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Messages from Nagasaki

Japanese version

Hiroshi Ueno (male)
'Chokubaku'  1.5 km from the hypocenter / 14 years old at the time / current resident of Nagasaki

Photographer: Eiichi Matsumoto.
The scenes of the A-bombed city are introduced here. The photographs are not directly connected with the messages.
1.What I can't forget from the bomb.

In April, 1945, I entered the first year of the Boys Preparatory Course at the Nagasaki Teacher's School.
As it was a boarding school, every student lived in a dormitory. About 10 students lived in one room, headed by a student from the Regular Course.
School buildings were connected by roofed passages. Even there, the war situation got worse day by day, goods got scarce, and the basic necessities ran thin. We couldn't eat until we were satisfied, and clothing got to the point of us being as good as naked. On top of that, enemy bombings became more frequent, and we ended up having to run to the air raid shelters even as we were in classes.

On the morning of August 9, the air raid alert was called off, and as we were waiting for class to start at the music room I thought we'd be able to settle down for a regular day of school. Then, there was an eye-poppingly enormous flash of light along with an incredible sound like the earth shattering. Had I lost consciousness from that? After some time, I heard some indescribable sound, that is, a voice, but even though I had come around, it was dark, and I couldn't see anything nor move, which made me panic. I put some strength into my legs and pushed the ceiling that had collapsed up with my back, but when I did, dirt and all sorts of things fell around my feet.

I was finally able to move, and crawled out towards the brightest area. There was dust everywhere to the point that I didn't know whether I had made it outside or not, plus cries could be heard from here and there. I couldn't see, and was focused on just getting away, when I reached the far side of the mountain, but it was as if I had come to a mountain of cries. That was where terraced fields had been made in the mountain to plant sweet potatoes. On the ridges between the fields lay people: not ordinary people, but scorched and blackened people. People were crying out "It's so hot! So hot!" in something not quite a voice. I wanted to do something for them, but couldn't, and instead simply looked for someplace to lie down and rest.

It was almost five before I realized the time. What had I been doing for those six hours? It usually took 30 minutes from the school to the back of the mountain, but I had to walk through the dust, listening to those cries and stepping over people who had fallen to finally get here. While hearing "It's so hot, so hot…" "Water… quickly!" "I want to die." in something not quite voices, I started getting drowsy, and just as I was about to drift off to sleep, I heard someone asking if there were any students around. I raised my hand and three or four people came close, telling me to come along as we were going to evacuate. It was one of the older students who had gone to work in the factories for the student war effort. That was when I realized my right leg was hurt. The older student saw I was hurting, and offered me his shoulder to lean on. He dragged me down the mountain, and then we walked along the train tracks barefoot. It was burning hot, probably because I was barefoot. But with the older student's help I was able to drag my leg along, crying as I walked. Those tears, I think, came from being saved by this older student, and from feelings of uncertainty at having turned away from the injured.

The place we arrived that evening was the main hall at N Elementary School 7 or 8 km away, but it was already filled with the injured. However, with the help of the local women's club we were able to get a place there, as well as a ball of rice. I'll never forget how happy I was at that moment. I'll probably never taste anything as delicious as that rice ever again. Even so, having only eaten a bit of breakfast, and going without lunch, that never-to-be-tasted-again rice set off my hunger to the point that I couldn't resist any longer. I took the rice put in the hand of someone lying next to me and ate it. I couldn't be stopped. Bit by bit, I became a dog without human feeling, something worse than an animal, an abysmal thing. I'd taken things from someone who could take their last breath at any time, and when I took notice, I saw that part of their palm was white. Thinking about it, I suppose some of their skin stuck to the rice I'd taken from them. I had eaten that as well. What a horror.

Late at night, there was an explosion and a flare was dropped. People short of breath stood up and headed for the entrance, but as the light faded they bunched up and a number of those who were trapped underneath died. After that, getting those still breathing back to where they were was a task. When you took people with burns by the wrist, their skin slipped off, and in the end you had to roll them along with your feet. Who could ever forget such a battlefield? The next day, I returned to the school, and did as much as my body would allow to clean up the dorm. I slept outside at night, and on the 14th, I left the school for home.