Remember the A-Bomb


Testaments to Barbarity of War from Hiroshima and Nagasaki


Hiroshima Witnesses' Accounts

Transcripts translated from the French (AFP)

Testimony of Yoshitaka Kawamoto

Mr. Yoshitaka Kawamoto was 13 years old at the time of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. He was in a classroom at Zakoba-cho, 0.8 kilometers away from the hypocenter. He is now the director of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, telling visitors from all over the world what the atomic bomb did to the people of Hiroshima.

KAWAMOTO: One of my classmates, I think his name was Fujimoto, he pointed outside the window saying, "A B-29 is coming." He kept pointing outside with his finger. So I began to get up from my chair and asked him, "Where is it?" Looking in the direction he was pointing towards, I was still getting out of my seat when it happened.

All I can remember was a bright lightning flash for two or three seconds. Then I collapsed. I don't know how much time passed before I came to. It was awful, awful. The smoke was coming in from somewhere above the debris [of the ruined school building.] Sandy dust was flying around. I was trapped under the debris and I was in terrible pain and that's probably why I came to. I couldn't move an inch. Then I heard about 10 of my surviving classmates singing our school song. I remember that. I could hear sobs. Someone was calling his mother. But those who were still alive were singing the school song for as long as they could. I think I joined the chorus. We thought that someone would come and help us out. That's why we were singing a school song so loud. But nobody came to help, and we stopped singing one by one. In the end, I was singing alone. Then I started to feel fear creeping in. I started to feel my way out pushing the debris away little by little, using all my strength. Finally I cleared the things around my head.

And with my head sticking out of the debris, I realized the scale of the damage. The sky over Hiroshima was dark. Something like a tornado or a big fire ball was storming throughout the city. I was only injured around my mouth and around my arms. But I lost a good deal of blood from my mouth, otherwise I was OK. I thought I could make my way out. But I was afraid at the thought of escaping alone. We had been going through drills everyday, 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 lying alive. I held him up in my arms. It is hard to tell [what I saw]. His skull was cracked open, his flesh was hanging down 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 his finger nail. I took his finger out from his mouth. And then I held his hand, 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. He was going to faint. But still I could hear him crying out, saying ``Mother, Mother.''

I thought I could take him along. I guess that his body below the waist was crushed. The lower part of his body was trapped, buried inside of the debris. He couldn't go, he told me to go away. And by that time, another wing of the school building, or what used to be the school building, had caught on fire. I tried to get to the playground. Smoke filled the air, but I could see the white sandy earth beneath. I thought this must be the playground, then I started to run in that direction. I turned back and I saw my classmate Wada looking at me. I still remember the situation and it still appears in my dreams. I felt sorry for him, but it was the last time I ever saw him. As 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 free of them, it's terrible to say, but I kicked their hands away. I still feel bad about that.

I went to Miyuki Bridge to get some water. At the river bank, I saw so many people collapsed there. And the small steps to the river were jammed, filled with people pushing their way to the water. I was small, so I could push through to the river along the small steps. The river was filled with dead people. I had to push the bodies aside to drink the muddy water. We didn't know anything about radioactivity at that time. I stood in the water and so many bodies were floating away along the current. I can't find the words to describe it. It was horrible. I was horrified. Instead of going into the water, I climbed up the river bank. I couldn't move. I couldn't see my shadow. I looked up and I saw the cloud--the mushroom cloud growing in the sky. It was very bright. It had so much heat showed the colors of the rainbow...Looking at the cloud, I thought I would never be able to see my mother again, I wouldn't be able to see my younger brother again. And then, I lost consciousness.

When I came to, it was about seven in the evening. I was in the transportation bureau at Ujina. I found myself lying on the floor of a warehouse. And an old soldier was looking in my face. He gave me a light slap on the cheek and he said, "You are a lucky boy." He told me that he had gone with one of the few trucks left to collect the victims' corpses at Miyuki Bridge. They were loading bodies like sacks. They picked me up from the river bank and threw me on top of the pile. My body slid off and when they grabbed me by the arm to put me back onto the truck, they felt that my pulse was still beating, so they put me onto the truck carrying survivors.

