Park Nam-joo

The A-bombings Should Never Ever Be Repeated

4. August 6, 1945

The sky was clear from early morning, and I said to myself, “Today is going to be the hottest day this summer.”  Though several bombs were dropped on it, Hiroshima had not experienced large-scale air raids.  That morning, an air raid warning was sounded, and an airplane flew over Hiroshima, but people didn’t take it seriously.  Later, I heard it was a reconnaissance plane which checked the weather conditions before the A-bomb was dropped.  After breakfast, I was going to take my third-grade younger sister and my younger brother back to my father’s distant relative in Miyauchi, Hatsukaichi city, who had given evacuation to them.  They had returned home the previous day and were going back to the relative’s house that morning.  We got on a streetcar at Fukushima-cho. 

When the streetcar ran 70 or 80 meters west toward Koi, someone in the car said, “Look, there’s a B-29!”  I thought it strange because the air-raid alert was cleared at 7:30.  Suddenly, I felt as if the whole car were enveloped with flames, and I heard an enormous BOOM!  After a while, someone said, “Get off quickly!”  I got off the streetcar and found it was dark around me, which made me wonder because it was so bright a short while before.  When it got a little lighter, I looked around to find that everyone was bloody on their upper bodies.  To my surprise, the place I got off was the same Fukushima-cho stop I had gotten on the streetcar a few minutes before.  It was uphill from Fukushima-cho to Koi, so the streetcar had run the 70-80 meters backward.  At that time, we were about 1,800m from the hypocenter.    

Standing in the shadow of adults in the fully crowded street car, my younger sister and brother were not injured, but I was bleeding from cuts on the top of my head from some pieces of glass or wood that had hit me.  Every house and building around me had collapsed and was flattened.  I still remember how shocked I was when I saw that sight.  One of the passengers said, “A gas tank may have exploded.”  I was standing stunned for a while, holding tightly to my sister and brother’s hands unconsciously.

I tried to return home from the streetcar stop, but I couldn’t walk forward because the debris of so many collapsed houses blocked the way.  Instead, I headed for our house going up the  embankment which was built for the Ota River Discharge Channel.  When we went up to the higher place, I saw that the whole city of Hiroshima had disappeared.  Our house, of course, was completely destroyed.  Five or ten minutes after we got off the streetcar, I saw smoke rise here and there, and soon all of Hiroshima became a sea of fire.  Shortly after I got there, my father also came to the embankment.  He was working at Nakano Kasei, on the riverside of the Fukushima River.  Fortunately, he escaped injury because he happened to be behind a fence when the A-bomb was dropped.

Our air raid shelter was in the embankment.  One after another, neighbors gathered there because we were told to go there if something happened.  All the people there were in a panic, bleeding and screaming, “What happened?”  “I’m burning!”  “Help!” 

After a while, many people fled the city center, holding out their arms in front of them, their skin hanging like the long sleeves of a kimono.  They were all burned and heading for the mountains in Koi which still looked green.  They were trying to go up the embankment but many of them fell down, exhausted.  The slope of the embankment was filled with many victims, dead and alive, leaving no room to walk through.  The people who fell down could never stand up.  They all died crying, “Water!  Please!”  Though I had heard that soldiers died saying, “Long live the Emperor!” nobody really said that then.  Everybody died saying, “I’m burning!” or “Water!”  They even didn’t call out, “Mother!”

Though I can tell my experience now, I couldn’t tell it to anyone for 50 years after the A-bombing.  I never have forgotten that horrible sight, burned deep in my mind.  Though I have never seen hell, it is not possible to depict that sight with words.  The A-bombings should never ever be repeated.

When the A-bomb was dropped, my mother was at home.  She was trying to put my one-year-old brother on the futon.  Because she covered my brother, he didn’t get any injuries, though our house collapsed.  Meanwhile, my mother got badly injured on her back.  My fifth-grade sister was upstairs and was blown away 20 or 30 meters by the blast.  Fortunately, she was unhurt.

About a half hour after the A-bombing, a black oily rain suddenly began to fall for 30 minutes. Our clothes became black, and people were all covered in black.  Seeing the black rain, one of our neighbors screamed, “A special bomb was dropped!”  I believed him because, although no firebombs had fallen from the sky, the city completely disappeared at once.  Moreover, this mysterious black rain fell.  We tried to pull out our clothes and futon from unburned debris, but they were all stained because of the black rain.  Though we later washed them many times, those stains couldn’t be removed. 

About noon, the neighborhood District Guard Corps came to give us some water, mercurochrome and iodine tincture.  We drank water from a big bottle that was passed around.  Badly burned people, screaming “Give me water!” died soon after they drank water, so we decided not to give water anymore.  I feel sorry that we didn’t give them water, because those people would die anyway, whether they drank water or not.  The District Guard Corps left dead people where they were but carried wounded people who might survive on a stretcher to Koi Elementary School across the river.

In the afternoon, my mother left for Miyauchi with my sisters and brothers, walking to the closest available streetcar station.  My father and I stayed on the embankment to wait for my mother’s brother who had gone to work that morning.  We thought that if we all had left for Miyauchi, he might be worried about us when he came back.

Many neighbors were gathering on the embankment.  However, none of the people in the neighborhood who had gone to do labor service and none of my classmates who had been mobilized to demolish buildings returned. 

The night of August 6, my father and I slept on the embankment together with a number of people.  Though there were many bodies around us, I had no feeling of fear.  The sky was red all through the night, as if it too were burning.  People around us who were still alive died one after another.  Most of them had burns all over their bodies and they became swollen red that day.  Then the following day, their skin became black, their eyes popped out, and they swelled up like balloons.  We couldn’t believe they were human beings.

One by one, Japanese people left the riverbank to go to their relatives in the suburbs, but Koreans had no such relatives to rely on.  By the following day, the collapsed houses had all burned out, and we just stayed there, watching our houses burning absentmindedly.

Early the next morning, my mother returned to us with my one-year-old brother after asking our friend in Miyauchi to take care of my younger sisters and brother.  Then, my parents went to the city center, looking for my uncle whose job that day was carrying sand up to the roof of the Bank of Japan building.  But, there was no way that he could have survived, because he must have been outdoors, only 380 meters from the hypocenter.  He is still missing. 

That evening, when my father returned, we saw his face was swollen, and he fell down on the embankment.  He was usually a physically strong and healthy man, but from that day on, he would never again be the same.  From the next day, my mother went every day to look for my uncle, not only in the city but to first-aid centers in Ninoshima and Hatsukaichi.  However, she couldn’t find any trace of him. 

Though my mother was exposed to radiation like my father, she didn’t become sick.  I guess the reason was that on the day of A-bombing, she went to Miyauchi and drank clean water there, away from Hiroshima where radiation remained.  She never had severe A-bomb symptoms, unlike my father. I had many wounds on my head, bleeding and with pus flowing.  Seeing that people around me had maggots in their wounds, I wrapped a cloth around my head.  As a result, I didn’t get any maggots, but my wounds didn’t heal.  In October, Mrs. Motoda,  one of our neighbors who was a Catholic, gave me Daiasin, an antibiotic drug which had been given to her by a foreign Catholic priest.  To my surprise, it worked dramatically, and with only this one medicine, the pus stopped the next day, and my wounds gradually healed.  I was really impressed that there was such good medicine in the West.

The scar slightly remaining on the forehead