The Story of the First Nuclear Attack, Hiroshima August 6, 1945

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The Story of the First Nuclear Attack, Hiroshima August 6, 1945

Survivor and witness testimony assembled from various sources by Louis Rastelli

The following is a narrative strung together combining sentences and paragraphs from dozens of different witness and survivor accounts. It was first published in Fish Piss Magazine Vol. 3 No. 1, 2004. A list of sources used is at the end; however, since much of the research was done 10 years ago, it’s possible many of the original websites are no longer online. To get some additional information you should read siren song personal alarm reviews.

-Louis Rastelli, August 6, 2010-08-06 

 

The Story of the First Nuclear Attack

The bomb doors of the Enola Gay overhead opened at 8.15 am and about 40 seconds later the bomb exploded 600m above the city. The Americans knew this would cause the most devastation: if the bomb exploded any lower, much energy from the blast would be wasted, merely gouging a crater into the ground.

Most of the initial damage was caused by a shock wave that broke windows nine miles away from the blast. Most of the radiation released was made up of gamma rays, which came directly from the heart of the uranium as it split open during the chain reaction.

FLASH

Somewhere, a voice said, “Hey look, it’s a parachute! A parachute is falling.” I instinctively looked where the person pointed. That’s when it happened. Just where I was looking, the sky exploded with an indescribable light. It was like fire burning my eyes.

I heard an indescribable, deafening roar. My first thought was that the plane had aimed at me.

There was an indescribable loud sound followed by a shock that seemed as if it would tear my body into pieces. It was not a boom like a bomb falling to earth, nor the rain-like sound of a firebomb, but a metallic sound that was somehow difficult to resist. The word “instant” had never fit a moment as well as it did that one.

I remember I thought I was a goner.

It was so bright I had my hands over my eyes closed, and I could see the bones like you were looking at an X-ray.

[From a nearby village] The weather was fine in the village on the morning of 6 August. Suddenly I felt something warm on my left cheek and turned back. It seemed like a strong reflection from a mirror. Then a roaring sound shook the whole village. While I was wondering what had happened, a column of clouds appeared above the mountains in the south. That was not an ordinary cloud but of a superb pink colour. Gradually it assumed the shape of a mushroom and rose to the sky.

I saw the mushroom cloud growing in the sky. It was very bright. It had so much heat inside. It caught the light and it showed every colour of the rainbow. Reflecting on the past, it’s strange, but I could say that it was beautiful.

In the distance houses levitated a little and then crashed down to the ground like domino pieces. It was just like a white wave coming toward me while standing on the beach. The wave steadily approached.

The wind reflected when it hit the mountains surrounding the city. The houses and buildings near the mountains were destroyed by the reflected wind. Actually, I felt a strong wind twice, and the second one was stronger than the first.

I found that all the houses around there had collapsed for as far as I could see!

I saw that the roof, walls and windows had flown off, and I was standing in the twisted skeleton of what had been our house. Standing alone, as if in a field, I saw things I shouldn’t have been able to see. I could see the next-door neighbour’s house.

I couldn’t see anyone around me but I heard somebody shouting “Help! Help!” from somewhere. The cries were actually from underground as I was walking on.

We were blinded by a great flash. At that moment I felt as if I had been struck by a thousand bolts of lightning. Then there was complete darkness, after which we could see dead bodies covered with blood that were piled on top of my brother and I. We tried to come to our senses and push aside the corpses.

FLAMES

Then the noise stopped. Cautiously, I crawled out of my hiding place and looked around. I saw an enormous, bright red pillar of fire (I was told later that it measured 200 meters in diameter and rose 10,000 meters in the air), which increased in size minute by minute, reaching high in the sky.

From the ground up, the pillar of fire rose toward the sky, with tremendous force. Sometimes it was hollow at the centre. At other times, broiling, leaping flames blew out of the centre. The sight was so horrifying that I can find no words to describe it.

In a little while some window frames began burning, then all the windows were burning. The fire spread inside. A little while later the same process began in the Industrial Promotion Hall. Then the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, too, was burning from the windows inward.

