Magazine article The Spectator

Radio: Under the Mushroom Cloud; Hiroshima 70 Years On

Magazine article The Spectator

Radio: Under the Mushroom Cloud; Hiroshima 70 Years On

Article excerpt

It's 70 years since the bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and yet there has been no rush to commemorate this anniversary. It's perhaps not surprising. Who would choose to recall the events of 6 August 1945 when the world first witnessed the effects of nuclear warfare? Yet the absence of date-setting, the annual forgetting, makes it appear that we're much less keen to remember something that might make us feel uncomfortable or discredit us.

One exception was on Radio 4 on Monday morning, when, in Under the Mushroom Cloud , Shuntaro Hida, a 98-year-old survivor of Hiroshima, told us frankly and without sentiment his memories of that day in August 1945. The interview was short, lasting only 15 minutes, but was so shocking, so vivid, nothing more was needed to illustrate Hida's message that 'human beings cannot co-exist with nuclear power'.

He was in a village a few miles away treating a sick child when the bomb was dropped at 8.15 a.m. That saved his life. Otherwise he would have been at the epicentre of the explosion, working as a doctor at the hospital on the military base in Hiroshima, the bomb's target. He had been up until after one in the morning drinking sake with some high-ranking military officials who were visiting from Manchuria. At 2 a.m. he was called out by the grandfather of the child and, still drunk, had to be strapped to his bicycle to make the journey. He had just finished treating his patient when the bomb fell out of the sky.

Even though some distance from the city, he was buried with the child under a heap of rubble as the house collapsed, but not for long. Hida decided to go back to the city to see what help he could give. 'When I came maybe about halfway back, I saw something weird, something strange, something black approaching me. There was a head and a shoulder and legs, so I thought OK this is a human. But she was all black. She came in front of me and she fell down towards me and died.'

No pictures were needed. His voice, weak and gravelly with age, was enough to convey the horror, each detail still so real in his mind. Hida has devoted the rest of his life to treating A-bomb victims, and he was arrested many times for constantly talking about the prolonged (and continuing) after-effects of the radiation, something, he says, 'the Americans didn't want people to know'.

On Thursday itself, Radio 5 Live, a lone witness, broadcast a special programme 'live' from Hiroshima, presented by Peter Allen. …

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