‘It’s just terrible’

Editor’s note: This is the seventh in a series of stories by The Garden Island marking the 70th anniversary of the surrender of Japan on Aug. 15, 1945, and the end of World War II.

It’s been 70 years since the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Nagasaki.

It may seem long ago, but the memory of that day still lingers with Omao resident Takako Decker.

The day the atom bomb, nicknamed “Fat Man,” laid waste to the city, killing between 60,000 to 80,000 people, Decker was making grenades in a weapons factory about three miles away from the explosion.

“It was two minutes after 11 o’clock when the bomb exploded,” she said. “All of a sudden, the factory windows all broken. Someone asked, ‘What’s happening?’ Then somebody said, ‘There’s a bomb in the city, and this bomb is going to be poison.’”

Decker and her fellow worker exited the building.

“All my friends and everybody all thought our families were probably all dead,” she said. “You could see the smoke and the fire.”

Eventually, Decker and her coworkers left the island and boarded a ship back to Nagasaki. When they were close to shore, Decker said, she saw the dead.

“By the time we get off the ship, there are all dead bodies in the ocean,” she said.

Decker ran home. All she thought of was her family: her mother, sister-in-law and three nieces.

“My house was still there. I was so happy. I ran home and my mother and everybody just sit right by the stairs by the front door,” she said. “I said, ‘Is everybody OK?’ I was so glad.”

Decker said her home was located behind Mount Inasa, which protected her home from the blast.

“Rumor came that the bomb was poison,” she said.

The threat of radiation forced neighbors to abandon their homes.

“My mother said, ‘Maybe we should go too because there’s nobody,’” she said. “Two days later, after bombing, we walked from my house to the train station that’s also damaged, too.”

The second train station was no different, so Decker and her family trekked to a third.

“We went to a third train station from my house,” she said. “That’s gonna be easily three to four miles. In the meantime, while we’re walking, there’s dead bodies.”

Decker said her and her family had to maneuver through the dead – some were still alive and badly burned.

“Somebody was still alive and said, ‘Please give me water,’” she said. “We have to go, too, and there’s no water to give. I felt so bad. I wish I could have give him a cup of water, but we didn’t have.”

Eventually, Decker and her family made it to Saga and moved in with her uncle’s wife and cousin.

At Saga, Decker’s brother, Yonegi Urakawa, became sick after contracting radiation poisoning from the blast.

Yonegi’s final wish was to die in his home, so he, Decker and their mother walked back to Nagasaki.

Yonegi died at his home, 10 days after the blast.

Since the town was abandoned, Decker and her mother looted wood from the surrounding area and built a casket for Yonegi.

“The body had to be cremated. Nobody can help, so me and my mom made a box and put my brother Yonegi inside,” she said. “There’s no place to take him because everything got damaged. No minister either, so we had to do it ourselves.”

Decker and her mother stayed at their home and survived by exchanging their kimonos for food and water.

“We don’t have anything because everything was poisoned, so she had vegetable and cabbage,” she said. “We go to the farming people and to the exchange.”

Two months later, Decker’s other brother, Yoshiichi, died after being exposed to radiation while rebuilding his company in Nagasaki.

Slowly, Decker said, her neighbors started flowing in. After half a year, most of them moved back.

At 85, Takako and her husband Don live happily in Omao. Next month, she will undergo testing for radiation poisoning in Honolulu.

Looking back, Decker had three words to describe that time of her life.

“It’s just terrible.”

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