Hiroshima’s victims tell their story

April 11, 2008

AS ITS title suggests, White Light Black Rain reveals a far darker portrait of the August 1945 bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki than the one conventionally portrayed in elementary and high school history textbooks.

The documentary, directed by Steven Okazaki, was recently released on DVD by HBO. A far cry from the apologetic view justifying the horrifying destruction of two Japanese cities for the supposed purpose of "ending the war," White Light Black Rain allows those on the receiving end of the violence to tell of their experiences.

The tales of each victim are enough to leave any viewer questioning whether a true cost-to-benefit analysis was ever conducted prior to the United States' decision to exhibit to the rest of the world its military prowess at the expense of hundreds of thousands of civilian lives.

Some 140,000 people died in Hiroshima, and 70,000 in Nagasaki. Those who survived--the vast majority of them civilians--suffered burns, infection, radiation sickness and cancer. Ultimately, another 160,000 people would die as a result.

Okazaki met more than 500 survivors and interviewed some 100 people before he selected the 14 people who appear the film. White Light Black Rain focuses mainly on the stories of witnesses of the destruction on the ground, such as Etsuko Nagano who lost her entire family to the devastation. But it also allows participants in the bombing to air their sentiments regarding President Harry Truman's choice.

One of the most moving and intriguing portions of the film displays footage from a May 11, 1955 airing of This Is Your Life during which co-pilot Robert Lewis of the Enola Gay (the plane that dropped the bomb nicknamed "Little Boy" on Hiroshima) met with Kiyoshi Tanimoto, a Japanese minister living in Hiroshima at the time of the bombing, and publicly apologized for his involvement.

Unfortunately, the U.S. government has yet to even take this small step.

This documentary will leave you with tears and feelings of disgust as it reveals the human cost of such merciless actions. Additionally, White Light Black Rain encourages its audience to sympathize with the people of Japan, creating a sense of common humanity.

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