Atomic Bombing Survivor Sumiteru Taniguchi, Former Chairman of Nagasaki Council of A-Bomb Sufferers

Topics Covered: Day of bombing; Injuries; Hospitalization; Atomic Bombing Casualty Commission (ABCC); Lifelong sicknesses from radiation exposure; Surgeries; Radiation wounds; Dangers and violence of nuclear weapons.


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My name is Sumiteru Taniguchi.

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I was born in Fukuoka prefecture.

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When I was year and a half, my mother passed away. Then my father decided to go somewhere else to work, so my two older brothers and I were raised by my mother’s family in Nagasaki.

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I was born on January 26, 1929.

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Nothing really changed. Not that much changed.

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Well, you study many subjects in school, like math… the war did start while we were in school, but…

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They have math, Japanese, music… many subjects.

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Well, I loved running.

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Well, we didn’t have “sports” or what we see today. All sports like baseball were introduced after the war, so during my time, we didn’t have sports.

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Simply running, running around, horizontal bars, things like that.

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When the war began during elementary school, we generally didn’t play a lot in school — we exercised because we were prompted to get in shape to go to war.

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It was not explicitly told so at the time and we didn’t really know as children, so we just did what we were told.

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Not much changed. Same style of living regardless of the war. You’re talking about my childhood, correct?

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I graduated in 1943, so after that I was working for the post office.

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So I survived the A-bomb while working there. It was my second year of employment. That’s when that happened.

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When I was 16, I was riding my bike around 1.8km away from ground zero when it exploded behind me.

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And I was blown away about 3m forward with my bike and was smashed against the ground.

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When I was on the ground I thought, “did a large bomb get dropped right by me? Am I going to die?” and I was engulfed in fear of death.

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But I kept encouraging myself, saying “I can’t die here, I must not die.”

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So as I said, I was riding my bike for work and got smashed against the ground — the earth shook like an earthquake with gushing wind, so I kept clinging to the ground.

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So I thought I might die there and felt the fear of death, but kept encouraging to live by saying I must not die here.

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After a little while, I got up and realized that my left side, from top of my arm to my fingertips, had skin hanging and my back was slippery from being completely burnt.

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My bike — from its body to axle — all of it was so bent from heat that it was useless. I think I remember carrying it as I was running away.

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The bike was indeed broken, and I remember running with it.

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Also, I was…

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I was thinking “where would be safe to go?” as I was walking. I was able to think because there wasn’t a single drop of blood coming from my wounds.

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I felt no sensation of pain what so ever.

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I felt nothing, no blood gushed from my wounds.

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I assumed that everyone thought the same thing too (“bomb was dropped near us”) so I brainstormed on where to go for evacuation.

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I remember seeing children who were playing moments ago die from this.

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One of them was dead, completely charred black from the bomb,

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he/she died all alone, losing everything.

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That’s something I cannot erase from my mind even today.

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Since there was a factory in a tunnel nearby,

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I walked all the way there, sitting down on a pedestal that’s about one foot high,

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and asked someone who was there to take a look at my hanging skin from my hand/arm

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and had him slice that off because it was bothersome.

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It was owned by Mitsubishi Weaponry,

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and I instinctively thought that I would be safe if I went there.

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I walked there, got inside,

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sat down on a small pedestal,

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and told someone that the hanging skin was bothering me and had it cut off.

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So after surviving the atomic bomb attack,

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I was in major depression for about 1 year and 9 month,

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so after 3 years and 7 months I finally got discharged from the hospital,

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and got back to work at the place where I was before.

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This picture was taken one month after the bomb was dropped.

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This is about half a year after.

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This — since I had to lay down like this,

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my bones around my chest rotted away.

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In my case, staying still for a year and 9 month, while my bones were rotting,

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then 3 years and 7 month — one year, or half a year later this picture was taken,

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spending 3 years and 7 months in Omura City, not Nagasaki,

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since I was in another city, it took me 3 years and 7 months to return to Nagasaki after being discharged.

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Since all of that was happening, the ABCC never contacted me for an interview or questions.