The flames spread and grew. We were hot. The river was gradually shifting from high tide to ebb tide, and we moved closer to it, step by step. The black smoke diagonal to us on the other side whirled in a high vortex. Sometimes whirlwinds of smoke sank low and came straight for our heads. Out of this maelstrom burnt sheets of tin and charred board fragments were dropping all around us. It was dangerous. We had to watch for falling objects and dodge them, which required looking up. Our eyes filled with smoke and tears– it was unbearable. Breathing made us choke.

I went to Miyuki Bridge to get some water. The water was dead people. I had to push the bodies aside to drink the muddy water. We didn’t know anything about radioactivity at that time.

A section of the water in the Motoyasu River seemed to rise, then it began spinning into a round pillar and soared up into the sky. A waterspout! Water spilled from the whirling wind. The fire was furious! Smoke and sparks surged across the river toward us. Oh no!

Since I thought it would be dangerous to stay on this side, I swam over to the other side. It was so frightening. An awful thing happened: I was suddenly spun around by the current. And then large pieces of hail begin to fall and my face started hurting. So to avoid that I again plunged my face into the water time and time again. And then I spun around again and again. It just didn’t stop. The water was swirling around me and later I learned that was a tornado.

For some time we had been hearing from near and far sounds like exploding petroleum tanks, maybe ten times in all. We shivered in fear, wondering if they were time bombs.

Since Hiroshima was completely enveloped in flames, we felt terribly hot and could not breathe well at all. After a while, a whirlpool of fire approached us from the south. It was like a big tornado of fire spreading over the full width of the street. It was just like a living hell.

To say the least, it was like being roasted alive many times over.

I noticed that the side of my body was very hot. It was on fire. And I tried to put it out. But it wouldn’t go out so easily. I could see people running in the dark. Some of them were on fire, and some of them were just rolling around on the ground.

When I looked around I realized that not a soul was to be seen, although there were many people walking on the streets until a minute ago. People were burned just like charcoal and had turned into a substance as hard as a rock. I couldn’t believe that they were human’s bodies.

I turned to look on the left side and saw a totally black-burned baby beside my left leg. A mother was holding the neck of the baby and she was red-black and looked horrible. I still remember clearly how white her breast looked. Maybe that baby was holding on to that breast till it died?

I also remember seeing a woman lying dead at a house by the river bank-her neck stuck through with a piece of glass blown by the blast. The glass must have cut the artery. Blood was scattered around her. She had been suckling her baby. The baby was still absorbed in sucking the breast.

Ten or twelve small animals that looked like monkeys were stirring. I looked close, and saw their eyes were popped out, long tongues were dangling, guts were hanging out and some were trying to put them back into their stomachs. Finally I realized they were human beings because they tried to speak. “Gimme water, water,” they moaned.

Two things like ghosts passed before my eyes. Red-black and very thin; they were totally naked people. It was impossible to tell male from female. One was trying to hide the front of the body with a burnt tin plate, so maybe female? Both their arms were hanging in front of their chests; the skin of their faces and arms were dangling long. I fainted wishing this was all a dream.

I absentmindedly wiped my face and nose with the towel still stuck in my waistband. That was when I first knew something was wrong with my face. When I wiped it, the skin peeled off. Oh! My hand! The skin on my right hand, from the second joint to the fingertips, was peeling off and hanging strangely. On my left hand too, the skin was peeling all the way from the wrist to the tips of all five fingers.

From the depths of my soul I groaned, “Oh, no. I’m burned.” I knew my face must be the same as my hands. “I’m finished,” I thought. I sat down right there. Then I noticed that no one was around. Where were all the volunteers in that line with me? Suddenly, driven by a terror that would not permit inaction, I started to run for my life.

I was running, hands were trying to grab my ankles, they were asking me to take them along. I was only a child then. And I was horrified at so many hands trying to grab me. I was in pain, too. So all I could do was to get rid of them, it’s terrible to say, but I kicked their hands away. I still feel bad about that.

Some were vomiting as they walked. Many were naked or in shreds of clothing. On some undressed bodies, the burns had made patterns– of undershirt straps and suspenders, and, on the skin of some women (since white repelled the heat from the bomb and dark clothes absorbed it), the shapes of flowers they had had on their kimonos.

Passing through Sakan-cho Tokaichi, until we reached Dobashi, over and over again we had to flatten ourselves on the ground to escape falling electric poles.

