American Hibakusha

Updated: Oct 7

Video from Time

Jared Namba, whose seven-minute film features present-day interviews with his grandfather, as well as archival footage from the National Archives and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, said the anniversary is particularly important, because it will be the last major milestone with a significant number of hibakusha still alive to tell their stories.

On the morning of Aug. 6, 1945, Wataru Namba was in math class. Namba, a U.S. citizen, was 18 at the time, living with his grandparents in Hiroshima, Japan, and studying at a local college. That morning, just after 8 a.m., an American B-29 dropped an atomic bomb over the city. There was a blinding white light and an intense heat. Some of Namba's classmates perished in front of him.

The WW2 bombing by the United States helped to end the world war. For most of us this is history, we have no connection or real understanding. It is a story in a book. Yet there were real humans that died and were maimed by the Bombs we as a nation dropped.

The justification is that more allied lives would have been lost if the bombs had not been dropped because the Allies had planned a bloody invasion of Japan.

Condemnation of the bombing’s rests on the fact that Japan was a beaten Nation. It was suing for peace using Russia as the go-between. Then Russia turned against Japan.

Japan could not have held out much beyond October 1945. In fact, Japan was finished in Sept.1944 when the Allies engulfed Japan in a total sea and air blockade.

Amongst those who were opposed to dropping the bomb were: General Dwight Eisenhower; General Douglas MacArthur; Fleet Admiral William Leahy; General Carl Spaatz; Brigadier General Carter Clarke; Major General Curtis LeMay; Admiral Ernest King; and Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz.

General Eisenhower sums it up”…… my grave misgivings, first on the basis that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking the world opinion by the use of a weapon ,….no longer necessary to save American Lives.

It was in the end a political decision.

Notice that these men were not humanitarians; nor religious leaders; nor intellectuals. They were top-flight military men who were in positions to assess the situation.

Namba, who is 93 and lives outside Los Angeles, is among an estimated 3,000 Japanese American hibakusha, or survivors of the U.S. atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. While the exact death toll is unknown, the bombs are thought to have killed at least 200,000 people.

Wataru Namba's story was featured at the Japanese American National Museum's recent "Under a Mushroom Cloud" exhibition.

Now, on the 75th anniversary of the bombing, his grandson Jared Namba, 26, a documentary filmmaker based in Los Angeles, has released a short film called "An American Hibakusha" about his life. "Seventy-five years after the bombing, we are increasingly emotionally detached from the very real and tragic horrors that hibakusha experienced," he said. "I think it's so important to listen to hear and see these stories, not just read one line in a textbook."

Wataru Namba said he hopes his story can help better educate the public about the perils of nuclear weapons.

"Average people don't think about it," he said. "But if people get this atomic bomb, it's a very dangerous thing to happen."

Healing from war and creating peace requires compassion, which is both empathy for another’s pain and action to relieve that pain. Seventy-one years after these tragic nuclear catastrophes, Americans need to take urgent action. The most significant action Americans can take to relieve the pain of the hibakusha is to advocate for the global abolition of nuclear weapons.

We live in a fallen and sinful world and each of is complicit in its sufferings in some way. Our actions and decisions in life are not benign. Pray to God that such horrors will never be put upon our fellow man ever again!


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