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Messages from Hiroshima

Japanese version

Yoshio Sato (male)
'Chokubaku'  1 km from the hypocenter / 14 years old at the time / current resident of Kanagawa

The scenes of the A-bombed city are introduced here. The photographs are not directly connected with the messages. Here enclosed is Hiroshima: The A-bombed Experience that I wrote after the earlier memoir I had submitted. In this, I detailed more of those days for the sake of my own memories.

Hiroshima, the A-bombed Experience September 30, 2008

1. Hiroshima August 6, 1945

I was born in 1930, and raised in Hiroshima. When I was fourteen years-old, the summer of my third year in middle school, I was exposed to the atom-bombing of Ote-machi 8 chome, which was 1.0 kilometer [0.62 mile] from the hypocenter. Our two-story wooden house collapsed and my family of four (including mother, younger brother, sister and myself), were trapped under the debris.

My father was on a business trip, having left home early that morning. My two other younger sisters were at Ryufukuji Temple in Taka-mura, Hiba-gun District, in the northern part of Hiroshima Prefecture, having been evacuated in a group.

I was the first one who managed to creep out, and I cannot forget the shock when I looked around at the devastating scene. I thought that all of Hiroshima was totally destroyed at one time by an unimaginably large bomb. As far as I could see, houses were broken and the sky was dark due to either smoke or dust. There were fires 200~300 meters [up to approximately 1,000 feet] away. The All-clear signal of the previous night's air raid warning came only at dawn, so my brother and I had slept late that morning. We, therefore, were not aware of the time. My mother, having seen off my father, went to hang laundry with my younger sister. They saw the flash of the A-bomb from where they stood in the garden.

It was not much problem to rescue my brother, but extremely difficult to pull out my mother and sister because they were trapped by beams and pillars. My mother said that my brother and I should flee anyway. Finally we rescued them, but fires were imminent. We had only the clothes we happened to wear and were probably barefooted. Indeed, we were fortunate we did not die, despite the fact that we were trapped under the debris. My little sister had serious injuries on her side belly and feet. My mother had burns on her legs while fleeing. My brother and I had only bruises.

Prior to the A-bombing, my brother and I were the students of the Middle School attached to the Hiroshima Higher School of Education. We belonged to the special science class, which exempted us from the student labor mobilization and which been evacuated in a group to Tojo-cho, north east of Hiroshima Prefecture. Terrible food shortages caused health problems to many, and my brother was among those. Upon our teacher's advice, I took my brother back home to Hiroshima on August 4, 1945, two days before the A-bombing. On the train, we happened to meet our father, who had been to Shobara to look for a place where the family could evacuate. I was planning to go back to Tojo alone on the sixth of August.

My father was a Professor of Ferment Science at the Hiroshima Municipal Technical College--currently, faculty of technology of Hiroshima University-- but also a school inspection officer of the Ministry of Education. With the assignment taken as of the end of 1944, he had moved to Tokyo alone. He had dropped into Hiroshima on the way to a business trip from Tokyo to Shikoku. Japan met a huge misfortune with the A-bombing. However, you might say we were lucky in a way, in terms of our family situation around August 6.

Across from our house stood the Ote-machi Elementary School, where we went as youngsters. The two-story, wooden school building was flattened and we scrambled over the debris when we fled. After we passed, fires consumed everything, and the school was closed. On the streetcar line, a truck was burning with yellow flames from the tires. Electric poles fell and tangled electric lines hampered evacuees from going ahead like giant cobwebs. Struggling to go through all of these obstacles, we arrived at the City Hall yard.

In those days in Hiroshima, house demolition was taking place, and many of the first and second year students from middle schools and girls' schools were mobilized. It is said that about 7,000 of them were victimized. A middle school boy near us, who was so badly burned as not to be identified, requested water. My mother got some water from the City Hall and gave it to him. Soon after drinking, he became still.

The City Hall also caught fire. We moved to the vacant lot, on the south side of the City Hall where the former dormitory of the Hiroshima Prefectural First Middle School used to stand. Fires were everywhere and a strong hot wind blew. People jumped into water cisterns to cool themselves. Their clothes dried as soon as they got out of the water. They got in and out of the water repeatedly. Those who drank dirty water threw it up, which in retrospect, was probably good because it prevented their consuming the radioactive water.

We spent long hours there, until the fires and hot wind eventually subsided. We walked wearily toward the east. When I recognized one of my seniors, I tried not to be noticed by him. I was afraid of being mistaken as a deserter or something, since I was supposed to be in Tojo by that time. Near Fujimi Bridge, we found a laborer's lunch box in a large earthen pipe. We opened it and found white rice underneath the burned surface. We devoured it since we had eaten nothing since morning.

A rescue truck picked us up when we sat down with fatigue. There were some injured people squatted on its loading platform. They had burns on their faces and arms, and the skin of their front arms, in particular, peeled and was hanging from their hands. Their skin looked like the plastic bags of supermarket use that we know today. The truck got crowded. Every time it shook, the injured people screamed as their burned red skin touched that of others. The truck was heading for the Army Transport Unit. It was the rescue operation of the Army Marine Regiment Headquarters, Akatsuki Corps.

From the port, after sunset, the sky of Hiroshima remained red, it was probably due to fires. Noctilucae flickered as the waves lapped the sides of ships. I felt an indescribable loneliness. We were taken to the barracks of the Marine Regiment on Kanawajima Island. Probably, we were given some rice balls to eat. Since 8:15 a.m., the time of the A-bombing, was the time of starting the day's work, many sheltered people were worried about their families. They envied us because my family, at least the four of us, were together.

We received treatment for our burns and wounds. My five-year-old sister had her intestines exposed from the side and her heels were missing. The army doctor said, "I can't believe she is alive with these serious injuries," but my sister did not even cry.
Three or four days later, my father showed up at the barracks. He had been to Takamatsu, Marugame, Zentsuji and Tokushima on his business trip, but came back to Hiroshima with the advice that he'd better go back to look for his family as Hiroshima was in disaster. My father said that he had thought his whole family would have perished, at the sight of only a lump of melted bottles and the metal part of a kendo mask scattered at the ruins of our house. The lists of those sheltered were put up on the boards here and there throughout the city, and my father found our names on one of them. When he found us on Kanawajima Island, he was the one who cried tears of delight. On the morning of the sixth, my father had seen the flash from the train as he headed east from Hiroshima, but he thought it might be an accident of a magazine or something, so he continued his trip to Shikoku. My father then remained with us in the shelter, an army barracks.

The war was still going on. Again we were moved, crossing Hiroshima Bay, from Kanawajima Island to the west of the Prefecture, Otake. The new shelter was a gymnasium of an elementary school, where we found many people on straw mats. A young man next to me had serious burns from his face and neck to shoulders, which became infested with maggots. His ear holes and cheeks were full of maggots as well. He was left unattended with no medicine. A naked young mother held her dead baby in her arms. She wore nothing, and took off whatever clothing a civil worker tried to put on her. She must have gone insane.