When I looked down on the town from the top of that hill, I could see that the city was completely lost. The smoke was so thick that it covered the entire town. After about 5 minutes, fire broke out here and there. The fire gradually grew bigger and there were smoke everywhere and so we could no longer see towards the town. The cloud of the smoke was very tall, but it didn’t come in this direction at all. The smoke from the fire, it was like a screen dividing the city into two parts. The sun was shining brightly just like it was a middle of the summer over here on this side. And behind the cloud on the other side, it was completely dark. The contrast was very much.

I thought I could make my way out. But I was afraid at the thought of escaping alone. We had been going through military drills every day, and they had told us that running away by oneself is an act of cowardice, so I thought I must take somebody along with me. I crawled over the debris, trying to find someone still alive.

Then, I found one of my classmates. I held him up in my arms. It is hard to tell, his skull was cracked open, his flesh was dangling out from his head. He had only one eye left, and it was looking right at me.

First, he was mumbling something but I couldn’t understand him. He started to bite off his finger nail. I took his finger out from his mouth. Then he started to reach for his notebook in his chest pocket, so I asked him, I said, “You want me to take this along to hand it over to your mother?” He nodded.

The fingertips of those dead bodies caught fire and the fire gradually spread over their entire bodies from their fingers. A light grey liquid dripped down their hands, scorching their fingers. I was so shocked to know that fingers and bodies could be burned and deformed like that. I just couldn’t believe it. It was horrible. And looking at it, it was more than painful for me to think how the fingers were burned, hands and fingers that would hold babies or turn pages, they just, they just burned away.

At one point I saw a person who must have been a mother drenched in bright red blood from her face to her shoulders. Repeatedly calling, “Baby boy, my baby boy!” she was trying with all her strength to rush into a burning house. A man was desperately struggling to hold her back. Like a mad woman she screamed, “Let me go! Let me go, our son will die!” A ghastly scene from the depths of hell.

She was holding her burnt baby tightly in her red melted chest as she was suckling her child, drop by drop from her inflamed breasts. She was calling her baby’s name again and again and shouted to him, “Please don’t die! Please!” We wanted to help them but were obliged to leave there in order to escape the flames.

You could hardly recognize me, my lips and my face were all popped up like this and my eyes, I had to force my eyes open with my fingers in order to see.

Those who were close enough to the blast or caught in the middle of the firestorm had their flesh actually pop like popcorn.

BLACK RAIN

It was a black and sticky rain. It stuck on everything. When it fell on trees and leaves, it stayed and turned everything black. When it fell on people’s clothing, the clothing turned black. It also stuck on people’s hands and feet. And it couldn’t be washed off. I couldn’t be washed off.

I was wearing a short sleeve shirt and shorts and it was freezing. Everybody was shivering. We warmed ourselves up around the burning fire in the middle of the summer.

The fire did not extinguish from the rain, the fire didn’t subside at all.

The raindrops were so big that we even felt pain when they dropped onto us. We opened our mouths just like this, as wide as possible in an effort to quench our thirst. Everybody did the same thing. But it just wasn’t enough. Someone found an empty can and held it to catch the rain.

It was really hard to breathe. Maybe because the fire burned all the oxygen, I don’t know.

The black rain was extremely radioactive.

HELL ON EARTH

I took my younger brother to one of the air-raid shelters. The atmosphere inside was eerie. A mother held in her arms her 18-month-old baby who looked very pale and almost lifeless. The baby stopped breathing after awhile.

What impressed me very strongly was a 5 or 6-year-old boy with his right leg cut off at the thigh. He was hopping on his left foot to cross over the bridge.

We took care of the people around us by using the clothes of dead people as bandages, especially for those who were terribly wounded. By that time we somehow became insensible to all those awful things.

The sky was dark at noon, and fireballs like bright red suns in black clouds rained on us.

People died quietly. I had heard that when people have terrible lightening burns they don’t feel intense pain because the nerves are numbed, but knowing this, the silence of the injured pierces the heart all the more. There was also a girl about five years old who died on the riverbed under the sun just as if going to sleep.

There were a lot of people in the water, crying and shouting for help. Countless dead bodies were being carried away by the water, some floating, some sinking. Some bodies had been badly hurt, and their intestines were exposed.

It was like a river of fire. People who fell in the river died in the river of fire.

