Saanich’s Rudi Hoenson, a World War Two veteran and survivor of the Nagasaki bombing, is honouring the 199 Dutch soldiers who lost their lives during the blast on Aug. 6, 1945 this week during the Hiroshima Nagasaki commemoration. Black Press file photo.

Saanich’s Rudi Hoenson, a World War Two veteran and survivor of the Nagasaki bombing, is honouring the 199 Dutch soldiers who lost their lives during the blast on Aug. 6, 1945 this week during the Hiroshima Nagasaki commemoration. Black Press file photo.

Remembering the bombing of Nagasaki

Survivor and local resident recounts the harrowing tale of second atomic bomb to be dropped in history

Rudi Hoenson remembers Aug. 9, 1945 like it was yesterday.

The scorching heat of flames, the cries of the injured and the smell of burning flesh after the first atomic bomb was dropped by the United States on Nagasaki, Japan are memories the 94-year-old survivor will never forget.

This week marks the 72nd year since the bombing of Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945 and Nagasaki, which ended the Second World War. Hoenson, who continues lives with the images of people suffering, hopes that historic day that affected 199 Dutch prisoners of war will never fade from public memory.

“It’s important to do it just for the 199 guys that did not make it that are dead,” said Hoenson, a Greater Victoria resident and local philanthropist.

“What made me mad is nobody knows about it. There’s no articles, no movies, nothing. Nobody ever said anything about these 199 guys.”

Hoenson joined the Dutch army at the age of 18 shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbour on Dec. 7, 1941. He was deployed to Java, Indonesia and after seven days of holding off the Japanese, were ordered to surrender.

He fought the Japanese in the Indonesian jungle before he and about 500 Dutch soldiers were caught and imprisoned. He remained a prisoner of war for three and a half years, until U.S. soldiers showed up a month after the war’s end in 1945.

For the next three-and-a-half years, Hoenson would be a prisoner of war, working in Nagasaki as an electric welder.

On the day of the bombing, Hoenson was one of 200 prisoners forced to clean up the rubble from a previous airborne attack. At 11:02 a.m., he remembers looking up to the sky and seeing a B-29 bomber drop three parachutes. Suddenly, he was knocked off his feet by a powerful blast.

Hoenson woke shortly after to a scene of mayhem.

Houses were on fire, trapping occupants within them, and women and children were badly burned and bleeding, screaming for help. Two other prisoners of war, who were with Hoenson at the time, were burned badly. Hoenson also suffered burns on his legs, but was able to walk. He was 1.3 kilometres from the epicentre of the blast.

“That was the worse part, to see those women. Their skin was no longer soft and white. Their kimonos were so flimsy, and were blown apart to nothing, and they were bleeding,” he said.

In the days following, Hoenson and other prisoners were forced to move dozens of bodies so Japanese authorities could identify them. He also collected skirts and shirts from the dead to make bandages for the wounded. The bomb killed an estimated 40,000 people.

It wasn’t until a month later in which Hoenson was rescued and returned to Holland, eventually moving to Canada and settling in Victoria in 1979.

More than seven decades later, Hoenson still questions how he was one of the few who survived the blast.

Of the 199 prisoners that Hoenson was with the day of the bombing, many later died from their injuries, leukemia or other illnesses. He also never had children after doctors advised him they could be severely deformed due to the amount of radiation he was exposed to that day.

To help keep those memories alive, Hoenson will read his poem “Atomic Lament” during the Hiroshima Nagasaki commemoration. put on by the Vancouver Island Peace and Disarmament Network and the Physicians for Global Survival, the event takes place Wednesday, Aug. 9 from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at Esquimalt Gorge Road Park (1070 Tillicum Rd.)

