Witness to the Hiroshima A-Bombing: A Testimony

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Edited by : Katei no Tomo - Monthly Magazine, Twelfth Meeting(February 23~27,2006) of the Japanese -Korean Students Exchange Issue,h Witness to the Hiroshima A-Bombing: A Testimony, June /2006 (Saint Paul Press - Paulist Press)
SpeakerF@Mrs. Setsuko Maria Hattori (Parishioner, Noboricho Catholic Church )@
Re-write and translation F@Mr. Richard Thomas Kedzior (Parishioner, Noboricho Catholic Church )

Hiroshima has had three lives: first as a military center, next as an A-bomb victim and now as a city for peace. Over sixty years ago Hiroshima was a thriving and bustling military center, fostering a growing munitions industry. Over forty per cent of the city was occupied by military facilities. From Hiroshimafs port in the cityfs south, many soldiers and war materials were sent to the Sino-Japanese war [1930s]. Japanfs military success in China and its occupation caused a great outburst of nationalistic fervor in Japan. Soon however the tide of war changed against Japan as a result of the expansion of war to the Pacific. The turning point was the Battle of Midway. From here it was a long and steady retreat that had the Imperial Japanese forces on the run and being pursued and hunted down, ending with the long, tragic and drawn out battle for the home island of Okinawa. Moreover from 1942 to 1945 most of the major Japanese cities were reduced to ashes by the constant firebombing raids. However during this time I wondered why Hiroshima was spared from such a fate as there were no air raids. But that changed on the morning of August Uth 1945, when a lone B-29 bomber, the eEnola Gayf, dropped a single bomb on Hiroshima. It was the A-bomb. Afterwards I realized why Hiroshima was initially spared as it was to be used for this purpose. More than 200,000 people were killed and some 300,000 people were injured or maimed outright and were also exposed to deadly radiation. I heard later that the temperature at the hypocenter (ground zero) ranged from 3,000 to 4,000 degrees Celsius. In comparison we need only 1500 degrees Celsius to melt iron and so one can comprehend the severity of this explosion. The wind force of the blast was 300 meters per second. One cannot stand in a typhoon that packs winds of 50 meter per seconds. Within a radius of three kilometers all buildings were leveled and completely destroyed.
At the time of the bombing I was just a fourteen -year -old high school student. Most men had gone off to war, so we were conscripted to perform compulsory labor in the munitions factories, instead of studying everyday. My house was 1.7 kilometers from ground zero where I was on August 6th when I noticed a sudden flash [PIKKA in Japanese] of only 0.3 seconds duration (as determined by scientists later) and then I heard a crackle [DON in Japanese]. Soon the A-bomb popularly became known as the PIKKA DON bomb. The intense heat of the flash in that brief initial moment instantaneously burnt anybody who was outside of his or her home. Following the flash there was a loud boom and the house shook like in a strong earthquake. First I was flung into the air and immediately onto the floor. On the floor the smoke and dust were choking me and it was difficult to breathe. Suddenly the ceiling fell and the pillars of my house collapsed all around me. It became almost impossible to breathe and I thought,h Aah,.. Ifm going to die for sure!h However because my house was only one storey high, I was able to escape outside but with only with great effort. (Note: people who were in multi-storey dwellings were crushed and burnt to death when the upper floors collapsed on them.) My clothes were badly tattered and I was bloody due to pieces of glass that were imbedded all over my body. Looking around I saw that every house was flattened and I heard many people crying out ,h Help me!h Anyone who has read the comic ( manga ) entitled ,hBarefoot Genh ( Hadashi no Gen ) can visualize the scene that I saw. Many were trapped under the debris of collapsed homes, crying for help, but were unable to escape and were eventually burned to death in the ensuing fires. Because those who were still alive were all badly injured, no one could afford to help one another. All one could do was to run away. I ran away to a nearby park with my mother, all the time looking at the people who were fleeing. Their clothes were all tattered and their singed hair bristled and stood on end. Years later the Hiroshima city government requested survivors to paint or draw pictures depicting their horrific experiences and these were collected. I was greatly moved and shocked by these graphic depictions showing people with burnt and swollen hands and faces like grotesque masks. Others were shown holding their exposed intestines and bowels, trying to prevent them from falling out. Some had an eyeball hanging down from their eye socket. A mother was holding a child with a missing ear; crying,h Oh, poor baby!h The burnt skin on the arms of many people became blistered and broken hanging down like rags, so they couldnft their arms down and had to walk zombie-like with outstretched arms. Most people lost the ability to think and they just wandered with blank stares trying to escape the fear. Stopping would only make the fear real again and so everyone just aimlessly kept on walking as much and as long possible.
