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Firsthand Account of Hiroshima Bombing

Firsthand Account of Hiroshima Bombing



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A Catholic missionary who had been living near Hiroshima at the time the U.S. dropped the atomic bomb on the city on August 6, 1945, delivers a firsthand account to Marine Corps radio correspondent Sgt. Eddie Pendergast.


Firsthand Account of Hiroshima Bombing - HISTORY

“Hiroshima” seventy-five years after the bombing

Cristóbal S Berry-Cabán
Fort Bragg, NC

Figure 1. Little Boy at Tinian Island, August 1945. From the National Archives.
Figure 2. Mushroom cloud over Hiroshima, August 6, 1945. From the National Archives.
Figure 3. This person’s skin was burned in a pattern corresponding to the dark portions of a kimono worn at the time of the explosion. From the National Archives.

“At exactly fifteen minutes past eight in the morning on August 6, 1945, Japanese time, at the moment when the atomic bomb flashed above Hiroshima, Miss Toshiko Sasaki, a clerk in the personnel department of the East Asia Tin Works, had just sat down at her place in the plant office and was turning her head to speak to the girl at the next desk.” 1 Thus begins John Hersey’s Hiroshima about the effects of the first atomic bomb that was dropped seventy-five years ago.

Earlier that day the Enola Gay, a B-29 bomber, had taken off from Tinian Island heading towards Japan 1,500 miles away. Hiroshima, the primary target, was an important military and communications center with a population of about 300,000. The bomber flew at low altitude before climbing to 31,000 feet as it neared the target, releasing a 9,700-pound uranium bomb nicknamed Little Boy. Forty-three seconds later a huge explosion lit the morning sky as Little Boy detonated 1,900 feet above the city.

Within hours of the Hiroshima bombing, radio stations read a statement from President Harry S. Truman informing the public that “An American airplane [has] dropped one bomb on Hiroshima . . . It is an atomic bomb. It is a harnessing of the basic power of the universe.” 2

Three days later the Bockscar released Fat Man. This bomb exploded high over the industrial valley of Nagasaki, destroying the Mitsubishi Arms Factory that had manufactured the torpedos dropped on Pearl Harbor. An estimated 39,000 people were killed outright. 3

Japan’s surrender signaled the end of World War II. As America celebrated the victory, the atomic bomb hung like some unnerving haze from another world. Americans tried to make jokes: “when God made Atom, he sure created a handful for Eve.” Few Americans were sententious as most believed that atomic energy would usher in a golden age of peace.

A few voiced dissent. John Foster Dulles intimated that atomic bombs and “Christian statesmanship” were incompatible: “If we, as a professedly Christian nation, feel morally free to use atomic energy in that way, men elsewhere will accept that verdict. Atomic weapons will be looked upon as a normal part of the arsenal of war and the stage will be set for the sudden and final destruction of mankind.” 4 Yet scores of leaders answered hotly that a truly Christian nation ended wars as quickly as possible.

It was a full year before most Americans became aware of the deadly health effects of the atomic bombs. On August 31, 1946, The New Yorker devoted an entire issue of its magazine to the accounts of six survivors interviewed by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Hersey. 5 Hersey’s interviews, later published as Hiroshima, became an instant classic. 1

Hiroshima vividly describes the bomb’s horrifying aftermath: people with melted eyeballs people vaporized, leaving only their shadows etched onto walls descriptions of how people’s skin would fall off when someone tried to pull them out of the water the extensive burns where there was no skin, just muscle and bone.

Hiroshima testifies to the unnatural, unbelievable power of the atomic bomb. The bomb turned day into night, conjured up rain and wind, and destroyed beings from the inside as well as from the outside. Hersey introduces compelling statistics, citing the number of people killed or injured and the reasons why many of those who died could have been saved. Nearly half of the 150 doctors in the city were killed instantly and few of those who survived had access to hospitals or medical equipment.

By combining these statistics with six first-hand accounts, Hersey personalizes the tragedy, and adds meaning to the numbers of dead and wounded. Hersey rarely takes the focus away from these six main figures, and through their experiences we are able to get a vivid picture of the destruction. The characters see countless homes collapsed and hear cries of “Tasukete kure!” (“Help, if you please!”) coming from under the rubble. Hersey describes everything from the bomb’s effects on the weather to the types of burns many people suffered. In fact, Hersey takes great pains to show his readers how the atomic bomb was uniquely devastating.

Before Hiroshima appeared in press most Americans at this time were unaware of the power of the atomic bomb. Speed and secrecy had been the watchwords of the Manhattan Project, the program that developed and built the bombs. When the Trinity test explosion occurred in the New Mexico desert it was announced by the local media (cooperating with the U.S. Office of Censorship) as “a harmless accident in a remote ammunition dump.” 6 After the bombings, access to Hiroshima and Nagasaki was severely restricted by American occupation forces. In 1946, it was still common for American military leaders to depict the event as just another bombing mission. 6

Hersey was the first to pierce through the official pronouncements. After Hiroshima appeared in the New Yorker, Albert Einstein ordered 1,000 copies. Hersey’s essay aroused American empathy for the victims. 7

This devastating attack on Hiroshima and Nagasaki not only garnered Japan’s surrender, but also planted a seed of fear in the world. Some will debate it was the first time that the United States was seen as a force to be reckoned with, while others perceive it as one of the most horrific and inhumane acts committed. These points of view are crucial to the perception of nuclear weapons in America decades later. During the 60s, at the height of the Cold War and Cuban Missile Crisis, the United States found itself in a frightening situation regarding nuclear weapons. While the conflict never culminated, the fear of being victims to a nuclear fallout permeated the minds of many Americans. The goal of eliminating such weapons is entirely laudable. But the world has changed in so many ways in seventy-five years since the bombing.

Physicist Harold Agnew, who served as a scientific observer and watched the destruction of Hiroshima from an observer plane, thought that every world leader should be forced to feel the heat on his or her face from a nuclear blast. 8 The number of people who have actually experienced such a thing dwindles each year. In the absence of first-hand experience, every leader and every literate person should read Hiroshima, which eloquently conveys what is at stake.

The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of the US Army Medical Department, Department of Army, Defense Health Agency, Department of Defense or the US Government.

References

  1. Hersey J. Hiroshima. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. 1946.
  2. Truman HS. Statement on the Atomic Bomb, August 8. 1945. Public Papers of the Presidents: Harry S. Truman. Vol 1 1945.
  3. Southard S. Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War. Viking 2015.
  4. Rosendorf N. John Foster Dulles’ Nuclear Schizophrenia. In: Gaddis JL, Gordon PH, May ER, Rosenberg J, eds. Cold War Statesmen Confront the Bomb: Nuclear Diplomacy since 1945. New York: Oxford University Press 1999:62-86.
  5. Hersey J. Hiroshima. The New Yorker1946.
  6. Rhodes R. The Making of the Atomic Bomb New York: Simon & Schuster 1986.
  7. Shorto R. John Hersey, the Writer Who Let “Hiroshima” Speak for Itself. The New Yorker2016.
  8. Schlosser E. Eric Schlosser: Why Hiroshima now matters more than ever. The Telegraph. August 2, 2015.

