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Messages from Hiroshima

Japanese version

Shunji Seki (male)
'Nyushi hibaku'  / 20 years old at the time / current resident of Saitama

The scenes of the A-bombed city are introduced here. The photographs are not directly connected with the messages. At that time, I was working as a medic at the Kamo Naval Hospital in what was then called Kamo County (about 30km east of Hiroshima City). On the day after the A-bomb was dropped, we arrived in Hiroshima before dawn, clearing away burned electric wires and utility poles in the ground zero area as we made our way to the Hiroshima Red Cross Hospital. The hospital buildings had been destroyed and injured persons filled the vacant area. We were instructed to go to the East Drill Ground and so we turned back the way we had come. Flames were still shooting up from freight trains burning at Hiroshima Station.

What we saw at the drill ground was hell. There were tens of thousands of injured laying there, struggling with their death throes. Let me portray them objectively. First, many had their entire bodies or parts that had been exposed severely burned by the heat rays of the A-bomb. Blisters caused by the burns were swelling to ten to twenty centimeters in diameter and one centimeter in thickness, some had burst and left peeled skin dangling like rags. The exposed flesh appeared to be stained with yellow pus. It seemed to be a particular kind of burn caused by radiation. Second, there were also many people with wounds caused by glass fragments. These fragments of glass, two to three centimeters in size, had been propelled by the powerful bomb blast and pierced their bodies. In other words, the glass was embedded so deeply into their bodies that extracting it would have been nearly impossible.

Third, contusions caused damage. Many people were blown by the blast from high places like second floors of buildings and suffered contusions and fractures. I also witnessed many with their brains, lungs, and internal organs protruding outside their bodies. Since too many bomb victims were carried to the relief station to be treated right away, they were dying one after another while waiting for treatment. I remember one man who had been carried in on a stretcher and was sitting and talking and then fell over dead, still sitting upright. The sight of a mother from the suburbs frantically searching for her child was one I could not have stood without the strength I gained as a soldier.

One thing happened that I still think is unsettling. Early the morning of the day after the atomic bomb was dropped, while we were attending to some patients at the East Drill Ground, a U.S. military airplane (I think it was a B-29) suddenly passed overhead flying quite low. We all tensed up immediately. I think that the plane was probably inspecting the damage done to Hiroshima and taking photographs of conditions on the Drill Ground. There are now many pictures depicting the aftermath of the A-bomb available, but I have never seen the photos which were taken at that time. I suppose there must be some photos somewhere of that hell, where tens of thousands of victims of the Atomic bomb covered the vast area of the Drill Ground.

In one of the exhibition cases at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum is a display of a girl in tattered clothes, badly burned with burst blisters and skin dangling just like rags. It must be one of the most shocking displays for visitors. However, in reality, bomb survivors witnessed sights far more horrible.

The girl in the exhibit is shown with disheveled hair, but the victims I witnessed had no hair and the skin on their heads was scabby, just like a half-roasted sweet potato. By the next day, the world had learned a lesson: "Don't wear dark clothes when an atomic bomb is dropped." In fact, people who were wearing black clothes had them burned off or torn by the heat rays which are absorbed in black clothes. Blisters as large as one centimeter in thickness and ten centimeters in diameter developed all over the bodies of the victims. The victims cannot be treated without breaking the blisters, but breaking them means a massive loss of fluid from the body, which can be fatal.

A majority of citizens of Hiroshima took refuge at the East Drill Ground and most of them breathed their last there, faintly crying out, "Give me water, please give me water."