He Was an American Child in Hiroshima on the Day the Atomic Bomb DroppedBreaking News
tags: Hiroshima, atomic bomb, World War 2
On that clear, sunny morning, 7-year-old Howard Kakita stood on the roof of his grandparents’ bathhouse excitedly watching the vapor trails of an approaching B-29.
The date was August 6, 1945. The city was Hiroshima.
Howard was not supposed to be on the roof, his grandmother shouting as the air raid siren sounded. Then again, neither he nor his brother were supposed to be in Japan at all. Born in California, they were Americans, like their mother and father before them, like unknown numbers of U.S. citizens who were caught in that city on that day and forever after associated with the atomic bomb and the horrors it unleashed.
A dozen servicemen, crew members of aircraft downed in the final days of the war and held as prisoners, died after the bomb detonated. But hundreds, some say thousands, of other Americans also perished or suffered and bore witness. Many were children from Hawaii and the West Coast who had arrived in the prewar years to visit relatives or absorb the culture of their families’ heritage. Now, 75 years later, their numbers are dwindling. Even the youngest are in their 80s.
While no records reveal the exact number of American hibakusha — Japanese for “atomic bomb survivors” — that country’s government made a lifetime commitment to serve them, dispatching teams of doctors to the United States every other year to track their health. For decades, these doctors have met with survivors, collected blood, measured vitals, taken X-rays and interviewed them about what ails them, be it the lingering effects of radiation or the complications of aging.
Forty Americans made themselves available to the doctors last November. Among them: Howard Kakita, a retired computer engineer, father and grandfather.
“There are not too many of us left,” he says softly.