NAGASAKI — The head of a group of plaintiffs in a lawsuit seeking relief for “hibaku taikensha” — people who experienced the atomic bombing of Nagasaki but were outside the designated zones for official recognition as A-bomb survivors — says a photo taken by the U.S. military after the attack backs up her claim she was exposed to radiation from the bombing.
Chiyoko Iwanaga, 87, was in the former village of Fukahori, now part of the city of Nagasaki, when the atomic bomb devastated the city on Aug. 9, 1945. A U.S. military photo showing the village 19 days after the bombing was uncovered by 67-year-old Sei Matsuda, who heads the photo research division at the Nagasaki Foundation for the Promotion of Peace, and Iwanaga confirmed it.
The scene was about 11 kilometers southwest of the hypocenter. At 11:02 a.m. on the day of the bombing, Iwanaga, aged 9 at the time, was returning from working in a field several hundred meters away from her home. As she passed under a transmission tower, two planes flew overhead, and two soldiers looking up at the sky commented, “Those aren’t Japanese ones.” That instant, there was a flash of light and a blast. “We’ve been hit,” Iwanaga thought, and dived into a nearby underground channel. She made her way to the rocks on the coast and from there in the evening she saw the area toward the city burning and black smoke rising.
Iwanaga and other hibaku taikensha were within 12 kilometers of the hypocenter when the bomb hit, but outside the areas that the national government designated as being eligible for support. As a result, they are not officially recognized as survivors, or hibakusha. Arguing the possibility that their health had been affected by radioactive fallout could not be denied, she and others in her position filed a lawsuit in 2007 seeking hibakusha health handbooks entitling them to free medical care. However, the plaintiffs lost their case in a decision finalized by the Supreme Court. In 2018, they filed another lawsuit, and proceedings are continuing in the Nagasaki District Court.
Iwanaga and others have given consistent testimony about the circumstances at the time of the bombing since before the first lawsuit was filed. The government, however, has raised doubts about the credibility of their testimonies, saying that they are “describing events from their childhood at an advanced age, decades after the bombing.”
According to Matsuda, the latest photo is one of six taken by the U.S. military on Aug. 28, 1945, from a relatively low altitude along the coastline of what is now the southern part of the city of Nagasaki. It is possible it was taken in preparation for the planned landing of U.S. Marines on Nagasaki in September that year. In 2011, researchers at Nagasaki University obtained the photo from the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. […]
The photo shows the steel tower that Iwanaga passed under when the bomb hit, the settlement where she lived at the time, her home, and the rocky coastline from which she had seen the city burning. Iwanaga repeatedly voiced her nostalgia as she looked at the photo, and spoke in detail how she lived there at the time, drinking water from a well and eating vegetables grown in the fields.
Matsuda commented, “People who saw photos from the time of the bombing recalled one thing after another. The photos help bring concrete form to the images people have.”
(Japanese original by Takehiro Higuchi, Nagasaki Bureau)