A-bomb survivor from Taiwan returns to Hiroshima after 66 years

by Yumi Kanazaki. Staff Writer

On September 4, a former member of a suicide boat crew for the World War II-era Imperial Japanese Army visited the sites where he was engaged in relief operations in the aftermath of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Chen Su-ping, 84, a resident of Taipei, was born in Taiwan at the time the island was a Japanese colony. With the devastation of the atomic bombing still vivid in his mind, Mr. Chen has returned to Hiroshima after 66 years. Tracing his steps with his son Chen Philip, 53, Mr. Chen said with conviction: “We must never repeat the tragedy of the atomic bombing.”

On the advice of his high school classroom teacher, Mr. Chen came to Japan as a special cadet of the former Army Marine Transport. Departing from a base on Etajima Island, he landed at Ujina Port in Hiroshima a few hours after the bombing. He was involved in such efforts as fighting fires and cremating bodies for a week.

Accompanied by supporters of A-bomb survivors who live overseas, Mr. Chen visited a park in the Ujina area, where there was once a pier, and the Aioi Bridge, which he reached in the wake of the blast by following the Motoyasu River.

After the bombing, he used his bare hands to haul a large number of bodies so they could be burned with the debris. He recalls one body that was charred yet still clung to a strap inside a streetcar. The smell was appalling. “It was so tragic,” Mr. Chen said. “War should never be waged.”

His son Philip did not know his father had endured such experiences and was left speechless, wondering if he himself could have survived his father's ordeal. Mr. Chen stressed that he hopes younger generations will realize how brutal the reality of war is.

In May of this year, Mr. Chen joined other A-bomb survivors overseas in filing a class action lawsuit seeking compensation from the Japanese government. To attend a discussion on September 5 concerning a settlement of the lawsuit, he is visiting Hiroshima at the invitation of the Hiroshima branch of the Association of Citizens for the Support of South Korean Atomic Bomb Victims, an organization led by Keisaburo Toyonaga.

(Originally published on September 5, 2011)