A comparative study report on the development of child survivors of atomic blasts and those unexposed to radiation by the first chair of the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Survivors Council, Kamekichi Sugimoto, who died in 1979 at 77, has been discovered in the city of Nagasaki. The documents were retrieved from a family member’s home within the city.
The discovery has spurred experts to praise the significance of Sugimoto’s contribution to research on the effects of atomic radiation, saying the newly discovered documents serve as proof that Sugimoto pioneered the research.
Experts point out that Sugimoto’s dedication and work to support the survivors of the atomic blasts have not been widely known, and Sugimoto himself lost his closest family members in the Nagasaki bombing.
The report, titled “About the development of growth of children exposed to the nuclear bomb,” is mimeographed and has about 70 pages. In his research, Sugimoto spent a year studying the physical and intellectual development of children attending Shiroyama Elementary School, which was the closest to the nuclear blast. He compiled the report in 1952.
Copies of the report were distributed to teachers at the time, but according to the local board of education, which has kept a copy of the report in its archives, the newly found booklet is the second copy in existence.
In his report, Sugimoto concluded that “recovery from fatigue in children who were exposed to the nuclear blast takes more time than in healthy children.” But his findings were never cited, given that the researcher’s study was conducted only on around 40 children, which is not considered enough for in-depth comparative analysis.
However, some teachers expressed regret over failing to use the research as a reference point in further studies on the health effects of the bombings, especially given that some of the children attending the school died from leukemia or other types of cancer soon after their graduation.
Sugimoto, who during the war served as a member of a civil defense unit, also participated in rescue operations after the nuclear attack on the city. Two days after the blast, he found the bodies of his wife, daughter and son under the rubble. In 1947, two years after the end of the war, Sugimoto became a member of the local municipal assembly and campaigned for public funding for survivors of atomic bombings.
In 1956, he assumed the post of the first chairman of the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Survivors Council, where he pursued the establishment of a law concerning governmental compensation for atomic bomb victims. It was introduced the following year.
In his book published in 1972, Sugimoto mentioned the report on his comparative analysis. This is believed to have underpinned his further work.
The discovery was welcomed by supporters of survivors of the atomic blasts.
“(The report) serves as proof of Sugimoto’s lifelong commitment to the plight of atomic bombing survivors,” said Shotaro Okuno, curator of the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum.
Teruko Yokoyama, 78, vice chairman of the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Survivors Council who was preparing to collect the report from Sugimoto’s surviving family, also praised the value of the report.
“I’m hoping to preserve this precious document and use it as reference in our further work (supporting atomic bombing survivors),” she said.
This section features topics and issues from the Kyushu region covered by the Nishinippon Shimbun, the largest daily newspaper in Kyushu. The original article was published on Jan. 16.