Na­gasaki atomic bomb blast left man, now 86 years old, with life-long scar­ring

The China Post - - ASIA - BY MIKI TODA

Strug­gling a bit with a left arm that has never straight­ened out, Su­miteru Taniguchi slowly peeled the un­der­shirt off his frail 86-yearold body to show two visi­tors his scars from the atomic bomb at­tack on Hiroshima.

For 70 years, he has lived with them, a web of wounds cov­er­ing most of his back, and the re­mains of three ribs that half rot­ted away and per­ma­nently press against his lungs, mak­ing it hard to breathe. His wife still ap­plies a mois­tur­iz­ing cream ev­ery morn­ing to re­duce ir­ri­ta­tion from the scars. Not a day goes by with­out pain.

He was 16 and on the job as a let­ter car­rier when the pow­er­ful blast threw him from his bi­cy­cle. He had been about 1.8 kilo­me­ters (1.1 miles) from the epi­cen­ter of the “Fat Man” plu­to­nium bomb that det­o­nated over Na­gasaki on Aug. 9, 1945, killing more than 70,000 peo­ple. Six days later, Ja­pan sur­ren­dered, end­ing World War II.

Speak­ing in a weak voice with some ef­fort, he told the story last month of wan­der­ing for three days in a daze, un­aware of the se­ri­ous­ness of his in­juries. He felt some­thing like a ragged cloth hang­ing from his back, shoul­der and arm: It was his skin.

He would spend the next 21 months ly­ing on his stom­ach, get­ting treat­ment for his burned back, de­com­pos­ing flesh and ex­posed bones. Go­ing in and out of con­scious­ness, he could hear the nurses pass­ing by in the hall­way ask­ing each other if the boy was still breath­ing. He thought: “Just kill me.”

Be­cause he lay im­mo­bile for so long, as one of his teenage arm bones grew, it blocked the joint at the el­bow so he can’t fully ex­tend the arm.

Taniguchi hopes no one else will have to suf­fer the pain of nu­clear weapons. He heads a Na­gasaki sur­vivors group work­ing against nu­clear pro­lif­er­a­tion, though old age and pneu­mo­nia are mak­ing it harder for him to play an ac­tive role. Af­ter so many years, his words are tinged with frus­tra­tion.

“I want this to be the end,” he said, slip­ping his shirt back on.


In this June 30 photo, Su­miteru Taniguchi, 86, a sur­vivor of the 1945 atomic bomb­ing of Na­gasaki, shows his back with scars of burns from the atomic bomb ex­plo­sion, dur­ing an in­ter­view at his of­fice in Na­gasaki.



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