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Messages from Nagasaki

Hiroshi Nishioka (male)
'Chokubaku'  3 km from the hypocenter / 13 years old at the time / current resident of Kanagawa

Photographer: Eiichi Matsumoto.
The scenes of the A-bombed city are introduced here. The photographs are not directly connected with the messages.
Last year (2009) from late August to mid-December, an around-the-world Peace Boat carried ten A-bomb survivors, calling in various ports and holding meetings for survivors' testimonials. I was one of those onboard and gave testimonials at several locations. I am attaching the Japanese and English versions here.

At a public event sponsored by the City of Rome

In August 1945, Japan surrendered in the Second World War.
Japan then was suffering from critical shortages of food and other daily necessities, and today I wonder how the Japanese survived such a situation. It was understandable that daily materials should be lacking, but the Japanese armed forces had few ammunitions, aircraft, and warships.

On the day of the surrender, I was in school. The reason why I was in school in August was that we had no summer break. Students in the second year of middle school and above were making weapons parts at military supply factories. Only those students who were contemplating applying to the army and navy cadet schools were allowed to be studying. Since I was aiming to become a naval officer, I was in a study class. Tokyo, Osaka, and other cities in Japan with a population of 30,000 and more had been suffering bombardment. Nagasaki, with a population of 250,000 persons, weapons factories in the city, and the largest warship building facilities in the Orient, for some unknown reason, had not been attacked. Around that time, there was a rumor going around among the people in Nagasaki. It was that the United States, a country of Christians, was not attacking Nagasaki because the city had many Christians. I think the rumor represented the faint hope of the people of Nagasaki.

However, on August 9, an atomic bomb blew such rumor and wishful thinking to smithereens. At two minutes past eleven o'clock in the morning, I was having my lunch recess in the classroom. I heard a roaring sound in the sky. I thought it was probably an American B29 bomber, and the sound suddenly became very loud. Seized by a typical middle school student's curiosity to look and see how the enemy plane would swoop down, I rushed to a window. (In fact, the roaring sound turned out to be that of a plane flying away in full throttle after having dropped the A-bomb.)

At that moment, a dazzling flash surrounded our area. Perhaps the best way to describe the power of the flash would be to say that it was like an intense light we would get if we turned on several thousands of the lights we have here all at once. At that instant, I thought a bomb had been dropped just outside of our classroom, and I fell to the floor. I had been drilled daily to act like that. On the floor I was expecting to hear a bomb explosion that would normally follow. It did not happen. I thought it was rather odd, and I raised my body. At that very moment a tremendous blast came, shattering glass windows. Pieces of shelves and ceiling came flying.

What I learned later was that the delay was due to the fact that the blast traveled 500 meters a second and took 5-6 seconds from the hypocenter to where we were; the light reached us at such a speed as to circle the earth seven times in one second. When the blast reached me, I was blown to a corner of the classroom. Whether I was blown there by the blast or went there on my own, I have no idea. Ten or so classmates flew to my corner after me. So, I was caught under the piling bodies and could hardly breathe. Truth be told, that's how I came out physically unscathed. On the other hand, my classmates who had piled up on top of me had suffered serious injuries to their hands and legs because of broken pieces of glass and such.

When the blast stopped, we ran as fast as we could to the air shelter dug half way up the mountain. Streams of townsfolk and students came flowing into the shelter. They would utter, "The bomb dropped near me!" I thought that was strange because I was convinced that the bomb had dropped very close to our classroom. I had no time to find out where in fact it had dropped. I was glad I had survived and began caring for the wounded. Of course, there were no bandages or medicine so I resorted to using my teeth to tear my hand towel into strips and wrap them around my friends' wounds as a substitute for bandages. Meanwhile, one wounded person after another and one burnt victim after another came into the shelter.

I was shocked to see them. People who had suffered burns had their skin peeling and drooping like pieces of rags. What left a particular impression on me to this day was a woman holding a baby. The baby had suffered serious injuries and was covered in blood. The woman must have walked all the way with her baby in her arms. There were wounded people who had lost an arm. Some people looked like they had lost half of their faces. They all came on foot. I believe I saw the strength of the human mind.

Some people had pieces of glass stuck all over their bodies, and it was impossible to remove the fragments. They were all saying, "The bomb dropped close to me." Hundreds of such people evacuated to the bomb shelter. Some groaned while some sat in total oblivion. I looked toward the north of the city, where the hypocenter was, and saw a gigantic column of blaze that appeared to be 1,000 meters in diameter shooting way up into the sky. I was even more confused. Seen from a distance, it turned out to be the so-called mushroom cloud. Of course, as were directly below the blazing column, we had no way of knowing it had a mushroom shape.