I was very lucky. But I couldn't stand for about a year. I was so weak. My hair came off, even the hair in my nose fell out. My hair started to fall out about two weeks later. I became completely bald. I lost my eyesight...I couldn`t see for about three months. But I was only thirteen, I was still young, and I was still growing when I was hit by the A-bomb. So about one year later, I regained my health. I recovered good health. Today I am still working as you can see. As the director of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, I am handing down my message to the children who visit. I want them to learn about Hiroshima. And when they grow up, I want them to hand down the message accurately to the next generation. I'd like to see them conveying good judgment so that mankind will not be lead to annihilation. That is our responsibility.

Testimony of Yoshito Matsushige

Yoshito Matsushige was a 32-year old photographer for the Hiroshima Chugoku Newspaper until August 6, 1945. On that day he was at home, 2.7 kilometers from ground zero when the A-bomb was dropped at 8:15 a.m. In the ruins of the city after the bombing, he was able to take five photographs which have become important historical documents.

MATSUSHIGE: I had finished breakfast and was getting ready to go to the newspaper when it happened. There was a flash from the indoor wires as if lightening had struck. I didn't hear any sound--how shall I say--the world around me turned bright white. And I was momentarily blinded, as if a magnesium light had lit up in front of my eyes. Immediately after that, the blast came. I was bare from the waist up, and the blast was so intense, it felt like hundreds of needles were stabbing me all at once.

The blast blew out the walls of the first and second floor. I could barely see the room because of all the dust. I pulled my camera and clothes...out from under the mound of debris, and I got dressed. I thought I would go to either the newspaper or to the office. That was about 40 minutes after the blast.

Near the Miyuki Bridge, there was a police box. Most of the victims who had gathered there were junior high school girls. They had been mobilized to evacuate buildings and they were outside when the bomb fell. Having been directly exposed to the heat of the blast, 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 melted wax. Some of the children even had burns on the soles of their feet. They'd lost their shoes and run barefoot through the burning fire. When I saw this, I thought I would take a picture and I picked up my camera. But I couldn't push the shutter release because the sight was so pathetic. Even though I too was a victim of the same bomb, I only had minor injuries from glass fragments, whereas these people were dying. It was such a cruel sight that I couldn't bring myself to press the shutter. I hesitated there for perhaps about 20 minutes. But I finally summoned up the courage to take one picture. Then, I moved four or five meters forward to take a second picture. Even today, I clearly remember how the view finder was obscured with my tears. I felt that everyone was looking at me and thinking angrily, "He's taking our picture and will bring us no help at all." Still, I had to press the shutter, so I hardened my heart and finally I took the second shot. Those people must have duly thought me cold-hearted.

Then I saw a burned-out streetcar which had just turned the corner at Kamiya-cho. There were passengers still in the car. I put my foot onto the steps of the car and I looked inside. There were perhaps 15 or 16 people in the front of the streetcar. They lay dead one on top of another. Kamiya-cho was very close to ground zero, about 200 meters away. The passengers had all had their clothes burned off of them. They say that when you are terrified, you tremble and your hair stands on end. And I felt just this tremble when I saw that scene. I stepped in to take a picture and I put my hand on my camera. But I felt so sorry for those dead and naked people, whose photo would be left to posterity, that I couldn't take the shot. Also, in those days we weren't allowed to publish photographs of corpses in the newspapers.

After that, I walked. I walked through the section of town which had been hit hardest. I walked for close to three hours. But I couldn't take even one picture of that central area. There were other photographers in the [Mitsubishi] shipping group and at the newspaper as well. But the fact that not a single one of them was able to take pictures seems to indicate just how brutal the bombing actually was. I don't pride myself on it, but it's a small consolation that I was able to take at least five pictures. During the war, air-raids took place practically every night. And after the war began, there were many food shortages. Those of us who experienced all these hardships hope that such suffering will never be experienced again by our children and grandchildren. Not only our children and grandchildren, but all future generations should not have to go through such horror. That is why I want young people to listen to our testimonies and to choose the right path, the path which leads to peace.

Originally posted 06.Aug.2005

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Young Nagasaki Atom bomb survivors, 1945