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Messages from Hiroshima

Japanese version

Akiko Takahashi (female)
'Nyushi hibaku'  / 17 years old at the time / current resident of Hiroshima
13037

The scenes of the A-bombed city are introduced here. The photographs are not directly connected with the messages. I entered the city as a member of a relief team. The Onomichi Relief Team was mustered around nine thirty on the morning of August 6, 1945. We left for Hiroshima on a truck following the order that, "A group consisting of a doctor, two nurses, and thirty-some police officers should be mobilized immediately." I was a seventeen-year-old nursing student assigned to a police relief team. The police explained, "A terrible bomb was reportedly dropped." However, we were not informed of any details about what was going on. Everybody on the truck had an uneasy and pensive look, without saying anything.

A little after three in the afternoon, we arrived at Mukainada, where we encountered the din of many people gathered on the street. As soon as they saw our truck, they delightedly called here and there, "A relief team! A relief team has come!" Members of the women's association brought us some rice balls in a wooden box that had been used to make sake (rice wine). "Here you are. Thank you for coming." They gave each of us two rice balls and some pickles. This was the first time we were given any details about the devastation in Hiroshima.

All of us were just standing there in utter amazement, without saying anything, watching the smoke and flames billowing over the city of Hiroshima. Shortly after that, I felt an emotion, different from grief but similar to anger, rising from the depths of my heart. We, the relief team, finished our simple lunch and were directed to Hijiyama Hill.

Soon after we left for Hijiyama Hill, the circumstances drastically changed. The street was filled with staggering people, which prevented us from taking even a single step. Taking a closer look, I saw one person covered with wounds, another person whose skin was hanging down and wearing only a tattered shirt, and a woman wearing only the belt from a pair of work pants. People beyond any description came toward us in droves. (Each of them had lived a happy, normal life until eight fifteen that morning.) Not only the sight of humans, but animals, too, was heart-wrenching. Cows, horses, dogs and cats had fallen over here and there throughout the town with their bellies distended and their legs in the air. Their appearance showed how they must have suffered in their death throes. I think I was on the back of the truck, which could hardly move forward, for about three hours observing the town. Finally, we arrived at the foot of Hijiyama Hill, which was our destination.

The sun was setting and it was getting dark. People in the city seemed to have come in search of the shade of the trees on the hill. The hill was filled with the sounds of people crying, screaming and groaning. I cannot adequately describe their condition in writing, but I felt that every person had put forth all their strength just to survive while trying to run even one step further from that living hell that was beyond all imagining.

The dead were carried on stretchers to an open space on Hijiyama Hill with the help of the Akatsuki Corps. They were carried in, one after another, and soon, the open area turned into a hill of the dead. Many nameless people were cremated unemotionally, one after another, like burning sticks. An unbelievably terrible reality confronted us. It was an unimaginable and truly cruel situation.

A person with pieces of glass stuck in his bloody body...but heavy bleeding might have been caused if the glass was pulled out. There was no medical equipment. A person with the skin peeled off and hanging down due to serious burn injuries...A woman holding her baby firmly, but having badly injured eyes so that she could never see her baby...A pregnant woman in anguish with her belly burned black and foaming at the mouth. I couldn't do anything for those people. I just looked at them helplessly. I was only a seventeen-year-old girl, and it was beyond my capacity to know what I should think or what and how I could do anything.

There was a physician at the foot of Hijiyama Hill. He was badly injured and looked to be in great pain, but, raising his hands, he yelled desperately to each of the soldiers piling up the bodies one after another without emotion, "Hey, soldier! I have to confirm that person's death..." since he still felt responsibility as a physician. However, the soldiers carried down the bodies from the top of the hill one after another, following their army orders, without paying attention to him. The soldiers didn't speak. Each of us on the relief team was exhausted by the lack of medicine, feelings of helplessness and little sleep.

Two days later, our relief team was ordered by the army to move to Koi Elementary School. The gymnasium used as a temporary first aid station had been knocked askew by the bomb blast and had almost collapsed. It was overflowing with victims from the surrounding area and there was no place to step. They cried, "Water...water...give me water" groaning and writhing. The only thing we could do was to soak cotton-wrapped bars in water and put them on their lips, comforting them by saying, "Cheer up!" to each of them.