Eventually the initial fires spread rapidly through the city causing more destruction. There was no one to fight the fires as everyone, especially firefighters, was either dead or badly injured. Thus Hiroshima became one sea of fire and by nightfall it looked like one burnt out field. Next large, heavy and black drops of rain like oil fell on the city. They were truly black! Scientists later stated that the upward movement of dust and debris particles, up to enormous heights, combined with the moisture, created this unusually black and oily rain. But we happily showered in it. However little did we know how much radiation was contained in each of those cooling drops. Being drenched to the skin (and radiation!) we began to shiver and shake as if we had a fever despite it being mid-summer. That night many slept in the fields but sadly many of the wounded and injured ceased their moaning and died by daybreak.
The following morning I wandered through the city with my mother to look for my father. Much later we learned that my father had been doing compulsory labor near ground zero and had died instantaneously but as we searched for him we had no knowledge of his whereabouts. So we asked people who passed by whether they had seen him. While we had we had searching I had been dragging my leg. Now I noticed that there was a triangular knot in my thigh. It was embedded glass. Hearing us and seeing us many people, barely alive were calling, g Water! Give me water, please!h Soon all of them had died, not in crying in pain, but thirsty. In retrospect I believe that their thirst was not just a physical one, but also a deep thirst of the spirit - the thirst that Christ experienced on the Cross when He cried out,g I thirst!h This truly unites them with Christfs suffering on the Cross.
At that time we had an idea to burn the dead. So we gathered dry tree branches and placed them on the collected piles of bodies and poured fuel oil / kerosene oil on themcca cute little boy who had lived next to my house and some peoplefs bodies who I didnft know were placed in there and burned. Before long there was nothing left but charred bones. This scene was repeated all over the city. And even now Hiroshima is considered to be one huge graveyard. Why did so many people die in the A-bombing? Prior to the A-bomb attack mostly young people were busy preparing for possible fire bomb raids by tearing down flammable buildings to create fire barriers to prevent the spread of fire and making escape routes. However these workers were caught in the open and the lack of buildings led to less protection from the effects of the A-bomb. Earlier on these empty sites where the houses once stood, the Japanese military had planted sweet potatoes. Miraculously these potato plants survived the A-bombing and the people soon started to eat the vines found above ground.
Several weeks later people who had suffered no physical harm and looked fine suddenly had blood streaming from their noses and had severe diarrhea and their hair started to fall out. These effects were caused by radiation sickness. The A-bomb not only destroyed buildings but also had spread radiation throughout the city. My friendfs child later developed signs and symptoms of radiation sickness. This boy couldnft sleep at nights and so kept his mother up all night. The exhausted mother unintentionally scolded the boy to go to sleep so she could get some rest. The boy crying shouted, g I didnft want this sickness! Itfs not my fault! Give me back my health. I want to live longer!h Sadly at six years of age this boy died. At that time there were girls whom we called gA-bomb maidens/virginsh because they had suffered horrible burns to their faces and lived sorrowful and lonely lives. One of them wrote a poem entitled,h Give me back my smile- Hohoemi yo, kaere.h The poem reads as follows: Cruel destiny I carry on my back, A lonely life I live, This maidenfs smile has faded. My smile I truly miss, when will it return?
Nowadays these women talk about their experiences and appeal for peace in order to overcome their sorrow.
I was baptized a Catholic four years after the A-bombing and through praying for the dead and for peace, I was myself led to experience peace in my own soul. On behalf of those who perished in the A-bombing I want to appeal to the whole world, g No more nuclear war!h
Today, speaking of the power of destruction, the world has over a million nuclear weapons of the type dropped on Hiroshima. As an A-bomb survivor and witness, I angrily ask what happened in Hiroshima on that day August 6th, 1945 and so why havenft we learned. If nuclear weapons are used again on a large scale then mankind faces total destruction. War destroys everything but only peace can rebuild and restore what was destroyed. Speaking of our everyday friendships, we know that hate and conflict destroy trust but through prayer and mutual support and the awareness of each otherfs weaknesses, we can strive to bring about peace. I hope such efforts force us to think about what we can do for the sake of world peace. Above all we must continue to pray for peace.
Finally I would like to finish my talk with this song: Our homeland was burned down. In the charred ground we buried my familyfs bones. Now white flowers bloom there. Alas, we shall not forgive the two A-bombs. So we must oppose the third. Throughout our homelandc. and throughout the world.

PS : Mrs. Hattori is the mother of Father Daisuke Petros Hattori of Fukuyama Church.

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