The event also includes lantern making, an art exhibition and performances by the Nikkei Society-Furusato Dancers, as well as the Getting Higher choir. The evening will end with the release of lanterns as a prayer for peace. For more information, visit vipdn.org/events.

kendra.wong@vicnews.com

Just Posted

The Greater Victoria School District has postponed its budget vote until further notice and will be seeking help from an independent advisor on how to proceed. (Black Press Media file photo)
SD61 budget vote postponed until further notice

District requesting independent advisor to help review process, make recommendations

Protesters seen here rallying against the injunction order on April 1. (Black Press Media file photo)
RCMP enforce injunction at Fairy Creek blockade

Protesters can remain but police will ensure open access for loggers

A building in the 300-block of Mary Street sustained significant damage Saturday night after a suspicious fire was started. Police arrested an arson suspect Sunday. (Courtesy of Victoria Fire Department)
UPDATE: Vic West shelter resident to be evicted following suspicious fire

Building in 300-block of Mary Street sustained significant damage Saturday night

The Victoria International Airport saw its revenues plummet in 2020. Officials hope a proposed warehouse will be a significant revenue generator. (Black Press Media file photo)
Head of Victoria Airport Authority makes economic pitch for Sidney warehouse project

Geoff Dickson said Sidney stands to earn $325,000 in annual taxes

Troy Patterson, a Cadboro Bay 15-year-old, got a virtual meeting with B.C.’s environment minister months after he started an online petition calling for construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline to stop. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)
Cadboro Bay teen meets with minister after advocacy against Coastal GasLink

15-year-old Claremont student and George Heyman discussed the project for about 30 minutes

(Historica Canada)
VIDEO: Heritage Minute marks 100th anniversary of work to discover insulin

Video centres on Leonard Thompson, 13, the first patient to receive successful injections for Type 1 diabetes

The bow-legged bear was seen roaming 2nd Avenue on Friday, May 7 and again in Brown Drive Park on May 13. (Submitted photo)
Bow-legged Ladysmith bear euthanized after vet examination

CO Stuart Bates said the bear had obvious health issues

Conservation Service Officer Kyle Bueckert holds a gold eagle that was revived from acute rodent poisoning Monday, May 12. Photo: Submitted
‘Obviously, he’s a fighter’: Golden eagle, recovered from poisoning, back in Kootenay wild

CSO Kyle Bueckert released the eagle into the wild Thursday, May 13

Capt. Jenn Casey died in a crash just outside of Kamloops, B.C., on May 17, 2020. (CF Snowbirds)
Snowbirds to honour Capt. Casey, who died in B.C. crash, in 2021 tour

Tour will kick off in Ontario in June before heading west

A pedestrian wearing a mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 is bundled up for the cold weather as snow falls in downtown Vancouver on Saturday, February 13, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Snow possible in mountain passes as cold front hits southern B.C.

Much of B.C.’s southern interior will see temperatures plunge from highs of 30 C reached over the weekend

A fledgling white raven was spotted near the end of Winchester Road in Coombs. (Mike Yip photo)
Legend continues as iconic white raven spotted once again on Vancouver Island

Sightings rare everywhere in world except for central Vancouver Island location

A vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is seen at a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, April 22, 2021. Dr. Ben Chan remembers hearing the preliminary reports back in March of blood clots appearing in a handful of European recipients of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Science on COVID, VITT constantly changing: A look at how doctors keep up

While VITT can represent challenges as a novel disorder, blood clots themselves are not new

Poached trees that were taken recently on Vancouver Island in the Mount Prevost area near Cowichan, B.C. are shown on Sunday, May 10, 2021. Big trees, small trees, dead trees, softwoods and hardwoods have all become valuable targets of tree poachers in British Columbia as timber prices hit record levels. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne.
Tree poaching from public forests increasing in B.C. as lumber hits record prices

Prices for B.C. softwood lumber reached $1,600 for 1,000 board feet compared with about $300 a year ago

The warm weather means time for a camping trip, or at least an excursion into nature. How much do you know about camps and camping-related facts? (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: Are you ready to go camping?

How many camp and camping-related questions can you answer?

Most Read