Revolution #98, August 19, 2007
From A World to Win News Service
“Towns of the Dead”: A Hiroshima Survivor Speaks
August 6, 2007. A World to Win News Service. The following is excerpted from an eyewitness account by Hiroshima survivor Yuko Nakamura. It was posted on august6.org, the Web site of a coalition of U.S. organizations that held actions to commemorate the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and oppose a U.S. attack on Iran this month.
In August 6th, 1945, I was 13 years old, a sophomore at a girls’ high school in Hiroshima. Starting in July, like the senior students, the second-year students were mobilized to three munitions factories for the country. At the time, I was living in Miyajima-guchi, in west Hiroshima. I was sent to an aircraft factory in the small town of Koi, in northwest Hiroshima. Most of the workers in the factory were mobilized students, and there were very few adult specialists.
In the morning of that fateful day, August 6th, it was very hot with the burning summer sun. That day, we were to visit a beach to go swimming since the factory was to be closed for one day to conserve electricity. But an air attack warning had delayed our departure a while, and I was reading a book I had borrowed from a friend. I felt relieved when the air attack alert was called off, thinking that the American aircraft had flown away as usual without bombing. Then, a friend of mine outside of the factory called, “Look! There’s a plane. It might be a B-29! It’s dropping something that looks like a parachute!” Then, a yellow-orange colored light flashed like a bolt of lightning as if several thousand magnesium bombs had exploded; when I turned my head to look in that direction I felt a massive shock hit my body accompanied by a large boom. The blast, contaminated with glass and dirt, blew through the inside of our factory, and I was knocked down to the floor. I thought that our factory had been directly hit by a bomb. Through cracked pillars and beams that had collapsed, I could see a faint light in the dark cloud of dust. It was the factory door. I crawled through the rubble towards the door.
“Are you hurt?” one friend called to me. I looked at my body. My uniform was red, stained with blood from my nose that was bleeding from the bomb blast. The inside of my left arm had been scraped with a piece of glass and was also bleeding. Many small glass shards were stuck all over my clothes and skin. I pressed my wounds with a cloth borrowed from my friend and ran to a back hill not far from there, hurried by my friend shouting, “Run to a dugout!” On the way, I looked up at the sky. The beautiful blue sky of the morning was starting to change. A black cloud covered the sky as if it were getting ready to attack us. The cloud changed to red, gray, and again to black, and grew even bigger to eventually cover the whole sky. It appeared monstrous. This cloud is called a “mushroom cloud” and it does indeed look like a mushroom. I ran into the dugout on the hillside and received just a treatment of mercurochrome. Meanwhile, when I was washing my face stained from my nosebleed, big drops of rain came down. Somebody screamed, “The Americans are dousing us with gasoline!”, “They are going to burn the hill and we will all be killed!” Everyone ran into the dugouts in fear. The rain was black, sticky and contaminated with sand and soil. It was several months before we realized that the rain was dangerously radioactive.
On that day, the first-year students of my high school had been mobilized to help dismantle buildings in the city center. Those 12-year-old girls, 220 in total, all perished by the end of the day, suffering from burns, without receiving any care or being able to see their families before dying. I wondered and still wonder for what reasons they had to die like this.
Many of the survivors, who had mutually congratulated each other after having survived the effects of the bomb, also died within a few days with acute symptoms of fever, diarrhea, vomiting, violet spots on the skin, hair loss, etc. People who had come to Hiroshima to help also showed the same symptoms and either died or suffered for a long time from radiation sickness. At the time, however, we could not even begin to imagine that these symptoms were being caused by the radioactive effects of an atomic bomb.
The atomic bombs turned both Hiroshima and Nagasaki into towns of the dead. There were red burned and bloated dead bodies piled up high, the corpses with the guts and the eyes popped out, over-capacitated trains burned black and crisp, people buried alive under buildings and dead, lines of ghost-looking people with burned frizzled hair and burned skin hanging, etc… It was not a scene of human life but a miserable hell. I never forget the mortification I had not being able to give water to those crowds of barely living survivors who were not able to save their own children or parents.
The atomic bomb brought 140,000 deaths in Hiroshima and 70,000 deaths in Nagasaki 62 years ago. People around the world need to know how a nuclear bomb can brutally destroy a city and take so many lives away, miserably, in a split second, and also should know that nuclear bombs today can bring even more horrifying destruction upon us.
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