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Messages from Hiroshima

Japanese version

Koji Imada (male)
'Chokubaku'  6 km from the hypocenter / 13 years old at the time / current resident of Hyogo

The scenes of the A-bombed city are introduced here. The photographs are not directly connected with the messages. The article I am delivering to you now is the one titled "Mourning Hiroshima," published originally in the first issue of the magazine, "Karatsubaki (Chinese Camellia)." I have altered it somewhat and redrafted it to include a supplement from the fifth issue. I would appreciate your taking due care with it.

Following is the extract from "Mourning Hiroshima."

1. Prologue, August 1937 (Hypocenter - eight years before A-bombing) - skipped

2. Hiroshima before Catastrophe

(1) Myself in April 1945 (Four months before Exposure)

Time passed, and by April 1945 I was thirteen years old and was in the second year at the Hiroshima Prefectural Hiroshima First Middle School (hereinafter referred to as the Hiroshima First Middle School or the First Middle School). Mr. Toyoichi Watanabe was the schoolmaster, and our class teacher was Mr. Takashi Watanabe, a veteran teacher of Japanese literature; he was also the chief priest of the historic Nihohime Shrine in Houra, Niho-machi where I was living.

Our house then was in Horikoshi, Niho-machi, at the east end of Hiroshima, and was six kilometers away in a straight line from the First Middle School. I used to commute by a National Sanyo Main Line from Mukainada Station westward to the next stop, Hiroshima and then walked to school (in Zakoba-machi, 900 meters away from the hypocenter). In those days, students were prohibited from riding on street cars to go to school, and the main bridge in front of the station and the pedestrian Inari-Bridge were not in place yet, so we walked via the Enko Bridge, Kyobashi (the Western-Highway Route) and passed through either Hatchobori or Kamiya-cho.

(2) Volunteer Labor Service-- Disassembling Evacuated Houses

The conditions of all middle schools in Hiroshima at that time -- public, private, girls' school, commercial school, technological school, and shipbuilding technology school etc. - were such that all senior students were mobilized for factory work, and junior classes under second-year remained at school, dividing their time between schoolwork and volunteer labor.

The assignments for the volunteer laborers were mostly disassembling evacuated houses around the schools, which was quite unique to Hiroshima, not seen in other cities. On November 18, 1944, the government ordered evacuation of buildings and houses in Hiroshima. The purpose of the evacuation was to protect railways from air raid and to secure roads for firefighting.

In those days, air raids were getting more intense day by day and Hiroshima Prefecture had experienced as many as forty by July, mainly in the areas around Kure and Fukuyama. Nevertheless, Hiroshima itself had so far received only minor raids, so it was anticipated that extensive air raids would come sooner or later. In short, the people were forced to evacuate and their houses were demolished to keep the damage of the city to a minimum.

(3) July 27, 1945 -- Year-Round Mobilization to Factories -- to Hiroshima Aircraft

Days passed like that, and it was a little after the middle of July when the second-year students were finally mobilized to factories on a year-round basis. We were the vanguard of all second-year students of the middle schools in the city. Because of this, we, the second-year students, were saved from death by A-bomb exposure, (precisely speaking, two died by the exposure). We had two destinations -- one was Asahi Munitions Factory in Jigozen on the opposite side of Miyajima, and the other was Hiroshima Aircraft (a firm manufacturing plane parts) at Takasu. Students living in the city were sent to the former destination, and those living east of the city, like me, were assigned to the National Kabu Line, Geibi Line, Sanyo Main Line, and Kure Line.

(4) Days at Hiroshima Aircraft; July 27 1945 - Appointed to Hiroshima Aircraft

On July 27, 1945, our group of about 160 second-year students was assigned to Factory Number Hiro-7264 (Hiroshima Aircraft). Originally, three teachers were to be assigned to lead such a large number of students, but Mr. Goro Toda (in charge of English and also physics and chemistry, due to the shortage of teachers), the youngest of all teachers, had to take solo responsibility to lead the 160 students. It was mainly because the senior teacher, Mr. Ochi, had been called up for military service on June 15, and other reasons. This eventually led to Mr. Toda's decisive refusal of the order for house evacuation work a while later, on August 6.

