The villager's note and testimony / The Concerned People at the Hesaka Branch Military Hospital of Hiroshima First Military Hospital

2. The Dreadful Summer

I took four crying small children with me and escaped up the stream from the area around Ushita Reservoir. Desperate to give those children medical treatment for their burns and to escape from the horror, I brought them, as well as ten crying Koreans who had been severely burned, to the main building of Fudoin Temple and laid them onto the tatami mat.

I saw a woman in the temple, who appeared to be the monk's wife, putting seed oil on their burns, so I treated their burns with mercurochrome. It was then that the sky suddenly got dark and big drops of black rain began to pour down.

After the heavy rain stopped and the sun came out, afflicted soldiers with crew cuts came in droves to the temple like ghosts. They were like a mass of tattered flesh who tightly held their precious guns. I shouted out to them, “Go to Hesaka Elementary School nearby. Hesaka Military Hospital is there.”

As every clock was also lost in the blast, it was impossible to tell the time. I didn't know how much time had passed, but some time later, I saw approximately 40-50 injured Military Nursing School students, all dressed in white, who escaped from the conflagration. They were singing a song titled, “Fujin Jugun-ka” (Song for Military Women), walking along the Ota River, with their arms entwined around each others' shoulders. I will never forget that scene.

I didn't know how many thousands of burned people passed by, or how much time passed, either. A soldier I knew, who was pulling a two-wheeled cart, came over and said to me, “Hey you, take care of him.” I asked him who the man was, and he told me that he was First Sergeant Kano. I lifted up the straw mat which he was covered with, and asked him, “ How is your wound? ” Fortunately he had no wounds. He briefly explained to me, “ A two-story barrack (former Army Cadet School's auditorium) crumbled due to the blast and I fell from the second floor down to the dark earth. I got up with the aid of the faint light and found everywhere was engulfed in a sea of flames. I crawled on my hands and knees to escape from the fire, but I was unable to stand up, so I was carried away on a two-wheeled cart. ”

I was greatly indebted to him, so I carried his cart to Hesaka Elementary School. Outpacing the people walking in droves before us, I arrived at the school, which had already been crowded with many victims. I laid the Sergeant in the big, newly-built shelter, and then went to the medicine room where I usually worked. Mr. Maeoka, my colleague who had been working with me for two years, was treating his own wounds on his shoulder. Unconsciously, I shouted at him, “You're barely even injured! ”

Corporal Takagi, who joined the military in the same year as I had, entered the room, holding his wounded fingers tightly. He told us that though he came to Hiroshima on business from Onoura Hospital the day before, he was exposed to the bombing in front of Hiroshima Station, and ran away from the devastation to get here. He told me about how dreadful it was around Hiroshima Station and that he left a woman behind who asked him to help her child who was trapped under building debris around the Hakushima area.

Around ten o'clock, I was told to go to Kameyama Military Hospital by truck to receive medical supplies. While receiving these supplies, I heard someone saying that people in the nearby area had taken shelter because a new type of bomb was dropped on the rice paddies, and that tin roofs, newspapers and bills of money fell on them.

I don't remember whether it was before or after I went to Kameyama Military Hospital, but I went to Nittsuji Temple in Ushita to get a drum of cooking oil with a two-wheeled cart, and brought it back. Then I poured the cooking oil into a bucket along with zinc oxide and made several buckets of medicine for burns to give to the nurses. The school grounds were filled with victims of the disaster lying down wherever they could. People lay down even on the scorching sand in the school grounds, crying out for water. The water in the kitchen in the back was almost depleted. The water carried from the nearby farmer's house was not enough either, so rusty water drawn with a hand pump in the school grounds was given to severely afflicted people. Some people who drank the cold water died satisfied.

A big soldier whose entire body was severely burned was slowly walking and then fell down like a pillar onto another wounded person. Both of them died at the same time. I can't tell you how dreadful it was to see. Soldiers who came to help were registering the division and birthplace of the soldiers who were still alive.

Tatami mats, which were gathered from the nearby Agricultural Cooperative, were placed in the school grounds. Finally, a cool wind began to blow, but there still remained hot air in the school grounds. There was a mobilized female student who was paralyzed due to burn wounds. She said to me, “Medic, I need to go to the bathroom. ” However there was no tray to urinate into. I will never forget the sorrow I felt when I left her behind, imagining her burned body soaked in urine. I spent the whole night taking care of patients who were lying in the school grounds.

Day 2:

Before dawn, I left Hesaka Elementary School for the Military Hospital in Motomachi. On the way, I saw devastation as far as the eye could see, except for the brick Accounting Division Building, which remained standing. I couldn't recognize what my daily route was. Fortunately, I was able to find the hospital because it had stone foundations, like those of Hiroshima Castle. Around the front-gate guard booth, there were several corpses of soldiers, and among them, I found one who had joined the army the same year as I had, whose name I forgot. At the entrance of the hospital, there was the corpse of a waitress who I had known for three years, whose figure resembled that of broiled caterpillar.

