Foreign A-bomb victims are all but forgotten
Tucked in the far corner of Nagasaki Peace Park sits a small monument next to a memorial featuring a streetcar platform ruined by the atomic bomb. The simple marker is easy to miss, a lonely tribute to the non-Japanese survivors of atomic destruction. Their numbers are unknown, and their struggle for recognition and financial assistance continues six decades later.
A 1,000-man camp in Nagasaki is believed to have been destroyed when the bomb fell 60 years ago Tuesday. A group of U.S. prisoners of war, among tens of thousands of POWs in Japan in 1945, lost a U.S. court battle for reparations two years ago. Lester Tenney, a former soldier who now lives in La Jolla (San Diego County), saw the mushroom cloud rise over Nagasaki from the prison where he was being held 32 miles away.
"We have never, never received anything from the Japanese in any way," says Tenney, who suffered a broken back, shoulder, nose, foot, hand and a skull fracture while in captivity. He was freed when Japan surrendered Aug. 15, 1945.
Others -- Dutch, Australians, Chinese and as many as 10,000 Koreans among them -- were not that fortunate. Some were workers the Japanese army conscripted during the war for some of its most difficult projects, such as dangerous mining and shipbuilding. Nagasaki city historical accounts say thousands of non-Japanese merchants and free laborers also were in town when the bomb fell.
"Almost all of these people would have experienced the atomic bombing, and it is estimated that thousands of them were killed," the Nagasaki Testimonial Society writes in its regularly updated account, A Journey to Nagasaki, a Peace Reader. "The facts about this area of the atomic bombing have not been properly brought to light."
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