‘Hiroshima Maiden’ Yamaoka dies

Kyodo

Michiko Yamaoka, who was disfigured in the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima and later underwent reconstructive surgery in the United States, died Saturday of pneumonia at a nursing facility for the elderly in Hiroshima, her family said. She was 82.

Yamaoka was one of the 25 “Hiroshima Maidens” and spoke to Japanese and foreign nationals about her experience in the atomic bombing and the importance of peace.

The Hiroshima native was exposed to heat waves and radiation from the bombing on Aug. 6, 1945, about 800 meters from ground zero. Along with 24 other women, mostly in their 20s, she went to New York 10 years later to undergo surgery for facial burns under a charity project organized by U.S. author Norman Cousins and other volunteers.

Yamaoka, who had refrained from speaking about her experience of the atomic bombing, began providing her account to students and visitors from overseas.

In 1995, she had a moving reunion with Bernard Simon, the sole survivor among the plastic surgeons who operated on the Hiroshima women.