Postman whose badly burned body became an iconic image of the devastation caused by atomic bomb had passed away

  • Sumiteru Taniguchi was 16 when U.S. dropped atomic bomb on Nagasaki
  • He survived the August 9, 1945 bomb with severe burns on his arms and back
  • Photo of him recovering in hospital in 1946 became associated with the bomb 
  • Taniguchi later became a prominent nuclear disarmament campaigner
  • He died of cancer on Wednesday, aged 88, at a Nagasaki hospital
  • WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGE 

 

The Nagasaki survivor whose burned back became a symbol of the suffering of the 1945 atomic bomb victims, has died of cancer aged 88.

 

Sumiteru Taniguchi, then 16, had been delivering mail on his newspaper route when the United States dropped an atomic bomb on August 9, 1945.

 

Taniguchi survived, but suffered terrible burns on his back and arms, and later became a prominent nuclear disarmament campaigner.

 

In January 1946, a U.S. Marine photographer visited a hospital for survivor, and took a photograph of him lying on his stomach, his back exposed.

The photograph has since been used for decades to depict the injuries suffered by those who survived Nagasaki.

 

Taniguchi, once considered a front-runner for the Nobel Peace Prize, died of cancer at a hospital in the southwestern Japanese city on Wednesday. His health had declined in the last few years from age and illnesses.

 

Speaking at a commemoration ceremony in 2015, he described how he had been riding his bicycle about one 1.1 miles from the epicentre of the blast on the morning of August 9, 1945.

 

‘All of a sudden, after seeing a rainbow-like light from the back, I was blown by a powerful blast and smashed to the ground.

 

‘When I woke up, the skin of my left arm from the shoulder to the tip of my fingers was trailing like a rag.

 

‘I put my hand to my back and found my clothing was gone, and there was slimy, burnt skin all over my hand.

‘Bodies burned black, voices calling for help from collapsed buildings, people with flesh falling off and their guts falling out… This place became a sea of fire. It was hell.’

 

He became one of the few early faces of the bombing aftermath when US military pictures of him recovering in hospital, his entire back an agonising slab of melted flesh, were beamed around the world.

 

Taniguchi could only lie on his stomach for nearly two years as he was treated for the burns that exposed flesh and bones. He later formed a survivors’ group and subsequently led a national effort against nuclear proliferation.

 

In an interview with the Associated Press two years ago, he peeled his undershirt off to show his scars, to describe his painful past and tell the world the tragedy should never be repeated.

 

He said he wanted no-one else to have to suffer the pain of nuclear weapons.

 

Taniguchi, who spent about three-and-a-half years in hospital after the blast, went on to campaign for nuclear disarmament for his entire adult life, making dozens of speeches both in Japan and overseas about his experience.

 

‘I fear that people, especially the younger generations, are beginning to lose interest,’ he said in a 2003 interview with AFP.

 

‘I want the younger generations to remember that nuclear weapons will never save humanity. It is an illusion to believe that the nuclear umbrella will protect us.’

 

The US dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, killing around 140,000 people.

 

The toll includes those who survived the explosion itself but died soon after from severe radiation exposure.

 

Three days later the US dropped a plutonium bomb on the port city of Nagasaki, killing some 74,000 people.

 

In a video message in July, Mr Taniguchi welcomed the UN nuclear weapons prohibition treaty, but expressed concerns about the declining population of the survivors, known in Japan as hibakusha.

 

“I wonder what the world will be like when it loses the last atomic bombing survivor,” he said.

Source : dailymail.co.uk