The Legacy of Sadako

Sadako Sasaki was two years old when the atom bomb was dropped on her hometown of Hiroshima, Japan in 1945. Sadako's home was about a mile from the epicenter, and her family survived. When she was an eleven-year-old school athlete, she began to experience weakness, lumps on her neck, and spots on her legs. Sadako was diagnosed with leukemia, with a life expectancy of a year. She spent the next eight months in a hospital.

During that time, she heard about the Japanese legend that says if you fold a thousand paper cranes, your wish will come true. Sadako began folding cranes whenever she could get paper or other materials. Some versions of Sadako's story say she failed in her attempt, and that her friends completed the thousand cranes, but most historical sources say she completed her mission, and made 1300 cranes. Sadako died on October 25, 1955.

But Sadako lives on, after the jump.

Sadako's friends and classmates published a book containing her letters in order to raise funds for a memorial to Sadako and other children who died in the wake of the atomic bomb. Donations came in from 3,100 schools in Japan and from nine other countries. The Children's Peace Monument, featuring a statue of Sadako holding a crane, was offically unveiled on May 5, 1958 in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

There are display cases surrounding the monument in Hiroshima containing the many paper cranes (around ten million a year) still offered by people all over the world. The Children's Peace Monument accepts cranes by mail. Here are intructions for making an origami crane.

At least two children's books were written about Sadako,
Sadako Will Leben (Sadako Wants To Live) by Austrain author Karl Bruckner in 1961, and Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by American author Eleanor Coerr in 1977 (also available on video). Rasul Gamzatov wrote his epic poem Zhuravli (The Cranes) in honor of Sadako. It was later adapted into a popular Russian song. The jazz-fusion band Hiroshima have a song called Thousand Cranes inspired by the story. 1000 Cranes Business Consulting named their company after the Sadako story.

There is also a statue of Sadako in the Seattle Peace Park. The Peace Park was built by Dr. Floyd Schmoe with money he received as a recipient of the Hiroshima Peace Prize in 1988.

In 1989, elementary students at Arroyo del Oso School in Albuquerque designed and created the The Children's Peace Statue. The statue is on display at the Ghost Ranch in Santa Fe.
435_Sadako Albuquerquebefore.jpg

The Sadako Peace Garden in Santa Barbara, California was dedicated in 1995. The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation holds a Sadako Peace Day event every year in August.

Another Sadako-inspired organization, The World Peace Project for Children in Washington state was founded in 1997 to promote communication between children of different cultures. Their projects include a children's peace choir and a peace club.

Sadako's Cranes

There are more tributes to Sadako on YouTube, if you can handle the emotions.

Warsaw Museum of Sport and Tourism
The POW Olympics of World War II
Warsaw Museum of Sport and Tourism
Warsaw Museum of Sport and Tourism

With the outbreak of World War II prompting a somber and divisive mood across the globe, it seemed impossible civility could be introduced in time for the 1940 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan to be held.

So they weren’t. Neither were the 1944 Games, which were scheduled for London. But one Polish Prisoner of War camp was determined to keep the tradition alive. The Woldenberg Olympics were made up entirely of war captives who wanted—and needed—to feel a sense of camaraderie and normalcy in their most desperate hours.

In a 2004 NBC mini-documentary that aired during their broadcast of the Games, it was reported that Polish officers under German control in the Oflag II-C camp wanted to maintain their physical conditioning as a tribute to Polish athlete Janusz Kusocinski. Unlike another Polish POW camp that held unofficial Games under a veil of secrecy in 1940, the guards of Woldenberg allowed the ’44 event to proceed with the provision that no fencing, archery, javelin, or pole-vaulting competitions took place. (Perhaps the temptation to impale their captors would have proven too much for the men.)

Music, art, and sculptures were put on display. Detainees were also granted permission to make their own program and even commemorative postage stamps of the event courtesy of the camp’s homegrown “post office.” An Olympic flag was crafted out of spare bed sheets, which the German officers, in a show of contagious sportsman’s spirit, actually saluted.

The hand-made Olympic flag from Woldenberg.

Roughly 369 of the 7000 prisoners participated. Most of the men competed in multiple contests, which ranged from handball and basketball to chess. Boxing was included—but owing to the fragile state of prisoners, broken bones resulted in a premature end to the combat.

Almost simultaneously, another Polish POW camp in Gross Born (pop: 3000) was holding their own ceremony. Winners received medals made of cardboard. Both were Oflag sites, which were primarily for officers; it’s been speculated the Games were allowed because German forces had respect for prisoners who held military titles.

A gymnastics demonstration in the camp.

The grass-roots Olympics in both camps took place in July and August 1944. By January 1945, prisoners from each were evacuated. An unknown number perished during these “death marches,” but one of the flags remained in the possession of survivor Antoni Grzesik. The Lieutenant donated it to the Warsaw Museum of Sport and Tourism in 1974, where it joined a flag recovered from the 1940 Games. Both remain there today—symbols of a sporting life that kept hope alive for thousands of men who, for a brief time, could celebrate life instead of lamenting its loss.

Additional Sources: “The Olympic Idea Transcending War [PDF],” Olympic Review, 1996; “The Olympic Movement Remembered in the Polish Prisoner of War Camps in 1944 [PDF],” Journal of Olympic History, Spring 1995; "Olympics Behind Barbed Wire," Journal of Olympic History, March 2014.

 All images courtesy of Warsaw Museum of Sport and Tourism. 

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President John Tyler's Grandsons Are Still Alive
Getty Images
Getty Images

Here's the most amazing thing you'll ever read about our 10th president:

John Tyler was born in 1790. He took office in 1841, after William Henry Harrison died. And he has two living grandchildren.

Not great-great-great-grandchildren. Their dad was Tyler’s son.

How is this possible?

The Tyler men have a habit of having kids very late in life. Lyon Gardiner Tyler, one of President Tyler’s 15 kids, was born in 1853. He fathered Lyon Gardiner Tyler Jr. in 1924, and Harrison Ruffin Tyler in 1928.

We placed a somewhat awkward call to the Charles City County History Center in Virginia to check in on the Tylers.

After we shared this fact on Twitter in 2012, Dan Amira interviewed Harrison Tyler for New York Magazine. Lyon Tyler spoke to the Daughters of the American Revolution a while back. They were profiled by The Times of London. And Snopes is also in on the fact.


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