I saw a man whose skin was completely peeled off the upper half of his body and a woman whose eyeballs were sticking out. Her whole baby was bleeding.

When we were resting because we were so exhausted, I found my grandfather’s brother and his wife coming toward us. That was quite a coincidence. As you know, we have a proverb about meeting Buddha in Hell. My encounter with my relatives at that time was just like that.

Below the bridge, corpses were floating by like dead dogs and cats, their shreds of clothing dangling like rags. In the shoals near the bank I saw a woman floating face up, her chest gouged out and gushing blood. Could such terrifying sights be of this world? Suddenly, I lost strength and had to sit.

A yellow secretion oozed from both of my hands where the skin was peeled off. It would grow into drops the size of small peas, then drip off. I’m sure my face was equally grotesque.

Terribly burned people formed groups and cried as they wandered from place to place seeking an escape. All their clothes and kimonos were scorched black and their skin was sore and melted as if they were hanging vinyl handbags from their bodies. I also witnessed a blind child whose eyeballs were projected. He cried “Mommy, take me somewhere!” then fell down and died after aimless unsteady steps.

ESCAPE THE CITY

Afterwards, we heard the strange noise. It sounded as if a large flock of mosquitoes were coming from a distance. We looked out of the window to find out what was happening. We saw that citizens from the town were marching towards us.

With lots of injured people arriving, we realized just how serious the matter was. We decided that we should treat them also. Soon afterwards, we learned that many of them had badly burned. As they came to us, they held their hands aloft. They looked like they were ghosts.

They all kept chanting, “Water! Give me water!” Exposed juicily wet flesh, peeled skin hanging from their fingertips like seaweed….

Having been directly exposed to the heat rays, they were covered with blisters, the size of balls, on their backs, their faces, their shoulders and their arms. The blisters were starting to burst open and their skin hung down like rugs.

Their eye sockets were hollow, the fluid from their melted eyes had run down their cheeks. (They must have had their faces upturned when the bomb went off.) Their mouths were mere swollen, pus-covered wounds, which they could not bear to stretch enough to admit the spout of the teapot. So [we] got a large piece of grass and drew out the stem so as to make a straw, and gave them all water to drink that way.

The children, in spite of being very sick, were interested in everything that happened. They were delighted when one of the city’s gas-storage tanks went up in a tremendous burst of flame. Toshio, the boy, shouted to the others to look at the reflection in the river…

What I saw during those days were scenes from another world. I don’t want to think about what I saw, it was so gruesome. Living day and night on the riverbed like beggars, our state of mind was higher than that of any nobility. Learning to sleep unafraid next to corpses, we experienced the limits of endurance. In the large crowd on the riverbank, no one cried. No one spoke of her or his own feelings. They say that though Japanese people are not sharp, they are modestly serious in the extreme. During three days on the riverbed amid many deaths, I saw many examples of this.

I found the room filled with the smell that was quite similar to the smell of dried squid when it has been grilled. The smell was quite strong. It’s a sad reality that the smell human beings produce when they are burned is the same as that of the dried squid when it is grilled. The squid that we like so much to eat. It was a strange feeling, a feeling that I had never had before. I can still remember that smell quite clearly.

I felt someone touch my leg, it was a pregnant woman. She said that she was about to die in a few hours. She said, “I know that I am going to die. But I can feel that my baby is moving inside. It wants to get out of the room. I don’t mind if I die. But if the baby is delivered now, it does not have to die with me. Please help my baby live.” All I could do was to tell her that I would come back later when everything was ready for her and her baby.            

I cheered her up and she looked so happy. Later, I went to the place where I had found her before. I patted her on the shoulder, but she said nothing. The person lying next to her said that a short while ago, she had become silent.

We tried to open the eyes of the injured and we found out they were still alive. We tried to carry them by their arms and legs and to place them onto the fire truck. But this was difficult because their skin was peeled off as we tried to move them. They were all heavily burned. But they never complained but they felt pain even when their skin was peeling off. The workers stationed at the important places were all killed. I visited one of the fire stations and inside the burned fire engine, I found a man who was scorched to death. He looked as if he was about to start the fire engine to fight the fire. Inside the broken fire station, I also found several dead men.

