World War II: Atom Bomb and Hiroshima Part 5 Eyewitness Report

An eyewitness report on the dropping of the Atom Bomb on Hiroshima in World War II, the first use of a nuclear weapon in war, a description of the aftermath.

THE BOMB AND HIROSHIMA

WHEN: 1945

EYEWITNESS REPORT: Dr. Michihiko Hachiya, director of the Hiroshima Communications Hospital, was wounded in the bombing of Hiroshima while at his home 1,700 meters from the hypocenter at Aioi Bridge. His hospital was 200 meters away, and closer to the center of destruction. Eighty of Hiroshima's 190 doctors were killed in the bombing, and Hachiya was the only one to keep a day-by-day record of his experiences from August 6 to September 30, 1945. This document, unique in the annals of atom bomb literature for its 1st-hand, technical, and perceptive information, was 1st serialized in a small medical magazine for circulation among doctors and staff tending postal, telegraph, and telephone employees of the Communications Ministry. In 1955 the manuscript was translated and published in America under the title Hiroshima Diary, The Journal of a Japanese Physician. Below are excerpts from Hachiya's entries for that 1st day: "We stood in the street, uncertain and afraid, until a house across from us began to sway and then with a rending motion fell almost at our feet. Our own house began to sway, and in a minute it, too, collapsed in a cloud of dust. Other buildings caved in or toppled. Fires sprang up and whipped by a vicious wind began to spread.

"It finally dawned on us that we could not stay there in the street, so we turned our steps towards the hospital. Our home was gone; we were wounded and needed treatment; and after all, it was my duty to be with my staff. This latter was an irrational thought--what good could I be to anyone, hurt as I was.

"We started out, but after 20 or 30 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 [his wife] to find me some water. But there was no water to be found. . . .

"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. . . .

"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. . . .

"The streets were deserted except for the dead. Some looked as if they had been frozen by death while in the full action of flight; others lay sprawled as though some giant had flung them to their death from a great height.

"Hiroshima was no longer a city, but a burnt-over prairie. To the east and to the west everything was flattened. The distant mountains seemed nearer than I could ever remember. How small Hiroshima was with its houses gone. . . .

"Between the Red Cross Hospital and the center of the city I saw nothing that wasn't burned to a crisp. Streetcars were standing and inside were dozens of bodies, blackened beyond recognition. I saw fire reservoirs filled to the brim with dead people who looked as though they had been boiled alive. In one reservoir I saw one man, horribly burned, crouching beside another man who was dead. He was drinking blood-stained water out of the reservoir. In one reservoir there were so many dead people there wasn't enough room for them to fall over. They must have died sitting in the water. . . .

"What a weak and fragile thing man is before the forces of destruction. After the pika the entire population had been reduced to a common level of physical and mental weakness. Those who were able walked silently towards the suburbs and distant hills, their spirits broken, their initiative gone. When asked whence they had come, they pointed to the city and said, "That way'; and when asked where they were going, pointed away from the city and said, 'This way.' They were so broken and confused that they behaved like automations. . . .

"A spiritless people had forsaken a destroyed city; the way and the means were of no importance. Some had followed the railways, some as if by instinct had chosen footpaths and paddy fields, whereas others found themselves shuffling along dry river beds. Each to his separate course for no better reason than the presence of another in the lead.

"As the day ended I might as well have been suspended in time, for we had no clocks and no calendars."

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