Lee Jong-keun

"Don’t stay silent!"--Raise your voice!

3. August 6, 1945

That morning, because I really wanted to wear white pants, I asked my mother to bring them to me, but I had a quarrel with her, who was against it.  Workers of the National Railways had to wear black uniforms and caps, which the company lent us, when commuting.  Due to this quarrel, I missed the train that I used to commute and had to take the Hiroshima Electric Railway train that ran in parallel.  At that time, the Miyajima Line and the City Line of the Hiroshima Electric Railway didn’t connect with each other, so I had to change trains at Koi Station to get to Hiroshima Station.

I happened to see Mr. Kitani, a colleague employed in the same year, on the train.  I got off at Matoba-cho stop which was the closest stop to my workplace, the Second Engine Warehouse.  He said he would get off at the next stop of Enkobashi because he worked at the First Engine Warehouse.  Getting off the train at one stop ahead or behind made the difference of life and death.  I heard later that he died on the train in the A-bombing.

The time I passed by the hypocenter was around 8:05a.m.  If I had been on the train 10-minutes later, the A-bomb would have exploded right above me, and I would have instantly died.

The moment I just crossed the Kojin Bridge (1,800 meters from the hypocenter) after getting off the train, a light which was orange mixed with yellow suddenly “drifted” around me.  They say, Pika-Don to represent the light and the sound of the A-bombing on Hiroshima, but to me, the light didn’t flash instantaneously.  I can only say that the light was fluttering like a streamer and drifting around.  It was not a momentary light but drifted for a couple of seconds.  It seemed to me that houses in front of me floated up.

A Flash of Light (drawn by Yurino Kubo)

I was so scared that I put down my lunch box, and as I had been trained to do, covered my ears with my thumbs, covered my eyes and nose with my four fingers and lay down.  I was just next to the tower of the bridge.  I didn’t hear the so-called Don sound, probably because my ears were tightly closed by my thumbs.  I opened my eyes several times to look at the surrounding area, but it was pitch dark and I couldn’t see anything.  It took more than five minutes for the dim light to finally return.

There was no sound around me.  I noticed that my cap, glasses and lunch box were gone, so I stood up and searched around.  I saw my familiar furoshiki wrapping cloth in the rubble 20 to 30 meters away and found my lunch box.  But my cap and glasses were nowhere to be found.

Lying Face Down Immediately After a Flash of Light (drawn by Yuki Kurashige)

I thought that drifting light had destroyed everything.  As far as I could see, houses had collapsed and I was able to see Onaga-cho located on the other side of the station, which I had never seen before from where I was then.   I didn’t know what had happened.  I was so scared and searched for a place where I could hide.  I saw a staircase just beside the bridge and found some space under the bridge.  I went down there, and found four or five people already there.  One of them said, “This is a new bomb.”  It seemed that he had experienced air raids somewhere before, and he said that this was completely different from ordinary incendiary bombs.  He also looked at me and said, “Your face is swollen and bright red.  I think you were burned.”  When I touched my cheek with a finger, it hurt terribly although I hadn’t felt any pain until I was told that.

I left there around 9:00 and rushed to my workplace.  All the houses on both sides of the road had turned to rubble.  I heard voices from inside the rubble of each house, calling, “Help!” and also heard voices screaming from the top of the rubble, “My family member is inside.  Please help me!”  I was scared and just ran by, and I couldn’t help anyone.  A cart drawn by an ox passed me and ran erratically in the opposite direction.  To my surprise, there was no driver on board.

When I Stood Up After the Dropping of the A-Bomb—A Scene Near the Kojin Bridge
Wherein Buildings Were Devastated by the Blast (drawn by Mai Tomita)

The road leading to the engine warehouse ended at the Sanyo Line track, and after crossing a narrow railroad crossing, I would reach my workplace.  Before crossing, when I glanced at the fence along the railroad, I saw a man lean against the fence and die.  He looked completely intact.  That was the first corpse I saw that day.

When I arrived at my workplace, four of my colleagues approached me saying, “Are you alive?”  “Your face is bright red!”  Everyone else was also worried and came over to me.  The engine warehouse was made of reinforced concrete, and the openings were so large that the blast may have passed through.  Both the building and the people inside were safe.

My colleagues brought engine oil from the box under the locomotive’s cab, saying that oil was good for burns, even though it was black engine oil.  They applied it to the burns on my face, limbs, and neck.  It really hurt, and I groaned with pain, crying, “Please stop it!  Stop!!”

They Put Steam Locomotive Oil on My Burns Caused by Heat Rays (drawn by Mai Tomita)

Then I lay down in the air-raid shelter in the engine warehouse and rested.  At lunch time, I opened my lunch box and tried to eat something, but I had no appetite and couldn’t eat even half of it.  The lunch would have been contaminated with radiation, but I didn’t know that at that time. 

After a while, I thought I had to find a replacement for my lost cap, so I headed to the East Drill Grounds, where there were many facilities related to the National Railways.  I think I got there around 2:00 in the afternoon, and already nearly six hours passed from the weird light.  However, on the way as well as on the Drill Grounds, I saw countless people with their whole bodies burnt and with terrible appearances.  Most of the people were walking slowly toward the Drill Grounds and were almost naked.  Since it was a hot summer day, everyone might have been wearing light clothes, and those clothes might have been blown away.  The skin on their arms was peeled off and hung from the tips of their fingers.  They were moaning, “Give me water!”  “Help me!”  I was wondering what had happened.  Since I was wearing a uniform, I only had burns on my face, neck and limbs which were outside of the uniform.  I was surprised to see the difference.

I gave up looking for my cap and went back to the engine warehouse.  As I had nothing to do in the shelter, I was thinking about things happening since that morning.  I wondered how much damage was caused by that drifting light.  I suddenly wondered how my parents, two sisters, and six younger brothers were doing.  What was going on in Hatsukaichi?  Was my sister, who was supposed to work at the Army Clothing Depot (2.7 km from the hypocenter) all right?  Even later, she was never found.