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The Hiroshima Maidens Survivors of the Atomic Bomb Underwent Plastic surgery in

first_imgIn war, the ones who suffer most are the innocent, ordinary people who don’t have the power to decide about the political questions. On August 6, 1945, when the people of Hiroshima woke up, they began the day just like any other. None of them imagined that they would pay the cost of their country’s war with their lives.Those who survived the attack woke up in a destroyed city, their loved ones dead, and themselves injured and deformed.Today, there are some 200 thousand survivors of the 1945 atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki called “hibakusha.” Translated into English, it means “explosion-affected people.”Atomic bomb mushroom clouds over Hiroshima (left) and Nagasaki (right). Photo by Binksternet CC By SA 3.0Among the survivors, there were a special group of young teenage girls whose faces were severely disfigured, their skin melted off by the ferocious heat of the blast.Sadly, the physical and emotional trauma directly reflected on their future. Most of them weren’t lucky in finding a job, and marriage was out of the question.Some of them had missing eyes or noses while their bodies were covered in burns. They were ignored and despised by society, deemed as contagious and dangerous.This led to the creation of a support group later known as the Hiroshima Maidens. Around thirty girls joined forces in order to share their loneliness and experiences.Hiroshima in the aftermath of the bombing.They were growing but there was no hope that any of them would have the chance of a decent life. So the girls decided to undergo reconstructive surgeries.But, at the time, Japan’s surgery standards were poor and there weren’t many plastic surgeons who could reconstruct the girls’ faces.The only solution was to get the surgery done abroad, someplace safe, with good surgeons. The United States. However, none of the girls had the finances for such an operation.Hiroshima victim and sponsor having coffee. Photo by Getty ImagesKiyoshi Tanimoto, a Japanese Methodist minister who was educated in the U.S., wanted to help the Maidens and established the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation. A two-year-long, laborious fundraising process began and many celebrities, including the Nobel laureate in literature, Pearl Buck, helped raise the donations.10,000 Room hotel that never had a guestIn 1953, Tanimoto corresponded with the U.S. journalist and peace activist Norman Cousins to help the Hiroshima Maidens during the series of reconstructive surgeries at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.In May 1955, 25 young women arrived in New York from Hiroshima. A Quaker group arranged for them to stay with American host families.Their arrival was a highly publicized event. There was even a reality TV program hosted by Minister Tanimoto. It was named “This is Your Life,” and some of the girls shared their experiences. Many people joined the cause and supported it financially and morally, including the co-pilot of Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima, Captain Robert Lewis.Hiroshima Maidens in the United States. Getty ImagesThe Hiroshima Maidens stayed 18 months in the U.S., during which time they underwent 125 surgeries for free. Their time in America wasn’t only about giving them the “proper” physical appearances, but they learned a lot about “their enemy.” In the frequent interviews they had, many of the women said that they felt so welcomed that they couldn’t believe that such a country was the enemy of Japan. At the same time, the women actively advocated for nuclear disarmament.Nurse serving lunch to patient. Getty ImagesMost of the Maidens managed to start new, prolific lives when they returned to Japan. One of them, Toyoko Morita, rose to fame as an acclaimed fashion designer after attending the Parsons School of Design.Read another story from us: The original Godzilla movie was a metaphor for the devastating effects of nuclear weaponsThe Hiroshima Maidens are just one example of a happy end to a tragic story. However, they were just an exception among the many who didn’t have any chance or hope after the nuclear attack.last_img read more