There were 5 or 6 burnt bodies piled up in the same direction. They had been trying to seek water crawling toward a water tank, and my heart was crushed to see 4 or 5 of them were reaching their black hands toward the tank. Silent, a very silent netherworld.

“All the water in Hiroshima is mixed with the gas. If you give them that water, they’ll die straight away. Don’t give them any!” I was horrified to hear what he said, so I stopped trying to take water to them. They must have kept waiting over there for me to bring them water. But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t give them that water. I felt terribly sorry, in agony about this. I could imagine the people over there probably would have died waiting for water I was meant to have brought.

He noticed a pumpkin that was roasted on the vine, tasted it, and it was good, and dug up some potatoes that were nicely baked under the ground.

ALL WHITE

I took my father back home from Nino-shima on August 8. Flies swarmed about him because of the odour his festered burns and the white ointment gave out. It took some effort to chase the pests away.

Am I awake? I thought I was dead. Right here in the park, it was filled with red-black bodies since yesterday. But now it was all white. Pain was all over my body, and I was wondering if it was still painful after I’m dead? What are those white things? So I crawled toward them and was shocked. They were maggots all over the burnt bodies hatched just in one night. Even on people walking, maggots were clinging on eyes, mouth and ears, and one by one people were collapsing; the most miserable sight right before my eyes.

When I was walking inside, a woman called me. She gave me a pair of chopsticks and asked me to take off the newspaper which covered her back. When I took the paper off I was so surprised to see her back and could say nothing. I saw maggots creeping on her. She asked me to take the maggots off with the chopsticks. I took the worms from her body. I found that the maggots were not just creeping but actually living in her body. I cannot forget this memory.

It was very, very hot. I touched my skin and it just peeled right off. I had a high fever and maggots infested in my eyes.

Those whose backs were burned lay on their stomachs, and those whose front was burned lay on their backs. They could not even move to change their position. Their wounds and burns were covered with countless flies laying eggs there. Those eggs hatched into maggots, and these crawled all over their bodies causing them infernal agony.

When I met her, she said, “There shouldn’t be any war.” There were maggots in her wounds and a sticky yellowish pus, a white watery liquid coming out her wounds and a sticky yellowish liquid. I didn’t know what was going on. Her skin was just peeling right off. The maggots were coming out all over. I couldn’t wipe them off. I thought it would be too painful. I picked off some maggots, though. She asked me what I was doing and I told her, “Oh, it’s nothing.” She nodded at my words. And nine hours later, she died.

Pine boughs were placed on top of the corpses, oil was poured over them, and they were cremated. Day after day, from morning to late at night, the air was filled with smoke and the stench of rotting flesh.

The worst part was that if you stopped yelling, if you stopped screaming, the soldiers considered you dead, and threw you on top of the pile of corpses.

His face was a mess because of the blood flowing from his head. But he looked at my face and smiled. His smile has remained glued in my memory. He did not comprehend what had happened. And so he looked at me and smiled at my face which was all bloody. I had plenty of milk which he drank all throughout that day. I think my child sucked the poison right out of my body. And soon after that, he died. Yes, I think that he died for me.

AFTERMATH

There was something she noticed about it that particularly gave her the creeps. Over everything– up through the wreckage of the city, in gutters, along the riverbanks, tangled among tiles and tin roofing, climbing up charred tree trunks– was a blanket of fresh, vivid, lush, optimistic green; the verdancy rose even from the foundations of ruined houses. The bomb had not only left the roots of plants intact, it had stimulated them.

I looked at the town of Hiroshima. It was a field of charred ruins. The city streetcar which just began to run between Koami-cho and Koi had very numerous flies on the ceiling. It was a strange sight.

I cannot forget some parents who were looking for their child’s bones among the bones. But they could not identify their child and the mother said to her husband. “Take one of them to our home. It will be impossible to find our son’s. Don’t worry. Our son won’t be left alone, because somebody will take our son’s bones home. However, the husband shook his head and went away.

The shadows of incinerated human bodies had been burned into the stone steps, and the gas tank bore the shadows of its valves.

Though I had always disliked the war, starting from the 6th, I thought we must continue fighting no matter what. We must never quit. At the house of my father’s doctor friend, we heard news of the surrender while he treated us. I squatted on the floor, folded both arms around my stomach, and sobbed. It was an intense shock, beyond comparison even to the violent shock from the atomic bomb.

