (center) and Warner Wells (left)
Dr. Michihiko Hachiya (center) and Warner Wells (left)
Setsuko Thurlow
Setsuko Thurlow
Shigeko Sasamori speaks with students about her experience
Shigeko Sasamori speaks with students about her experience
Setsuko Thurlow's family; (Setsuko on her mother's lap, left)
Setsuko Thurlow's family; (Setsuko on her mother's lap, left)
Setsuko Thurlow's sister and young nephew
Setsuko Thurlow's sister and young nephew
Commercial Museum
Hiroshima before and after

Guests:

Shigeko Sasamori
Hibakusha (Hiroshima survivor)

Dr. Ira Helfand
Emergency Medicine physician; co-founder Physicians for Social Responsibility; co-president of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War

Setsuko Thurlow 
Hibakusha; co-founder, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear weapons  (ICAN)


Additional resources: