Hiroshima survivor says "eliminating nuclear weapons is the path to peace," 75 years after atomic bombing

Hiroshima survivor recalls nuclear attack
Hiroshima survivor recalls nuclear attack 03:28

The mushroom cloud rose menacingly over Hiroshima, Japan 75 years ago Thursday, an event seared into world history, and more so into the mind of Toshiko Tanaka. She was right under that cloud, just 6 years old and miraculously survived.

"I remember the horror of that day," she told CBS News foreign correspondent Ramy Inocencio. "Blinding light, like thousands of strobe lights, my body thrown to the ground."

At 81, Tanaka says she's been blessed to live. Her mission now is banning all nuclear weapons.

"Seventy-five years after surviving the bombing, I'm all the more determined to help rid the world of nuclear arms," she said.

What became Hiroshima's ground zero was once its humming commercial district of Nakajima with city hall, restaurants and cafes. Tanaka lived close by.

But on August 6, 1945, the Enola Gay Superfortress bomber dropped its payload on the city, a 5-ton nuclear bomb nicknamed Little Boy.

The atom bomb killed an estimated 80,000 people instantly and leveled most of the city. But one building, now known as the Atomic Bomb Dome, was one of the few things left standing.

A testament to the tragedy of war, it now stands aligned with tributes to peace: the Peace Flame and Peace Memorial Museum, newly renovated in time for the 75th anniversary. Dim rooms spotlight the day of the bombing. Irradiated artifacts tell the stories of those who died in an instant: torn clothes, a tricycle, a lunch never eaten.

Photographs of burn victims hang on the walls next to artwork of survivors. Through her own artwork, Tanaka still processes that fateful day 75 years ago.

Asked if she has any criticism for America, Tanaka said, "We were full of rage at first, but once we saw the Americans, it was clear they were just like us."

Years later, she even met Clifton Truman Daniel, grandson of President Harry Truman, who ordered the bombing.

Tanaka wants the world to remember that "eliminating nuclear weapons is the path to peace, ensuring this tragedy is never repeated."

"Please make many friends from other countries," Tanaka added. "When you do so, you are moving the world toward peace."