CRISTÓBAL S BERRY-CABÁN, PhD, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, has over 30 years’ experience conducting research in health. He is an epidemiologist at Womack Army Medical Center and associate professor at Campbell University. He is the author of nearly 100 research articles including several articles on the history of medicine.


  • Publisher &rlm : &lrm Kodansha USA Inc 1st edition (May 1, 1997)
  • Language &rlm : &lrm English
  • Hardcover &rlm : &lrm 194 pages
  • ISBN-10 &rlm : &lrm 477002147X
  • ISBN-13 &rlm : &lrm 978-4770021472
  • Item Weight &rlm : &lrm 14.4 ounces
  • Dimensions &rlm : &lrm 6 x 1 x 8.75 inches

Top reviews from the United States

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The only thing that might change the minds of those who support America's use of atomic bombs against Japan is the testimony of those who survived the attacks. Gen. Eisenhower, Adm. Leahy and others in the military and government expressed depressed disgust over the use of nuclear weapons against civilians, and Capt. Robert Lewis (co-pilot of the Enola Gay) later met with a group of the Hiroshima Maidens in the U.S. to express his regret and donate money for their medical costs.

"Letters from the End of the World", along with "Hiroshima Diary," present the attack on Hiroshima in terms of the human cost and suffering of civilians. More lives were lost in the fire bombings of Japanese cities and the destruction of Dresden but both the immediate and long-term effects of the use of nuclear weapons constitute a horrific act.

We now know that the use of violence against civilian populations tends to strengthen a resolve to fight to the bitter end. Yet, it remains a tactic by some and an accepted consequence by most. The use of nuclear weapons against Japan were not the deciding factor in ending the war. It was already over.

As long as governments and citizens choose to accept the slaughter of civilians as a collateral consequence to conflict, atrocities will continue. Self-satisfied, unexamined clucking about the unfortunate inevitability of civilian deaths in war is a moral crime in itself. Especially since the 20th century heralded in an age of increasing civilian death tolls in all conflicts.

Capt. Paul Tibbets (pilot of the Enola Gay) went to his grave with no regrets about Hiroshima. To his credit, he met with at least one hibakusha (disfigured survivor of the attack). Tibbets rightly stated that all war is immoral and leads to immoral action. We'd better find a different way to settle differences.

Hiroshima today is a gleaming, modern city that somewhat mutes even a visit to the Atomic Bomb Dome. Even the memorial museum does not convey the horror of August 6th, 1945 the way the witness testimonies do. I can't imagine someone reading this book and not being moved.


Primary Sources

“Japanese doctors said that those who had been killed by the blast itself died instantly. But presently, according to these doctors, those who had suffered only small burns found their appetite failing, their hair falling out, their gums bleeding. They developed temperatures of 104, vomited blood, and died. It was discovered that they had lost 86 percent of their white blood corpuscles. Last week the Japanese announced that the count of Hiroshima’s dead had risen to 125,000.” — From the article “What Ended the War,” LIFE magazine, 9/17/1945

This article published in LIFE magazine was the first eye-witness account of the bombing that the American public was exposed to. The graphic description could only instill fear in the American public. This account made the public fully aware of the power and consequences of nuclear weaponry, and they became afraid about the future use of nuclear weaponry. This account could only cover the short-term effects of the atomic bomb and nuclear fallout, so the immediate fear quickly vanished and became passionate nationalism. However, once the long-term impact of dropping the atomic bomb over Japan became evident, ethical debates concerning the atomic bomb became prevalent in American politics and lay-person conversations. The public began to question governmental motives and science as a whole. Controversy swirled, and continues to swirl, around whether or not detonating the atomic bomb was a necessity in ending the war, or if it was simply a display of scientific power to set the United States apart from its enemies as a superior nation. Ultimately, first-hand accounts, such as this one, brought fear and distrust into the public sphere. This distrust and fear set the stage for cultural shifts, especially with the approach of the Cold War and scientific advancements concerning nuclear fallout.

Fallout Informational Documentary – 1955

This documentary aired in 1955, in the midst of the Cold War, as a precautionary informational video informing the general public on how to stay safe and avoid the harmful effects of nuclear fallout. As described in the video, fallout was not localized to the test site in which the nuclear weapon had been detonated, so anyone within a few hundred miles radius of the test site had to be careful to avoid nuclear fallout. Some of the safety steps explained include listening to the local radio for any updates on nearby nuclear fallout, avoiding windows and doors, using sandbags to prevent fallout from entering windows and small openings, and stocking up on supplies such as food and water in the event that nuclear fallout prevents leaving the home for extended periods of time. However, as the Cold War progressed, fears about nuclear fallout and radiation were not limited to only nuclear weapons testing as the public concern of a nuclear war grew as well. This documentary is an attempt to calm and inform the American public through small safety steps. However, nuclear fallout cannot be avoided simply by following the steps outlined in this documentary, but it gave the public a sense of control over a dangerous and scary situation. It also failed to acknowledge the true dangers that nuclear fallout can cause to people and the environment. Essentially, this documentary is nothing more than an attempt to use media to calm the fears of the American public as the Cold War waged on and the threat of nuclear war was deeply present in American culture.

Newspaper Article – 1995

As stated, this newspaper article concerns a man protesting at the Trinity Site in New Mexico where the first atomic bomb to be created was tested. A significant part of this event is that the man protesting was from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where one of the worst nuclear power plant meltdowns in the United States had ever occurred. The man is enraged by his personal experience with the harmful effects of nuclear radiation, and he most likely disagrees with the military action taken in Japan using nuclear weaponry. Culturally, this article exemplifies how different the American public’s perspective concerning nuclear fallout has come to be. Immediately following the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Americans were afraid of nuclear power and how it could potentially harm them, especially as the Cold War progressed following World War II. However, the negative impacts of nuclear fallout had been discovered through various methods of scientific research over time, and the American public became frustrated with both their lack of control over nuclear weapons testing, and the carelessness with which the testing was done. This article shows the public’s sentiments concerning nuclear weapon use by the United States from both past and present, and the cultural shift that came along with this changing perspective.

