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Clinging with All His Heart, He Brings Back the Book
Norio Gunge (male, born 1929)
Reported by Kenichi Ezaki (male, born 1972)
Translated by Mariko Gunge (Mr.Gunge's daughter)
The German book retrieved from rubble
The brown fabric of the book's binding is splintered. The name of the book, "Introduction to the Theory of Chemistry," is written in German. About 500 meters [1/3 mile] east-southeast of the hypocenter, amidst of the rubble of Nagasaki Medical School (present-day Nagasaki University Medical School), Mr. Norio Gunge (83, from Kita Ward, Kumamoto) found the book.
At that time, he was sixteen years old. His older brother by four years, Yoshio, was in his second year at Nagasaki Medical College, Specialized School of Pharmaceuticals. They were boarding together in Shimonishiyama-machi, Nagasaki (about 2.7 kilometers [1.7 miles] southeast from the hypocenter).
On the morning of August 9, 1945, his brother waved his hand, headed toward the university, and never came back.
The day after the A-bomb was dropped, Mr. Gunge ran up Mt. Konpira. The moment his field of vision expanded, he doubted his own sight. There were burned fields of ruins as far as he could see. The city that was supposed to be there had vanished.
He frantically ran down the mountain and searched for his brother at the university and surrounding areas. In the midst of a daze, he noticed a book that had fallen nearby. He simply wanted to cling to something and so brought the book back with him. Many years later, he still has not found any trace of his brother.
Mr. Gunge's house was originally located near the base of Suwa Shrine in Rokasu-machi, Nagasaki.
His father Masaji's favorite saying was, "I don't like to settle down in the same place."
It was a two-story, wooden rental house that was located in front of the current Bank of Japan's Nagasaki branch. In those days, the Nagasaki Municipal Product Exhibition Hall displaying a collection of domestic and foreign merchandise stood at the location.
Mr. Gunge used to visit the Exhibition Hall with his mother, who had passed away with stomach cancer two years before the war ended. He used to climb up the path behind the building to a park where he played with the neighbor's children, collected bugs, and played hide and seek.
It was a very precious place where he could recall his memories of Nagasaki before the A-bomb burned the city.
His father was from Fukue Island in the Goto Islands and a graduate of Tokyo Imperial University (present-day University of Tokyo), where he studied zymurgy at the Department of Agriculture.
Upon graduating, he managed a brewing company and led the technology there.
At home he had a "laboratory room" with rows of test tubes, a microscope, and a centrifugal separator. His father would research yogurt and simmer his own hair since it had the same components as soy sauce. The house had a free spirit of "trying anything." Mr. Gunge's father left Nagasaki's brewing company before the Asia-Pacific War, and he built a small company in Omuta. He processed starch from potatoes, made glucose by converting the starch to sugar, and started a business selling the sweetener.
His father came home about once a week.
Many people of this generation wore puttees and the national uniform, but his father always wore a suit outside. Mr. Gunge, too, was the only one who had rather long cropped haircut at Katsuyama Higher Elementary School. "He was taciturn and never said much, but my father was against the war, I now believe."
Around the time Mr. Gunge was in his second year of Nagasaki Junior High School under the prewar education system, the homeroom class teacher repeatedly made the students raise their hands to volunteer for the Imperial Navy Grade A preparatory pilot training course (Student Aviator Preparatory School). He thought, "Going to the military is not the only national interest," but he raised his hand anyway after numerous requests. He thinks he was caught up in the atmosphere at the time. In the evening, he went to the homeroom teacher's house with his father and refused the volunteering.
Under a military order to prevent the spread of fire by air strikes, their house was demolished. Afterward, they moved to the house of a friend of his father in Shimonishiyama-machi. It was a half month before the A-bomb was dropped.
Mr. Gunge was boarding at a house located near by Fukirou, a traditional Japanese restaurant. It was the house of the Nagasaki Prefectural Girls' High School calligraphy teacher, a wooden Western-style building with double-door windows.
On the morning of August 9, the official air raid warning was lifted and his brother Yoshio headed toward the university as usual. Mr. Gunge was in his fourth year at Nagasaki Junior High School under the prewar education system and he was one of the school's students mobilized for the Mitsubishi Nagasaki Shipyard Saiwai-machi Factory. The work was daily and nightly double shifts and on this day, the shift began at three o'clock in the afternoon. He was reading a book upstairs by the window.
That morning, just before two minutes past eleven, he heard a U.S. military plane, a B-29, make a sudden sharp turn along with a strange metallic sound. He thought, "Oh!" and leaned his body toward the window and looked up at the sky. Sensing something suspicious, he turned his body toward the room. At that moment, he was engulfed in a flash. It was as if he was bathed by hundreds of flashes. "It did not come from one direction. The surroundings were engulfed by a pure white color." It was followed by the upper part of his back feeling as though it was pressed with the heat of an iron. When he regained consciousness, he was lying flat beneath the bookshelf and pieces of glass stuck around his neck and arms. There was utter silence; the eerie stillness continued. Mr. Gunge crawled out of the bookshelf and went outside. Windows of the neighboring Nagasaki Prefectural Girls' High School building were all shattered. Perhaps the bomb was aimed there; such conversations had started among the neighbors.
An eerie mushroom cloud welled up from behind Mt. Konpira and a sticky rain along with ash and pieces of paper began pouring down. What had happened over the skies of Urakami, he had no way of knowing. He was only thinking that when his brother comes home, he will scold him by saying, "Your injuries are from your carelessness." In the afternoon, a foreigner with a white beard suddenly came into his house looking exhausted and saying, "Please let me have some water." Mr. Gunge scooped some water with a ladle and the man deliciously drank the water. He said, "The city of Nagasaki is burning terribly," but at that moment, Mr. Gunge did not clearly understand its meaning.
Later on, he found out that this person with the gentle eyes was Monk Zeno, who later had dedicated his life to orphans from the war and A-bomb all over Japan, until he died in 1982.
Late into the night, Mr. Gunge's brother Yoshio still had not come home. He must be treating the injured people and must be busy, or the city fires must be keeping him from coming home. He believed this, but, gradually, he was surrounded by uncertainty and the heaviness of the atmosphere. The night sky above Urakami was soaked with the crimson color of fire.
On the morning of August 10, Mr. Gunge decided to go to his brother's place, where the Nagasaki Medical School was located, by going over Mt. Konpira, along a path behind Nagasaki Prefectural Girls' High School. Along the way, he came across crowds of completely burned men and women wobbling as they walked. Their skin was torn; many people's faces were burned and soaked with blood, and there were more dead than alive on the ground. As he climbed the mountain further, the chill he had in his spine got worse. Mr. Gunge had to pass them without exchanging words.
When he reached the summit, he was stunned with the sight before his eyes. The Mobilized Mitsubishi Nagasaki Shipyard Saiwai-machi Factory's building was bent and twisted out of shape like spaghetti and looked like a lump of iron. The Nagasaki Medical School's hospital chimney was snapped in the middle and it was tilted into a chevron shape. "As far as I could see the world was burned brown and was the color of ash. I could not believe the scene I was looking at."
Mr. Gunge, forgetting himself, dashed and climbed down Mt. Konpira toward Nagasaki Medical School, where his brother Yoshio was. On the way, purplish smoke puffed up from half-burned, dead bodies. The carbonized corpses were lying here and there, but his completely dazed state of mind caused him to not feel frightened. When he arrived at the university and searched around the school grounds, he noticed one Western book in the debris. Mysteriously, it remained unburned.