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Mr. Yasuhiro Katayama, who entered the area of the hypocenter the day after the A-bombing. He said that he could never forget the cries of children, "Give my mother back to me!" (in Yutaka-machi, Kure City)
Corpses piled up on Hiroshima's streetcars
Yasuhiro Katayama (male, 87 years old)
Kure City, Hiroshima Prefecture
By Masami Nakagawa (female)
Since March 1945, the urban area of Kure City has been destroyed 14 times by air raids. But the city of Hiroshima was wiped out with just one A-bomb, even though it had experienced no full-scale air raids.
I talked with farmer Yasuhiro Katayama (87), now living in Yutakamachi-kubi, Kure City, who survived the Kure air raids at the Hiro Naval Arsenal. The day after the A-bomb was dropped he entered the center of Hiroshima to go to the Marine Corps in Otake-cho (present-day Otake City). He is a living witness of both the air raids and the A-bomb. But he had never talked before of his experiences, saying, "If I talked about the damage from the air raids and the A-bomb, no one would understand."
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The Hiro Naval Arsenal, which was in charge of developing aircraft, was inaugurated as the Hiro branch of Kure Naval Arsenal in 1921. Two years later, however, it became independent of the Kure factory.
"I entered the training school of Hiro Naval Arsenal after graduating from Kubi National Higher Elementary School. Although the training course had been set for three years, we were accelerated and graduated in October 1944. I worked in the foundry of the machinery department. There was an intelligent man in the factory who had studied in Germany, and he talked about atomic bombs and hydrogen bombs. He said to us, 'A war like this will be lost. Japan's situation is hopeless.'"
The first full-scale air raid on Kure occurred on March 19, 1945. According to The History of Kure, edited by the Kure City municipal government, 70 to 80 American airplanes flying in formation successively attacked the marine vessels in Kure Harbor. The Hiro Naval Arsenal was damaged, and the office of the machinery department and the hangars were burned down completely.
"At first, all the U.S. airplanes flew to Kure Harbor. But unexpectedly, the planes appeared here! We cried, 'it's a disaster!' As we ran into the air raid shelter near the plant, we were hit directly. Half of my 30 to 40 colleagues died and my head was severely injured. While I was lying in another shelter for about one week, my colleagues believed that I had died."
On May 5, the target was Hiro Naval Arsenal. Mr. Katayama survived because he was in the dormitory, which was some distance away, but the factory suffered catastrophic damage.
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He returned to his hometown of Yutaka-machi (on Osaki Shimojima Island). On the morning of August 6, while he was out cutting grass on a hillside, he saw a mushroom-shaped cloud over the hills. The next morning he went to Hiroshima to join the Otake Marine Corps.
"The passengers were told to get off the train just before Hiroshima. We walked to Hiroshima Station, and then headed toward Koi. The parapet of the Taisho Bridge over the Enko River near Hiroshima Station was broken. Dead bodies were piled up like dams. Perhaps they had gone to the river to drink water. Also, about ten dead bodies were piled up together in the center of a streetcar hit by the A-bomb. I imagine that they were huddling together when the tremendous flash occurred. As night fell, embers from the collapsed houses blew around here and there.
"On the parapet of the Aioi Bridge there also was a dead foreigner with his hands tied behind his back. I imagine he was in the POW camp or in a jail and had been dragged out after the Bomb. He was a little over twenty. It looked like he died not from bombing but from blows and kicks."
-Genbaku de shinda beihei hishi [The Secret History of American Soldiers Who Died in the Atomic Bomb], by Shigeaki Mori
According to Mori, an estimated 12 American soldiers died from the Hiroshima A-bomb. In Hiroshima Genbaku Sensaishi - Record of the Hiroshima A-bomb War Disaster, edited by the Hiroshima municipal council, eyewitness reports of fallen American prisoners by the Aioi Bridge were recorded.
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Until the war ended, Yasuhiro Katayama was attached to the Iwakuni flying squad. After he was demobilized, he studied at the citrus laboratory (present-day Fruit Tree Research Laboratory) of Shizuoka Prefecture. He eventually took over farming his family's orange orchard on Osaki Shimojima Island. Since being exposed to the A-bomb, he has been plagued by its aftereffects.
"First, the condition of my teeth got worse. My internal organs also got worse. I consulted the Hiroshima Red Cross Hospital (present-day Hiroshima Red Cross Hospital and Atomic Bomb Survivors Hospital) and these symptoms were found to be due to the A-bomb. Before the A-bomb I was a very healthy child, but since then I have suffered from many severe diseases."
From 1965 to 1985, Mr. Katayama was a member of the former Yutaka-machi town council for four terms. He says without hesitation that the government was responsible for the war.
"The Meiji government instituted representative democracy, but the army became powerful and the Diet did not function. In human society, everyone is motivated by insatiable greed. War never disappears. In a democracy, everyone discusses and works together to determine policies. To form a democracy, everyone must be wise. To prevent war, though, everyone must be wiser."
* Originally published in Japanese in the series "聞きたかったこと [So tell me… about Hiroshima]," The Asahi Shimbun (Hiroshima morning edition), September 17, 2014.