A Hiroshima survivor carries on Seattle-born husband’s mission of remembrance

A survivor recounts her experience of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan, as she tours the city’s Peace Memorial Museum. At 80, she carries on the mission of her Seattle-born husband, keeping alive the memory of that terrible day 72 years ago.

HIROSHIMA, Japan — In 1930, the parents of three Japanese-American brothers born in the Pacific Northwest moved the family back to their homeland to give the children a Japanese education. Fatefully, they moved to Hiroshima.

On this day 72 years ago, the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima the first atomic bomb used in war. Nine days later, after a second devastating atomic bombing in Nagasaki, Japan surrendered.

Seattle-born Kaoru Ogura, seen in about 1950, was director of the Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima. He died in 1979. (Courtesy of Keiko Ogura)

The end of World War II found Seattle-born Kaoru Ogura serving as a Japanese soldier stationed in Indonesia. He used his English-language skills to navigate the U.S. postwar occupation of Japan and to reach out to overseas visitors. He became the face of Hiroshima to the world as the director of the city’s Peace Memorial Museum.

Until his death in 1979, he compiled and preserved a record of the suffering wrought by the bombing.

Kaoru’s wife, Keiko Ogura — 17 years younger, she turned 80 Friday — met her husband when he was acting as an interpreter for a German author and documentary filmmaker who interviewed her as a bomb survivor.

Today, she carries on her husband’s mission, acting as a guide and interpreter for overseas visitors to the Peace Memorial Museum. She has a particular fondness for those from Seattle.

In March, she led a Seattle Times reporter on a tour. Small in stature but still vigorous and fervently outspoken, she talked tirelessly for hours in accented but precise English about her experience on the day of the bombing and the months and years that followed.

Survivor and witness

On Aug. 6, 1945, Ogura – she had turned 8 years old just two days earlier – was playing outside when the U.S. Army Air Forces plane Enola Gay dropped the atomic bomb.

Sirens had sounded the night before, but no air raid followed. That Monday morning, her father kept her home from school, which was close to the city center.

When some people in the city looked up to see the B-29 flying through the clear blue sky, it seemed too high to be a threat. No air-raid warning came.

At 8:15 a.m., the bomb exploded…

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