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Messages from Nagasaki

Hiroo Kawakami (male)
'Chokubaku'  3.7 km from the hypocenter / 12 years old at the time / current resident of Hyogo

Photographer: Eiichi Matsumoto.
The scenes of the A-bombed city are introduced here. The photographs are not directly connected with the messages.
War's End

On August 15, there was a radio broadcast by Emperor Hirohito, announcing the end of the war. We learned then that Japan had lost. By that time, we had also been informed that what came upon us that day was an atomic bomb. Since we learned that the war had ended, the survivors felt, at first, that they were no longer in danger. However, they soon realized some things were terribly wrong. Even those who weren't injured at all started having adverse symptoms such as diarrhea. The next was loss of hair. Once pale spots started appearing all over the body, death was only a matter of time. Doctors were calling it radiation leukemia. It wasn't only just after the A-bomb attack, either; people who were seemingly uninjured or healthy kept dying one after another over a period of time.

In my family, too, my father and I had diarrhea. Doctor Okajima from Mitsubishi Hospital visited us at our home. He suggested measuring our leukocytes, but my father refused. He believed that no matter what the result would be, there was nothing he could do at that point. If he did have radiation leukemia, he would have had only a few days left, and he would rather not know that.

I think it was October. All over the city of Nagasaki, there were posters that said, "Students of Keiho Middle School should report to the temporary office in Kwassui Girls' School."
I went right away and was instructed to attend the classes that were supposed to resume at Nagasaki Middle School. On the first day, there were only five first-year students, including myself. Out of five students, only two of us, Maruta and I, were not injured.
All the windows in the classrooms of Nagasaki Middle School had been broken from the bombing. That winter, no matter if it rained or the wind blew in, there was nothing we could do. We just had to sit through the lessons in the freezing classroom.
Gradually, the number of students increased and we needed more desks and chairs. Fortunately, there were some left in the schools that had not been burned. Although they had been blown away and mixed in with debris, they were still in usable condition. Led by our teacher, we all went to the middle school near the hypocenter to bring back the desks and chairs we could use.

We found some desks and chairs under the collapsed building and took them out. We were carrying them back to our school, when our teacher suddenly collapsed. He could not move at all. He then had ugly diarrhea. We asked someone who worked at a nearby prefectural office for help and carried him home. He died the next day from A-bomb disease.
It was not unusual to see a healthy-looking person without a single wound die suddenly without warning. On a ferry boat, I saw a beautiful woman whose lower half was badly soiled with severe diarrhea. Once at the Ohato wharf, she was washing herself with the seawater at the bottom of the stairs, but she could barely walk and soon she crouched down on the spot. Probably, she met the same tragic fate as my teacher.

Leukemia caused by the atomic bomb radiation was like a vicious monster that crept up on healthy prey and killed it without warning. Looking back, it's clear that I shouldn't have gone to the hypocenter right after the dropping of the A-bomb. Walking in the contaminated area only to be covered by radioactive dust clearly showed a lack of common sense. However, even many months later, neither the U.S. Army nor the Japanese government warned people of the adverse and dangerous effects of residual radioactivity. Rather than treating the victims, the U.S. Army organized the ABCC (Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission) and used the victims as guinea pigs in their research on the effect of radiation on the human body.
One can see, in the memorial hall or in the museum, what the A-bomb did to Hiroshima and Nagasaki through the pictures that show an unspeakable and shocking aftermath. However, what could be called "mass murder by radioactive contamination" isn't depicted in any picture.

At the time, so many injured people went to Mitsubishi Hospital and died there that the corpses had been cremated in a certain area near the hospital. Since the stench was so unbearable, people walked by quickly while pinching their noses.
I remember, after the war ended, I used to go to a factory located near the hypocenter. There, I picked up burned ball bearings. I pounded them a few times with a hammer to make them rotate smoothly, put them on each side of two sticks, and then laid a plank over them. I used to play with this handmade miniature car by rolling it from the top of the hill.