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Messages from Hiroshima

Japanese version

Masami Onuka (male)
'Chokubaku'  3 km from the hypocenter / 23 years old at the time / current resident of Shimane

The scenes of the A-bombed city are introduced here. The photographs are not directly connected with the messages. Then 24 years old, I was a photographer at the Army and Marine Regiment Headquarters.
Waking up earlier than usual on August 6th, I was already at work before eight o'clock. Seven of us photographers were at the morning assembly in front of Victory Hall. Suddenly, a fierce yellow light flashed before my eyes and a tremendous sound resonated in my guts. The next moment, I ducked down on the ground and then raised my face to see people inside of the building screaming with blood-soaked faces cut from the broken pieces of windowpanes. But there was no other evidence of bombing.

We returned to the photo room and found shelves down and most of the windowpanes broken. Guessing it was a fairly big bomb, we concluded it could have been an explosion of an armory or gas tank. Soon after, we saw black smoke in the direction of the city and the sky appeared uncanny with many layers of thunderhead.

As time passed, it was reported that the city suffered total destruction with big fires going on in many parts of the city. We received an order from a first lieutenant that city residents return home. As I had a mother and a sister-in-law in Minami-machi and a sister in Hirano-cho, I left the office to go to Minami-machi first. Then, on the main street, I saw many injured people arriving one after another with swollen black faces, torn out hair, and burnt clothes in tatters. It was literally a parade of ghosts. As the street-car path was crowded with victims, I walked along the Ujina Railway line. I found my house in Minami-machi leaning somewhat to one side and no one there. I saw nobody else in the neighboring houses and a chest of drawers blown out into the backyard. I decided to go to my sister's home and passing by the home of the telegraph corps, I walked to Hijiyama Bridge. But I couldn't go any farther due to the intense fire. I then walked towards my boarding house in Kusunoki-cho. As the west side street of Hijiyama Park looked impassable, I walked through Danbara-cho behind Hijiyama Park as if I were swimming through the screams of the people, "Give me water, give me water!"

Seeing a dead woman with her head in the water tank and children and old people under the debris of houses, I finally came out in front of Hiroshima Station. I had seen many miserable situations such as at the withdrawal operations of Guadalcanal and the front line at Bougainville Island, but this was incomparable. I gave up going back to my boarding house and returned to my headquarters in Ujina.

The next day, in the morning of August 7th, I helped to accommodate the injured who rushed into the headquarters as well as to transport the bodies to Ninoshima Island and to give first aid to the injured. In the afternoon, I went over to Ninoshima Island to take many pictures of the camp activities. At the request of the army surgeon, I took many shots of the injured with burns and the heap of corpses assembled in one place.

I believe it was August 8th that I went around the refugee camps in the city with two military police officers to take pictures. After finishing a few camps such as Hijiyama Park and Danbara, we went to Aioi Bridge and climbed up to the third floor of the wreck of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry near the hypocenter to take pictures of the destruction of Aioi Bridge. I believe I took pictures of the Prefectural Government Building in Kakomachi later, but I don't remember where I parted from the police.

I also went to such places as the Hiroshima Red Cross Hospital, Fukuya Department Store, Army Clothing Depot, and Fukuro-machi National Elementary School, but as I looked through my camera lens at the children in pain and the school girls and mobilized students in miserable shape, I was overwhelmed.

When I went to Hirano-cho to search for my mother, I kept calling her name among the crowd under Hijiyama Bridge in vain. I also walked around the fire debris to search in vain for my mother together with my elder brother who came from Miyoshi City.

As of today she is still missing, but I assume she was among the heap of corpses for cremation at the West Drill Grounds or near Fujimi-cho.

My brother has since died, and his wife and son are also gone. I am very old now, and I am afraid I will join them in a few years.