Genes, Development, and Cancer – Edward B. Lewis, 2004

Edward B. Lewis was an American geneticist that had performed Nobel Prize winning studies on Drosophila, which founded the field of developmental genetics. During the 1950s and 1960s, he performed studies concerning the effects of nuclear radiation and nuclear fallout by examining the medical records of the survivors in Nagasaki and Hiroshima, and discovered that “health risks from radiation had been underestimated.” In a specific study done in prompted by atomic tests done in Nevada in 1958, Lewis discovered that the thyroids of young children and infants was susceptible to radioiodine released during these nuclear tests. Studies in the late 1950s showed that the milk of cows that had fed on the nuclear fallout contaminated grass near the test site in Nevada contained concentrated amounts of radioiodine. Therefore, when a young child or infant had been fed the contaminated milk, the thyroid of these individuals absorbed the beta radiation from radioiodine. A subsequent study showed a significant increase in thyroid cancer among individuals who were infants or young children during the atomic bomb testing done in 1958 in Nevada. Similarly, in 1963 Lewis performed a radiologist study which found that low doses of ionizing radiation, the type of radiation found in nuclear fallout, can induce leukemia in exposed individuals. The publication of these studies stoked the public’s aversion to nuclear weapons testing and development within the United States. The American public felt that the government was careless in testing these weapons within the country, where fallout could be carried for thousands of miles by jet streams, and effectively pollute the nation. The health hazards involved in nuclear detonation also resulted in a greater public fear of nuclear war during the Cold War, which resulted in a lifestyle driven by fear and distrust.


Customer reviews

Top reviews from the United States

There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

The only thing that might change the minds of those who support America's use of atomic bombs against Japan is the testimony of those who survived the attacks. Gen. Eisenhower, Adm. Leahy and others in the military and government expressed depressed disgust over the use of nuclear weapons against civilians, and Capt. Robert Lewis (co-pilot of the Enola Gay) later met with a group of the Hiroshima Maidens in the U.S. to express his regret and donate money for their medical costs.

"Letters from the End of the World", along with "Hiroshima Diary," present the attack on Hiroshima in terms of the human cost and suffering of civilians. More lives were lost in the fire bombings of Japanese cities and the destruction of Dresden but both the immediate and long-term effects of the use of nuclear weapons constitute a horrific act.

We now know that the use of violence against civilian populations tends to strengthen a resolve to fight to the bitter end. Yet, it remains a tactic by some and an accepted consequence by most. The use of nuclear weapons against Japan were not the deciding factor in ending the war. It was already over.

As long as governments and citizens choose to accept the slaughter of civilians as a collateral consequence to conflict, atrocities will continue. Self-satisfied, unexamined clucking about the unfortunate inevitability of civilian deaths in war is a moral crime in itself. Especially since the 20th century heralded in an age of increasing civilian death tolls in all conflicts.

Capt. Paul Tibbets (pilot of the Enola Gay) went to his grave with no regrets about Hiroshima. To his credit, he met with at least one hibakusha (disfigured survivor of the attack). Tibbets rightly stated that all war is immoral and leads to immoral action. We'd better find a different way to settle differences.

Hiroshima today is a gleaming, modern city that somewhat mutes even a visit to the Atomic Bomb Dome. Even the memorial museum does not convey the horror of August 6th, 1945 the way the witness testimonies do. I can't imagine someone reading this book and not being moved.


First-person account: I survived Hiroshima

In 1945, Hiromu Morishita was a 14-year-old student at Hiroshima First High School. With so many young Japanese men fighting for their country, Morishita and his classmates were mobilized as a work force for an aircraft parts factory. When materials ran out, they were assigned to tear down buildings to create a fire-control zone if Hiroshima were hit by U.S. bombers.

Tokyo already had been fire-bombed, along with dozens of other cities. Air raid alerts were part of Hiroshima’s emergency preparations, which also included building bamboo rafts in case a reservoir were attacked.

But Hiroshima hadn’t been hit, even though it was a military city. It made Morishita and his classmates curious – and scared. They didn’t know that Hiroshima was left intact so the U.S. could assess the impact of the atomic bomb.

On Aug. 6, Morishita was among 70-80 students lined up near the Tsurumi Bridge in Hiroshima’s Hijiyama district, waiting for their instructions for the day.

The 84-year-old retired calligraphy professor recalls vividly what followed:

Suddenly, a bright light flashed. Instantly, I squatted down and covered my face with my hands. We had been instructed to do so to protect ourselves when we were bombed. Otherwise, we were told that our eardrums would burst and eyeballs would pop out.

A tremendous heat engulfed us. It was as if we were thrown into a gigantic smelting furnace. Then I was blown down by a blast and beaten into the ground.

I jumped into the water because my body was burning hot. Soon, people started coming into the water one after another. I looked up the sky. It was pitch black and the dust filled the air. The sun was glittering, but it was cold and dark as if it were a winter day.

There was an eerie silence. After a while, I crawled out of the water. Low and weak groans were echoing all over.

I had no idea where my classmates were. Then, I saw one of them coming to me. He asked me how he looked. I told him ‘Your cap and clothes are burnt and the skin on your face is hanging like rags.’ He told me that I looked exactly the same.

Near the bridge rail, a badly burned horse was struggling to stand up.

I followed the crowd and walked toward an empty lot. There was a sea of flames all over. I walked up a path to the hilltop of Hijiyama, from which I could see the city. Flames were seen here and there as if heaps of sawdust were burning. Fire sirens were blaring.

I did not feel anything because I could not figure out what was actually going on.


Eyewitness Account of Hiroshima

Up to August 6th, occasional bombs, which did no great damage, had fallen on Hiroshima. Many cities roundabout, one after the other, were destroyed, but Hiroshima itself remained protected. There were almost daily observation planes over the city but none of them dropped a bomb. The citizens wondered why they alone had remained undisturbed for so long a time. There were fantastic rumors that the enemy had something special in mind for this city, but no one dreamed that the end would come in such a fashion as on the morning of August 6th.

August 6th began in a bright, clear, summer morning. About seven o'clock, there was an air raid alarm which we had heard almost every day and a few planes appeared over the city. No one paid any attention and at about eight o'clock, the all-clear was sounded. I am sitting in my room at the Novitiate of the Society of Jesus in Nagatsuke during the past half year, the philosophical and theological section of our Mission had been evacuated to this place from Tokyo. The Novitiate is situated approximately two kilometers from Hiroshima, half-way up the sides of a broad valley which stretches from the town at sea level into this mountainous hinterland, and through which courses a river. From my window, I have a wonderful view down the valley to the edge of the city.

Suddenly--the time is approximately 8:14--the whole valley is filled by a garish light which resembles the magnesium light used in photography, and I am conscious of a wave of heat. I jump to the window to find out the cause of this remarkable phenomenon, but I see nothing more than that brilliant yellow light. As I make for the door, it doesn't occur to me that the light might have something to do with enemy planes. On the way from the window, I hear a moderately loud explosion which seems to come from a distance and, at the same time, the windows are broken in with a loud crash. There has been an interval of perhaps ten seconds since the flash of light. I am sprayed by fragments of glass. The entire window frame has been forced into the room. I realize now that a bomb has burst and I am under the impression that it exploded directly over our house or in the immediate vicinity.

