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'What Happened On This Date'
It's hot! Help! Water please! - Hiroshima 8/6 Recreated
(August 6, 2005, The Asahi Shimbun Newspaper Morning Edition)
With the dropping of one atomic bomb, the City of Hiroshima, with a population of about 350,000, was decimated. Under the mushroom cloud people struggled hard to find ways to survive. For the A-bomb survivors it was the beginning of the long arduous road they were to travel. 13,204 A-bomb survivors from around the country responded to the "A-Bomb 60 Years Questionnaire Survey" conducted by the Asahi Shimbun. We produced "August 6" based on the testimonials of 8,576 Hiroshima survivors who replied.
7:31 a.m. The alarm is lifted
I saw B-29s, but continued to work in the warehouse.
1:45 a.m. The B-29 bomber Enola Gay, carrying an A-bomb, takes off from the Tinian Base in the Mariana Islands in the Pacific.
2:15 a.m. Installation of the bomber trigger device in the aircraft is completed.
7:09 a.m. A weather surveillance aircraft that preceded the B-29 reaches the sky above Hiroshima. An alert is issued in Hiroshima.
7:31 a.m. The weather surveillance aircraft leaves the area. The alarm is lifted.
In April 1945, Imperial Headquarters, in preparation for battle on Japan's main islands, established a second headquarters near Futabayama in Hiroshima as a base for Western Japan. Even though areas surrounding the city had suffered aerial bombardments, Hiroshima, despite being a military city, had incurred no damage. Some people were even saying, "Hiroshima will not receive aerial bombardments because it is a religious city home to many followers of the Aki Monto Buddhist sect."
But from the evening of the 5th to the morning of the 6th of August, warnings and air raid alarms were issued one after the other. As a result many people spent a sleepless night. The warning had been lifted in the morning and, feeling relieved, people had come out of the air raid shelters and were going about their daily activities.
Lieutenant Colonel Sumio Hasegawa (97, Setagaya Ward, Tokyo) was riding his horse on the way from his dormitory to the Second Headquarters. He recalls, "Alarms were rare, so I went to work after the alarm was lifted."
Fukiko Honma (70, Murakami, Niigata Prefecture) heard the alarm as soon as she left home in the west of Hiroshima and ran back into the house. The alarm was lifted soon thereafter, so she hurried to her elementary school.
But although the weather surveillance plane left the area, a B-29 was approaching Hiroshima.
Hideo Kato (79, Aoba Ward, Yokohama) was a student at the Hiroshima Municipal Technical College (present-day Hiroshima University). He was attending a class in a temporary classroom on the premises of a factory. "I saw a B-29 up above, but I wasn't too concerned. My home was in Kure neighboring Hiroshima and I had experienced aerial bombardments by more than 200 carrier-based aircraft and had gotten used to them."
Taeko Okamura (79, Ota Ward, Tokyo) was working in a warehouse of her company when she was alerted by the sound of an approaching B-29. "I told my co-workers about it, but was told, 'the alarm has been lifted," and we continued with our work."
The temperature in Hiroshima at 8:00 a.m. on August 6 was 26.7℃. The U.S. weather surveillance aircraft informed the Enola Gay, "Weather good, possible to drop the bomb."
The city stood, totally unprepared.
8:15 a.m. The A-bomb is dropped.
Something hot ran through my body, a friend's hair caught on fire.
8:06 a.m. Matsunaga Monitoring Station (Fukushima, Hiroshima Prefecture) records, "Two large enemy aircraft spotted."
8:13 a.m. Chugoku Military District Headquarters relays the alarm, "Three large enemy aircraft are moving west over Saijo (City of Higashi Hiroshima)."
8:14 a.m. Nakano Searchlight Unit (Eastern Hiroshima) notes the sound of large aircraft.
8:15 a.m. The Enola Gay drops the A-bomb.
As if under a surprise attack, there was a sudden tension.
Lieutenant Tatsuo Yokoyama (83, Wakaba Ward, Chiba), who was commanding the anti-aircraft gun base in Moto-ujina facing Hiroshima Bay, was about to take his breakfast at his dormitory when he heard the alarm again. He went to his post and pointed the gun toward an enemy aircraft. He says, "We wait for the aircraft to come down within range, to 8,000 meters in altitude." The Enola Gay flew at 9,600 meters in altitude and was too far to shoot down.
Hozo Matsukawa (85, Nishi Ward, Osaka), who was a gunner at the same base, says, "I was confident about my ability as a gunner, but B-29s stayed out of range throughout and I was sorry that I could not shoot [at the enemy aircraft] even once."
The command communications room of Chugoku Military District Headquarters in charge of issuing and lifting warnings and air raid alarms was located about 700 meters from the hypocenter in a semi-basement on the castle side of the inner moat around Hiroshima Castle.
Yoshie Oka (74, Naka Ward, Hiroshima) of Hijiyama Girls High School (present-day Hijiyama Girls Junior and Senior High Schools), who had been mobilized to serve as a communications officer at the same headquarters, writes that she communicated to the nearby headquarters and media organizations the message, "Warning and Alarm Issued for Hiroshima and Yamaguchi…" before being exposed to the flash [of the A-bomb]. She went outside and heard a fallen soldier screaming, "I was hit by a new type of bomb." She returned to the command communications room, got on the restricted use phone and issued the first report to the Fukuyama Headquarters: "Hiroshima has been attacked by a new type of bomb. The city is in a state of near-total destruction."
