Striving to fill voids in Hiroshima 75 years after the atomic bombing—Efforts needed to prevent A-bombing from becoming just another chapter in history

by Keisuke Yoshihara, Executive Director of News Center

We must not engage in war. Peace is precious. Nuclear weapons are inhumane. All can agree on such common-sense statements. However, I would like to stop and ask everyone to consider something for a moment—have we not fallen into a rut in our thinking here?

Question 1: What was the date and time the U.S. military dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima?
Answer: 8:15 a.m., August 6
Question 2: How many people were killed in the atomic bombing?
Answer: 140,000 plus-minus 10,000 people died by the end of 1945

Citizens of certain generations can answer such questions spontaneously, as if they were taking a history exam. Seventy-five years have passed since Hiroshima was turned to ruins by the atomic bombing. With such a long period of time elapsed since that day, is the damage wrought by the atomic bombing becoming merely a part of ancient history that no longer has anything to do with us? Is that history merely tucked away in our brains as mere knowledge?

To mark this milestone year, the Chugoku Shimbun has run a series of feature articles titled “Striving to fill voids in Hiroshima 75 years after the atomic bombing” since November of last year. We have reported the fact that the names of only 89,025 victims have actually been identified, although 140,000 plus-minus 10,000 people are said to have died, and that the actual situation of damage caused by the atomic bombing remains uncertain.

In this feature story series, the Chugoku Shimbun has demonstrated there are still things that have yet to be investigated with regard to actual A-bombing damage, and we, as a newspaper company on our own, have been able to fill some of the voids regarding the facts surrounding such A-bomb destruction. If the national and local governments would take this issue to heart, further progress could no doubt be made toward clarifying the actual circumstances of the atomic bombing, making it possible to inch closer to the truth.

Let’s give thought as to why there is no other option but to use estimated numbers of victims even at this point in time 75 years after the bombing. All the victims were given life, loved, and raised by someone in this world. Each had his or her own name and life. Nevertheless, they can only be talked about as belonging to a range of between 130,000 and 150,000 fatalities. We must recognize anew that war, that nuclear weapons have led us here.

Despite the fact that it initiated the war, the national government has not attempted to carry out a comprehensive survey of A-bomb victims. We must reconfirm that such an act of omission is also a reality of that war.

It is said that people die twice. Their first death comes when their physical life comes to an end. Their second death comes when no one remains alive who knows anything of them. Some people died all alone that day and are still not treated as A-bombing victims. Some people continued to convey to others about the horror of nuclear weapons, how they can even damage human genes, and to call for nuclear abolition, only to die before seeing their hope realized. We must never forget them.

As symbolized by the example of the estimated death toll of 140,000 plus-minus 10,000 people, many unknowns persist about the actual state of damage wrought by the atomic bombing. Even though many years have passed, there are still many things the government and citizens together can do about this issue. We should not let such unknowns turn into simple common sense or just another part of history without being addressed. Today is a special milestone. We have to ask ourselves again what we can do to continue filling, to the extent possible, the voids in information regarding the actual damage of the atomic bombing and restore dignity to the victims.

(Originally published on August 6, 2020)