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Since they never contacted me I got in touch with them myself, asking what the current status was and had them look it up.

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After 6 months, or maybe 3-4 months I got a piece of paper this big,

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telling me that “the test results were normal.”

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Just a letter, that’s all.

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And of course when they say “all clear,” there were abnormalities in reality.

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But the letter only said, “no problem found.”

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Since then, the ABCC never actively invited me for anything.

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Because I was there for so long,

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Because I was at a hospital, they thought my body wouldn’t show anything negative after getting tested.

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So I didn’t feel indebted to anything.

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I think the ABCC must have known about me.

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That’s because the U.S. took all of the medical records of people exposed to the atomic bombings, and it’s the ABCC that held on to them.

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That’s why none of the survivors’ medical records remain.

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Part of my medical records were taken out. The rest is there.

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I’m the only one whose medical records are in the catalog at the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum.

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There are parts like this. I’ve inserted this here.

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“Taken out by the U.S. Survey Team,” I have written here.

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From February 27 to April 27, 1946. Everything has been taken out.

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Parts before and after that were also taken out and are missing.

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So the ABCC knew plenty well about me. They had their fill with my medical records.

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They’re the ones who have the parts they took out.

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Therefore, I bet they know more or less all there is to know about me.

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That’s why I think they didn’t contact me.

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Maybe they didn’t contact me simply because there wouldn’t be anything wrong.

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That’s on them.

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All the other medical records were also taken — none of the other survivors’ medical records remain.

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Because they took them all to America. The ABCC did.

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I was admitted into the hospital on November 1, 1945.

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But the first entry in my medical record is dated November 26.

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AS: What day is it from?

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I entered the hospital on November 1, 1945.

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I don’t know what happened next.

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But the first entry in my medical record is dated November 26.

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So I think those days were purposefully taken out.

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After that, like I said, from February 27 to April 27, 1946 — has been taken out.

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This was when the changes in my white and red blood cells were the most violent.

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I went from this world to the next — from alive to dead — back and forth, over and over again. That’s the part that’s been taken out.

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When someone asks me to tell my story — ever since I suffered the bomb —

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Ever since then.

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Like I was just telling you. Admitted into the hospital for a year and 9 months, sleeping — those things — being discharged once I could get up again.

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What I’ve done since being discharged — I speak about things like that.

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I will never forget that experience, as long as I live.

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I’m not recalling it. It’s infused into my very body. I’m not remembering it. For the life of me, I can’t forget it.

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In the end, if you get sick from the radiation, you’re done for.

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Trying to use normal methods to treat something that’s been hit with radiation — this was all hit —

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This is different from regular burns.

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These are all radiation burns. It can never completely heal.

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So, many times — exposed to and burned by radiation — all sorts of — I’ve had all sorts of surgeries. So many times.

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This is my back. Even when they put good skin on it — even when they graft it on, it goes back to the way it was.

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I’ve had surgeries on several places here.

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This is the scar from a surgery I had 5 years ago. They put new skin on several places. It all goes back to the way it was.

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This started 3 years ago.

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This was when I had the surgery 5 years ago. Then, 2 years after that, a small wound appeared.

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It grew to be this big. This was 2 years after the surgery. It’s all hard.

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It’s all hard. Like a rock. They then went in and shaved it down — scraped it down to the bone.

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Then they took the skin — not just the skin, but also the meat — took it from here.

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Cut it out from here to here. This is 5.5 cm wide, 8 cm long. They took it from here and pasted it here.

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They grafted it on, and it has stayed on, for now.

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However, they did the same thing here. And I think it might turn out the same way. This part here.

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This part — the picture isn’t the best but — this part is here.

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I’ve had this kind of surgery in several places.

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I had them put on good skin here, but

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It’s reverting to the way it was before.

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The very first place I had this kind of skin graft surgery done was here, on my elbow.

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It’s in that medical record.

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At that time, actually — the skin was from — it’s gotten a lot smaller by now.

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Here. From here. They took it from here and did it. From in here.

