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Messages from Nagasaki

Japanese version

Takeshi Kojima (male)
'Kyugo hibaku'  / 20 years old at the time / current resident of Kumamoto

Photographer: Eiichi Matsumoto.
The scenes of the A-bombed city are introduced here. The photographs are not directly connected with the messages.
I enrolled in Hario Marine Guard Training Organization on May 15, 1945. On July 25, after 2 months of training, I was sent to Ohmura Naval Hospital as a corpsman trainee.

On August 9, beginning at eight o'clock in the morning, all the trainees were learning naval nursing care from an instructor in a classroom on the second floor of the school.

Suddenly a strong light flashed, and the windowpanes of the school building began to shake with a rattling noise. I think some of them broke. Nagasaki was 17 kilometers away. From where I stood, looking out from the second floor of the school building, Nagasaki was veiled in a dense, black smoke, like a towering thundercloud. Raging flames flared up in the cloud, cutting off the sunlight. It was dark and dim.

At that time, no one knew it was the atomic bomb, so we thought a big bomb must have been dropped. I remember, we continued to study nursing until five o'clock. Study and training was over for the day, and I had free time. After I finished supper, I went to bed and slept until some time past seven o'clock. At around eight or nine o'clock, I heard the sounds of trucks arriving in front of the office building, one after another, carrying the injured. Soldiers working on a stretcher squad shouted loudly. I tried to look through the window, but it was dark and I couldn't see anything clearly.

Around ten o'clock, there was an emergency call, and we were ordered to get up and stand ready for deployment. I supposed the big bomb had caused many casualties. A squad leader with a strained face said, "Nagasaki has been terribly damaged. From now on you will be organized into a special rescue squad for Nagasaki."

The rescue squad was divided into three groups. The first group was sent to Nagasaki as the special relief team. The second group was a stretcher squad. The third group was to stay in the hospital and look after the injured. I was assigned to the group that would remain in the hospital. From the morning of August 10, I was to nurse the injured.

In the open space in front of the office building, there was a continual storm of confusion. The seriously wounded hibakushas were carried on stretchers. Most of them were so burned it was difficult to tell their sex by looking at their faces. The flesh was exposed, the skin peeling off and hanging down. Of course, their thin summer clothes were torn to tatters.

It was our duty to take off the hibakushas' clothes, put their watches and valuables in order, and hand them over to the surgeon or the nurse in charge. The surgeons and nurses shouted as we rushed around carrying liquid disinfectants, bandages, gauze, and disposing of the dirt. When the hibakushas were carried into the hospital, we moved each person from a stretcher to a bed. It was hard work to do in the heat, with the bad smell and the blackout in the evening. I applied bandages on the victims' festering legs and arms. I took off the gauze covering their whole chests and, after clearing away the maggots, I cleaned the affected parts with disinfectant. It was my hard daily task.

Sometimes I plugged the mouth, nose, ears, and anus with cotton then took the body to the mortuary on a stretcher. As an inexperienced trainee, I was often told off by a surgeon or nurse when I was slow in taking action during an operation. Often, I soothed hibakushas and brought them to their beds and laid them down. Driven by pain, they tottered around the hospital, like ghosts.

Once a hibakusha called, and I went to his bedside . When I asked him if he was in pain, he grasped my wrist, saying, "Soldier, please stay here. Don't go away, anywhere." He wouldn't let me go. I couldn't do anything for him, except to pat his back and say, "You'll get well soon."

One of our tasks as a trainee was to feed hibakushas who couldn't move at all. Tracing my memory, I've tried to describe the facts, but the situation of the hibakushas was so miserable, beyond imagination, I do not think I can sufficiently convey what I experienced. For the rest of my life, I won't forget the unprecedented catastrophe that took place during my short training term. I heard the number of patients at that time was eight hundred or nine hundred.

The sixty-fourth anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb will come soon. Every year, I never remember that day without having a pain in my chest.

Being injured by atomic bombs, which started in Hiroshima, has to end in Nagasaki.

Though President Obama stated he would devote himself to a world without nuclear weapons, North Korea has pushed through nuclear tests and launched missiles again and again. I cannot overlook this because such actions threaten neighboring countries. I think UNSC should pass a resolution and take severe sanctions.

Now I do not have a long time to live. At such a time, I appreciate you asking me to write about a thing which I can never forget, no matter how many years have passed.
July 12. 2009 (Previously published text received 2010)