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Messages from Nagasaki

Japanese version

Takeshi Saki (male)
'Chokubaku'  2.9 km from the hypocenter / 16 years old at the time / current resident of Tokyo

Photographer: Eiichi Matsumoto.
The scenes of the A-bombed city are introduced here. The photographs are not directly connected with the messages.
1. I had been relatively healthy before the bombing of Nagasaki. Being forced to spend my 20s battling health problems, which I believe were caused by acute A-bomb disease, left me emotionally scarred.

2. In addition, my father had believed me to be dead, and the day after the bombing, he went through the area of the hypocenter looking for my body. That autumn he suffered from high fever and heart disease. He went downhill after that, losing his former emotional and physical vigor, and eventually passed away.

3. Nuclear arms are the ultimate devil's work. I believe that we have to abolish them from the face of the earth. As long as there is any country that measures its national superiority by its possession of nuclear weapons, international society as a whole needs to condemn this type of notion. What shall we do about the nations that already possess nuclear stockpiles?

We need to continue to conduct further scientific research and invent peaceful uses of nuclear energy that don't damage our environment.

A Week in the Irradiated Area

My location at the time of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki: Nagasaki Fire Station, second floor meeting room in Kozen-machi, Nagasaki

My personal address at that time: Wachu Dormitory at 64 Kofukuji, Teramachi, Nagasaki

My activities during the days following the bombing: On August 10, I went through Urakami, where I was exposed to radiation, to deliver the remains of a firefighter to his family late at night. From the 11th to the 17th, I conducted reports on the disposal of corpses in Urakami.

Pursued by fire, August 9th

Because of the Student Mobilization Order, I had been working at Mitsubishi Nagasaki Shipyard since 1944. In June 1945, our homeroom teacher told my classmates and me to leave the shipyard and report to the Nagasaki Fire Station (2.8 kilometers south of the hypocenter) where we would be working as student messengers during the air raid alerts. That was in accordance with an arrangement which had been made in the event that the regular messengers were killed or phone connections were lost. Students had gathered at the fire station from various schools (a medical school, a normal school, a commercial school and a secondary school). On the night of August 7, we were told by the firefighters that "a new type of bomb" had hit Hiroshima. However, we regarded the news as a tragedy that had happened far away from us.

On August 9, there was an air raid alert still going on after eight o'clock in the morning. Because of that, I headed directly to the fire station instead of to the Mitsubishi shipyard.

It was around eleven o'clock. The temperature was rising, and we were hanging out killing time on the second floor of the fire station. Suddenly, there was an intense flash. I thought it was a point-blank bomb and hid underneath a desk. I think there were about fifteen people in the room. Those of us who were standing by the windows got seriously injured by pieces of glass and falling objects. Following the flash, the ground seemed to roar, and a gust of wind caused the glass to shatter.

All of a sudden, it was pitch dark inside the room, and I had no clue what had just happened. I realized I was still alive when I felt my heartbeat and the sweat on my skin in the momentary silence and darkness. Before long I heard people moaning in pain. Somebody screamed "It hurts!" Then a streak of light streamed into the room, and I was able to see through the overwhelming amount of dust. I didn't wait for a second, but leapt out from underneath the desk and stumbled down the stairs.

When I got outside, I was truly taken aback. My goodness! It looked perfectly normal, without any sign that a single point-blank bomb had struck nearby. The summer sun was shining down on us fiercely, and the sky was clear and blue. The only things that looked abnormal were the windows with the glass blown out of them, and the way the people on the street had covered their faces, limbs and necks as they were running toward Shin Kozen National Elementary School, a designated first-aid station. They were burned and injured. At that time there was no explanation as to how that could have happened. Eventually, everybody made it out of the fire station and started laughing at each other since we were all covered with dust and soot.

"Was it the new type of bomb?" somebody asked.

"Smoke is spreading from Nagasaki Station. Dispatch the fire engines!" the fire chief yelled from the watchtower. "Smoke is coming from the Prefectural Office!"

Reports and orders were being issued one after another. The initial confusion and quiet atmosphere quickly descended into chaos. I also immediately received an order to deliver the message that the fire engines were being dispatched. I put on the protective clothes (combat hat, canteen, steel helmet and the red sash) which indicated that I was a student messenger for the fire station. I rushed out onto the street.

The dome-shaped roofs of Nagasaki Station (Daiba-machi, 2.4 kilometers south of the hypocenter) and the Prefectural Office (Sotoura-machi, 3.3 kilometers from the hypocenter) were covered with bronze. The intense heat produced by the explosion made the roofs of these buildings incandescent, which in turn caused inside beams and wooden materials in the ceiling to ignite, their flames fed by the strong wind coming up from the ground. The workers who were downstairs didn't realize the ceiling was on fire until sparks started falling down on them. The sparks from the high rooftops were scattered to the surrounding areas and soon turned the whole neighborhood into a blazing inferno. The fire at the pagoda at the Fukusaiji Temple in Shimochikugo-machi (2.6 kilometers southeast of the hypocenter) was started this way. By nightfall, these fires had burned down more than one-third of the old city of Nagasaki. We almost lost the fire station, but thanks to the frantic efforts of the firefighters and a brief evening respite from the wind, we were able to stop the fire at the building next to the fire station. When the Kyushu Confectionery caught on fire, the student messengers led the effort to carry the sugar, dry crackers, rice, flour and other precious foodstuffs out of the building.

We were fighting the fires from around 11:30 a.m. until five in the evening.
Actually, it was not as much putting them out as it was weakening them enough to buy some time. The fire engines had to keep backing off, and it was difficult to hose down the flames with the little amount of water we had from the river and the hydrants. We had to destroy some of the houses and buildings before they caught fire. However, the nightly transition from sea breeze to land breeze left a calm period in which no wind helped feed the flames. This gave us a chance to weaken the fires. Even though there were still fires burning all over, it wasn't as if they were going to go anywhere. I didn't notice the black rain falling on us until around 7 p.m., when I sat down on the destroyed wood piled up on the street to eat some rationed rice balls.

The rain wet the wood like sticky coal tar. When I got back inside the fire station, there was a commotion among the people, who were talking about how Urakami had been utterly destroyed.