Hiroshima 70th anniversary: Nuclear bomb 'should never be used again'

  • Smoke rises 20,000 feet above Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945 after the first atomic bomb was dropped during warfare.
  • A view of Hiroshima from Higi-Yama, a hill which rises in the Eastern part of the City. The area beyond the river received the full impact of the atomic bomb, the stumps of trees and ruined buildings two months after the explosion.
  • Mother and child in Hiroshima, four months after the atomic bomb dropped.
  • Survivors of the explosion suffering the effects of radiation of the atom bomb at Hiroshima 1945.
  • A flattened neighborhood reduced to complete rubble by the atomic bomb blast is seen in Hiroshima.
  • Children in Hiroshima, Japan, wearing masks to combat the odor of death after the city was destroyed by the first atom bomb, October 1945. 
  • An old woman, a victim of the atomic blast, lies in a makeshift hospital in the bank of Kango Ginku in Hiroshima, on Sept. 8, 1945.
  • Two brothers who survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima four days earlier are pictured here on Aug. 10, 1994. Around 140,000 people, or more than half of Hiroshima’s population at the time, died in the first atomic bombing on Aug. 6, 1945, with another 70,000 people perishing in the bomb dropped over Nagasaki Aug. 9, 1945. Following the bombings, Japan surrendered Sept. 2, 1945 to Allied forces, officially ending World War II, bringing down the curtain on the costliest conflict in history. 
  • A scene of devastation after the American atom bomb attack on Hiroshima, Japan, seen in September 1945.
  • A victim of the Hiroshima atomic explosion. On Aug. 6, 1945, the U.S. Army dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, thus ending the war against Japan. The entire city was destroyed, thousands of people were killed, and those who survived suffered from radiation injuries.
  • A victim of the American atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan, shows the burns on his arms in 1947. 
  • Victims of the atomic blast are treated in primitive conditions at the Kangyo Ginko bank. Many suffered from radiation burns and shock.
  • A primary school building located in the epicenter, taken two months after the explosion in Hiroshima.
  • A huge expanse of ruins left by the explosion of the atomic bomb on Aug. 6, 1945 in Hiroshima. 140,000 people were killed.
  • Emergency workers treat a young victim of the atomic explosion. He was brought to the temporary aid hospital on a cart, but died soon afterwards.
  • A survivor of the first atomic bomb ever used in warfare, Jinpe Teravama, retains scars after healing of burns from the bomb explosion, Hiroshima, in June 1947.
  • Victims of the atomic blast are treated in primitive conditions at the fly-infested Kangyo Ginko bank in Hiroshima, Sept. 8, 1945.
  • The epicenter of the atomic blast is pictured on Sept. 8, 1945 in Hiroshima. Army barracks once stood at this site in center of the city.
  • Japanese attend the Shinto (memorial) services in Hiroshima for the friends and family killed in the atomic bomb blast of WWII on Sept. 8, 1945.
  • Japanese soldiers and civilians crowd trains to Tokyo at a Hiroshima station after the demobilization of the Japanese military in Hiroshima, Sept. 8. 1945.
  • Japanese soldier walks through site where army barracks once stood in the center of town, which was also the center of the atomic bomb blast in Hiroshima, on Sept, 8, 1945.
  • The B-29 bomber ‘Enola Gay’ in Japan, after bombing Hiroshima in 1945.
  • In this Aug. 9, 1945 file photo, a mushroom cloud rises moments after the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, southern Japan. In August 1945, U.S. planes dropped two atomic bombs, one on Hiroshima, one on Nagasaki, the first and only time nuclear weapons have been used. Their destructive power was unprecedented, incinerating buildings and people, and leaving lifelong scars on survivors, not just physical but also psychological, and on the cities themselves. Days later, World War II was over. 
  • A Japanese baby reacts from intense pain from burns suffered when the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, as another bandaged survivor tries to comfort it on Sept. 8, 1945. Scores of others, horribly burned in the blinding flash of flame that enveloped the city as the bomb exploded, lay scattered through the debris of shattered building.
  • The epicenter of the blast in Nagasaki. Almost everything was leveled to the ground.
  • Nagasaki Victims of the atomic bombing over Nagasaki in the district Ibinokuchi Machi, located about 1.5km from the site of the detonation.
  • Two women pull a rickshaw loaded with wood through the destruction in the aftermath of the atomic bomb blast in Nagasaki.
  • Two Javanese POW’s who were severely burned in U.S. atomic bomb blast are examined by Dutch Pow camp medical officer.
  • The devastation after the atom bomb fell on Nagasaki.
  • A sign posted on a pole reads” atomic field” amid the ruins and destruction after the atomic bomb fell on Nagasaki.