Horses which belonged to logistics troops had fallen down here and there and were mixed with other countless corpses. The Accountant Major had been blown away and died in the ditch at the back of the hospital. I remembered his authoritative figure when alive. Three pigs, which had survived, got stuck in the ditch.

I took ethanol out of the medicine room's shelter, canned jam out of the kitchen shelter, and then mixed them in a handy cooking pot. I gave the mixture to seven or eight soldiers, who gradually gathered around, to keep them alive. As the veteran of the group, I thought about what to do. I gave instructions for half of the soldiers to rescue the survivors, and the other half to count the number of the dead. I remember there were seven or eight survivors, including a nurse who narrowly survived because she returned to the shelter to retrieve what was left behind, and a female shop clerk who survived because she was blown into the pond by the blast. There were approximately 800 corpses with only bones remaining.

After a while, a messenger told me to come to Headquarters in order to report on the Military Hospital. If my memory serves me right, I went to the place where the Imperial Headquarters were located. I said to the Staff Colonel, “I couldn't find the sacred photo of the Emperor. Ten people survived, 800 people died, and there are no military officers in the hospital at present. ” After I reported to him, I disinfected his shoulder wounds with mercurochrome. I was told not to cover his wounds with gauze, because his skin would become itchy. There were those who came to report from each division other than the Seibu Second Division. They shared a similar situation with us. The devastation was unimaginable.

High-ranking military officers from both the Army and Navy with their gold or silver shoulder epaulets were having a serious discussion about the new type of bomb. I heard them say that a division staff cleared an air raid alert, and then ordered re-issuance of the air raid alert because of the return of an enemy plane, but the bomb was dropped before the broadcast.

Back at the hospital, I saw Major Yoneda, a medic opening the main safe of the guard office. The important documents and bank books were intact.

Late in the afternoon, I rowed an iron Army Engineer Corps boat to transport a patient from the Logistics Corps riverbank up the river. From time to time, I saw fish showing their bellies, since their backs were burned, escaping from our noisy boat. Dead bodies were floating here and there around lumber in the river. The boat went down to Ushita where the river became narrow, and docked at what I thought was Oshiba. But it wasn't Oshiba. I had arrived at Nakasu by mistake due to the darkness. That night, I rested for a bit at Nakasu.

Day 3 and after:

When dawn finally arrived, I looked around to find corpses near the water. I left to walk up the river, but due to the high tide, I didn't think I could approach the Ushita riverbank. I took all my belongings with me, and swam across the river after eating my precious jam. Then, I finally arrived in Hesaka, and had Miso soup and rice balls. It was my first proper meal in three days, and I was able to regain my strength.

I remember that some patients were transferred to the Kabe and Kameyama areas to deal with the congestion of victims. Yet there remained so many victims lying on the school grounds.

I mainly worked at the medicine room and used my spare time to tend to patients, so I didn't know exactly what the situation was. I made my rounds with the patients during the night and took dictation of their last words. Until their final moments, they were fully conscious and expressed their appreciation to their families and those to whom they were indebted, citing their names. I wrote their wills down on scratch paper in the medicine room, and kept them safe, but unfortunately they were all lost in the flood later.

Medics from Okayama came to help us tend to patients, but I don't remember when they left. I remember they were with us when we heard the news in the school grounds that the Soviet Union declared war against Japan, when I felt shivers run down my spine.

Nurses stayed at nearby local houses and I had no idea where the medics stayed, but I rested in the medicine room during those chaotic days.

Young soldiers talked of how they burned piles of corpses with heavy oil at the riverbank every day.

Four or five days later, many who had symptoms of dysentery were transferred to the isolation ward. Their A-bomb disease symptoms, such as bloody stools, were misdiagnosed as dysentery. Sergeant Kano, who I transported by cart, also died there.

Among them, there were leprosy patients transferred from Southeast Asia. Military doctors discussed what to do with those patients. They had no choice but to put them to sleep. As I was the oldest veteran working in the medicine room, and was in friendly terms with the officers, I was allowed to be in the room with them. I remember the hopeless eyes of those patients.

After the Imperial announcement of Japan's surrender was issued, I chipped the chrysanthemum crest away from a Meiji 38-type infantry gun and buried it in the shelter. I took this gun to drive away those who had come to steal blankets, and fired five shots at the paddy field. A few days later, villagers told me that they had run away, scared of the sound of the gunshots, thinking the occupation army was approaching.

Later, we were caught in a flood and evacuated to the mountains nearby with the patients who were still with us.

Immediately after the end of the war, or it might be truer to say, immediately after the surrender, I handed a pack of potassium cyanide to the nurses. Each soldier kept a hand grenade to prepare for suicide, but later it was found to be a peaceful occupation, and those grenades were used for catching sweet-fish (ayu) in the Ota River. (memoir)

Ryotaro Watanabe (ex-Private First Class Medic)

This sentence is licensed under the Hesaka public hall.

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