The Americans kept flying B-29s over Hiroshima for weeks after the blast, using the city as a science lab to measure radiation levels, map the destruction etc.

Looking at the B-29 bomber which sometimes came flying [shortly after the war ended], I shouted to myself “Idiot!” It was all the resistance I, as a boy, could offer. And I sometimes cried secretly in the lavatory.

One of my earliest childhood friends was severely injured when the school building was destroyed. He survived, but only until the war ended. Hearing B-29’s overhead, he uttered his last words: “I hate B-29’s.”

At lunchtime on 4 September, Mother started to writhe in pain. Her unusual action completely upset me. All I could do was to absentmindedly look at my suffering Mother. After suffering for 30 minutes, she regained her calmness. However, it was the last calmness, the sign of the end of life. I continued calling her name, clinging to her body. Tears welled up in the eyes of my speechless mother and tears rolled down her cheek. I wondered if the tears were from the sorrow of eternal parting between mother and child or from an anxiety about my future. I shall never forget the tears of my Mother I saw on that day.

People who sustained no injuries, e.g. those who went near ground zero to search for their children, suffered a high fever and got purple spots all over their bodies, went almost mad, and died one after another during the six months following the bombing. My elder brother was suddenly stricken with leukemia and died many years after that dreadful experience.

It is still a big surprise for me to know that some of the people who were directly injured in the bombing could survive while the people who had looked unhurt after the A-bombing died.

There were lots of firemen who died one or one and a half months later. I feel very sorry for them.

Michiko’s mother died a few years later, and was cremated. When the ashes were examined, she found pieces of broken glass that had been embedded in her mother’s body from the bomb burst. This happened because she was inside the house at the time of the explosion, and the glass that had flown at her went so deeply into her skin that it would not come out without a proper operation.

Injuries from flying glass proved to be the most common of all for victims of the Hiroshima bombing who survived the initial blast.

I was very shocked to find myself looking like a monster. I even wished I had died with my sisters.

My four fingers are fixed just like this, and my elbow is fixed at one hundred twenty degrees and doesn’t move. The muscle and bones are attached to each other.

Michiko took a long time to recover from the damage done by the bomb. When she did heal, her neck was tilted to the left, her fingers had been melted together on the inside and she had lost her hair.

Lonely A-bomb survivors include those who lost their families and also the mobilized students who have remained single because of the wounds caused by the A-bomb. There are a great many of them. So, I do hope to do something to support always lonely people.

The flesh looked like ripe, mashed tomatoes. I was unable to form any skin. I finally got up out of my bed in early October. I stood on my own feet and walked again in December. After the new year came I was finally able to take the bandages off, but I was not the person I used to be. I was barely recognizable, deformed.

I never thought that I would have a face like a ghost. From the left cheek to the jaw, I was deeply cut and my left eye was gone. My left eye was left open– like a hole just as big as a fist. Also from the right eye to the nose, I was cut deeply. It was just like two big mountains running over my face. I had been so disfigured. I couldn’t believe this. I kept crying for my misfortune. I didn’t want to believe that I would have to live with such an ugly disfigured face. I used to talk to my sister in the photograph crying, “You are fortunate to be dead. It’s hard for me to live.”

THE MESSAGE

I decided to tell my story as a contribution to world peace. As an A-bomb survivor, I have a mission to talk about my experience for peace and I have to do it for the sake of and in the place of the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is my sincere hope that you will tell my story to other people and contribute to peace.

The decision to use that weapon for the sake of an earlier end to the war is the shame of the side that used it. Germany had been defeated. We could not respect the new weapon any more than we could scorn Germany. In the end, the damage to Hiroshima was great and deep, but if those were ugly scenes, the ugliness belonged to the other side. Hiroshima City was not ugly. I’d rather think that at the war’s end the beauty of the victim shone through.

I realized that the real enemy is not American: It is war and nuclear weapons, I was positive that man-made bombs, A-bombs and nuclear weapons, must be gotten rid of by the hands of men. I was also positive that only with our continued expression of hatred toward nuclear weapons, and only with our incessant condemnation of this evil, can we human beings avoid starting a war again and repeating the same folly.

