10. Remembering That Day When I Parted from My Son

  1. Parting from my son on August 6

  It was a peaceful morning on August 6. Around seven o'clock, when I was leaving for work, my son asked to go with me, so we went to Shirakami Station together and got on a streetcar there. However, as soon as we sat on the seat, he stood up and got off the streetcar. He was afraid his mother would worry about him. So, he parted from me. I waved at him, and he waved back while standing on the street. Who knew that it was the last time I would see him while he was alive.

  It was the most abominable morning that I had ever experienced these past 26 years. I got off the streetcar at Matoba Station and went to the East Police Station, in front of which I saw labor service corps going westward in 200 meter lines to work. The people at the head of the lines had flags with the names of the towns or the neighborhood groups to which they belonged. Some minutes later, they were victimized by the A-bombing. Come to think of it, that procession I saw was actually a horrible death procession, even though it was impossible to know how each of them was A-bombed.

  2. Hit by the blast containing the fragments of glass

  Then I arrived at the office of the Car Inspecting Section of the Japanese National Railways. It was very hot, so I stripped to the waist. At that moment, I heard a roaring sound. Then the "flash-bang" accompanied it as I looked up at the sky. I heard the buildings collapsing with a thunderous sound. Chief Ito and I, in surprise, headed for the north doorway, where we were pierced by fragments of glass, caused by the blast, on the upper part of our bodies. We could do nothing but stay half-sitting and keep closing our eyes. (The fragments of glass which were stuck in my shoulder at that time have been removed, but some still remain in my head. Those as big as grains of rice sometimes come out, and four of them have come to the surface so that even now I can feel them with my fingers.)

  After a while the wind stopped and I stretched from my waist. Blood dropped from my head, the upper part of my body ached, my shoulders were sandy and my palms were injured all over. At another air raid siren, I entered the shelter. I found Mr. Ito badly bleeding from his head. I heard he died a few days later. When the air raid warning was cancelled, I came out of the shelter. To stop the bad bleeding, I placed a small stone on the wound and covered it with a piece of cloth that I made by tearing my shirt. Then I collapsed on the streetcar tracks. I did not know how long I had been unconscious, but when I came to and looked up, the sky was already dark. The thought of my family suddenly came into my head, so I hurried to my house.

  3. Through the burning city

  I came to the east end of Enko Bridge. I saw no buildings or trees at all. Both Koi and Ujina districts looked dim with smoke. The entire town was burning. It was tremendously hot. Without knowing where I was walking through, I reached Shirakami Shrine and found the streetcar blown 10 meters southeastward away from its tracks. The sight of bodies lying here and there was appalling beyond all description. It was a hell.

  I was anxious about my son. Although I reached the place where my house used to be, I found everything was completely burned by the flames. I wanted to at least find the bodies of my wife and son. In desperation, I tried to find them, but my effort was in vain. I came to Yorozuyo Bridge. When I looked at the lower part of the west river bank in front of the Prefectural Office from there, the area looked red and bright as though the evening sun was shedding light on that scene.

  4. The reddened riverbank in front of the Prefectural Office

  Looking more closely, I noticed many naked people with injuries and burns on their bodies were trying to climb up from the edge of the water, which made the riverbank look red. Some of the people may have been prefectural office workers and citizens in that vicinity. On the eastern part of the bridge, a Korean man of about 60, with a 20-centimeter-white-beard was dead, with his head to the west and his face to the south, after having lost his cane. Two students from Thailand sat with bent knees, their faces turned southward. They were looking below the bridge. In that direction, two naked young women were groaning under a tin sheet. I guessed they were office workers at Nihon Hassoden Company. Beside them, there was a man of about 40 who covered his naked body with a tin sheet in place of his clothes which had been blown away by the blast. Six or seven men and women were writhing in a puddle 20 or 30 centimeters deep, repeatedly crying, “I am in danger of drowning”. I went to the riverbank to search for my son. Tetsuda, a bicycle dealer at 7-chome was groaning in pain below the bridge. When he saw me, he asked me to pick him up. I noticed he had a 4-centimeter U-shaped injury on his head. The wound was white with dust. He begged for water. The surface of the river looked greasy. I thought it was because of human grease. Then came some boats. The people on the boats held temporarily patched-up flags with names, frantically calling out the names of their families or relatives. They were going downstream one after another. Around 6:30, I came to the City Office. The evening was closing in. In front of a billboard on the left side, I saw a dead large boy who was charred. He was naked. His face was unrecognizable. Many people were begging for water in the area where the public hall had been demolished for fire break. The present road is where the yard and the pond of the former public hall used to be, and the Welfare Center and A-bomb Center are on the grounds of its building. About twenty of my neighbors asked me for water, but I did not give them any because I was told giving water to the injured was not good.

  Some were going into the pond for water, and others were floating on the pond. Some were dead with their faces dipped in water, and others were desperately begging for water in agony. It was a living hell on earth. I prayed to Shinto gods and savior for their mercy, but it was all in vain.

  5. Hearing a war song

  People with injuries and burns were groaning and writhing in pain. I thought of an idea, and made water gruel out of two cups of rice and gave it to them, but none of them would eat it. Dusk fell on Hiroshima which was a wide stretch of burnt ruins. It was about eight o'clock. I heard some men coming toward us from the direction of Senda-machi, singing a war song. That made me cry with joy. Six or seven soldiers, who belonged to the military shipping unit in Murozumi, Yamaguchi-ken, appeared and cheered us up. They gave us some hard biscuits that they had taken out of the straw bags. Then they put the injured on the stretchers made from the empty bags, and took them to the Red Cross Hospital, then to Ujina Port, and finally to Etajima Island, where some of them regained their health. We were very thankful to the soldiers for their labor.

  Those who had been critically injured were left behind and passed away. Night came. A warm wind began to blow. Pale blue fireballs were floating in the air. What I experienced all that day and that night did not seem to be a reality to me at all. I spent that night at the place where the public hall used to be, with the residents of Zakoba-cho and Ote-machi. In time the sky to the east began to grow light.

  6. Yukio's real father's love

  The following day was August 7. “I must find Yukio and my wife today!” I urged myself to get up. I kept looking for them for four days, but could not find them. I was very hungry because I had nothing to eat.

  Around seven o'clock on the morning of the 11th, I finally found my wife at the burned-down area near the factory. She was burned black and dead. She must have been completely exhausted after looking all about for her son. Southwest of the factory, I saw a heap of debris. I looked under the debris. There he was! I finally found my son! Mr. Oda, one of our neighbors happened to come. His son and Yukio were dead, holding tightly each other. Their hands and legs had been reduced to ashes by the fire. The belt of the pants remained. I hugged Yukio beside myself in grief.

  After some time, Mr.Oda went back with his son's body, and soon afterward Mr.Takei came. In fact, Mr.Takei was Yukio's real father. He used to be a teacher at Prefectural Technical School. We had adopted and raised his second son Yukio since Yukio's infancy with our heartfelt love and devotion. Mr. Takei must have felt, with his intuition as a real father that his son was in critical condition. Takei and I cremated Yukio. It was a mysterious coincidence that both of Yukio's fathers happened to be at the same place at the same time.

  I think that “flash-bang” is a potent term to describe the disastrous situation on that day. A lot of people were victimized or killed by the A-bombing. Survivors cannot forget that agony for their lives. Who could fully convey the tragedy which was caused on August 6? Survivors are tortured by aftereffects even today.

Written by Iwakichi Kobayashi (Dobashi, Hiroshima)

Death in the Atomic boming :
Yukio Kobayashi (a third grader at Ote-machi National Elementary School)