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"A red string of fate"

August 7, 2015


Grandson of crew member of both B-29s that dropped A-bombs interviews survivors in Japan



By RIE YAMADA/ Staff Writer

A twist of fate has led the grandson of the only U.S. crew member aboard both the B-29s that dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 to Japan to meet survivors of those horrific blasts.

Ari Beser, a 27-year-old visual artist, said a “red string of fate” brought him to both cities to talk to hibakusha, or atomic bomb survivors, citing a Japanese legend that says everyone destined to meet has an invisible thread tied to that person.

Beser is working on a project to highlight hibakusha in the two A-bombed cities and those impacted by the 2011 Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant accident.

A winner of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Grant, Beser will be in Japan until April 2016. His photos, videos and stories will be published in the digital edition of National Geographic.

Beser’s paternal grandfather, Jacob Beser, had told about his experiences serving as a crew member aboard both B-29s in a book and on TV before his death in 1992 at age 71.

His grandfather had no regrets about dropping the bombs, but believed nuclear weapons should never be used again, Beser said.

His grandfather on his mother’s side was friends with a hibakusha woman from Hiroshima, who has since passed away. Four years ago, Beser met a relative of the friend.

“I (initially) thought I was going to write a book about my grandfather’s friend and my grandfather. I thought the book would be her story and his history,” he said.

The bereaved relative said to Beser, “If you want to understand the reality of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, you have to meet survivors, especially now, before it’s too late.”

He visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki that summer and met hibakusha.

The A-bomb survivors told him that they “wanted to share their experiences with Americans to help build support for a world without nuclear weapons,” Beser recalled.

He decided to help spread that desire to the world.

Two years ago, he participated in a project by the Japan-based NGO Peace Boat with hibakusha, who shared their experiences on around-the-world voyages.

Among the participants on the voyage was a student from Fukushima Prefecture who said she was unable to return home due to the Fukushima accident.

“I am afraid that people will forget about the accident, and a similar accident might occur again,” Beser quoted her as saying.

Her concerns overlap those of hibakusha.

Beser was born and raised in a Maryland town about a 90-minute drive from the site of the Three Mile Island nuclear plant accident, which occurred in 1979 in neighboring Pennsylvania. One of the plant's reactors suffered a partial meltdown in the accident.

He believes his grandfather may have been exposed to radiation because he was working with the experimentation of atomic bombs at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, N.M.

I would like to highlight the humanitarian effects of nuclear technology" as seen from the eyes of hibakusha, Beser said.


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