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Messages from Hiroshima

Japanese version

Akio Ikeda (male)
'Nyushi hibaku'  / 16 years old at the time

The scenes of the A-bombed city are introduced here. The photographs are not directly connected with the messages. On the night of August 5 the air-raid warning kept sounding intermittently until the morning of the 6th, so I could hardly sleep. We, the students of the Hiroshima Temporary Teachers' Training School in Higashi Senda-machi, set off from the school for the Mazda Toyo Kogyo factory by train accompanied by Professor Tsuruta. We arrived at about 8 a.m. It was our first day of work there as mobilized students. We were in the hall listening to a talk by Mr Matsuda, the company president, when the atomic bomb exploded.

At the moment when I saw the flash of light, all the windows on the left side of the hall shattered with a loud noise. Some students were injured by the broken glass. My immediate thought was that the Mazda factory had been attacked. We were ordered to evacuate at once, and we hurried to the air-raid shelters. On the way there I saw, in the direction of city center, a large mushroom cloud swirling high in the air against the backdrop of a blue sky. I could not see any enemy planes, so I did not know what had happened. All I knew was that it was not the kind of bomb that we had had before. They had mostly been incendiary bombs, but this time all that I had seen was a bright flash of light.

Soon, fires were burning all over the city. About an hour after the bomb was dropped Professor Inumaru, who was in charge of us, ordered us to either go back to the school to help the troops or to go to defend the Hoanden a small building where the Imperial portraits and the Imperial Edict on Education were stored. The public transport system was paralyzed, so we began to walk back to the school. By this time, crowds of victims had already fled to the suburbs where we were. One person, whose mouth was crushed and had one eye hanging out, was walking with both arms hanging loosely, like a ghost. A mother with wounds all over her body was screaming that her child had been blown away. Another mother was plodding along with her child, who was crying on the mother's back with a towel bandaged around his/her head. Another person with a blank look was holding a blood-covered piece of flesh in his/her arms. It was a picture of Hell. Having passed these people we carried on walking, but then we lost our sense of direction because of the heat from the burning houses, the smoke and the collapsed houses.

There were trains, cars and utility poles that were wrecked and had fallen over. There was the debris from the collapsed buildings, and tangled electric cables. The water pipes had burst and the fires were coming closer. There were piles of dead bodies and crowds of dying people. We continued heading in the direction of the school, but we gradually split into groups. I cannot remember where it was or how I walked among the victims who were immobile and calling out "Give me some water" and "Help me."

I'm not sure how long it took, but I managed to reach Higashi Senda-machi. However, I could not get close to my school because it and the neighboring buildings were burning fiercely. I had heard that there had been about fifty soldiers at the school, so I presume that they had all been killed instantly by the bomb. Later I learned that some of them had been blown tens of meters away [10 meters = about 33 feet]. I went to Nisseki Hospital which had not collapsed or caught fire because of its steel construction. There, I met some of the students from my school. There were also countless numbers of dead bodies, and I was overwhelmed by the groaning of the dying.

It was well after midday when I was given a piece of hardtack biscuit by the Army, and was ordered to help to rescue victims. We began working in pairs, but it was extremely difficult working with bare hands and no implements. There was fire everywhere. Avoiding it and the stench, we saved some people from beneath the debris and collapsed houses.

That night we slept out near Sotoku Middle School, and the following morning we were given some bread and went back to the rescue work. I think we went to the Yasuda Girl's Middle School on that day. The cries of "Help!" could be heard from everywhere in the darkness under the collapsed buildings, but I could not tell where they were coming from. Behind us, a military policeman with a saber angrily shouted "Hurry up!" We saved some students, but they were exhausted from being buried for almost a day.

In the Motoyasu River, which runs on the west side of the hypocenter, dead bodies were floating down the river, bobbing up and down like pieces of lumber. People on the river bank were pulling them out and cremating them. I heard that they used oil to burn them. Hiroshima Castle, where the Chugoku Military District Headquarters was located, had been completely blown away and no trace was left. Hiroshima had been a military capital. During the Japanese-Sino War in 1894-1895 the Imperial Headquarters was relocated to the castle, and the Meiji Emperor had moved there. The castle moat was covered with the dying people who looked as if they had been soldiers. They were also crying "Give me water". Only steel-frame buildings such as the universities, the Nisseki Hospital and the banks did not collapse. Everything else that would burn kept burning for many days.