I am bleeding from cuts about the hands and head. I attempt to get out of the door. It has been forced outwards by the air pressure and has become jammed. I force an opening in the door by means of repeated blows with my hands and feet and come to a broad hallway from which open the various rooms. Everything is in a state of confusion. All windows are broken and all the doors are forced inwards. The bookshelves in the hallway have tumbled down. I do not note a second explosion and the fliers seem to have gone on. Most of my colleagues have been injured by fragments of glass. A few are bleeding but none has been seriously injured. All of us have been fortunate since it is now apparent that the wall of my room opposite the window has been lacerated by long fragments of glass.

We proceed to the front of the house to see where the bomb has landed. There is no evidence, however, of a bomb crater but the southeast section of the house is very severely damaged. Not a door nor a window remains. The blast of air had penetrated the entire house from the southeast, but the house still stands. It is constructed in a Japanese style with a wooden framework, but has been greatly strengthened by the labor of our Brother Gropper as is frequently done in Japanese homes. Only along the front of the chapel which adjoins the house, three supports have given way (it has been made in the manner of Japanese temple, entirely out of wood.)

Down in the valley, perhaps one kilometer toward the city from us, several peasant homes are on fire and the woods on the opposite side of the valley are aflame. A few of us go over to help control the flames. While we are attempting to put things in order, a storm comes up and it begins to rain. Over the city, clouds of smoke are rising and I hear a few slight explosions. I come to the conclusion that an incendiary bomb with an especially strong explosive action has gone off down in the valley. A few of us saw three planes at great altitude over the city at the time of the explosion. I, myself, saw no aircraft whatsoever.

Perhaps a half-hour after the explosion, a procession of people begins to stream up the valley from the city. The crowd thickens continuously. A few come up the road to our house. We give them first aid and bring them into the chapel, which we have in the meantime cleaned and cleared of wreckage, and put them to rest on the straw mats which constitute the floor of Japanese houses. A few display horrible wounds of the extremities and back. The small quantity of fat which we possessed during this time of war was soon used up in the care of the burns. Father Rektor who, before taking holy orders, had studied medicine, ministers to the injured, but our bandages and drugs are soon gone. We must be content with cleansing the wounds.

More and more of the injured come to us. The least injured drag the more seriously wounded. There are wounded soldiers, and mothers carrying burned children in their arms. From the houses of the farmers in the valley comes word: "Our houses are full of wounded and dying. Can you help, at least by taking the worst cases?" The wounded come from the sections at the edge of the city. They saw the bright light, their houses collapsed and buried the inmates in their rooms. Those that were in the open suffered instantaneous burns, particularly on the lightly clothed or unclothed parts of the body. Numerous fires sprang up which soon consumed the entire district. We now conclude that the epicenter of the explosion was at the edge of the city near the Jokogawa Station, three kilometers away from us. We are concerned about Father Kopp who that same morning, went to hold Mass at the Sisters of the Poor, who have a home for children at the edge of the city. He had not returned as yet.

Toward noon, our large chapel and library are filled with the seriously injured. The procession of refugees from the city continues. Finally, about one o'clock, Father Kopp returns, together with the Sisters. Their house and the entire district where they live has burned to the ground. Father Kopp is bleeding about the head and neck, and he has a large burn on the right palm. He was standing in front of the nunnery ready to go home. All of a sudden, he became aware of the light, felt the wave of heat and a large blister formed on his hand. The windows were torn out by the blast. He thought that the bomb had fallen in his immediate vicinity. The nunnery, also a wooden structure made by our Brother Gropper, still remained but soon it is noted that the house is as good as lost because the fire, which had begun at many points in the neighborhood, sweeps closer and closer, and water is not available. There is still time to rescue certain things from the house and to bury them in an open spot. Then the house is swept by flame, and they fight their way back to us along the shore of the river and through the burning streets.

Soon comes news that the entire city has been destroyed by the explosion and that it is on fire. What became of Father Superior and the three other Fathers who were at the center of the city at the Central Mission and Parish House? We had up to this time not given them a thought because we did not believe that the effects of the bomb encompassed the entire city. Also, we did not want to go into town except under pressure of dire necessity, because we thought that the population was greatly perturbed and that it might take revenge on any foreigners which they might consider spiteful onlookers of their misfortune, or even spies.

Father Stolte and Father Erlinghagen go down to the road which is still full of refugees and bring in the seriously injured who have sunken by the wayside, to the temporary aid station at the village school. There iodine is applied to the wounds but they are left uncleansed. Neither ointments nor other therapeutic agents are available. Those that have been brought in are laid on the floor and no one can give them any further care. What could one do when all means are lacking? Under those circumstances, it is almost useless to bring them in. Among the passersby, there are many who are uninjured. In a purposeless, insensate manner, distraught by the magnitude of the disaster most of them rush by and none conceives the thought of organizing help on his own initiative. They are concerned only with the welfare of their own families. It became clear to us during these days that the Japanese displayed little initiative, preparedness, and organizational skill in preparation for catastrophes. They failed to carry out any rescue work when something could have been saved by a cooperative effort, and fatalistically let the catastrophe take its course. When we urged them to take part in the rescue work, they did everything willingly, but on their own initiative they did very little.

At about four o'clock in the afternoon, a theology student and two kindergarten children, who lived at the Parish House and adjoining buildings which had burned down, came in and said that Father Superior LaSalle and Father Schiffer had been seriously injured and that they had taken refuge in Asano Park on the river bank. It is obvious that we must bring them in since they are too weak to come here on foot.

Hurriedly, we get together two stretchers and seven of us rush toward the city. Father Rektor comes along with food and medicine. The closer we get to the city, the greater is the evidence of destruction and the more difficult it is to make our way. The houses at the edge of the city are all severely damaged. Many have collapsed or burned down. Further in, almost all of the dwellings have been damaged by fire. Where the city stood, there is a gigantic burned-out scar. We make our way along the street on the river bank among the burning and smoking ruins. Twice we are forced into the river itself by the heat and smoke at the level of the street.

Frightfully burned people beckon to us. Along the way, there are many dead and dying. On the Misasi Bridge, which leads into the inner city we are met by a long procession of soldiers who have suffered burns. They drag themselves along with the help of staves or are carried by their less severely injured comrades. an endless procession of the unfortunate.

