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Messages from Hiroshima

I.N (male)
'Chokubaku'  4 km from the hypocenter / 17 years old at the time / current resident of Iwate

The scenes of the A-bombed city are introduced here. The photographs are not directly connected with the messages. The place was filled with groans, and the stink of blood, sweat and human beings penetrated our noses. In the city, fire was everywhere like red tongues. Smoke was drifting up here and there, and within a few hours the fire spread throughout the city. The group leader, who was worried about his regiment members and had gone to the city to see them, came back before noon and said, "The city is blocked by the fire and it is impossible to go in there. The regiment was stationed near the hypocenter, so they could have been all killed." As time passed, the whole city was devoured by the fire. As evening approached, the fire further developed, coloring the sky red. We carried on taking care of the injured people so hard that we even forgot to have meals.

At a roll call in the evening, we received an order to go to Futabayama behind Hiroshima Station and help with communications between the Second General Army Headquarters and the regiment headquarters. I, together with the group leader and five officer candidates, immediately packed up communications devices and left Ujina. Without a watch, we did not know what the time was then, but I guess it was around nine in the evening.
In Ujina, buildings were barely standing. As we approached the city center, we saw trams overturned, telegraph poles fallen down, and electric cables split and scattered around on streets. We then got to a sea of fire where the stench from various things had mixed and pierced our noses, and dead bodies, which were now like black charcoal, were scattered about. I saw everywhere across the whole city, blue phosphorus light drifting up from bones in the fires which were burning those who were trapped under houses.

The scenery was nothing but hell. Every bridge was absolutely full of people who were heavily burnt, and they were all muttering, "Soldier, please give us water, please help us." However, I could not do anything but say to them, "Hang in there!"

"Why do these innocent people have to be brutalized like this?" I felt very strongly about the preciousness of human life. When I said to the group leader that the war must be stopped, he scolded me saying, "Watch your words when we must be ready for an all-out war on land! Don't you understand?!" Nevertheless, I was convinced then that war was nothing but murder. We soon arrived at Hiroshima Station. Six months earlier, I had arrived at the same station for the first time when I moved from Shodoshima. I recalled those good old days.

The station was built with concrete, so fires were burning only on the inside. Burnt pieces of wood sometimes fell down with sparks from the ceiling. We went around to the back of the main building of the station, crossed the tracks, and walked up hill paths before arriving at the Second General Army Headquarters at midnight.

We were welcomed by the officers. At the command of Group Leader Nakamura, we lined up and reported our arrival. Exhausted, we all slept at houses in the vicinity. From August 7 to 10, we performed our normal duties to communicate with the regiment headquarters on the top of the hill for three days and three nights, while overlooking the city covered by fire. On the 11th, we went back to the regiment headquarters, and then moved to the training camp next to the headquarters in order to take care of atomic bomb victims.

The training camp was crammed with hundreds of injured people and there was no space to walk in rooms and corridors. Every day, 10 to 15 or sometimes even 20 people demanded water, but as soon as they drank some, they passed away. Maggots were crawling on the burnt skins of people who complained of pain, so I picked those maggots off with chopsticks. Since a military surgeon told me that oil worked for burnt skin, I applied some to people's burns. Dead bodies were gathered at a particular place to be cremated the next evening. Columns and other wooden parts were cut out and taken from collapsed houses to be piled up to build a sort of stage on which dead bodies were laid down and cremated. Around the time of sunset, lines of smoke from burning bodies were found everywhere across the city, blocking the sight of the sun. Then soon the evening gloom arrived.

The cremation took a whole night, during which we dozed in a damp tent. After we got up in the morning, we extinguished the fire with water and picked up the remains to be put in urns. These urns had names of the deceased persons written on them and we stored them in a mortuary with incense sticks and candles to pray for their souls, even though we never knew when their families could come and collect them. The mortuary soon became full of urns. On August 15, we took as many injured people as possible to the front of a radio as the Emperor was to deliver a message.
Thirty to forty people gathered. The Emperor's words could not be heard clearly, but nevertheless, it marked the end of the war.

Starting that evening, electric lamps were turned back on at Ujina Port which looked so familiar to me that I was moved by those lights. The number of deaths reached the highest around that time, after which the health conditions of the remaining people stabilized, and there were even some who could take care of themselves. On the last day of August, nursing care for those survivors was stopped, and they were transferred to a nearby, half-collapsed school. However, shortly after the transfer, they started to show some symptoms one after another, such as hair loss and bleeding from gums, and we were so frightened. They were immediately sent to hospitals. Nevertheless, with no exception, they all passed away within a few days.
Every morning, we pulled on our hair either ourselves or for each other to confirm that we were still alive. That feeling of being so scared still remains strong in me.

Fortunately, I developed no symptoms and around September 10, I got demobilized and went home on a 50-carriage freight train which transported cows, horses, and pigs. I shared the train with other demobilized soldiers from across the country, such as Hokkaido, Tohoku, Kanto, Chubu and Kinki Regions. The train departed Hiroshima Station at around 9 in the evening. I left Hiroshima, thinking that I would definitely come back to Hiroshima some time.
It seemed that we, the group of those who were from Iwate, were seven or eight altogether. We were led by former Second Lieutenant Watanabe from Ichinoseki, Iwate Prefecture. I was relieved, thinking that I could at last go home. On the way, at midnight, I fell out of the train in the woods near Hachihonmatsu Station. Nevertheless, I did not get injured and managed to go home. I still have a lot more to talk about, but I shall not do so here.

Sixty-five years after the atomic bombing, I believe no peace can be realized with force. I, as an atomic bomb survivor, desperately hope that all mankind will strive towards the creation of a world where life is highly valued and protected, war is eliminated, and people live long and fulfilled lives.