HIROSHIMA, Japan (CNN) – Thursday will mark 70 years since the U.S. unleashed an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.
Tens of thousands were killed instantly. Many more died from the radioactive fallout. Despite the passage of so many years, many who lived through it say they remember the moment it happened in excruciating detail.
She may look frail but don’t be fooled. 87-year old Chisako Takeoka is a survivor who lived to tell the tale of the world’s first atomic bomb. She was in Hiroshima, not far from ground zero when an atomic flash lit up the sky.
“I was three kilometers away,” said Takeoka.
The shockwave knocked her out. She says she woke up in time to see the mushroom cloud.
On the morning of August 6th 1945, a U.S. Bomber dropped the weapon nick-named Little Boy over the city of Hiroshima. About 80,000 died immediately.
By U.S. estimates, the five-year death toll from radiation poison and cancer about 200,000.
Takeoka was only seventeen years old and had just finished a night shift making torpedoes at a military factory. After the blast, she says she saw horrors by the river.
“I still remember that day very well, because this was a river filled with dead bodies. People were burned and they jumped into the river,” said Takeoka.
Takeoka survived the ordeal. She eventually went on to become an outspoken activist campaigning around the world against war and nuclear proliferation.
Hiroshima was rebuilt along with a peace park to honor the victims. The museum there chronicles the devastating effects of the a-bomb leaving some American visitors grappling with very difficult questions.
Scott Baker, a U.S. Boy Scout said, “In America, a lot of the text books talk about how necessary it was to release the bomb. And have all of these innocent civilians die. But when you really look at it from a moral standpoint it’s like, ‘was this really necessary? Did we have to do this?’
Baker traveled there from northern California. He and his fellow boy scouts, say they are shocked by what they learned here.
“When I came here, I didn’t really know what to expect. But then when I saw all the images and stuff, I kind of got a little sick,” said Ryan Tagawa, a U.S. Boy Scout.
“I feel it’s necessary to walk through and see what happened. And just to go through history and see that this can be repeated if we make the wrong mistakes,” said Nathaniel Wiglfer, a U.S. Boy Scout.
That’s an observation a-bomb survivor Chisako Takeoka is relieved to hear. Two years after the bomb, her first son died 18 days after birth from what doctors told her was a-bomb syndrome. Today, she works with her daughter to pass on her eyewitness account of the bomb’s devastation in Hiroshima to future generations.
Her message on this grim anniversary, never again.
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