Abandoned on the bridge, there stand with sunken heads a number of horses with large burns on their flanks. On the far side, the cement structure of the local hospital is the only building that remains standing. Its interior, however, has been burned out. It acts as a landmark to guide us on our way.

Finally we reach the entrance of the park. A large proportion of the populace has taken refuge there, but even the trees of the park are on fire in several places. Paths and bridges are blocked by the trunks of fallen trees and are almost impassable. We are told that a high wind, which may well have resulted from the heat of the burning city, has uprooted the large trees. It is now quite dark. Only the fires, which are still raging in some places at a distance, give out a little light.

At the far corner of the park, on the river bank itself, we at last come upon our colleagues. Father Schiffer is on the ground pale as a ghost. He has a deep incised wound behind the ear and has lost so much blood that we are concerned about his chances for survival. The Father Superior has suffered a deep wound of the lower leg. Father Cieslik and Father Kleinsorge have minor injuries but are completely exhausted.

While they are eating the food that we have brought along, they tell us of their experiences. They were in their rooms at the Parish House--it was a quarter after eight, exactly the time when we had heard the explosion in Nagatsuke--when came the intense light and immediately thereafter the sound of breaking windows, walls and furniture. They were showered with glass splinters and fragments of wreckage. Father Schiffer was buried beneath a portion of a wall and suffered a severe head injury. The Father Superior received most of the splinters in his back and lower extremity from which he bled copiously. Everything was thrown about in the rooms themselves, but the wooden framework of the house remained intact. The solidity of the structure which was the work of Brother Gropper again shone forth.

They had the same impression that we had in Nagatsuke: that the bomb had burst in their immediate vicinity. The Church, school, and all buildings in the immediate vicinity collapsed at once. Beneath the ruins of the school, the children cried for help. They were freed with great effort. Several others were also rescued from the ruins of nearby dwellings. Even the Father Superior and Father Schiffer despite their wounds, rendered aid to others and lost a great deal of blood in the process.

In the meantime, fires which had begun some distance away are raging even closer, so that it becomes obvious that everything would soon burn down. Several objects are rescued from the Parish House and were buried in a clearing in front of the Church, but certain valuables and necessities which had been kept ready in case of fire could not be found on account of the confusion which had been wrought. It is high time to flee, since the oncoming flames leave almost no way open. Fukai, the secretary of the Mission, is completely out of his mind. He does not want to leave the house and explains that he does not want to survive the destruction of his fatherland. He is completely uninjured. Father Kleinsorge drags him out of the house on his back and he is forcefully carried away.

Beneath the wreckage of the houses along the way, many have been trapped and they scream to be rescued from the oncoming flames. They must be left to their fate. The way to the place in the city to which one desires to flee is no longer open and one must make for Asano Park. Fukai does not want to go further and remains behind. He has not been heard from since. In the park, we take refuge on the bank of the river. A very violent whirlwind now begins to uproot large trees, and lifts them high into the air. As it reaches the water, a waterspout forms which is approximately 100 meters high. The violence of the storm luckily passes us by. Some distance away, however, where numerous refugees have taken shelter, many are blown into the river. Almost all who are in the vicinity have been injured and have lost relatives who have been pinned under the wreckage or who have been lost sight of during the flight. There is no help for the wounded and some die. No one pays any attention to a dead man lying nearby.

The transportation of our own wounded is difficult. It is not possible to dress their wounds properly in the darkness, and they bleed again upon slight motion. As we carry them on the shaky litters in the dark over fallen trees of the park, they suffer unbearable pain as the result of the movement, and lose dangerously large quantities of blood. Our rescuing angel in this difficult situation is a Japanese Protestant pastor. He has brought up a boat and offers to take our wounded up stream to a place where progress is easier. First, we lower the litter containing Father Schiffer into the boat and two of us accompany him. We plan to bring the boat back for the Father Superior. The boat returns about one-half hour later and the pastor requests that several of us help in the rescue of two children whom he had seen in the river. We rescue them. They have severe burns. Soon they suffer chills and die in the park.

The Father Superior is conveyed in the boat in the same manner as Father Schiffer. The theology student and myself accompany him. Father Cieslik considers himself strong enough to make his way on foot to Nagatsuke with the rest of us, but Father Kleinsorge cannot walk so far and we leave him behind and promise to come for him and the housekeeper tomorrow. From the other side of the stream comes the whinny of horses who are threatened by the fire. We land on a sand spit which juts out from the shore. It is full of wounded who have taken refuge there. They scream for aid for they are afraid of drowning as the river may rise with the sea, and cover the sand spit. They themselves are too weak to move. However, we must press on and finally we reach the spot where the group containing Father Schiffer is waiting.

Here a rescue party had brought a large case of fresh rice cakes but there is no one to distribute them to the numerous wounded that lie all about. We distribute them to those that are nearby and also help ourselves. The wounded call for water and we come to the aid of a few. Cries for help are heard from a distance, but we cannot approach the ruins from which they come. A group of soldiers comes along the road and their officer notices that we speak a strange language. He at once draws his sword, screamingly demands who we are and threatens to cut us down. Father Laures, Jr., seizes his arm and explains that we are German. We finally quiet him down. He thought that we might well be Americans who had parachuted down. Rumors of parachutists were being bandied about the city. The Father Superior who was clothed only in a shirt and trousers, complains of feeling freezing cold, despite the warm summer night and the heat of the burning city. The one man among us who possesses a coat gives it to him and, in addition, I give him my own shirt. To me, it seems more comfortable to be without a shirt in the heat.

In the meantime, it has become midnight. Since there are not enough of us to man both litters with four strong bearers, we determine to remove Father Schiffer first to the outskirts of the city. From there, another group of bearers is to take over to Nagatsuke the others are to turn back in order to rescue the Father Superior. I am one of the bearers. The theology student goes in front to warn us of the numerous wires, beams and fragments of ruins which block the way and which are impossible to see in the dark. Despite all precautions, our progress is stumbling and our feet get tangled in the wire. Father Kruer falls and carries the litter with him. Father Schiffer becomes half unconscious from the fall and vomits. We pass an injured man who sits all alone among the hot ruins and whom I had seen previously on the way down.

On the Misasa Bridge, we meet Father Tappe and Father Luhmer, who have come to meet us from Nagatsuke. They had dug a family out of the ruins of their collapsed house some fifty meters off the road. The father of the family was already dead. They had dragged out two girls and placed them by the side of the road. Their mother was still trapped under some beams. They had planned to complete the rescue and then to press on to meet us. At the outskirts of the city, we put down the litter and leave two men to wait until those who are to come from Nagatsuke appear. The rest of us turn back to fetch the Father Superior.

Most of the ruins have now burned down. The darkness kindly hides the many forms that lie on the ground. Only occasionally in our quick progress do we hear calls for help. One of us remarks that the remarkable burned smell reminds him of incinerated corpses. The upright, squatting form which we had passed by previously is still there.

