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Messages from Hiroshima

Japanese version

Masayoshi Sumikawa (male)
'Chokubaku'  4.1 km from the hypocenter / 7 years old at the time / current resident of Hiroshima

The scenes of the A-bombed city are introduced here. The photographs are not directly connected with the messages. I witnessed the very moment when the B-29 dropped its small fluttering atomic bomb over our heads. Just as the bomb went out of my sight, I saw a spark of flashing light, followed by a tremendous blast and a rising mushroom cloud. A large number of wounded people came fleeing my way dozens of minutes after the explosion, and many simply dropped dead before my eyes. Although various documents pertaining to nuclear explosions are available, I feel that there is a stark difference between the mushroom cloud I saw with my own eyes and that in photos or pictures, especially in terms of its changing shape and color. Perhaps one cannot truly understand the circumstances at that time unless one lived through it.

Although I want to share my experience with as many people as possible, I am neither a good speaker nor a good writer. I would be glad if even one-tenth of my experience can be shared as I answer this questionnaire.

From "Commemorating the fifty-fifth anniversary of the atomic bomb"(2000)

The day of the atomic bombing

It all happened right after we, neighborhood elementary school children, started studying at a friend's house. An air raid alarm went off, so we went outside to evacuate, as was customary, to the bomb shelter -- when I spotted a single B-29 (later I learned that it was followed by two others) far up in the sky flying southward from the Kabe area. (This B-29 was the Enola Gay, which was checking the weather as it flew southward and entered the clear skies of Hiroshima city.)

There were several anti-aircraft fires, but the plane was far too high to be within reach.

Just as the B-29 flew over our heads, it dropped a small fluttering object. I sensed no danger when seeing this, thinking to myself that it was probably the usual scattering of flyers.

The fluttering object moved toward the city, then just as it went out of my sight, light flashed, a stinging pain was felt, then everything blacked out and I could see nothing. (I was later told that this light was visible at Mihara as well.)

An enormous explosive sound accompanied the intense blowing of the wind, which knocked us down onto the ground. After what felt like an eternity, I fearfully raised my head to find that all my friends were lying face down on the ground. It looked as if all of us had intuitively gathered around the drinking well of the house.

Our friend's grandmother was inside when this happened, but seeing all of us lying on the ground and thinking we must have all died, she had one foot in the well, about to kill herself. We all stood up one after another, crying like babies, and went back to our respective homes.

When I reached home, my grandfather and my mother had just returned from the Yokogawa area with scrap materials gathered from a dismantled house.

The city at the time was tearing down houses in order to create firebreaks. Many students were mobilized for this operation.

My grandfather said, "I got hit on the head," and kept patting his head. (He was bald, so the heat wave from the flash must have hurt him badly). Had they stayed at Yokogawa ten minutes longer, they would no doubt have died from the explosion.

I looked towards the city to find an enormous mushroom cloud growing even bigger.

I always tell my family that Hiroshima's mushroom cloud was totally different from those in nuclear tests that are often seen recently on television.

As the mushroom cloud wobbled from side to side, the top part constantly changed color from bright sunset red to purple, then black.

Furthermore, pieces of tin and lumber, which had been blown up from the ground by the explosion, were falling from the center of the mushroom cloud. The sheer grotesqueness of it all is impossible to express in words.

The mushroom cloud kept growing bigger and it was now looming up towards the sky directly over us. It was bright red on top and black below. Both adults and children covered their heads with futon and ran into the nearest bamboo grove, fearful that more things might emerge from inside the cloud to attack us.

Although a bomb shelter had been dug out at every household, it was usually quite modest, and everyone must have thought that it would not withstand a huge bomb like this one.

The sound of explosions could be heard thereafter several times from the direction of the city, but it was not the kind that produced a mushroom cloud. It probably came from the chain explosion of the ammunition chambers, caused by the atomic bomb.