- Associated Press - Sunday, August 16, 2015

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Yoshiko Nakamura was 15 years old when the atomic bomb detonated over her hometown, at 11:02 a.m., on Aug. 9, 1945, in Nagasaki, Japan. It was the second and last use of a nuclear bomb in combat, and the second detonation of a plutonium bomb. It was also the last act of World War II. The Japanese surrendered on Aug. 15, 1945.

Yoshiko was a high school student working at the train station parcel mail room, putting in a 24-hour day before then having the next day off. As in America during WWII, the women were called into the Japanese work force to keep things running while the men were gone to war, The Norman Transcript (https://bit.ly/1h3XpSV ) reported.

That job saved her life. Had she not been at work that day, Yoshiko would not have survived. Fortunately, her parents, three sisters and two brothers were all spared from the blast that took thousands of lives. Estimates range from 40,000 to as many as 100,000 people dead as a result of the bombing.

War is a harsh reality for a teenage girl, but Yoshiko had become used to the B-59 bombers that habitually flew over the city, blowing up various buildings. Historical records indicate Nagasaki was never a primary target for a nuclear bomb. Cloud cover and a fateful series of events led to the Boeing B-29 Superfortress Bockscar dropping the atomic bomb with a plutonium core -codename Fat Man - over Nagasaki.

Yoshiko remembers a loud swish followed by very bright light like a flash of strong lightening causing her to dive under her desk for cover.

“I can tell right away, bomb,” she said. “That’s why I hide.”

As the ceiling rained down around her, only the desk shielded the frightened 15-year-old from the blast. Minutes later, she emerged, miraculously uninjured. Her friend, another high school friend who worked with her at the train station, had bleeding cuts covering the left side of her head.

Stunned and fearful, Yoshiko walked outside where she encountered a young man of similar age. He had been working outside doing landscaping with his shirt off. His body was blackened and covered with burns.

She took his hands for a couple of minutes, asking if he was OK, but he did not speak. As the young man stood there immobile with shock, she realized she could do nothing to help him. It was an encounter she said she will never forget.

Yoshiko ran for the hills.

“I worried about my house and my family,” she said. “When I looked down @ the town, the whole town was on fire.”

Her home had been destroyed. Afraid that another bomb would be dropped, she ran to another mountain, seeking out a cave where the townspeople hid during bombing raids.

“I don’t have nothing, no drink, no eat. I just run and keep running,” she said.

Meanwhile, Yoshiko’s mother had realized their home was destroyed. Fearful her daughter was already home sleeping after a long shift at work, she had been searching for her daughter, checking the hospitals.

By the time Yoshiko reached the cave, many people had already gathered there, including her family. Her mother embraced her and the rest of the family cried with happiness.

“We stayed there (in the cave) three days because nobody can go home because there is no house,” she said.

Driven by hunger and desperation, Yoshiko and others ventured down the hill, scavenging for what they could save among the burned ruins of their city.

“Our family is lucky because nobody died,” she said. “My life is so a miracle. Life is sacred.”

In 1960, Yoshiko joined a Buddhist lay organization dedicated to world peace, the Soka Gakkai which means value-creating society. Founder Tsunesabura Makiguchi had died during the war, a martyr to religious freedom who was imprisoned by the Japanese government for not renouncing his religious beliefs. His colleague and close friend, Josei Toda carried on his work as an educator and peace activist, serving as the second president of Soka Gakkai from 1951 to 1958.

By the time Yoshiko became involved with the Buddhist group, a young man, Daisaku Ikeda was carrying the message of hope for world peace. She knew when she met him, she had found her mission to carry the message of world peace.

Yoshiko married Howard Campbell in Yokohama in 1973 when he was stationed in Japan with the Air Force. Howard eventually retired with 20 years of service in the military and the couple ended up in Southeast Oklahoma City.

Yoshiko’s chosen American name when she became an American citizen is Jill.

“Now I’m 85 years old,” she said “Life is good, I never get sick. Most of the people in the bomb (area) lose hair, get sick. Most of the people got cancer.”

Jill Yoshiko Nakamura Campbell has dedicated her life to speaking out against nuclear weapons.

“We have a mission,” she said. “My husband died, but I’m still happy. Inside, I am happy. My life is so good.”

Now 85, Jill Campbell, with the help of friend Kay McConathy, shared her story with Buddhists and guests on a recent Saturday at a community dialogue exploring topics of nuclear abolition, racism and climate change.

Today, Soka Gakki International is a worldwide organization committed to world peace through the inner transformation of individuals. SGI advocates for nuclear disarmament and the elimination of weapons of mass destruction as part of its mission to respect all living beings. Based on the 700-year-old tradition of Nichiren Buddhism, the movement is characterized by its emphasis on individual empowerment and social engagement to advance peace, culture and education.


Information from: The Norman Transcript, https://www.normantranscript.com

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