Tomoko Matsumoto (75, Komae, Tokyo), who was a student at a Girls High School attached to the Hiroshima Higher School of Education (present-day Fukuyama Junior and Senior High Schools attached to Hiroshima University) in the city, writes, "When I took a sip of water at the fountain in the school ground I saw a flash. I felt something hot run through my body. The hair of a classmate who was nearby caught fire, and my hair and trousers also caught fire."
People of the city had no idea what had happened.
Goro Osada (78,Setagaya Ward, Tokyo), who is a professor emeritus of Yokohama City University, was at home 1.6 kilometers from the hypocenter. He writes, "I thought a time bomb had been dropped. Immediately I jumped into a nearby river. My father was at home. Our home was destroyed. Covered with blood from wounds of glass fragments, he was screaming, 'I will not die'." His father was Arata Osada, who soon after the war's end compiled "A-bomb Children," a collection of testimonials by children.
Katsuichi Hosoya (82, Maoka, Tochigi Prefecture) was resting in the army barracks about two kilometers from the city center. He was blown several meters by the A-bomb blast. "When I came to, I smelled a strange smell. I thought it was poison gas, so I covered my nose and mouth with both hands."
8:45 a.m. A firestorm erupts.
I fled the area, saying I was sorry and leaving behind my younger sister who lay underneath [a fallen building].
8:45 a.m. Firestorm winds start blowing.
8:50 a.m. One after another burn victims are carried to the Army Marine Regiment Headquarters in Ujina.
Fires followed the blast and the heat rays. The heat rays reached 2,000 degrees Centigrade as far as 600 meters from the hypocenter.
Yoshiko Yamaie (71, Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture) was on her way to school when she was exposed to the A-bomb 1.5 kilometers from the hypocenter. She saw sleepers on a railway bridge burning. Taeko Nakamura (74, Aki-Takada, Hiroshima Prefecture) was exposed to the A-bomb 1.7 kilometers from the hypocenter. She saw paper screens in the corridor burst into flame.
About 30 minutes after the initial blast, the air mass that had been heated by the fires quickly rose. This brought cool air in from the surrounding area. It was the beginning of a "fire storm".
Yoshio Sato (74, Sakae Ward, Yokohama) and his family escaped safely from Otemachi near the hypocenter and took refuge in the city hall nearby. Soon the city hall caught on fire and was surrounded on all sides by hot winds. He writes, "I jumped repeatedly into a tank of water used for fire-fighting to cool myself, but my clothes dried immediately."
Fires reached their peak from around 10:00 a.m. to 2:00-3:00 p.m., burning down everything within 2 kilometers or so of the hypocenter. People who were caught under falling buildings were burnt alive.
Mie Aoki (83, Oyama, Tochigi Prefecture) of Hirano-cho (1.8 kilometers from the hypocenter) was looking up at the beautiful blue sky. The next thing she knew, she was lying underneath a house. "I crawled through an opening, but my younger sister could not move. I was shocked when I went outside. There was not a single person walking. I realized that everything had been totally destroyed."
Soon after, her house was totally engulfed in fire. She frantically threw tiles and sand at the fire in an effort to put it out. "'Don't worry about me. Run away," my sister cried out in her dying breath. 'I'm sorry. I'm sorry', I repeated as I ran away."
The parents and grandmother of Sumiko Fujii (68, Kamigyo Ward, Kyoto) of Tenma-cho (one kilometer from the hypocenter) were trapped under their fallen house. "I heard them cry out, 'Help!' but there was nothing I could do. I joined our neighbors and escaped from the area. Two days later I went back to my house, only to find everyone charred and dead."
A premonition, refusal to be evacuated from buildings saves children
On the morning of August 6, in various areas outdoor work to evacuate buildings was being carried out and numerous students who had been mobilized became victims of the A-bomb. Evacuation activities were carried out in seven locations in Hiroshima and a total of about 8,400 teachers and students participated. About 70 percent of them died, but some classes miraculously survived thanks to the judgment of escorting teachers.
Building evacuation involved mandatory relocation from residential buildings to create fire-prevention zones. The process had begun toward the end of 1944 by military order.
About 150 eighth graders of Hiroshima Prefectural Daiichi Junior High School (present-day Prefectural Kokutaiji High School), who were contributing to the war effort by working in an aircraft parts manufacturing factory, had been ordered by the factory to participate in an evacuation project in the center of the city on August 6. Goro Toda, the teacher who was supposed to accompany the students, defied the order and arranged for the students to stay home for self-training.
According to Mr. Toda's "Pikadon: Personal Notes on the Hiroshima A-bomb," published in 1993, one day when he was commuting to work a man appearing to be a laborer happened to show him a flyer dropped by a U.S. military plane. The flyer's message was "Japan will definitely lose the war. Stop unnecessary fighting immediately." He felt a premonition.
He writes in his "Notes", "(At the site of the evacuation project) there were no air-defense shelters or screens. If there were air raids while the students were working there, the place would have turned into a hell of agonizing cries."
Mr. Toda expected to be criticized by his colleagues as "anti-patriotic" and forced to resign.
He died two years ago at the age of 91. While he was still alive, a former student of his, Satsuo Nakamoto (74) of Asakita Ward, Hiroshima, worked hard to get "Pikadon" published. Koji Imada (73) of Kawanishi, Hyogo Prefecture last year wrote in a collection of personal histories by a local group that he barely survived thanks to his teacher.
Mr. Imada writes, "It is not hard to imagine how he was torn between the love of his students and the need to follow orders. We owe our lives today to his act of courage."