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Messages from Hiroshima

Japanese version

Hiroshi Sugahara (male)
'Nyushi hibaku'  / 23 years old at the time / current resident of Tokyo

The scenes of the A-bombed city are introduced here. The photographs are not directly connected with the messages. I was an adjutant in the 30th Marine Squadron when the atomic bomb was dropped. Between August 6 and 14, right after the atomic bomb was dropped, under orders from Marine Headquarters, I commanded a unit sent to the area from the Motoyasu River to Kamiya-cho and Hatchobori in Hiroshima City in order to help survivors and to deal with the dead bodies.

After the war, in around 1955, my white blood cell count fell to about half the normal level and I have not been able to work ever since.

I was sleeping when the atomic bomb was dropped. Suddenly I heard a huge explosion. "Boom!" The blackout curtain was blown away as a gust of hot wind and a flash of light came through the window. Astonished, I shouted out, "What was that?" I jumped out of bed and ran out of the house. Everyone was running to the beach pointing towards Ujina and shouting something.

A mass of smoke shaped like an upside down clove of garlic formed and spread silently across the blue sky. It gradually got bigger and bigger. It was the famous 'mushroom cloud'.

"What's that?" I shouted. "Has a gas tank exploded in Hiroshima?"

It was such a huge explosion that it reminded me of the explosion at Shinokawa Bay in Amami Oshima. In Shinokawa Bay the ship Hoshimaru went up loaded with 2,000 tons of explosives on board. The atomic bomb explosion was far beyond your average air raid. The smoke kept spreading out. Now it was like a big sweet summer orange with its skin peeled off.

Everyone was saying "Oh my god! Oh my god!" No one thought that the explosion was the result of an air raid.

I rushed to the headquarters. The place was in an uproar, but no one knew the cause of the explosion. Finally, I succeeded in making contact with Marine Headquarters. The first report was released as classified military information.

"There was an explosion of unknown cause, and Hiroshima City is on fire."

Then the second report arrived.

"The enemy used something like an atomic explosion." This was the first we knew that the explosion was the result of an air raid by the enemy.

The opinion of Nishina Science Research Center was attached including accounts of atomic bomb survivors' experiences.

It said, "There was a flash of light, 'Pika!', followed by the sound of the explosion, 'Don!'. Immediately after that a misty kind of rain fell."

At the time, people in Hiroshima had not been told that the bomb was an atomic bomb, so they called it 'Pika Don'.

According to one account, "Parts of the body that were covered by white cloth were not burnt, but parts covered by black cloth and exposed skin were at risk." However, in fact, those who were in Hiroshima City when the bomb was dropped, even if they were only slightly exposed, fell victim to radiation and didn't survive.

The following comment was also added: "If you look directly at the flash of the explosion, your eyes will be burned, so be careful not to look at it."

I had heard previously about the atomic bomb from a squadron leader. Before coming to Hiroshima, while I was living in Kagoshima I read in a newspaper article that a Japanese scientist who was doing research about the atomic bomb had died in an accident. The squadron leader said "the bomb is about the size of a block of caramel but it would destroy a whole navy ship." Apparently each country was in a race to develop the bomb. He said, "The first country to invent the atomic bomb will control the world."

I was very worried. I thought. "My god! America has made an atomic bomb before Japan. If atomic bombs are dropped from airplanes all Japan will be destroyed." However, at that stage I hadn't seen the actual spot of the explosion in Hiroshima, so I wasn't all that afraid.