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World War II Survivor Shizue Kobayashi MAG
My grandmother, Shizue Kobayashi, was born in 1934. She lived in Saitamaken, Japan, for 22 years. After atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, she met my grandfather and came to America. Although she believes that the war was terrible, she does not hold any harsh feelings against the United States.
Where were you when the atomic bomb was dropped?
It was in the summertime, so I was in my yard. I was looking at the sky, and it was shiny, like a thunderstorm. My parents weren’t home, and I don’t even remember being scared.
Did you understand what was happening?
I did not know what was happening, but I knew something was wrong. Many people were dead or were dying. It was horrible, just horrible. The fire in Tokyo was burning so brightly it made the night look as bright as day. I was ten miles from Tokyo, and could feel the heat from the fire. After the second bomb, I heard the adults talking, and that is how I found out. There were no televisions, and the radio was hard to understand.
What else do you remember about the war?
The American planes would fly so low that they almost hit the roofs. They would shoot at us, and we would hide in the hole my father had dug for us. He had made steps that led down to a room. The hole was also in case the sirens went off. I remember my father used to read the newspaper a lot. Once I looked at the front page and there was a picture of Tokyo after the firebombing. It was barren and empty, and it just looked terrible.
What was life like during the war?
We didn’t have any food because all the young men were fighting in the war. Most days we ate small amounts of potato. I wasn’t allowed to eat as much as I wanted, just enough to keep me alive. After our potatoes were gone we ate weeds we found in the yard. We were lucky, though, because a lot of people were dying of hunger. I also remember that every day the siren would go off, and we would have to hide in the hole.
After the war, life was very hard. Many kids lost parents, and they would go from house to house asking for food. Many of us didn’t even have enough to feed ourselves, but when orphans came to our door my father fed them. My mother would get angry because we didn’t have much food, but he continued to feed them anyway.
How old were you when you came to the United States? How and when did you get here?
I came to the United States in 1956 when I was 22. I had met your grandfather at a war orphanage in Japan. I used to visit the orphans on Saturdays and Sundays, and he entertained the children with baseball. He was from the American air force, and they must have felt sorry for the innocent victims of the atomic bomb because they sent them dried prunes. After his service at the war orphanage, we left Japan for America in a huge ship and arrived in San Francisco. Then we went to Texas where we got married. Then we moved to Michigan.
What was it like? How did you feel?
I thought America was so beautiful, especially San Francisco. I was so happy. It was exciting, but I was also a little scared. I didn’t feel any anger at the United States because of the bomb, because war is war. Nobody in the U.S. could have stopped the bomb, and the U.S. needed to end the war.