Koko Kondo

Photographer: Paule Saviano

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Youngest Hiroshima bomb survivor to give keynote address at International Week

Koko Kondo was 8 years old during bombing

Koko Kondo, the youngest survivor of the World War II nuclear bomb attack in Hiroshima, will serve as the keynote speaker for the 2012 International Week.

She will present, "Sixty-Seven Years After the A-Bomb: Personal Thoughts and Reflections on Hiroshima," at 7 p.m. Monday, May 14, in the Baker University Center Ballroom.

"Koko Kondo happens to be a family friend of Dr. Chris Thompson, the chair of the Linguistics Department," said Amanda Yusko, international student advisor. "She has worked closely with Ohio University students who have studied abroad in Japan and we thought she would be the perfect fit for our International Week keynote address this year."

On Aug. 6, 1945, Kondo – only 8-months-old – laid in her mother's arms less than a mile away from the hypercenter of the explosion of the first atomic bomb dropped in war.

Too young to remember the details of the event, Kondo grew up surrounded by the hazardous consequences of the attack. Her father, the Rev. Kiyoshi Tanimoto, created two initiatives to aid victims of the bombing. He created the Hiroshima Maiden Project, which assisted young girls who had been disfigured from the attack, and the Moral Adoption Project, which supported war orphans by sending them Christmas cards and letters.

When Kondo was 10-years-old, she came face-to-face with the man whom she had hated passionately her entire life. U.S. Army Capt. Robert Lewis was the co-pilot of the Enola Gay, the airplane responsible for dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Lewis and Kondo's father were both invited on the popular American television show, "This is Your Life," in 1955.

Kondo stormed toward Lewis with intent of confronting him about his destruction. However, the host, Ralph Edwards, addressed him first. Kondo's hatred soon turned to compassion as she watched a grown man weep in remorse of his actions. Lewis broke down and recalled writing, "Oh God, what have we done," in his log immediately following the attack.

"If I don't do anything for Hiroshima, then my life is meaningless," Kondo once told her husband. Since the day she met the regretful man who caused immense suffering throughout her hometown, Kondo has been spreading the importance of peace and the danger of war across the world.

"She has an incredible life story being the youngest survivor of the atomic bombings as well as an OHIO connection, so it fits very nicely with our overall theme, 'Bobcat Tales: Celebrating OHIO's International History,'" said Yusko.

This free event is open to the public. It is sponsored by the Ki-Chul Andrew Jung International Week Endowment Fund, the Student Activities Commission (SAC), International Student Union (ISU), International Student and Faculty Services (ISFS) and the Office of Education Abroad (OEA).