Transportation on the litter, which has been constructed out of boards, must be very painful to the Father Superior, whose entire back is full of fragments of glass. In a narrow passage at the edge of town, a car forces us to the edge of the road. The litter bearers on the left side fall into a two meter deep ditch which they could not see in the darkness. Father Superior hides his pain with a dry joke, but the litter which is now no longer in one piece cannot be carried further. We decide to wait until Kinjo can bring a hand cart from Nagatsuke. He soon comes back with one that he has requisitioned from a collapsed house. We place Father Superior on the cart and wheel him the rest of the way, avoiding as much as possible the deeper pits in the road.

About half past four in the morning, we finally arrive at the Novitiate. Our rescue expedition had taken almost twelve hours. Normally, one could go back and forth to the city in two hours. Our two wounded were now, for the first time, properly dressed. I get two hours sleep on the floor some one else has taken my own bed. Then I read a Mass in gratiarum actionem, it is the 7th of August, the anniversary of the foundation of our society. Then we bestir ourselves to bring Father Kleinsorge and other acquaintances out of the city.

We take off again with the hand cart. The bright day now reveals the frightful picture which last night's darkness had partly concealed. Where the city stood everything, as far as the eye could reach, is a waste of ashes and ruin. Only several skeletons of buildings completely burned out in the interior remain. The banks of the river are covered with dead and wounded, and the rising waters have here and there covered some of the corpses. On the broad street in the Hakushima district, naked burned cadavers are particularly numerous. Among them are the wounded who are still alive. A few have crawled under the burnt-out autos and trams. Frightfully injured forms beckon to us and then collapse. An old woman and a girl whom she is pulling along with her fall down at our feet. We place them on our cart and wheel them to the hospital at whose entrance a dressing station has been set up. Here the wounded lie on the hard floor, row on row. Only the largest wounds are dressed. We convey another soldier and an old woman to the place but we cannot move everybody who lies exposed in the sun. It would be endless and it is questionable whether those whom we can drag to the dressing station can come out alive, because even here nothing really effective can be done. Later, we ascertain that the wounded lay for days in the burnt-out hallways of the hospital and there they died.

We must proceed to our goal in the park and are forced to leave the wounded to their fate. We make our way to the place where our church stood to dig up those few belongings that we had buried yesterday. We find them intact. Everything else has been completely burned. In the ruins, we find a few molten remnants of holy vessels. At the park, we load the housekeeper and a mother with her two children on the cart. Father Kleinsorge feels strong enough, with the aid of Brother Nobuhara, to make his way home on foot. The way back takes us once again past the dead and wounded in Hakushima. Again no rescue parties are in evidence. At the Misasa Bridge, there still lies the family which the Fathers Tappe and Luhmer had yesterday rescued from the ruins. A piece of tin had been placed over them to shield them from the sun. We cannot take them along for our cart is full. We give them and those nearby water to drink and decide to rescue them later. At three o'clock in the afternoon, we are back in Nagatsuka.

After we have had a few swallows and a little food, Fathers Stolte, Luhmer, Erlinghagen and myself, take off once again to bring in the family. Father Kleinsorge requests that we also rescue two children who had lost their mother and who had lain near him in the park. On the way, we were greeted by strangers who had noted that we were on a mission of mercy and who praised our efforts. We now met groups of individuals who were carrying the wounded about on litters. As we arrived at the Misasa Bridge, the family that had been there was gone. They might well have been borne away in the meantime. There was a group of soldiers at work taking away those that had been sacrificed yesterday.

More than thirty hours had gone by until the first official rescue party had appeared on the scene. We find both children and take them out of the park: a six-year old boy who was uninjured, and a twelve-year old girl who had been burned about the head, hands and legs, and who had lain for thirty hours without care in the park. The left side of her face and the left eye were completely covered with blood and pus, so that we thought that she had lost the eye. When the wound was later washed, we noted that the eye was intact and that the lids had just become stuck together. On the way home, we took another group of three refugees with us. They first wanted to know, however, of what nationality we were. They, too, feared that we might be Americans who had parachuted in. When we arrived in Nagatsuka, it had just become dark.

We took under our care fifty refugees who had lost everything. The majority of them were wounded and not a few had dangerous burns. Father Rektor treated the wounds as well as he could with the few medicaments that we could, with effort, gather up. He had to confine himself in general to cleansing the wounds of purulent material. Even those with the smaller burns are very weak and all suffered from diarrhea. In the farm houses in the vicinity, almost everywhere, there are also wounded. Father Rektor made daily rounds and acted in the capacity of a painstaking physician and was a great Samaritan. Our work was, in the eyes of the people, a greater boost for Christianity than all our work during the preceding long years.

Three of the severely burned in our house died within the next few days. Suddenly the pulse and respirations ceased. It is certainly a sign of our good care that so few died. In the official aid stations and hospitals, a good third or half of those that had been brought in died. They lay about there almost without care, and a very high percentage succumbed. Everything was lacking: doctors, assistants, dressings, drugs, etc. In an aid station at a school at a nearby village, a group of soldiers for several days did nothing except to bring in and cremate the dead behind the school.

During the next few days, funeral processions passed our house from morning to night, bringing the deceased to a small valley nearby. There, in six places, the dead were burned. People brought their own wood and themselves did the cremation. Father Luhmer and Father Laures found a dead man in a nearby house who had already become bloated and who emitted a frightful odor. They brought him to this valley and incinerated him themselves. Even late at night, the little valley was lit up by the funeral pyres.

We made systematic efforts to trace our acquaintances and the families of the refugees whom we had sheltered. Frequently, after the passage of several weeks, some one was found in a distant village or hospital but of many there was no news, and these were apparently dead. We were lucky to discover the mother of the two children whom we had found in the park and who had been given up for dead. After three weeks, she saw her children once again. In the great joy of the reunion were mingled the tears for those whom we shall not see again.

The magnitude of the disaster that befell Hiroshima on August 6th was only slowly pieced together in my mind. I lived through the catastrophe and saw it only in flashes, which only gradually were merged to give me a total picture. What actually happened simultaneously in the city as a whole is as follows: As a result of the explosion of the bomb at 8:15, almost the entire city was destroyed at a single blow. Only small outlying districts in the southern and eastern parts of the town escaped complete destruction. The bomb exploded over the center of the city. As a result of the blast, the small Japanese houses in a diameter of five kilometers, which compressed 99% of the city, collapsed or were blown up. Those who were in the houses were buried in the ruins. Those who were in the open sustained burns resulting from contact with the substance or rays emitted by the bomb. Where the substance struck in quantity, fires sprang up. These spread rapidly.

