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Messages from Hiroshima

Japanese version

Kunihiko Yoneima (male)
'Nyushi hibaku'  / 24 years old at the time / current resident of Tokyo

The scenes of the A-bombed city are introduced here. The photographs are not directly connected with the messages. Back in those days, as a Naval Technical Lieutenant, I was serving in the Ammunition Section of the Naval Artillery Experiment Department of Kure Naval Arsenal (in Hiroshima Prefecture). I was in charge of the Second Fuse Unit. Because of the course of the war, there were virtually no tasks involving research, trial productions, or experiments with fuses, which we were originally supposed to do. Instead, in preparation for mainland battles, we were spending our days doing trial productions and experiments in hand grenades and canisters to arm the entire nation.

On July 1st, Kure was attacked with incendiary bombs and the core city of Kure was burnt to ashes. A lot of unexploded small oil bombs were recovered. We picked up those unexploded bombs and brought them to the cities where incendiary bombs had not been dropped, including Hiroshima, Matsuyama, Imabari, Niihama. In those cities, we gathered people at night to demonstrate the power of incendiary bombs and to carry out fire-fighting drills. Later in July, Matsuyama was attacked and we were informed of the existence of unexploded bombs other than oil bombs in Matsuyama. As I was in charge of the Matsuyama area, I left for Matsuyama on August 5. I found there that the unexploded bombs were thermite bombs.

That night I stayed in Matsuyama. The next day, at the fateful moment of 8:15 a.m, I saw the atomic cloud from a platform of Matsuyama Station. On my way back on a ship, I heard that a special bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima. In those days, my family was in Tennou because we had been burnt out of Kure and had evacuated to there for safety. When I got home to Tennou, it was already dark, so I think it was after 8 p.m.. What awaited me was the news that my mother had been exposed to the A-bomb.

I heard that she had gone to Hiroshima in the morning that very day for labor service, to demolish buildings and houses, and that she was not back yet. My house was near a national road and the level of congestion was way beyond my imaginings. I felt hopeless. While I was waiting to be served a light meal, a bowl of rice with green tea poured over it, I got word that she had been carried to a nearby elementary school. It was a five-minute walk from my house, and I rushed to the school. In a dark classroom, in the dim light of a naked light bulb, I saw a lot of injured people lying on the floor. I could not recognize my mother. I tried to look for her by speaking to injured people, one after another. At last I found her. She was badly burnt on the left half of her face and on the left hand. Together with my father and younger sister, I brought her home. I have no memory of how we got home and what kind of treatment we provided for her. The next morning I went on duty and participated in the damage investigation.

The famous Army 5th Infantry Division was based in Hiroshima, but it was completely destroyed. So, by order of the Kure Naval Arsenal, a damage investigation team, led by our Artillery Experiment Department, was formed. We knew roughly where the hypocenter was, so on a map, we divided the city into more than a dozen parts to carry out our investigation. I was in charge of the area from Kamiya-cho to Miyuki-bashi. The main purpose of the investigation was to pinpoint the hypocenter and to determine the altitude of explosion and the extension of the damage. We loaded large water vases on trucks, and I think everybody in the investigation team arrived in his area before noon. At around three o'clock, everybody left his area to assemble collected data. Field investigations were conducted for two days, August 7 and August 8. Immediately after the investigation, a report was submitted to the Kure Naval Arsenal. As far as I remember, the investigation team was composed of Captain Mitsui, Major Kohzu, Technical Lieutenant Nishida and 12 other members, including me. I would like to write down what struck me during the investigation and some comments.

1) I particularly saw many dead and injured people in Nishi Parade Ground, in front of the city hall and in front of the Hiroshima Red Cross Hospital.
2) On a street near Fukuro-machi, I talked with an uninjured man, age around 50 years. He said, "Mr. Soldier, it was different from what you explained to us." He happened to be one of the participants in our fire-fighting drills. I don't remember how I answered him. At the fateful moment, he was in the middle of eating in a street air raid shelter. Although he knew that the air raid warning had been called off, he remained in the shelter just because he was eating. Life is so… …
3) The current A-bomb Dome (former Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall made of a fragile material, bricks) was not destroyed, although it was located in the hypocenter. Why did it survive? Was it because blasts were not so strong, although heat rays were strong? Or was it because the building happened to maintain balance as it was immediately below the hypocenter? Those questions came to my mind some days after the investigation.
4) As I wrote previously, my mother was seriously hurt, but she enjoyed good health for 48 years after that. She died a peaceful death at the age of 100. I am also certified as an A-bomb victim and have the A-bomb Survivor Health Book, but in my life I have never depended on the relief system.

I am spending my remaining years with a sense of gratitude, with great regularity, in good health and in delightful feelings.

I am close upon 90 years old.