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Messages from Hiroshima

Japanese version

Yoshiteru Oba (male)
'Chokubaku'  1.7 km from the hypocenter / 19 years old at the time / current resident of Fukuoka

The scenes of the A-bombed city are introduced here. The photographs are not directly connected with the messages. On January 24 2006, my father died of leukemia probably because he was exposed to radiation directly at ground zero for fifteen days after the bombing. He kept saying until he died that he hated the atomic bomb and America.

The attached piece of writing is the only note that he wrote in 1993 and 1994. The deceased, who had never talked about his experience in Hiroshima, got in contact with his former classmates and wrote this for the first time in the Heisei period [from 1989]. This is part of a collection of writings by his former classmates. Please use this on condition of anonymity.
(Written by his eldest daughter, 2010)

My Life before and after the Atomic Bomb

In 1945, I was a third year student at Hiroshima Higher Technical School (the present Hiroshima University, Faculty of Engineering). We went to school only for a year and when we became second year students, all the school children were divided into several groups and each scattered to a factory in the area due to the wartime mobilization of students for labor services. But the third year students were relieved of their labor services and returned to school. For some reason, the sixteen members of our group who were mobilized to work at the factory of Yanmar Diesel Company were not released of our labor services and were working at the Naval Inspectors' Office of the Chugoku district. Among them, the five of us, O, K, A, another and me, were cooking our own meals together at O's house in Yoshishima-cho. All of his family had evacuated to the countryside.

On the morning of August 6, since we were cooking our breakfast while red and yellow alert were announced alternately, civilian air-raid wardens burst in on us in a rage. At about ten minutes past ten, the three of us, O, K and I left home. The other two were not at home. O stopped at the neighborhood association chief's house on the way. K and I hurried down the road.
"Hey, that's the buzzing of a B-29 bomber," said K.
"There you go again. Nonsense." I said and just when we looked up at the sky, there came a blinding flash of light and a loud bang.

At that very moment, I was blinded, but after about ten or twenty minutes, my eyesight gradually recovered as if daylight was breaking. What a surprise! The houses standing on both sides of the road were all leveled to the ground, and we were able to look out far into the distance. K had the skin of his arms, back of the neck and face stripped off like a torn sock. Strangely, my face was hurting a little, and I couldn't wash my face for three or four days. I had no injuries at all. O came to us then. He had lost the hair that had been sticking out of his cap, but he didn't seem to be injured.
"My face hurts, so let's go home and apply some butter to my face." said K.

O and I placed our arms across K's shoulders and returned home together. Of course, our house had disappeared so we began walking to the school again for refuge. When we walked past the place where about ten wounded soldiers were lying, I felt one of the soldiers staring at me. I looked over to him.
"You're Oba, aren't you?" the soldier asked.
"Oh, you're Mr. G!"
To my surprise, he was my teacher at junior high school. The two of us from Fukuoka Prefecture were in such a place and at such a time! I was overcome with a strange feeling about this unexpected meeting. So we returned to school and just then what seemed to be a Red Cross ambulance came by, and we put K in it and parted from him saying, "We'll go and you later."

O and I left for the Inspectors' Office to work, which was about 100 meters [110 yards] away from the building that today is known as the Atomic Bomb Dome. By that time the whole of Hiroshima was on fire and with wet handkerchiefs over our noses to avoid the enveloping smoke, we walked among the dead bodies lying everywhere. When we got to the office, the soldiers and women who had been scheduled to come to work at eight o'clock had changed into dead bodies. Then the people at the officers' level who were scheduled to come to work at 8:30 came gradually. Our work that day was to dig a hole as large as 6.6 square meters [about 70 sq.feet] on the bank of the river that flowed between the office and the building known as the Atomic Bomb Dome now and to carry the bodies of the soldiers to the hole. Then we poured oil on them and burned them to ashes, singing "Umi yukaba mizuku kabana," a ceremonial song of the navy.

From that day on, we camped in the garden of the office and investigated the damage of the companies and factories in Hiroshima every day. In addition, we kept scouring every hospital for K. Meanwhile, ice-packed mandarin oranges were sent to us from the navy in Kure in a trolley box. They would taste terrible if we ate them now, but I still remember that they were very tasty then.

Meanwhile, a week passed and a friend of mine who had been back to school informed me that K was at Ninoshima Quarantine Station outside Ujima Harbor. On August 13, O and I went to Ninoshima at once. It was a crime of desertion according to the military discipline, but we didn't care about that. When we got to Ninoshima, dead bodies were laid in a row all the way from the harbor, so we checked them one by one. At long last, we found K alive. We did it! What excitement! But K was hideously burned all over his body. He was simply lying there, packed tightly on the floor of a building that was like a large gymnasium. He couldn't raise himself. Until then, T, our classmate, seemed to have been taking care of him, so I made him go, saying that I would nurse K from then on.

From that time onward, I spent several days, watching him at his bedside. My main job was to go to the nurse and unreasonably ask her for what little pieces of gauze or absorbent cotton she had left and wipe the pus away in his wounds. At one time, when I looked at the wounded person lying next to K, some things were moving on his throat. I watched them and saw that they were maggots! Maggots on a living person! I wanted to wipe them out, but there was no gauze or anything. Every other hour, the people lying on the floor cried, "It hurts!" here and there, and died painfully. Every day I saw real scenes of Hell.

Thus on August 15, I heard the Imperial Rescript of the end of the war while in the nurses' station. On August 17, O and I put K on our shoulders and took him to Mukaishima in Onomichi. We stayed there overnight, and I parted from O. I left for Kyushu, but the railways had been fragmented, and I had to change trains many times and found my way to Moji on August 20 in the morning. From there, I walked to Wakamatsu for about 50 kilometers [31 miles] and finally arrived home later than ten at night. For two weeks after the atomic bombing, I couldn't contact my family at all. At home, my family thought that this year's Bon memorial service might be the first one for my death, and they were undecided whether to avoid my memorial service since my fate was unknown. When I returned home, they were surprised and thought I was a ghost.
(Previously published text received 2010)