The heat which rose from the center created a whirlwind which was effective in spreading fire throughout the whole city. Those who had been caught beneath the ruins and who could not be freed rapidly, and those who had been caught by the flames, became casualties. As much as six kilometers from the center of the explosion, all houses were damaged and many collapsed and caught fire. Even fifteen kilometers away, windows were broken. It was rumored that the enemy fliers had spread an explosive and incendiary material over the city and then had created the explosion and ignition. A few maintained that they saw the planes drop a parachute which had carried something that exploded at a height of 1,000 meters. The newspapers called the bomb an "atomic bomb" and noted that the force of the blast had resulted from the explosion of uranium atoms, and that gamma rays had been sent out as a result of this, but no one knew anything for certain concerning the nature of the bomb.

How many people were a sacrifice to this bomb? Those who had lived through the catastrophe placed the number of dead at at least 100,000. Hiroshima had a population of 400,000. Official statistics place the number who had died at 70,000 up to September 1st, not counting the missing . and 130,000 wounded, among them 43,500 severely wounded. Estimates made by ourselves on the basis of groups known to us show that the number of 100,000 dead is not too high. Near us there are two barracks, in each of which forty Korean workers lived. On the day of the explosion, they were laboring on the streets of Hiroshima. Four returned alive to one barracks and sixteen to the other. 600 students of the Protestant girls' school worked in a factory, from which only thirty to forty returned. Most of the peasant families in the neighborhood lost one or more of their members who had worked at factories in the city. Our next door neighbor, Tamura, lost two children and himself suffered a large wound since, as it happened, he had been in the city on that day. The family of our reader suffered two dead, father and son thus a family of five members suffered at least two losses, counting only the dead and severely wounded. There died the Mayor, the President of the central Japan district, the Commander of the city, a Korean prince who had been stationed in Hiroshima in the capacity of an officer, and many other high ranking officers. Of the professors of the University, thirty-two were killed or severely injured. Especially hard hit were the soldiers. The Pioneer Regiment was almost entirely wiped out. The barracks were near the center of the explosion.

Thousands of wounded who died later could doubtless have been rescued had they received proper treatment and care, but rescue work in a catastrophe of this magnitude had not been envisioned since the whole city had been knocked out at a blow, everything which had been prepared for emergency work was lost, and no preparation had been made for rescue work in the outlying districts. Many of the wounded also died because they had been weakened by under-nourishment and consequently lacked in strength to recover. Those who had their normal strength and who received good care slowly healed the burns which had been occasioned by the bomb. There were also cases, however, whose prognosis seemed good who died suddenly. There were also some who had only small external wounds who died within a week or later, after an inflammation of the pharynx and oral cavity had taken place. We thought at first that this was the result of inhalation of the substance of the bomb. Later, a commission established the thesis that gamma rays had been given out at the time of the explosion, following which the internal organs had been injured in a manner resembling that consequent upon Roentgen irradiation. This produces a diminution in the numbers of the white corpuscles.

Only several cases are known to me personally where individuals who did not have external burns later died. Father Kleinsorge and Father Cieslik, who were near the center of the explosion, but who did not suffer burns became quite weak some fourteen days after the explosion. Up to this time small incised wounds had healed normally, but thereafter the wounds which were still unhealed became worse and are to date (in September) still incompletely healed. The attending physician diagnosed it as leucopania. There thus seems to be some truth in the statement that the radiation had some effect on the blood. I am of the opinion, however, that their generally undernourished and weakened condition was partly responsible for these findings. It was noised about that the ruins of the city emitted deadly rays and that workers who went there to aid in the clearing died, and that the central district would be uninhabitable for some time to come. I have my doubts as to whether such talk is true and myself and others who worked in the ruined area for some hours shortly after the explosion suffered no such ill effects.

None of us in those days heard a single outburst against the Americans on the part of the Japanese, nor was there any evidence of a vengeful spirit. The Japanese suffered this terrible blow as part of the fortunes of war . something to be borne without complaint. During this, war, I have noted relatively little hatred toward the allies on the part of the people themselves, although the press has taken occasion to stir up such feelings. After the victories at the beginning of the war, the enemy was rather looked down upon, but when allied offensive gathered momentum and especially after the advent of the majestic B-29's, the technical skill of America became an object of wonder and admiration.

The following anecdote indicates the spirit of the Japanese: A few days after the atomic bombing, the secretary of the University came to us asserting that the Japanese were ready to destroy San Francisco by means of an equally effective bomb. It is dubious that he himself believed what he told us. He merely wanted to impress upon us foreigners that the Japanese were capable of similar discoveries. In his nationalistic pride, he talked himself into believing this. The Japanese also intimated that the principle of the new bomb was a Japanese discovery. It was only lack of raw materials, they said, which prevented its construction. In the meantime, the Germans were said to have carried the discovery to a further stage and were about to initiate such bombing. The Americans were reputed to have learned the secret from the Germans, and they had then brought the bomb to a stage of industrial completion.

We have discussed among ourselves the ethics of the use of the bomb. Some consider it in the same category as poison gas and were against its use on a civil population. Others were of the view that in total war, as carried on in Japan, there was no difference between civilians and soldiers, and that the bomb itself was an effective force tending to end the bloodshed, warning Japan to surrender and thus to avoid total destruction. It seems logical to me that he who supports total war in principle cannot complain of war against civilians. The crux of the matter is whether total war in its present form is justifiable, even when it serves a just purpose. Does it not have material and spiritual evil as its consequences which far exceed whatever good that might result? When will our moralists give us a clear answer to this question?


The Atomic Bomb: Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Boyer, Paul. By the Bomb’s Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age. New York: Pantheon, 1984. An in-depth examination of America’s struggles to deal with the political implications of atomic weapons in the years immediately following the end of World War II.

Dower, John. War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War. New York: Pantheon, 1986. An insightful examination of the patterns of racism that permeated both American and Japanese attitudes during the Pacific war, it helps explain many of the patterns of brutality that characterized that theater.

Hersey, John. Hiroshima. New York: Knopf, 1946. A year after the atomic bombings, Pulitzer Prize-winning author John Hersey collected the firsthand accounts of the attacks and their aftermath. The book remains a searing and valuable look at the bomb’s effects on the ground.

Linenthal, Edward T., and Tom Engelhardt. History Wars: The Enola Gay and Other Battles for the American Past. New York: Henry Holt, 1996. A collection of essays that deals with the fallout from the planned 50th-anniversary exhibit at the National Air and Space Museum, and its implications for America’s efforts to understand its own past.

Spector, Ronald. Eagle Against the Sun: The American War with Japan. New York: Free Press, 1985. The best single-volume examination of World War II in the Pacific, it provides detailed analysis of the four-year conflict that culminated in the atomic bombings.


