White Light/Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

by Christy Yao


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This year marks the 75th anniversary of the United States dropping nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Through watching the documentary White Light/Black Rain, you can hear firsthand about this horrific tragedy.


White Light/Black Rain starts out in what looks like any other modern-day bustling city. Young people are asked by the film’s crew if they know what happened August 6, 1945, and no one does. The documentary shares that ¾ of those living in Hiroshima or Nagasaki were not alive to remember the bombings. A Hiroshima mall is then shown around Christmastime. It looks just like an American mall, with people shopping, stores having sales, and babies being pushed in strollers. It is hard to believe what happened here 75 years ago.


When the “Little Boy” bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, winds reached 1,000 MPH, with temperatures reaching 9000 degrees F. The people near the epicenter were instantly vaporized. In total, 140,000 people were killed. The “Fat Boy” bomb exploded over a Catholic community in the Nagasaki suburbs, killing 70,000. Photos of the city after the bomb just show rubble. Children’s bodies were so disfigured they looked like mummies. Those who did survive had bandages on their faces, lumps on their bodies, and burns.


The film then centers on those who survived the bombings, who by now have all reached late adulthood. Two women tell of how they were the oldest children at a Catholic orphanage when the bomb fell. They had just been to confession and were in the church when they were attacked. They tried to help the younger children, but many of them didn’t survive.


Senji Yamaguchi was unconscious for the first 40 days after he was in the Hiroshima bombing. Yamaguchi was bleeding from his rear end, with his liver swollen and his kidneys not working. His pain was so intense that he would faint as his bandages were being changed. He says the worst part of his whole ordeal was having maggots eat his flesh right off of him. Yamaguchi tells about people begging the doctors and nurses to kill them because they were in so much pain.


Nagasaki survivor Suchitero Taniguchi took off his shirt for the documentary, to show how his flesh is still melted in between his ribs and that his back is completely raw, without much unburnt skin. His treatment was filmed by the US Army. He became obsessed with dying, and yelled at the doctors to kill him. After a year and a half, Taniguchi left the hospital. He said the doctors didn’t know how to treat him then, and that they don’t know how to treat him now.


Nagasaki survivor Sakue Shimohira wonders if she would have lived a more normal life if she had not been a victim of the bomb, and perhaps have gotten married. When the bomb dropped, she saw a woman carrying a baby with no head. After it was safe to look for family members, it was hard to identify their bodies. The corpses were disfigured, with holes where the eyes had been. The only body Shimohira was able to identify was that of her mother’s, by her gold tooth. Soon after she found her mother’s body, it disintegrated.


In 1955, Shimohira was one of several Japanese young people in the Hiroshima Maiden Project, where women were brought to the United States to have plastic surgery to try to correct some of their burns. She doesn’t remember exactly how many plastic surgeries she’s had, but says it is at least 30, over a period of 18 months.


Watching White Light/Black Rain showed me why we can never have another nuclear bomb released. The dangers and human rights abuses of nuclear war are clear by looking at the victims and survivors of a nuclear attack. It is hard to believe that nuclear weapons are not only still stored, but still made today. White Light/Black Rain reignited my fire for ending nuclear proliferation.


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