In August 1945, there were two major attacks from the United States Army on the Japanese nation; on the 6th of August, the first nuclear bomb hit Hiroshima and the second hit Nagasaki on the 9th of August.
This photo was clicked by the official photojournalist of the US Marine Corps – Joe O’Donnell. After Japan signed its surrender in 1945, Joe was sent by the military to document the damage caused by air strikes and atomic bombs on the Japanese mainland.
For seven long and depressing months, Joe went around the two cities to document the damage done by the two nuclear bombs. He was surprised to see that most of the casualties were civilians.
According to Joe, this photo was taken on a small mountain in Nagasaki. At that time, he saw several white-clothed men in front of the lime kiln throwing in the bodies of soldiers and civilians.
Suddenly a ragged little boy appeared. A baby was strapped in his harness. The baby who was his little brother, was dead. The little boy’s name was Akhiro Ueto. He was a sixth-grade student in a national school at the time the bomb hit. His mother had been sick and in bed. His brother was lying on his mother’s bed when the atomic bomb hit Nagasaki. The rays penetrated every cell of his younger brother and the infant later died.
Akhiro’s stoic posture at the age of 10 showed grit. He had lost his family. He was biting his lower lip so hard whilst following military protocols and holding the attentive stance of a soldier. Even though he had lost his family and the war has finished, he could not stop following the military protocols that he had been taught. His head held high, he stood in the standard military posture, waiting for the cremation process which lasted for 15 minutes. Joe O’Donnell was full of emotion when he witnessed such a scene and took this far-reaching photo.
Joe explained in his memoirs that Akhiro waited without crying or making any other gestures until his turn came to give his little brother to the crematorium staff.
He stood watching the corpse of his brother burn; once the body of his little brother had turned into ashes, he turned around and left.
Pope Francis commented on this photograph – that it reveals the result of war and moves people 100 times more effectively than words. The pope distributed cards with this image.
Joe O’Donnell said Akhiro was biting his lips so hard to prevent crying that his lips shone with blood that was dripping down the corner of his mouth.
When the crematorium’s guard said, “Give me the load you carry on your back”, the child replied, “IT IS NOT A CARGO, HE’S MY BROTHER”.
In Japan even today, this image is used as a symbol of strength.
Whoever you are, please be glad you live in a peaceful country; it is difficult to imagine the cruelty and ruthlessness of war.
Look back at history for a better move towards future and remember the past to create a better tomorrow!
By Christ & Co.
(Picture Courtesy: Rare Historical Photos)