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Messages from Nagasaki

Japanese version

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.
Hiroo Kawakami's Narrow Escape


The factories of Mitsubishi Shipyard occupied a small, flat land on the west coast of Nagasaki Bay. There were docks in the valley, surrounded by complex terrain. The company executives lived in company housing built in the mountains around the dock. On the south side of the company housing stood a gantry crane and a slipway that had been used to make the battleship Musashi. Components such as engines and weapons were assembled on the outfitting quay in front of the No. 2 Dock. Obviously, this area played an important role as a vital facility for the Japanese Navy. The company houses were scattered around in the mountainous area in the back. Most of the roads were narrow, not wide enough for a car to get through. Therefore, the wives of the company men had to go up and down the narrow roads on foot when buying groceries from the store at the bottom of the mountain. This was hard labor for them. There was a water-supply reservoir for the houses near the top of the mountain.

The slipway, the outfitting yard, and the quay became famous after the battleship Musashi was made there, and continued to make ships after that. Large aircraft carriers were being made at the No. 3 Dock. One could easily expect that the area would soon be a target of a strategic bombing by the U.S. In fact, on July 28 and August 1, large-scale air attacks were indeed carried out, aiming to destroy those vital facilities. The company houses were no exception. Many were destroyed by 250 kg [551 lb] bombs. Bombs also hit the reservoir on top of the mountain. The large amount of water in the reservoir flowed down the mountain like a mudslide and went into the air raid shelters, burying many people alive. The attack was staged in the middle of the day, so most of the victims were the company men's wives and children. After the attack, those who had lost their families and/or their houses moved in with the ones who had escaped the attack. My family provided the best room in our house to Mr. Mikuriya, who had lost four members of his family.
After this incident, my mother changed. She became obsessed with the idea that the family must stay together, and kept saying,"When we die, we die together." Our air raid shelter was like a cave, cut into a hillside, and was built to withstand any bomb. Since the attack, my mother did not allow me to go to school whenever an air raid warning was issued in order to "die together" should we be attacked. In fact, this (my mother's decision to make me stay home) ended up saving out to save my life. I was then in the first year of middle school. The school was about 3 kilometers [about 1.9 miles] from my house and 700 meters [about 0.4 mile] from the hypocenter.