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Messages from Hiroshima

Japanese version

Michiyo Yoshimoto (female)
'Nyushi hibaku'  / 15 years old at the time / current resident of Osaka

The scenes of the A-bombed city are introduced here. The photographs are not directly connected with the messages. On August 6, the atomic bomb was dropped. At the request of the relief squad, Dr. Fujii and I, a student nurse at the time, left for Hiroshima. The train went as far as Kaitaichi. When we got off the train, a large truck was waiting for us and we started for Hijiyama Hill.

The view out the truck window was terrible. The rails of the street cars were twisted, and the asphalt roads were melted by the heat of the explosion. Burned grounds and heaps of debris stretched as far as we could see. There were naked bodies on both sides of the road. We saw so many dead bodies floating in the river that we could hardly see the surface of the water. We drove through the dead streets without seeing any survivors. When we got to Hijiyama Hill, we saw survivors for the first time, but they looked so disfigured that I could hardly believe they were real human beings.

Since one doctor and two nurses made up a team, a second nurse joined us. We were allotted two air raid shelters and were guided to them on the mountain. On the way to the shelters, we had to climb the slope passing many holes in the red clay. Some survivors put only their heads in the holes already there, some put their buttocks in the holes in half-crouching positions, and some remained standing. They were all dead. There was a dead person whose naked body was brownish colored, and he almost fell on us. I was too afraid to go any further. My legs and knees went numb, and I felt my hair stand on end. I managed to walk, though, saying to myself, "Be brave, good girl! You can do it!"

I was shocked to see the red oleanders on Hijiyama Hill. It seemed as if the red blossoms were sucking up the blood of dying people. After that, I couldn't go past places where oleanders bloomed, no matter how hard I tried. My abhorrence of the flower lasted until my second daughter gave birth to her third son on August 6 some years later. But still now, the flower reminds me of those days.

In the air raid shelters, all the patients were seriously injured or ill, but we couldn't give them proper treatment. All we could do was apply ointment and bandages according to the doctor's instructions.
The next day, the dead body that scared me the night before had been carried away, but in the air raid shelters, maggots were crawling around the faces and bodies of dead people. When I removed their bandages, maggots dropped down with a thud.
The city supplied one mat for each pair of nurses, and we camped out. At night we saw a light in the direction of the first aid station. As we lay in the dark, the light gave us some comfort. The next morning, we went to the place to see what it was. It turned out to be the light of fires that were cremating dead bodies.

The bereaved were looking for family members, moving dead bodies one by one in the heap of collected bodies. I can't help but remembering the sight.

A lot of survivors told me their names and addresses, and asked me to inform their relatives of their survival. I answered that I would, but I couldn't keep my promise.

A person with pieces of glass stuck in his face, and his hair burned, and clothes in tatters, said to me, "Water! Water!" with an agonized look. But I could do nothing to help him. He could only look with envy at a blind pigeon drinking running water.

A solider said to us, "Are you hungry?" and gave us a piece of dry bread. I felt as if he were a godsend in hell. I thanked him and devoured it. Then I became unbelievably thirsty. Though we were advised not to drink unboiled water, I couldn't endure the thirst. I drank running water, and staved off my hunger with bread and water the next day. The water turned out to be contaminated with a lot of radioactivity.