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Seven decades after the U.S. dropped two atomic bombs on Japan, a 99-year-old veteran refuses to give up his life’s mission — to ensure nuclear warfare never happens again.

On Thursday, the city of Hiroshima will commemorate the anniversary of the moment in 1945 when “Little Boy” instantly killed at least 60,000 people. Three days later, “Fat Man” killed around 40,000 others in Nagasaki.

The bombings are credited with ending World War II, but they left two cities in ruins and generations suffering the effects of radiation poisoning. Tens of thousands more later died from cancer and other illnesses.

Dr. James Yamazaki, a medical researcher with U.S. Atomic Bomb Medical Team in Nagasaki, witnessed first-hand the horrific effects of radiation sickness.

His research in the devastated Japanese city between 1949 and 1961 focused on women who were pregnant at the time the bombs dropped. The shock of seeing his many patients suffer remains with the near-centenarian to this day.

“The children of the women who were pregnant, their children manifested the severe effect on the fetus with development of a small head size and mental retardation,” he said.

“The impact of radiation on the human body — the long-term effect and principal effect — is the development of cancer. The enormous impact on human population is unacceptable.”

Yamazaki’s story is one of courage and survival. His first experience of battle was with conventional warfare.

As a young medical student, he joined many Japanese-Americans keen to prove their loyalty to America and signed up to fight in World War II.

In 1944, he was sent to Germany as a surgeon for the Field Artillery Battalion in the 106th Infantry.

He was captured by Nazi forces during the Battle of the Bulge and forced to travel 800 miles on foot and in a boxcar. He was then incarcerated in a German POW camp.

Meanwhile, his parents back home in America were being incarcerated by the very country he fought for. As Japanese-Americans, they were sent to U.S. internment camps.

But Yamazaki is stoic in his view of the treatment of his family, and is proud to have served his nation at war.

“Our family — we just felt in order to have a place in America, our best course was to join the Army,” he said.

Yamazaki survived his POW ordeal and returned to the United States to finish his medical studies. He then volunteered to serve his nation once again, as lead physician of a team studying radiation sickness in Nagasaki.

The devastation left by the bombs is something Yamazaki never wants to see again. And yet he will not say the decision to drop the bombs was wrong.

In his book “Children of the Atomic Age,” Yamazaki describes an encounter with a student who asked if the bombs should have been dropped.

He answers: “If they knew then what we know now about what an atomic bomb can do, it would have been the wrong thing to do.”

And although he won’t speak against America’s decision, Yamazaki continues to lecture and warn against nuclear warfare.

“All humans should make every effort that this should never be used again,” he said. “I feel every student before they finish middle school should be aware of the enormous impact of the atomic bomb so that it never be used again.”

Yamazaki has particular concerns for the children of the future, who he fears won’t be aware of the horrors brought by atomic weapons.

“We should all make a concerted effort for people to know what the bomb does,” he wrote in his book.

“Every decision-maker, every citizen, needs to know the human cost of nuclear warfare. I want no mistakes. I want no decisions that ignore the very particular vulnerability of children, and through the children, the vulnerability of the future of all of us.”

This article originally appeared on NBC News.com.

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