New books detail lives of Vietnam War survivors

The Yomiuri Shimbun, September 18, 2006
Katsumoto Saotome, a writer dedicated to exposing the horrors of war, has published three new books that follow the lives of girls affected by the Vietnam War.
One of the books, “Napalm-dan to Kim-chan” (Napalm and Kim-chan), focuses on Kim, best known as the naked, burned girl fleeing from a napalm bombing raid captured in a Pullitzer Prize-winning photograph. The book follows her life from the time she had to undergo 17 skin transplant operation, to her activities as a UNESCO goodwill ambassador.
The other two books are “Senso-Koji no Da-chan”(War Orphan Da-chan) and “Karehazai to Ga-chan” (Agent Orange and Ga-chan).
The first title follows a girl named Da, as she grows up in the chaos of the post-Vietnam War era, through photographs and pictures. Today, Da is a mother of three children and lives and works as a nurse in a village in central Vietnam.
Although she now has enough money to live on, there were times about 15 years after the end of the war when she and her unemployed, war-wounded husband could not even afford a simple meal on their income of less than 1,000 yen a month. Da is also the main character in the best-selling book “Vietnam no Da-chan” (Da-chan in Vietnam), which was turned into a movie.
Ga is a 14-year-old girl who is covered in black bruises, believed to have been caused by Agent Orange–a herbicide used by U.S. forces during the war to destroy the vegetation. The girl still receives laser treatment, and according to the book she is eager to become a doctor.
Saotome, 74, survived the Tokyo air raids in March 1945. Since then, he has spent his time explaining to others the horror of war. “The scars are engraved deeply into the weak. I wanted to emphasize the importance of peace 60 years after the Pacific War,” he said. Saotome also wrote a best-selling book titled “The Great Tokyo Air Raid.”
The three books are published by Kusanone Shuppan-Kai and cost 1,800 yen each, excluding tax.

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