by Ari Kloke, based on the eyewitness testimony of survivor Masaharu Takashari, as shared by his niece, Kathleen Lee of Corvallis

All photos by Ari Kloke unless otherwise noted -- please contact ari@ycfotostory for usage permission

Corvallis commemoration event on August 4, 2022, sponsored by Veterans for Peace, Linus Pauling Chapter; Corvallis Divest from the War Machine; Code Pink; OSU School of History, Philosophy and Religion (Peace and Justice Strategies)

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I learned my first word of Japanese along two concurrent rivers:

Along the Willamette River flowing through Corvallis, Oregon, and along a flowing river of time, place and space approaching the confluence of the saddest day in the Jewish calendar and the 77th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 2022.

Willamette River Peace Flotilla, August 4, 2022

"Hibakusha - atomic bomb survivor," the handwritten note on the manuscript says.

"Ari, if you would like to share my uncle's testimony, that would be fine --"

Fine. Flowing. Fine.

" -- though the translation is kind of rough and confusing in parts."

Confusing. Concurrent. Convergent.

Fine. Flowing fine!

"He mentions his sister, Yasuko. She was my mother. She was almost 17 and he was about 15 on August 6, 1945."



On August 6, 1945, I left my mother and my older sister, Yasuko, home and went to work as a Gakuto-Don (clean houses where owners moved temporarily to the countryside.)

On the way to the city of Takeya-cho, I heard the siren. There were different kinds of sirens, but this siren was for bombing, and he felt worried for his family. Later they announced that everything was okay, so he felt at ease.

Traditional Japanese koto music by Masumi Timson, August 4, 2022. Peace and Harmony Commemoration of the 1945 US atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. Gathering held at Corvallis Riverfront Park on 1st Street and Madison.

They had a plan, where in case of a bomb attach, they would meet at the Kyobashi River as the first meeting place.

I was assigned to be the contact person with the headquarters. Because I was the contact person, I was in the house with two other friends.

Yasuko and Masaharu, 1950.

Yasuko and Masaharu, 1950.

(Historic family photo provided by Kathleen Lee, Yasuko's daughter and Masaharu's niece)

At 8.15 a.m., there was a powerful, unbelievably abnormal, bluish-white light and a tremendous bomb explosion sound. Then, a yellow/grey colored explosion, so forceful, it knocked me down and flew me quite a distance. I was totally confused and wondered what was going on. I was so out of it, but pulled myself together. The building I was in was destroyed.

Exhibition at Corvallis Riverfront Park

We went outside and saw so many dead and injured people around and in the river.

One of my friends injured his leg, so I had him lean on my shoulder and brought him to the emergency shelter and left him there. My other friend and I headed towards the same directions. As we were walking from the river, we passed a school, a bridge, etc. The sight was a living hell. Victims who evacuated the town to this area were nearly naked and most were severely burned and screaming, "water, water, water." Their arms were hanging and their skins were melting off their arms like candle, crying for help, not knowing where to go. They were walking like zombies. This sight was so unbelievable, beyond our human imagination.

Looking toward the inner city area, I saw a huge black smoke and an ocean of fire.

My family had a plan as to where to go and where to meet. The meeting place was at my Uncle Fukunaga's home in Furue, so I decided to go there.

On the way I walked to Senda-cho city to Takano Bridge. The was a wide train road. I put water to my body and ran. The buildings in that city were on fire. There was so much fire.

Russell Yamada of Corvallis shares his father's story and impressions of Hiroshima:

"Hiroshima is flat and the trees are burned with only skeleton branches hanging. Telephone and all power lines are down and the poles are broken into splinters. In all of Hiroshima I counted eight building with walls standing. The insides were burned entirely out. We had a camera, but I did not have the heart to take any pictures. I know if our folks back home should see this damage, their hearts would be sad. Just hearing of this is enough and I hope they never get the real inside pictures of what Hiroshima is today."

-- Staff Sgt. Roy Yamada

Roy and Kimi Yamada visit Hiroshima four decade later

Russell Yamada and Kathleen Lee (dtr. of Yasuko, niece of Masaharu Takahashi), meet at the commemoration and share family stories

I later crossed the Meiki Bridge, and in the river, I saw someone's dad, mom and their children floating. I took a deep breath and crouched down with fear. I took another deep breath and got back up. No matter where I went, all the river area was covered with burned victims and dead bodies floating in the river. People were trying to to drag the dead people and line them up.

I was too shocked to be scared. Strangely, I lost my fear.


Because of the fire, I changed direction and detoured around the fire and came to another bridge and started to see people. Looking at the west side of the city, I saw black rain.

All the streets and railroads were filled with people running away.

Finally, I got to Furue and to my Uncle Fukunaga's house. I asked my cousin, Toshiko, if anyone else got here. She said that I was the first. I was very concerned for my other family members. I couldn't wait any longer so I started guessing where they might be, and started looking for them.

(Speakers included Corvallis Mayor, Biff Traber, Kelly Campbell / Executive Director of Oregon PSR - Physicians for Social Responsibility, Aleita Hass-Holcombe, Pat Hoover (not pictured here), Seneca Moback / Divest from the War Machine, and Rev. Matt Gordon / First Christian Church)

I went to temples, emergency shelters which were filled with so many injured people. It was an unbelievable sight and I couldn't find anyone.

I went back to my uncle's house. My uncle, who was my mom's brother, just came home with his cart (- passenger cart he pulled). He had 70% of his body severely burned. They put oil on his burn and watched over him.

That night, my older sister, Yasuko, came to the house with the help of some fire fighters. I was so grateful she was saved. So many family members were missing.

By this time, we were so tired and slept.

(Aleita Hass-Holcombe, volunteer, and Executive Director of the Corvallis Drop-In Center, distributes candles for vigil at Willamette River Bridge)

On August 6, my uncle's condition changed, and he died that night.

On August 7, we cremated my uncle's body.

I asked Yasuko how her day of the bomb was. She said that at the time of the bomb, she was in the house. She later crawled out and asked help from the fire fighters. I asked about our Mom.

Our Mom also helped clean homes. I knew that the area my Mom was in was directly hit and we couldn't go in that area because it was one big fire. I waited and was worried about my Mom.

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(Crane folded by Sandy Tsuneyo-shi of Corvallis)

Finally, the fire extinguished and there was nothing but burning land. In many areas there were piles and piles of dead bodies, decomposing. People put metal sheets over the piles and did a mass cremation.

Seneca Moback, Divest from the War Machine

Our surviving family members started looking for our Mom. I searched but couldnt find my Mother. After a while, I found a little piece of material that my Mom was wearing and took it as my Mom because I couldn't find her body.

Kathleen participating in the Hirsohima - Nagasaki commemoration for the first time

Kathleen Lee lights candles for her mother, Yasuko (d. 2000) and her uncle, Masaharu Takahashi (d. 2017), Hibakusha of blessed memory.

Kathleen Lee lights candles for her mother, Yasuko (d. 2000) and her uncle, Masaharu Takahashi (d. 2017), Hibakusha of blessed memory.

Today, in the Takahashi grave, my uncle that died in the bomb, my Mom's material and my sister, Yasuko, are there.

Pat Hoover (R), Hanford, WA, downwinder, waves goodbye from the Van Buren Bridge, closing the candlelight vigil and walking toward the sunset