Children of the Atomic Bomb
Dr. James N. Yamazaki, at the age of 33 in 1949, was the lead physician of the U.S. Atomic Bomb Medical Team assigned to Nagasaki to survey the effects of the bomb. This bomb was a deliberate act of destruction that destroyed human bodies, brains, and genes for generations.
The human and physical toll, for all mankind, speaks for itself. Yet, in the 21st century, nations continue to jockey for the control and manufacture of even more nuclear weapons. Dr. Yamazaki, today in his 90s, continues to monitor “the children of the atomic bomb” and to write and to speak out on behalf of a humankind facing nuclear destruction.
On 8:15 A.M. on August 6, 1945, the nuclear weapon "Little Boy" was dropped on the city of Hiroshima, followed seventy-six hours later on August 9 by the detonation of the "Fat Man" nuclear bomb over Nagasaki.
In a blinding, searing flash of light, one bomber and one bomb instantly blasted the two cities to rubble. The great difference between the devastation of the two cities was a result of the different topography. Hiroshima was on a low flat delta interlaced by seven tributary rivers; Nagasaki was divided by a mountain spur into two distinct valleys.
In Hiroshima, the bomb exploded over the center of the city, destroying everything in a one-mile radius. In Nagasaki, the bomb was detonated in an industrial valley flanked by a mountain spur so that the total destruction took place within a half a mile that shielded the major business and residential districts. Yet the more powerful Nagasaki bomb of 20 kiloton (TNT equivalent) compared to the 15 kiloton Hiroshima bomb caused a far greater radius of damage than in Hiroshima.
The nature of an atomic explosion explains the magnitude of the human casualties in the immediate and delayed aftermath. A measure of the enormity of the energy released by atomic weapons is that the light of the bomb in brightness is comparable to the sun, and the temperatures and pressure are comparable to those in the sun’s interior. The light rays consist of thermal radiation that burns the cities and bodies and nuclear radiation that penetrates the body.
In the immediate aftermath, a quarter to a third of the population was killed by burns, trauma or radiation, or by a combination of these. The principal delayed effects of radiation concern the development of cancer, especially among those exposed in early childhood compared to adults; the brain damage to the fetus born to mothers exposed to the atomic bomb; and the genetic effects to the children born to the survivors.
Dr. James N. Yamazaki is an emeritus professor of medicine at UCLA. He was the lead physician of the 1949 U.S. Atomic Bomb Medical Team, studying the effects of nuclear bombing on children in Nagasaki, Japan. He received the Socially Responsible Medicine Award from Physicians for Social Responsibility in 2008.
Beginning in 1974 — over a quarter century after the bombs were dropped — an entirely new window on the atomic-bomb experience was opened. This took the form of drawings and paintings by survivors.
Children of the Atomic Bomb: An American Physician's Memoir of Nagasaki, Hiroshima, and the Marshall Islands (1995)
By James N Yamazaki, 1995
Asian Americans on War and Peace
"Why Does a Pediatrician Worry about Nuclear Weapons?"
By James N. Yamazaki
in Asian Americans on War and Peace, edited by Russell C. Leong and Don T. Nakanishi, 2002
End University of California’s Involvement with Nuclear Weapons
Join concerned students, staff, and faculty of the University of California who want to end involvement with the design, research, testing, and production of nuclear weapons.
See the partial listing of websites below.
From Your Campus to Your Community!
Nuclear Education for Human Action
(Additional nuclear website links recommended by Dr. James Yamazaki).
Living With the Bomb
A general name given to any weapon in which the explosion results from the energy released by a reaction involving atomic nuclei, either by fission—of uranium or plutonium; or, fusion—of a heavier nucleus with two lighter hydrogen ones. Thus, the A-for atomic bomb, and the H, for hydrogen bomb are both nuclear weapons. In the history of the modern world as we know it, the atomic bomb was only used once to kill human beings: it was dropped on the Japanese people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
Behind any discussion of radiation must necessarily loom the specter of full-scale atomic war. That a single thermonuclear weapon can cause severe radiation damage hundreds of miles beyond its area of immediate devastation is all too well known. That enough such weapons exploded in an all-out war might render the entire earth, or large parts of it, uninhabitable, is at least conceivable.
The nuclear stakes are global: life-maintaining and life-diminishing decisions must be made by informed individuals, communities, and nations today.
Children of the Atomic Bomb Survivors
Seventy thousand new-borns were examined in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In Nagasaki, 500-800 babies were examined in their homes. No evidence of genetic injuries were detected at that time. But today, in 2008, new studies done on survivors and their offspring are revealing conclusive DNA genetic changes and malformations. These studies utilize newer modalities to detect DNA injuries. The children of survivors, now adults, are concerned how genetic damage from the bomb may be transmitted to their children through generations.
Aside from the physical injury and radiation the most significant effect of the atomic bomb was the sheer terror which it struck into the citizens of these bombed cities. Such terror, unprecedented in humankind, was etched forever onto the bodies and minds of the persons who experienced it.
The tragedy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is not just Japan’s, but it is the world’s. Therefore, it is the responsibility of all nations to prevent another nuclear disaster for the safety and well-being of all our children.
Today: 159,000 Hiroshimas!
Aside from the the physical injury and radiation the most significant effect of the atomic bomb was the sheer terror which it struck into the peoples of the bombed cities.
Today, the U.S. nuclear stockpile contains 2,400 megatons, the equivalent to 159,000 Hiroshimas! An enormous nuclear caldron simmers that adds fire to current threats of global warming and changes in our water, atmosphere, and the delicate human, animal, and food chain through which we are all interlinked.