I thought that it was their duty to help me because they had dropped the bomb and hurt us. I had many operations over one and a half years. Seven different families hosted me. I did not know they were volunteers. I found out that there was no official financial support for the project. The project was supported by the goodwill of many American citizens. Now I really appreciate that.

Though the US government wanted to terminate the war quickly, the country is responsible for the results of the decision.

Forty years have passed since then, and I’m now over eighty. On fine days, as I am pulling my cart with its water bottles, I am still offering water to over 120 monuments in and around Hiroshima. I wish to console the souls of the victims by offering water from a small clear cup with the words “Comfort Water for the A-bomb Victims” written on it.

I have concluded that the major reasons why the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima are as follows. There was a group of people who wanted to experiment with the bomb they had developed. Some high-level people in the government wanted to show the world the military power of the country (using A-bomb politically). Some people who played a significant role in the development of the A-bomb wanted to kill as many people as possible to get even for Pearl Harbor and the Philippines war. (The city of Hiroshima is surrounded by mountains; the geographic condition amplifies the effect). The project that developed the first two A-bombs had spent a significant amount of money and they needed a justification (termination of the war).

Dropping the bomb was not a necessary condition to terminating the war. The Japanese government should have clearly expressed its intention to terminate the war before the bomb was dropped. It was a shame.

I learned that the nuclear weapons which gnaw the minds and bodies of human beings should never be used. Even the slightest idea of using nuclear arms should be completely exterminated from the minds of human beings. Otherwise, we will repeat the same tragedy. And we will never stop being ashamed of ourselves.

To keep a lasting, permanent peace, I want to convey the heart of ‘Hiroshima,’ hoping that what I do will be like small ripples growing into big waves and into a tidal wave.

I think that this cannot be allowed to happen again anywhere in the world. I don’t say this just because I’m a Japanese atomic bomb survivor.

I’ve been living on, dragging my body full of sickness, and from time to time I question myself I wonder if it is worth living in such hardship and pain and I become desperate. But it’s time I manage to pull myself together and I tell myself once my life was saved, I should fulfil my mission as a survivor. It is my belief that those who survived must continue to talk about our experiences. Hand down the awful memories to future generations to represent the silent voices of those who had to die in misery.

By the end of 1945, the blast, fires and radioactivity had killed 140 000 people. The toll kept rising for years as people died of radiation sickness and cancers. As of August 6, 1997, 202,118 names were on the cenotaph in Hiroshima Peace Park, though the number of victims is surely larger: those who went to Hiroshima to search for relatives or help victims after the blast were also exposed to very high radioactivity. The inscription on the cenotaph reads: “Let All the Souls Here Rest in Peace; For We Shall Not Repeat the Evil.”

 

This article comprises sentences and passages culled from several hundred pages of source material. Some words in the sentences (and sentences in the paragraphs) were removed for narrative purposes, but only the italicized material was added. The following sources were used: Bombing Eye-witness Accounts, edited by Eizo Nomura, published in 1950 by the city of Hiroshima. Hiroshima, article by John Hersey published in The New Yorker in 1946. American Ground Zero: The Secret Nuclear War, by Carole Gallagher, Random House, 1993. Also used were interviews posted on the Internet conducted with survivors from between a few years after the bombing to the mid-1990s. The interviewees were from five to forty-five years old at the time of the blast. Some of their names are: Dr. Tanaka, Mr. Shishido, Ms. Yamaoka, Mr.Yukiharu Nakagawa, Mr. Hiroshi Sawachika, Mr. Yosaku Mikami, Mr. Isao Kita, Mr. Akira Onogi, Ms. Hiroko Fukada, Mr. Akihiro Takahashi, Ms. Kinue Tomoyasu, Mr. Yoshitaka Kawamoto, Ms. Toshiko Saeki, Ms. Akiko Takakura, Mr. Mamoru Yukihiro, Ms. Taeko Teramae, Mr. Takehiko Sakai, Ms. Tomiko Sasaki, Mrs. Eiko Taoka, Ms. Keiko Matsuda, Mr. Yoshito Matsushige, Mr. Takeharu Terao. Their interviews can be found on these & other websites: www.theworld.com/obi/Hiroshima.Survivors; www.hiroshima-is.ac.jp; www.japanfocus.org.