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Messages from Hiroshima

Japanese version

Ichiji Sugawara (male)
'Chokubaku'  2.3 km from the hypocenter / current resident of Miyagi

The scenes of the A-bombed city are introduced here. The photographs are not directly connected with the messages. In September 1944 (Showa 19), as a soldier on active duty, I was enrolled to be a signalman for Army Marine Communication in Unit 16710 of Akatsuki Corps in Hiroshima. It was later, when I was transferred to the Army Marine Training Regiment as an assistant trainer to the recruits that the fateful date of August 6, 8:15am occurred. We were located 2.3 km away from the hypocenter. I just happened to be between barracks at the time, and thus while my eyes were affected by the Atomic-bomb rays; I was at least spared from suffering burns. Soldiers who were directly exposed to the thermal flash all got burned.

After the bombing, some others and I were posted in the security guard corps where we engaged in guard and rescue operations in the areas surrounding the hypocenter. In the meantime, Niho Elementary School, where the Company Headquarters was situated, also functioned as a branch of the Army Hospital and some one thousand patients were brought in. There I participated in relief activities for more than a month before I was demobilized on September 9, 1945 (Showa 20).

Next, I'd like to share some of my thoughts and feelings that occur on a day-to-day basis for the past 60 years since the end of the war.
Perhaps some of you are familiar with the documentary series produced by NHK entitled "NHK Special"1. In fact, I shared some of my personal experiences for the documentary featuring the Atomic-bomb survivors that was broadcast on a public channel at 9p.m. on August 6, 2001 (Heisei 13).
I got married in April, 1949 (Showa 24). I had kept the fact that I was exposed to the Atomic-bomb from my wife because in those days, groundless rumors regarding the aftereffects of Atomic-bomb were circulating. For example, it was said that all living things, including humans, were affected on a cellular level and that for a period of fifty to sixty years, plants would not sprout in that area. Fearing that I would not be able to have children or, at the least, healthy children, I could not bring up the nerve to tell my wife the truth.

I felt such secret relief when in September, 1950 (Showa 25), our first child, a healthy baby girl, was born. My sense of self-confidence increased as she continued to remain healthy and it prompted me to confess to my wife my personal experiences and fears regarding Atomic-bomb exposure.
Three years later, we welcomed our second child, a healthy boy, into the family. One morning, however, when he was about eighteen months old, we found him unable to stand up by himself in the bathroom. In shock, we took him to the hospital and he was diagnosed to be suffering from 'Infantile Paralysis' from the waist down.
A six-month treatment that followed enabled him to somewhat walk again. During that period, I couldn't help but think about the connections between what was happening to my son and my exposure to the Atomic-bomb radiation, and it made me overwhelmingly anxious. Therefore, you can imagine the indescribable joy I felt when his condition improved enough to allow him to walk again without aid.
Nonetheless, my son, who is now a grown man, still suffers from back trouble that requires treatment from a specialist to this day. While the doctors say that his condition may be congenital, I cannot dismiss from my mind that somehow his physical problems are linked to my exposure to Atomic-bomb radiation. Subsequently, my son married and is blessed with three healthy children.
As I mentioned earlier, it was during the interview for the 'NHK Special' that I talked about the fact that I had been exposed to the Atomic-bomb dropped on Hiroshima, the kind of life I have led for 56 years since the end of the war, as well as my thoughts and feeling living through that period. It was through that opportunity that I disclosed my Atomic-bomb exposure to my daughter, son and his wife and it was then that the great burden was finally lifted from my shoulders.