Sumiteru Taniguchi, Nagasaki Survivor and Nuclear Arms Foe, Dies at 88

On the day of the bombing, Mr. Taniguchi, then 16, was delivering mail on his bicycle in the northern corner of the city, just over a mile from ground zero.

When the bomb detonated overhead, the force of the explosion tossed him into the air, and the heat it radiated melted his cotton shirt and seared the skin off his back and one arm.


Mr. Taniguchi in 2015 with a photograph showing his burns from the Nagasaki bombings.

Eugene Hoshiko/Associated Press

Three months later, he was taken to a navy hospital, where he lay on his stomach for nearly two years. Bedsores formed on his chest and left permanent scars.

He spent a total of more than three and a half years in the hospital after the bombing. Sometimes he was in so much pain, he said, that he would scream to the nurses, “Kill me, kill me!”


Mr. Taniguchi, left, with the Nobel Peace laureates Dalai Lama and Jody Williams as well as Sunao Tsuboi, center, a survivor of the Hiroshima bombing, at the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima in 2010.

Kyodo, via Reuters

In 1946, United States forces filmed his treatment. That footage was shared across the world, and Mr. Taniguchi became known as “the boy with a red back.” When giving speeches calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons, he would sometimes show pictures of his burns to illustrate the horrible suffering that resulted from the bombings.

A decade after the war, when Mr. Taniguchi had learned to sit up, stand and walk again, he joined a youth group for survivors and began working as an activist. He spoke at memorial ceremonies in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and took part in antinuclear marches in New York. He continued to speak out until close to death, traveling last year to Malaysia to deliver a speech against nuclear proliferation.