The villager's note and testimony / A-bomb victims who took refuge

2. Acknowledgement to the Members of the Hesaka Women's Association Who Worked Hard in Rescue Activity

In March 1945, upon graduating from Hakushima Elementary School, I left my parents to evacuate to my parents' home village (present Kuchi in Asa-cho) where my grandfather lived. On August 5, my grandmother (my mother's mother) came to see me and said that I should go to Hiroshima and tell my family to come back to the village because many cities were undergoing worse air-raids and Hiroshima would be the next. So without delay I went over to Hiroshima to tell them that.

On the morning of the 6th, I had breakfast together with my family at my home in Hakushima. Then, my father left home for Yokogawa Station on the Kabe Line to make a brief visit to our home village. I went upstairs with my mother and my elder sister. I was sitting on the windowsill near the veranda with my eight-month-old baby sister in my arms. Hearing the whirring noise of a plane, I looked up and saw a plane.

A light flashed. In spite of myself, I cried, “Mother! ” At that very moment I was dazzled. Simultaneously I was blown away to the next room, buried under the fallen ceiling. Because mud and roof tiles fell down over the ceiling, my elder sister and I could not move at all. With my mother's help we finally crept out.

We fled to the river bank at the midpoint between the present Ushita Bridge and Yasuda Girls' School. After a while the houses at Ushita across the river from us went up into raging flames right and left, and the fire was spreading to the bushes on our river bank at Hakushima. A soldier told us to flee from there immediately. We moved toward Kohei Bridge. We encountered my father on the river bank around the bridge. He said that he had been on the train which was about to leave Yokogawa Station, and got out of it. Crossing the railroad bridge at Misasa whose crossties were on fire, he returned looking for us. After crossing Kohei Bridge my elder sister lost her strength to walk further. So she took some rest inside the workshop of the Engineering Corps (near the present Ushita Reservoir) accompanied by my father.

Hearing that there was a doctor giving aid at an elementary school in Gion, three of us - my mother, my baby sister and I - walked toward Fudoin Temple. While we were walking, a man, who came from Hesaka, kindly put me on the back of his bicycle. Although my mother asked him to take me to the elementary school in Gion, he took me to Hesaka Elementary School, misunderstanding somehow.

Arriving at Gion, my mother unsuccessfully looked for me everywhere there. She stayed at a house there that night. After another unsuccessful search for me the following day, my mother came to Hesaka wondering if I might be there. However, she couldn't find me because she couldn't enter the school building that was filled with soldiers. Many people other than soldiers were in tents which were erected outdoors. My mother searched those tents, but I was nowhere to be found. My mother ran here, there and everywhere for me.

When I arrived at Hesaka Elementary School, I was looking for water to drink. A woman wearing a white apron at the well pump said, “You must not drink any water, or you will die. ” So I asked her to give me some water just to rinse my mouth. This woman, pumping water from the well, attentively washed off my muddy back, saying, “ You are such a small child. What a pity for you to be wounded badly. ”

I had countless lacerations on my back from glass pieces blown from the building in front of my house when I had the blast at my back. And I got a cut as large as a man's fist and broke two thoracic vertebrae when I was buried under the ceiling. In spite of these wounds I didn't feel they hurt very badly. I think the pain might have gone beyond perception. I was given a large soldier's shirt to put on and two rice balls which were so good. My face swelled up gradually on account of the burn I had gotten on the right side of my head.

Then I fell asleep in the corridor, passing out until the morning of August 9, unaware whether it was day or night. In other words, I was unconscious.

On the morning of the 9th, I awoke by a soldier's call. He said, “You are not a soldier. You have to get out. ” So I went out and lay down in a tent. After a while, I thought I heard my father clear his throat. Because my swollen face kept my eyes shut, I opened my eyelids with my hands to look for him. It was unmistakably my father who I saw from behind, walking in the distance. I ran after him desperately. Stumbling on the ropes of the tents, losing my balance, tripping on the legs of lying people and getting a scolding from them, I finally got close to my father, crying, “Father! ” “Oh, it's you, Masaharu? ”he said. I replied, “Yes! ”

I seemed to look so different from what I had been that my father couldn't recognize me from my appearance. He said, “Oh, poor boy. How heavily your face has swollen! ” He told me that he had come to Hesaka with my elder sister and stayed there the previous night. He walked around searching for me the previous night and then in the morning again. He was just going out of the school gate because I was not found.

My sister was at the school gate sitting on a straw mat. She later said that she had turned her eyes away from me as I had changed extraordinarily. That is, I was standing with a face heavily swollen, in a baggy white soldier's shirt with a help of a stick. I looked just like O-Jizo, a guardian deity of children. She still tells this as one of our recollections.

After a while, my mother arrived. My father said to her, “Masaharu is here. ” My mother said in bewilderment, “You are Masaharu, aren't you? ”astonished at how different I looked. All the family members that had been separated since August 6 reunited there on the morning of the 9th at last.

My mother had seen a cask of pickled plums at the emergency kitchen preparing rice balls to distribute. She went to get some, bringing only a small one left in the bottom of the cask. She broke the plum into two giving each half to my sister and me. At that moment, a young woman close by watching us rushed over to us, saying, “Give me a little. ” Quickly my sister said to my mother, “Mother, give it to her. Mother, give it to her. ” But the halves of the small plum were already in our mouths. My mother later told us that she had felt sorry, but she couldn't have given any to the young woman then.

During the few hours of our stay at the gate, we saw nurses bring corpses of soldiers and throw them repeatedly near us. Those corpses were piled up high in less than no time.

The whole family all together moved to Yaguchi Elementary School, the designated refuge site for residents of Hakushima area. I had medical treatment for my back there. The wounds hurt painfully for two full days. My parents cared for me taking little rest. Later I learned that the Army Doctor had said to my parents, “Your boy may not have a chance to survive. Take the best care of him. ” Several days later, I got better enough to be able to eat some rice porridge. In late August we went back to our country home. If I had not met my father and my mother again, I could not have survived.

By coincidence, I happened to settle down in Hesaka in 1960 for the reason of my work. Are the women of the Hesaka Women's Association and the one who washed off my wounded back at that time well? They are always in my memory. I would like to express my gratitude, if I should see them again. Time passes and people change in Hesaka, but I will keep the kindness and the help I received in Hesaka in my mind for the rest of my life.

I experienced the affliction caused by war firsthand. Only those who went through the war directly know the grief and agony of losing their dearest family members and seeing horrible piles of dead people. On every August 6, I just pray silently, “ May the world be eternally peaceful. ” (Memoir)

Masaharu Kamimoto

This sentence is licensed under the Hesaka public hall.

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