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Messages from Hiroshima

Japanese version

Kazuo Tani (male)
'Chokubaku'  2.8 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. Where are that girl and her brother now?
During the war, I was in the Japanese navy. On November 3, 1944, my ship was sunk off New Guinea near Halmahera Island. In March 1945, I was sent back to Japan and, in the next month, I was stationed at Kure Naval Port in Hiroshima Prefecture. However, there were not enough battle ships for all the sailors and naval officers. As a result, those who weren't assigned to ships were made to form a ground unit to prepare for the expected final battle on the Japanese mainland. We were trained at the Fukuchiyama Army Training Center in Kyoto Prefecture. Our training was specifically geared for battle against tanks, especially against American marine M4 [Sherman] tanks. Together with army officers, we hurriedly had a meeting and appointed a navy lieutenant as the battalion commander and some others as platoon chiefs. We decided to call the battalion the"Kure 23rd navy Regiment."

After a month's military training, this new unit, consisting of 300 men including the commander, more or less took shape. I was appointed as a platoon chief. On August 6, 1945, our battalion was ordered to receive training with some army troops in Hiroshima. Proud to have a chance to show our skills, we headed for Onaga Army Training Center in Hiroshima. We had planned to arrive there by 8:30. Since we had plenty of time, the three trucks that carried us drove slowly down National Highway No. 2.

A little past 8 a.m., a B-29 circled over Hiroshima and an air raid warning was issued. We stopped the trucks and everyone got off and took shelter in a vineyard just by the national highway. As we waited for the air raid warning to be lifted, there was a blinding flash of blue light and a terrible blast. We stayed there motionless for a while and waited for our eyesight to recover. I don't know who started it, but we soon came to call it Pika-don" for the flash of light (pika) and the sound of the explosion (don). None of us were harmed. We crawled back to the highway and looked in the direction of the city of Hiroshima. The buildings and houses in the city had disappeared. Two of our trucks had been blown off the road by the blast. We made contact with the headquarters of the 23rd Regiment by wireless and told them about the "pika-don" or the "new-type bomb." About two days later, it was identified as an"atomic bomb."

After the bomb was dropped, we saw the mushroom cloud from 2 km [1.2 miles] from the hypocenter. Other members of the Kure 23rd navy Regiment came to our rescue and the two trucks were brought back onto the highway. We conferred there and then on the road decided to set up a joint headquarters at the Army Training Center in Kure and set to work on relief operations. An hour earlier nobody was moving in the street, but more and more people, their hair gone and their clothes burned and bloody, began to move about. Some were transporting people in carts that had their tires burned off. An hour after the blast, a black rain began to fall. It seemed to be raining soot.

A-bomb victims at the first aid station in the Army Training Center were beginning to die. About 30 of us dug a trench four meters [13.1 feet] deep by three meters [9.8 feet] wide to the west of Tenjindani Shrine above the training center so that we could bury the dead. Day by day, more and more people died and, with temperatures of 38 degrees Celsius [about 100 degrees Fahrenheit], the stench became worse and worse. From August 7, we had no time to sleep. At night we tried to sleep whenever we could in the field under the open sky. Night and day, we worked. More and more A-bomb victims were brought to the training center from other places, and more and more families of the dead victims came to collect their ashes. We had to take care of the ashes, too.