At Hiroshima Aircraft, about 50 third-year students had been mobilized the previous year, and were working under the supervision of Mr. Hideo Maeda. They were called the Shield Company. There were also about 200 third-year students of the First Prefectural Girls High School (Hiroshima Prefectural Hiroshima First Girls High School) mobilized earlier in April. They were called Young Cherry Company. We were immediately split into mechanics and sheet metal workers. I was assigned to the latter group, and our training started the same day. To my distress, however, we had little work to do, due to the shortage of materials.

(5) August 5, 1945 -- Return from Death ------ Mr. Toda's Refusal

As the demolition work of evacuated houses that I mentioned earlier became an urgent matter at the request of military authorities, each factory had to send more laborers for that. We received an instruction to our company (probably from the prefectural authorities) to go to the demolition work. I remember hearing that the instruction was based on the assumption that the newly arrived second-year students at Hiroshima Aircraft would not be good enough for the factory work yet, but that they must be good at the demolition work because they were doing it till yesterday, so let them go. The place was Dobashi (800 meters away from the hypocenter), and the date was August 6. This was an order. Nevertheless, on Sunday, August 5 (we were working at the factory on Sunday too) our head teacher, Mr. Goro Toda said to us, "Tomorrow, August 6 will be a day for training at home." In short he meant that we would take a rest. On the other hand, Mr. Maeda, the head teacher of the third-year students, followed the order. The difference between the two teachers in their responses to the order separated the fate of the second-year and the third-year students. I heard from Mr. Toda after the end of the war that he had refused the order because he felt pity for the young students working every day without rest and suffering from hunger and complete fatigue.

Later in 1993 Mr. Goro Toda published his memoir, PIKADON (Tremendous Flash and Sound) based on his notes and memories of his experiences in those days. He sent me a copy of the book in which we could vividly see the heated argument he had with Mr. Maeda over the dispatch for house evacuation work at Dobashi on August 6. Mr. Toda admitted he was "nervous, choleric and timid." His choleric character overwhelmed his timidity during the fierce disputes with Mr. Maeda. Abruptly Mr. Toda said, "We will not go!" Mr. Maeda turned his face away. Then they started the heated argument again. Following is a quote from his memoir.

"He (Mr. Maeda) insisted on the importance of the demolition work and stressed that it was an emergency. He also said that he had to supervise the third-year students, and the second-year students…were my responsibility. He was probably right in terms of the chain of command. But I turned it down flat, saying that I was not capable of supervising a hundred or more students in the house demolition work at Dobashi, and therefore I could not take the responsibility by myself alone. Before long he gave a sign that he lost his temper in the face of my stubborn silence, and he left his seat.

"After the day's work was over and students were dispersed, he started trying again to persuade me. The dialogue was a rehash of the morning's argument. Suddenly he yelled "You are unpatriotic!" His face was deep red with anger. The dispute ended, and I had nothing more to say. Yet I was driven by the need to say something, so I said 'I will tender my resignation some time tomorrow!' That was not my true intention, though.

"Coming out of the gate, I drew a deep breath to pull myself together. We did not converse any further. We parted at the foot of the bridge. He went to the west, and I to the north."

Mr. Toda parted with Mr. Maeda, leaving behind a bitter feeling. Mr. Toda had a good reason for pursuing his strong-minded refusal.
He could foresee the coming large air raids in Hiroshima and therefore was concerned about his responsibility and the limits of control. If an air raid happened during the daytime in the defenseless ruins of evacuated buildings and houses, he would not have been able to protect the 160 students by himself. It is not hard to imagine how Mr. Toda was tormented by the conflict between his sympathy toward his students and his duty to comply with the order, when he bravely resisted his superior, Mr. Maeda. We, the second-year group of Hiroshima Aircraft, live today thanks to the brave decision of Mr. Goro Toda. He passed away in October 2003 at the age 91.

Aside from my gratitude for having survived, however, my heart aches for the fact that 37 third-year students led to Dobashi by Mr. Maeda were simply annihilated. I also cannot escape from the life-long burden to the students of the same generation -- approximately six thousand boys and girls aged twelve to thirteen summers who had been mobilized to the demolition work in the evacuated houses, and who were miserably killed before their time.