Radioactive Fallout Survivor Continues to Speak Out

The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan), February 27, 2014 | Go to article overview

Radioactive Fallout Survivor Continues to Speak Out


Saturday marks 60 years since the crew of the Fukuryu Maru No. 5, a tuna boat from Yaizu, Shizuoka Prefecture, was exposed to radioactive fallout from a U.S. hydrogen bomb test on Bikini Atoll near the Marshall Islands in the central Pacific Ocean on March 1, 1954. Matashichi Oishi is one of the former crew members of the boat who continues to speak publicly about his experience, hoping that the horror of the incident, which happened while memories of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings were still fresh, will not be repeated.

In late January, Oishi, now 80 years old, was invited to talk at a private middle school in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo. He walked up to a podium, supporting himself with a cane, and started talking about his experiences to an audience of about 170 second-year girls.

He spoke gently, but his stern words carried a sense of gravity and urgency. "Mankind knows the terror of nuclear [weapons], but cannot give them up. Even now there are people who are struggling with radiation damage," he said.

Crew members of the Fukuryu Maru No. 5 were exposed to the fallout on March 1, 1954, from one of the 67 atomic and hydrogen bomb tests carried out by the United States from 1946 to 1958 in the central Pacific.

The tests exposed residents of nearby islands as well as fishermen on about 1,000 boats that were operating in the vicinity of the blasts to levels of radiation that proved deadly in some cases.

The Fukuryu Maru, which literally means "lucky dragon," was exposed to the fallout from a hydrogen bomb code-named "Bravo" that was about 1,000 times more powerful than the type dropped on Hiroshima.

The ship was taken out of service and sat abandoned for a time, now preserved in the metropolitan Daigo Fukuryu Maru Exhibition Hall in Koto Ward, Tokyo, which opened in June 1976.

Of the 23 Fukuryu Maru crew who were exposed to the "ashes of death," seven are alive today, and only three talk about their experience publicly.

Oishi says he continues with his lectures to "resolve the regret of my fellows who died without speaking out about the things they wanted to."

He has given more than 700 talks over about 30 years, and continues to do so despite having collapsed due to a brain hemorrhage two years ago that left the right side of his body disabled. …

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