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Messages from Hiroshima

Susumu Hamaguchi (male)
'Nyushi hibaku'  / 18 years old at the time / current resident of Hiroshima
5605

The scenes of the A-bombed city are introduced here. The photographs are not directly connected with the messages. My Memory concerning the Atomic Bomb
On August 6, 1945 I was an 18-year-old navy civilian employee working at the headquarters of Unit 103, which was located at the Navy Fuel Depot in Yoshiura, Kure City, about 15 kilometers [9.3 miles] southeast of Hiroshima. The unit's commanding officer was Mr. Tanouchi. The chief engineer was Mr. Kubo.

That morning I walked in the summer heat to my office from the quarters in the Yoshiura Pass. While I was inside the office wiping the sweat off my brow, I suddenly noticed a tremendous flash of light followed by a huge explosion. I instinctively rushed outside. Huge clouds, shaped like thunderheads, colored pink as if painted, began to appear above the mountains, and soon shot up in the sky very rapidly. We all wondered what had happened and made various guesses. One of us said the generating station in Saka must have exploded. Another thought it was an explosion at Hiroshima Gas. There were some who speculated that the powder magazine in either Saijo or Hachihonmatsu must have blown up.

About thirty minutes later Mr. Fujii, a technician, arrived from Hiroshima with a bandage around his head. He said that when he was at Saka Station he got struck by shattered glass from windows blown out by the blast. According to him, the whole city of Hiroshima was in flames, completely destroyed by a new type of a bomb. We were half in doubt.

Mr. Kubo, our chief engineer, was deeply worried about his younger sister, a clerical staff member at the Hiroshima Red Cross Hospital. I felt strong anxiety for my elder brother's safety. He was a probationary officer at the Army Marine Regiment Headquarters in Ujina where the Daiwa Silk Factory had been located. I was also concerned about my uncle, Shigeto Nakatsune, who was stationed at Misasa Elementary School in Hiroshima as a sub-commissioned officer.

Mr. Kubo ordered the official use of a 4.5-ton-capacity wartime truck with the aim of rescue work. Mr. Kubo, a driver and I left Yoshiura around 9:30 a.m.

Driving along the coast and facing in the direction of Hiroshima, we saw tremendous flares of fire and smoke in the distance. Those thunderhead-like clouds were still soaring high up in the sky. The color was close to pink, which reminded me of rhododendrons, and I even considered them beautiful.

Soon after we crossed Ozu Bridge, we encountered hordes of people trudging from Hiroshima, some leaning on sticks. Most of them had white packs on their faces, being treated with oil or mercurochrome. I flinched in horror when I saw that many of them had their face skin dangling from their chins.

When we entered Ozu-machi, we saw even more people with similar injuries. The three of us were pale with shock. We couldn't utter a single word. Many injured people were falling down on the roadsides, most of them burned from head to toe. I shuddered at the sight of a seven- or eight-year- old boy, who was black all over, but with his heart still faintly beating.

Military policemen standing under the Ozu Overpass told us that no vehicles were allowed into Hiroshima. However, thanks to the official permit Mr. Kubo showed them, we were allowed to proceed. It became impossible, however, for us to advance any farther a little short of Koujin-machi, due to the crowds and rubble blocking the road.

Leaving the driver behind in the truck, Mr. Kubo and I set out for Matoba, wearing our gas masks. Smoke and debris made this passage very difficult, even on foot. On the way I tripped on something which looked like a black bar. When I gave it a kick, it felt soft. I intently gazed at it through the smoke and sweaty gas mask to figure out what it was. It turned out to be a woman, whose body fluids had evaporated because of the fire. Shivers ran down my spine. I will never forget that horrific sight. Strangely enough, seeing her charred remains made me regain my composure and the countless bodies on the road didn't astonish me so much any longer.

We arrived at Matoba, from where we could see Hiroshima railway station. It was around eleven o'clock. The post office in front of the station was on fire. We could vaguely see in the distance through the smoke the Chugoku Shimbum [Newspaper] and Fukuya Department Store buildings. We had to retreat to our truck, however, since we couldn' t proceed because of the hot wind and smoke.

Then we were ordered by military policemen to carry the injured in our truck to Okukaita Elementary School. We were instructed to pick up only those who couldn't walk. I felt sad that the military police wouldn't let their family members on board just because they could walk.

The first person we picked up was a young doctor, about thirty years of age, who had been crushed under the rubble of his house. The back of his skull was fractured and part of his brain was exposed. His eyes, which were barely open, seemed to be looking at the sky, but his look was vacant. His hands and toes were cold. I remember him faintly chanting sutra. Beside the truck, his mother and sister were crying and shouting, "Please take us, too," but to no avail. I felt really sorry for them, but the MP wouldn't let us accommodate them. We shuttled back and forth three times, carrying about thirty victims at a time to Okukaita.

Late at night we went back home. We picked up a student at Kaita, who was on her way to Kure. She said that she was working at Kanon Mitsubishi Shipyard under student mobilization orders when the bomb struck, and that she had been walking all the way to Kaita from there. She was absent-minded like a sleepwalker. I had heard that there was a downpour of black rain in Hiroshima after the explosion, and sure enough her white clothes had black spots all over.

That night, although I was very exhausted I couldn't sleep a bit.