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The only thing that might change the minds of those who support America's use of atomic bombs against Japan is the testimony of those who survived the attacks. Gen. Eisenhower, Adm. Leahy and others in the military and government expressed depressed disgust over the use of nuclear weapons against civilians, and Capt. Robert Lewis (co-pilot of the Enola Gay) later met with a group of the Hiroshima Maidens in the U.S. to express his regret and donate money for their medical costs.

"Letters from the End of the World", along with "Hiroshima Diary," present the attack on Hiroshima in terms of the human cost and suffering of civilians. More lives were lost in the fire bombings of Japanese cities and the destruction of Dresden but both the immediate and long-term effects of the use of nuclear weapons constitute a horrific act.

We now know that the use of violence against civilian populations tends to strengthen a resolve to fight to the bitter end. Yet, it remains a tactic by some and an accepted consequence by most. The use of nuclear weapons against Japan were not the deciding factor in ending the war. It was already over.

As long as governments and citizens choose to accept the slaughter of civilians as a collateral consequence to conflict, atrocities will continue. Self-satisfied, unexamined clucking about the unfortunate inevitability of civilian deaths in war is a moral crime in itself. Especially since the 20th century heralded in an age of increasing civilian death tolls in all conflicts.

Capt. Paul Tibbets (pilot of the Enola Gay) went to his grave with no regrets about Hiroshima. To his credit, he met with at least one hibakusha (disfigured survivor of the attack). Tibbets rightly stated that all war is immoral and leads to immoral action. We'd better find a different way to settle differences.

Hiroshima today is a gleaming, modern city that somewhat mutes even a visit to the Atomic Bomb Dome. Even the memorial museum does not convey the horror of August 6th, 1945 the way the witness testimonies do. I can't imagine someone reading this book and not being moved.


Firsthand Account of Hiroshima Bombing - HISTORY

Account of the bombing of Hiroshima
Digital History ID 1185

Author: Michihiko Hachiya
Date:1995

Annotation: A Japanese physician offers a first-hand account of the bombing of Hiroshima.


Document: The hour was early the morning still, warm, and beautiful. Shimmering leaves, reflecting sunlight from a cloudless sky, made a pleasant contrast with shadows in my garden as I gazed absently through wide-flung doors opening to the south.

Clad in drawers and undershirt, I was sprawled on the living room floor exhausted because I had just spent a sleepless night on duty as an air warden in my hospital.

Suddenly, a strong flash of light startled me - and then another. So well does one recall little things that I remember vividly how a stone lantern in the garden became brilliantly lit and I debated whether this light was caused by a magnesium flare or sparks from a passing trolley.

Garden shadows disappeared. The view where a moment before had been so bright and sunny was now dark and hazy. Through swirling dust I could barely discern a wooden column that had supported one comer of my house. It was leaning crazily and the roof sagged dangerously.

Moving instinctively, I tried to escape, but rubble and fallen timbers barred the way. By picking my way cautiously I managed to reach the roka (an outside hallway)and stepped down into my garden. A profound weakness overcame me, so I stopped to regain my strength. To my surprise I discovered that I was completely naked How odd! Where were my drawers and undershirt?

All over the right side of my body I was cut and bleeding. A large splinter was protruding from a mangled wound in my thigh, and something warm trickled into my mouth. My check was torn, I discovered as I felt it gingerly, with the lower lip laid wide open. Embedded in my neck was a sizable fragment of glass which I matter-of-factly dislodged, and with the detachment of one stunned and shocked I studied it and my blood-stained hand.

Suddenly thoroughly alarmed, I began to yell for her: 'Yaeko-san! Yaeko-san! Where are you?' Blood began to spurt. Had my carotid artery been cut? Would I bleed to death? Frightened and irrational, I called out again 'It's a five-hundred-ton bomb! Yaeko-san, where are you? A five- hundred-ton bomb has fallen!'

Yaeko-san, pale and frightened, her clothes torn and blood stained, emerged from the ruins of our house holding her elbow. Seeing her, I was reassured. My own panic assuaged, I tried to reassure her.

'We'll be all right,' I exclaimed. 'Only let's get out of here as fast as we can.'

She nodded, and I motioned for her to follow me….

We started out, but after twenty or thirty steps I had to stop. My breath became short, my heart pounded, and my legs gave way under me. An overpowering thirst seized me and I begged Yaeko-san to find me some water. But there was no water to be found. After a little my strength somewhat returned and we were able to go on.

I was still naked, and although I did not feel the least bit of shame, I was disturbed to realize that modesty had deserted me. On rounding a corner we came upon a soldier standing idly in the street. He had a towel draped across his shoulder, and I asked if he would give it to me to cover my nakedness. The soldier surrendered the towel quite willingly but said not a word. A little later I lost the towel, and Yaeko-san took off her apron and tied it around my loins.

Our progress towards the hospital was interminably slow, until finally, my legs, stiff from drying blood, refused to carry me farther. The strength, even the will, to go on deserted me, so I told my wife, who was almost as badly hurt as I, to go on alone. This she objected to, but there was no choice. She had to go ahead and try to find someone to come back for me.

Yaeko-san looked into my face for a moment, and then, without saying a word, turned away and began running towards the hospital. Once, she looked back and waved and in a moment she was swallowed up in the gloom. It was quite dark now, and with my wife gone, a feeling of dreadful loneliness overcame me. I must have gone out of my head lying there in the road because the next thing I recall was discovering that the clot on my thigh had been dislodged and blood was again spurting from the wound.

I pressed my hand to the bleeding area and after a while the bleeding stopped and I felt better Could I go on?

I tried. It was all a nightmare - my wounds, the darkness, the road ahead. My movements were ever so slow only my mind was running at top speed.

In time I came to an open space where the houses had been removed to make a fire lane. Through the dim light I could make out ahead of me the hazy outlines of the Communications Bureau's big concrete building, and beyond it the hospital. My spirits rose because I knew that now someone would find me and if I should die, at least my body would be found. I paused to rest. Gradually things around me came into focus. There were the shadowy forms of people, some of whom looked like walking ghosts. Others moved as though in pain, like scarecrows, their arms held out from their bodies with forearms and hands dangling. These people puzzled me until I suddenly realized that they had been burned and were holding their arms out to prevent the painful friction of raw surfaces rubbing together. A naked woman carrying a naked baby came into view. I averted my gaze. Perhaps they had been in the bath. But then I saw a naked man, and it occurred to me that, like myself, some strange thing had deprived them of their clothes. An old woman lay near me with an expression of suffering on her face but she made no sound. Indeed, one thing was common to everyone I saw - complete silence.

All who could were moving in the direction of the hospital. I joined in the dismal parade when my strength was somewhat recovered, and at last reached the gates of the Communications Bureau.


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