Hiroshima Survivors Remember Atomic Bomb Blast: Big Pics
The Front Lines
War reenactors may seem like an odd bunch on first glance. Purely out of a love of history, war reenactors wrangle together large groups of like-minded individual, all of whom both appear and behave as though they’ve stepped out of another era, on a remote battlefield to play out scenes from wars that took places decades or even centuries before any of the participants were born. Although amateur historical reenactors are typically associated with Civil War enthusiasts, war reenactments are in fact a common activity that goes well beyond the borders -- and history -- of the United States. All of these reenactors share a few things in common: an intimate knowledge of their chosen conflict, keen attention to detail and a commitment to bringing historic events back into the modern day.
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Battle of Borodino
If you're wondering why there are an extraordinarily high number of reenactors participating in this display of the Battle of Borodino, all those soldiers are in fact necessary in order to recreate what may have been the single bloodiest day in military history. The battle, which took place on Sept. 7, 1812 in Russia, marked a collision between the forces of Napoleon Bonaparte and Alexander I of Russia. Napoleon's army lost an estimated 28,000 soldiers while around 45,000 men under Alexander died in combat.
Credit: Getty Images
Battle of Karbala
With Iraq still emerging from a long and bloody conflict, it may seem like an unlikely place to host a war reenactment. However, every year, Iraqi Shiites re-enact the battle of Karbala during a religious festival. Known as Ashura, or 10, in Arabic, the day marks the anniversary of the killing of Imam Hussein, grandson of the prophet Muhammad. The festival has led to outbreaks of religious violence among different members of the Muslim community.
World War II
Civil War reenactors may have the pageantry and the popularity, but World War II recreations can’t be matched in terms of the sheer spectacle. And thanks to a little imagination on the part of the participants, battles fought on European soil have been brought to the United States, including the soldiers, the uniforms and, of course, the weapons.
The Eastern Front
Americans aren’t the only historical enthusiasts recreating World War II-era battle scenes with an eye for detail. In this photo, reenactors in Kiev, Ukraine, have working tanks as part of their recreation to depict how the Soviet Union overcame Nazi Germany. The tanks may only fire blanks, but that doesn’t mean multi-ton tanks are any less intimidating.
The Western Front
What could be better than the two tanks in the reenactment from the previous slide? Why, an authentic World War II-era airplane, of course. In this slide, a reenactor playing a British soldier on the ground watches as a mock military plane flies overhead.
Battle of Stamford Hill
The Battle of Stamford Hill in 1643, in which Cornish soldiers overran the superior forces of the English Roundheads, may not have been as colorful as it appears in this reenactment. However, this battle scene is recreated annually by a British historical group known as the Sealed Knot Society, which also reenacts other significant events over the course of the English Civil War.
They may not have all the firepower of the World War II or Civil War enthusiasts, but these Japanese battle reenactors sure have the same sense of style. In this reenactment of a battle near Tokyo, Japan, samurai share the field with soldiers wielding harquebuses, an early model musket that change the face of war in the island nation.
Battle for Fort Nysa
Poland is no stranger to war over the past 250 years, which leaves war reenactors plenty to work with. In this scene, the forces of Napoleon Bonaparte march through the Polish city of Nysa having defeated a joint force from Prussia, Austria, Great Britain, and Russia in 1807 after a 114-day siege and nonstop assault.
Aug. 6, 2010 -- Three days after an atomic bomb devastated Hiroshima, six-year-old Kazuko Uragashira and her parents were aboard an evacuation train out of their charred home city.
Having narrowly survived the nuclear inferno, the family headed for the home of an uncle, not knowing that another date with destiny lay ahead of them. His home town was Nagasaki.
Uragashira remembers sitting on the train, her legs burnt from the radioactive blast, when their train stopped in a tunnel outside Nagasaki after a 300-kilometer (190-mile) journey.
"It was another scene from hell," Uragashira, now 71, recalled. They had stumbled into the immediate aftermath of the second atomic bombing in Japan, on August 9, 1945.
As the train passengers painstakingly trudged their way through the carnage, she saw survivors with molten skin dripping off their bodies.
"I still remember the smell of charred bodies and the weak screams of the dying, for water… Even if I suffer dementia, I will never forget it," she said.
Uragashira, who now lives on a remote island off Nagasaki, is one of the few remaining "niju hibakusha" -- survivors of not one but both atom bomb attacks on Japan in the final days of World War II.
"I was lucky as a lot of others died instantly, but I still want to know why such a horrible thing happened to me twice," she said quietly.
An estimated 140,000 people died instantly in Hiroshima or succumbed to burns and radiation sickness soon after the blast, and over 70,000 perished as a result of the Nagasaki attack three days later.
Friday marks the 65th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing.
Around 150 people, like Uragashira, are thought to have been exposed to both bombings.
The only person officially recognized as a survivor of both bombs, Tsutomu Yamaguchi, who died in January aged 93, once told an interviewer: "I thought the mushroom cloud had followed me."
Media interest has grown in the double-survivors. Last month, a publisher released the Japanese translation of interviews a New York Times correspondent held with nine of them in the 1950s.
Film director Hidetaka Inazuka has recorded testimonies by double bomb survivors to keep alive their memories.
While many Americans believe the bombs were necessary to bring a speedy end to the war, Inazuka, like many Japanese, argues the attacks -- at least the one on Nagasaki -- were unwarranted because Japan was on the verge of surrender.
"Hiroshima was completely destroyed, which should have been sufficient," Inazuka said. "We need to strictly verify why they were dropped on the two cities."
Inazuka said the clock is now ticking to record the voices of the survivors, whose average age is above 75, saying: "Their children or grandchildren need to take the baton as we only have 10 years or so left."
Many single and double "hibakusha" -- atom bomb survivors -- have long kept silent, fearing discrimination against them or their offspring, but many have now started speaking out about their traumatic memories.
"I didn't tell anyone before that I'm a hibakusha because I thought no one wants to marry a person like me," said another survivor of both attacks, 80-year-old Misako Katani.
"Bodies were everywhere in the city," she said about Hiroshima. "Some were skeletons and others were bloated from the black rain."
She remembers the feel of the ashes of her 14-year-old sister, whose human shape remained recognizable in their charred family home, where the remains of their mother were also found.
Katani was told by her father to bring the ashes to their ancestors' graveyard in Nagasaki, where she was exposed again -- a double dose that she said caused her to fall into a three-day coma, bleed and lose her hair.
"The atomic bombings destroyed my life," Katani said. "I heard that President Obama wants to make a visit, but just a visit doesn't mean much. I hope he will pledge to create a world without nuclear weapons."