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Shuntaro Hida

BMJ 2017; 357 doi: (Published 25 April 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;357:j1996
  1. Ned Stafford
  1. Hamburg
  1. ns{at}

Eyewitness of atomic bombing of Hiroshima and lifelong advocate for the victims

The defining moment of Shuntaro Hida’s long life occurred on 6 August 1945, when an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. It was 8:15 am on a beautiful Monday. The sky sparkled blue and the sun was shining down on the city of 350 000. At an altitude of 1900 feet the bomb detonated and created hell on earth.

At the time Hida was a 28 year old medical officer in the Japanese army, assigned to Hiroshima Military Hospital. On that morning, however, he was at a farm a few miles from Hiroshima caring for a girl whose grandfather had summoned him in the middle of the night. But Hida was near enough to feel the impact of the atomic explosion and, in the following hours as he tried to make his way back to Hiroshima, he witnessed the horror of the bomb. He saw the dead and the walking dead, some with bodies burnt black like charcoal and others with skin hanging from them like ragged cloth.

From the moment the bomb exploded, Hida’s fate was sealed. He would dedicate his life to helping the victims of Hiroshima, where he was born on 1 January 1917, and to those affected by the bombing, three days later, of Nagasaki. The victims included those who entered the cities after the bombings and in following years experienced ill health from radiation exposure. “The cruellest aspect of a nuclear attack is not the savage destruction of human bodies or visible burns, but its life destroying after-effects,” he said …

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