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WWII: 40 years later

By LESLIE NAKASHIMA

HIROSHIMA, Aug. 8 (UPI) -- -- Japan Returning to Hiroshima today, it is hard to remember the city Isaw as a correspondent for United Press a fortnight after the bombing.

My report, transmitted from a U.S. warship in Yokohama harbor to New York, read in part:

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'Alighting from the train I found that Hiroshima Station, one of the largest in western Japan, had gone out of existence. Getting out into the open I was dumbfounded with the destruction before me.

'The center of the city immediately to the south and west of the station had been razed to the ground and there was a sweeping view to the foot of the mountains to the southeast and north of the city. In other words, what had been a city of 300,000 had vanished ... '

I had also gone to see if my mother survived.

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Two miles from the city's center, I found my mother's house had been heavily damaged by the bomb's air pressure but she was alive. She said she was weeding grass in a relative's vegetable field when she saw the flash, threw herself face down on the ground and was saved.

Today, there is only one visible relic of the atomic destruction of Aug. 6, 1945 -- the preserved 'Atomic Dome' of the Industry Promotion Hall in Hiroshima's beautiful Peace Memorial Park.

An uninformed visitor today would have no inkling of the destruction then. Modern Hiroshima is a city of tree-lined streets and river banks, lush trees and benches where people sit enjoying summer's evening cool.

Large department stores and office buildings, covered shopping centers and modern hotels are bustling. Fast food chains such as Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonald's do a brisk business.

And there is a new railway station where I once found nothing. It is a seven-story building with a beer garden and steam bath on the roof, a 155-room hotel, restaurants, stores and even a medical clinic.

But while Hiroshima has been rebuilt into a thriving modern city of more than 1 million, its citizens have not forgotten the horror of the bombing.

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Their appeal is simple and sincere: Abolish nuclear weapons. Their slogan reflects that sentiment: 'No more Hiroshimas.'

This year on Aug. 6, at 8:15 a.m., those Hiroshima citizens will solemnly observe the 40th anniversary of the bombing. In the stone chest of the Memorial Cenotaph, the names of more atom bomb victims will be added to the 113,271 already there.

Nagasaki, which suffered the consequences of the second bomb three days after Hiroshima, will host with Hiroshima the First World Conference of Mayors for Peace through Inter-city Solidarity.

Sixty-two mayors from 23 countries plan to attend. They will find many things, but not hatred for the United States.

'I still am against use of the atomic bomb,' said Keiso Yoneda, a spokesman for the conference. 'But we now feel that it could not be helped because it was a part of war.' ---

Hiroshima continues to be a tourist attraction, drawing more than 7.5 million visitors last year alone. Americans topped the list at 35.9 percent, followed by tourists from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

'There has been a marked (upswing) of younger people this year, indicating their interest in the abolition of nuclear weapons and a desire that the atom bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki will not be repeated,' Yoneda said.

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Tadahiro Kida, general manager of the Atom Bomb Victims Hospital in Hiroshima, said the 170-bed hospital averages 150 patients per day. The average age is 70.

About 70 die in that hospital each year.

Their memories are vivid but not bitter.

'I don't blame the United States for using the A-bomb because it was a part of war,' said patient Choi Yong Ka, a Korean resident of Hiroshima when the bomb fell. 'It helped to shorten the war, but I strongly feel that the A-bomb should never be used again.'

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