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Now, here and here, and around here — it’s all getting worse — but I’m still not sure what I’ll do.

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I’m still not sure if I’m going to have to get surgery. I still go regularly to the hospital to get checked out.

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That’s why injuries from the atomic bomb are not just about radiation.

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The Japanese government tries to say that A-bomb-related injuries are limited to radiation.

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Like I just said, the heat rays, the blast winds, and the radiation exposure on top of that — it all slams into the human being — a living creature — all at once.

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So there’s no way it can be just a regular burn. Radiation also burned into it at the same time.

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So, below here — inside here — you hit bone right away.

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As you can see, it’s bone. There is no meat. No blood vessels pass through. There are no cells under the skin. So you can’t know when or how it will change.

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The government pays no attention to any of this.

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And it’s not just the Japanese government. It’s also countries like the U.S., who used the nuclear weapons. “They were bombed by the A-bomb. They got exposed to radiation.” That’s all they think.

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They look at what happens once you’re exposed to radiation. (But ignore the other effects.)

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The government has recognized these wounds as injuries and sicknesses related to the atomic bombing.

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I got an Atomic Bomb Survivor’s Certificate that you can only use at the Nagasaki University Hospital or at the A-Bomb Hospital. That’s why I go to the A-Bomb Hospital.

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However, if there’s something that the A-Bomb Hospital can’t figure out, then I have to go to the University Hospital. Either one or the other. Even if I went somewhere else, they’d have no idea.

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They’d be clueless and I wouldn’t be able to use the Certificate.

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These are photographs taken by Americans.

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The doctors at Omura Hospital took them. So…

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Well, for example, when I spoke at the UN a few months ago, I held up these photographs.

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Even if I went somewhere else, in the end, Japanese doctors don’t even know. Because the Japanese government doesn’t know.

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The Japanese government doesn’t even know. So if I went somewhere that’s never dealt with atomic bombing survivors — like, say, America or another country — the hospitals there wouldn’t have a clue.

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My bones are directly under these wounds. There is no meat. There are no blood vessels.

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So when they try to give me a shot — try to make it numb by administering an injection — it’s hard to properly insert the needle.

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So when they give me a shot, two people need to do it.

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AS: An injection? A shot?

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Anesthesia. When they’re operation on these places. Pain-killers. Anesthesia.

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There need to be two people. The doctor and a nurse need to administer the shot together. Because it’s difficult to properly inject the needle.

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When you think you’ve got it in, one person has to hold on to the needle to keep it in.

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They grasp the top part of the needle and insert it. They keep the needle inserted. Because it doesn’t go in like a regular needle would.

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It takes a very long time.

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Because it doesn’t go in, there are times when the injection spills out.

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So like I said, someone holds down the part with the needle. Someone else pushes in the injection fluid. That’s the only way you can get the injection fluid to go in.

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For some reason, nowadays there seems to be this idea that having nuclear weapons can save people.

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With nuclear weapons, there are no winners. There are no losers. No one can be the final victor. Using nuclear weapons would bring about an end to everything.

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Even with Russia and America agreeing to reduce their stockpiles to 1550 warheads,

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1550 warheads. Even one of them would be hundreds of times more destructive than the bombs used in Hiroshima and Nagasaki 65 years ago.

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In other words, you won’t be able to survive even if only one of these bombs goes off. This is something everyone must know.

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People from nuclear weapons-possessing states say that they are safe, so long as they have their nukes. I disagree. There can be no salvation in this. Nuclear weapons and humans cannot coexist.

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Nuclear weapons cannot protect people. The people of the world — not just Americans, but people from all over the world — need to know this.

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It’s because people don’t know that, that they think, “If we have nuclear weapons, we’ll be saved.” And the number of nuclear weapon state keeps rising.

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The countries with nukes do nothing to try and get rid of them — they keep making and stockpiling them. If this continues, the world will come to an end.

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If you want to save the world, you can’t think only about nuclear weapons. Unless the hearts of the people of the world come together as one, there won’t be a world left.

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That’s what I want everyone to know.

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