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Messages from Nagasaki

Isamu Inoue (male)
'Chokubaku'  1 km from the hypocenter / 14 years old at the time / current resident of Chiba

Photographer: Eiichi Matsumoto.
The scenes of the A-bombed city are introduced here. The photographs are not directly connected with the messages.
The streets were filled with a great many people who had been burnt by the atomic bomb. Their faces were like roasted black Berkshire pigs. You couldn't tell if they were men or women. Their eyes had merged into a thin line on their faces and their hands had swollen so they looked like black baseball gloves. Groaning about the heat, when they wiped their faces with their hands the black skin came off and you could see the inflamed red flesh beneath. They were monsters the like of which I had never seen before. I felt as if the blood had drained from my whole body at the sight of some revolting hallucination. "This is what hell on earth is like," I thought to myself.

Probably there were more than 1,000 people, burnt black like Berkshire pigs, like a line of ants, one person after another grabbing me around the ankle, saying, "It's boiling hot, give me some water." They wouldn't let go. I had to say over and over, "I'll bring you some water if you let go of me" before they would release me. Then they started chanting together, "Water! Water! Please give me water!"

Before I reached my home hundreds of people must have grabbed me by the ankle and each time I told them, "I'll bring you some water if you let go of me." I am certain that many of them were on the verge of death. Even after 64 years, the scene appears in my dreams and I wake up with a start in the middle of the night. I still feel terribly sorry that I couldn't give them a drink of water, that I lied to them. How can I express the remorse I feel? No words are adequate.

She carried me for two hours until we reached my home, but the house had completely collapsed. No one was there, so we went to the air raid shelter and found my brother and sister there. I told the young woman who had carried me home how deeply grateful I was to her and we parted. I looked for her later to express my gratitude, but to this day I have not been able to find her.

About a year and a half year before the atomic bomb was dropped my family was running a business in Iwakawa (0.5km [0.3 mile] from ground zero), but each day it became harder and harder to obtain food and there were more and more air raids, so we rented a field in Sumiyoshi and began farming, with the aim of becoming self-sufficient. The day before the atomic bomb was dropped, my family harvested a whole lot of eggplants, cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes and pumpkins. They loaded them into a cart and my mother took them to Iwakawa, where we used to live, to distribute them to people in the neighborhood. It was the last time she was seen. The devastation in Iwakawa was terrible, so presumably ….

After spending a night in the air raid shelter, my oldest brother suggested that I should go to a place where I could be treated, because I was badly injured. He took me in a handcart to an elementary school in Nagayo, put me down there and left. The school was used as a temporary hospital. They took me to a classroom where around 20 people, burnt black, were lying. Because it was only a temporary hospital, there weren't any beds, just the classroom floorboards. Each of us was given a bundle of straw, but it was a terrible substitute for a futon. The straw pricked into my skin. All they did for me was give me a rice ball in the morning, dab mercurochrome antiseptic on my wounds, and give me another rice ball in the evening, but I will never forget how delicious those rice balls were. The reason they tasted so delicious was that towards the end of the war the food shortage was so serious that a meal consisted of just three spoonfuls of soggy rice, or a bowl of rice broth. If you were lucky, you might get three pieces of potato in your broth.

The temporary hospital was a hospital in name only. There were no doctors, just women who seemed to be nurses. The only treatment we received was mercurochrome antiseptic dabbed on our wounds once a day. There were around 20 patients in each classroom, but five to eight of them died each day. Their bodies were carried somewhere immediately and other patients replaced them. People moaned with pain for a while then fell silent. Before you knew it they had died. I was afraid that if I stayed there I would die before long myself. It didn't feel like a place for the living.

On August 15 something strange happened in this elementary school. All of a sudden all the nurses disappeared. I asked around what had happened to them and someone told me that Japan had lost the war, that American soldiers were going to land in the port of Nagasaki, and that, afraid of being raped, all the young nurses had fled.

With no nurses left, I thought I would die if I stayed there, so I ran away. My eldest brother's wife's parents' house was in Doinokubi, beyond the port of Nagasaki, and that's where I headed.

To get to their house I had to pass through the area around ground zero. The atomic bomb had been dropped six days before, but the whole city was still smoldering. I was astonished at the mountains of burnt corpses, looking just like black-burnt Berkshire pigs, and the horrendous stench, which was like nothing I had ever smelt before. The peculiar putrid smell was such that even covering my nose with five wet towels didn't help.

I saw many streetcars on the way. Of course they were burnt black. Inside, the drivers, burnt black, were still standing, holding onto the steering wheels, while the passengers were sitting on the seats with their hair and clothes burnt off. You couldn't tell whether the passengers were men or women. It was as if ghosts had taken the seats. The stench was appalling.

When I finally arrived at my relatives' home I was starving hungry, but I couldn't eat anything for a while, because I still had the rotten stench in my nostrils.

My oldest brother took all the fragments of glass from my body with a pair of tweezers. As a result we found that there were 88 wounds.

There are many more experiences that I could relate, but I will end my account at this point.