The text area starts here.

  • Before reading this site

Messages from Hiroshima

Japanese version

Yuichi Kobayashi (male)
'Nyushi hibaku'  / 15 years old at the time / current resident of Ibaraki

The scenes of the A-bombed city are introduced here. The photographs are not directly connected with the messages. On the day that the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, I was a 15-and-a-half-year-old member of the Army's Marine Advance Corps, stationed at the Suicide Attack Base in Etajima-cho, Konoura, which was located some 13 km [8 miles] off the coast of Hiroshima. Breakfast was over, and I was having a short break in the barracks when there was a flash of sharp bluish white light. I gasped and looked up at the window, and at that very moment there was a violent blast accompanied by a great roar as if a hundred claps of thunder had all erupted at the same time. We instantly crowded in to hide ourselves under the floor.

I first thought it had been a burst from a near miss, but I didn't hear the sound of any enemy aircraft. Silence had resumed outside in our neighborhood. I realized that there was something really weird going on. As I crawled out from under the floor and walked to the seashore, the thing that got my attention was the mushroom cloud swelling out way up in the sky over the city of Hiroshima. Under the cloud, the city center was getting pitch dark. From the ocean reverberated a rumbling noise, like the sound of the earth cursing. At that moment, we had no way of knowing that this was the first time in humanity's history that human beings had used an atomic bomb on other human beings, nor did I have any idea that under that cloud, all the agonies of hell were in the process of unfolding. I just stared at the scene.

An order came down just past noon. "The city of Hiroshima has been entirely wiped out. Rescue workers must be dispatched immediately." The suicide squad possessed nothing in the way of materials that could be used in lifesaving situations. We were sent forth without anything but our knapsacks. We reached the military wharf in Ujina about four o'clock in the afternoon by landing boat. Our platoon (which consisted of ten solders under a commander) walked directly toward the hypocenter. On the way there, I witnessed the hellish sight Hiroshima had become. I saw victims who had been burned to death by the hellfire, their corpses completely converted to ash. I saw people who had lost their eyes and those who had lost their mouths and naked victims with skin blistering from the fire, people just wandering around writhing in agony. "Soldier, please give me wa, wa, water!" someone cried out. This person's entire body was so bloody and sore that I couldn't even tell whether I was looking at a man or a woman.

Observing this living hell from the inside, I suddenly became aware of a change in my feelings. The sense of terror I'd felt upon first seeing the abnormal appearance of the bombing victims was already fading away. I guess I was already developing that unusual state of mind we call a battlefield mentality. I realized I was in danger of losing my humanity.
By the time we had arrived at the district where we were in charge of rescue operations, dusk had already fallen over the area. We didn't stop to take a break, but went straight to work under the order, "Give priority to those who have a higher chance of survival." We pulled the survivors out from the wreckage and carried them to the temporary first-aid station on our backs, or using such things as wooden boards, metal sheets, and so forth as substitutes for stretchers. The first aid station was seriously lacking any kind of medicine. Shortly after we delivered them there, many of the victims breathed their last.

Since morning we'd been dealing with abnormal events, and we were exhausted in both mind and body; so late at night, when we finally got the order to get some rest, I flung myself straight down on the floor. The following day, the 7th, we were summoned at dawn. We were sent out to rescue survivors at a nearby bank. The bank building was solid, and the square exterior walls all remained secure. As we arrived at the bank, a male member of the bank staff guided us to a tatami room upstairs on the second floor. Scattered about the room were several female bank staff members, crouching down on some tatami mats. I lifted one of them onto my back and carried her to the Hiroshima Red Cross Hospital, which was 1.5 kilometers [about 0.9 mile] away from the bank. I guessed that she hadn't had any treatment for nearly a full day and night, and she must have suffered in pain all alone. She gasped against my back as she said, "Soldier, please avenge this attack!" Her painful words are still ringing in my ears.

The hospital was packed with critically injured patients, and they were even in front of the entrance. It would have been an undreamed-of luxury to put her down someplace comfortable like a bed. I finally found a small space on a staircase landing and laid her down on the floor. Nothing could have been more pitiful. Why had they attacked innocent civilians like her? I felt a surge of intense fury rise up inside of me.
We then went to the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall (now known as the Genbaku ―or Atomic Bomb―Dome) to search for survivors. However, since another platoon had already searched there, the hall had descended into silence. Inside the building, the steel bars from the spiral staircase railing had been twisted downwards, as if they were made of candy. The entire surface of the floor was scattered with rubble, but this rubble was quite brittle. As I stepped on the floor, there was a kind of crackling noise as my military boots got buried in the stuff. I also found some spoons and forks scattered about the floor, which I could easily snap with my fingers. I got a bad feeling from all this and quickly left.