The Day Hiroshima Disappeared

Taken from Hiroshima’s Shadow.

Following are some of the recollections of Dr. Shuntaro Hida, a medical officer stationed in Hiroshima at the time of the bomb. By fate, he happened to be outside of the city when the bomb was dropped, sparing his life. This did not spare his memory.

I have two purposes with this post. One is to examine the results of the atomic bomb dropped on this city at a time when the war was won, when no invasion was necessary, when Japan was already signaling its surrender. The bombing did not end the war sooner than otherwise – in fact, Truman delayed the end of the war in the hopes that the bomb would be ready to use before it was all over.

The second is as a continuation of my recent narrative – my examination of the issue of nuclear deterrence. This picture painted by Dr. Hida is just a small glimpse of the result of the game being played.

I will offer his statements without further commentary, except where context might be helpful. It will not be a pleasant read, however in order to comprehend the immorality of Truman’s decision and the immorality of deterrence, perhaps it must be read.

It was strange to us that Hiroshima had never been bombed despite the fact that the B-29 bombers flew over the city every day. Only after the war did I come to know that Hiroshima, according to American archives, had been kept untouched in order to preserve it as a target for the use of nuclear weapons.

After the success of the first atomic bomb explosion, code named “Trinity,” in Alamogordo, New Mexico, no animal experiments related to the great danger of radioactivity on human beings had been done….the American authorities might never have used such a weapon against the 750,000 Japanese who ultimately became its victims.

[Hida was 1.5 miles away at the time of the bombing] At that very moment a tremendous flash struck my face and a penetrating light entered my eyes. All of a sudden my face and arms were engulfed by an intense heat.

It was extraordinarily quiet. “Might it only be a dream?” I thought. And then I looked toward the city of Hiroshima.

My whole heart trembled at what I saw. There was a great fire ring floating over the city. Within a moment, a massive deep white cloud grew out of the center of the ring…. At the same time I could see a long black cloud as it spread over the entire width of the city…. What I saw was the beginning of an enormous storm created by the blast as it gathered up the mud and sand of the city and rolled it into a huge wave.

Before I could think about taking cover my whole body flew up in the air…. Then I was lifted by the wave, carried ten meters across two rooms, and thrown against a large Buddhist altar.

“Look! A blazing column is shooting up,” I said to myself. A scarlet column of fire disguising its head as a huge cloud was climbing higher and higher into the sky as if it intended to break through to the heavens.

[Now, hurriedly riding his bicycle back to the city] I sped down at top speed toward the curve when suddenly something came into my view…. It was anything but “a man.”…. It surely seemed like the form of a man but it was completely naked, bloody, and covered with mud. The body was completely swollen….what I took to be rags were in fact pieces of human skin, and the water drops were human blood…. It had a curiously large head, swollen eyelids….

I looked at the road before me. Denuded, burnt and bloody, numberless survivors stood in my path…. Not one showed any sign which forced me to recognize him or her as a human being….

The burning wind blew against my face and hot smoke choked my lungs. I realized that the furious wind was coming from the fire in the city.

I saw that the long bank of the river at Choju-En was filled with a large number of burned human beings. They occupied the bank as far as the eye could see. The greatest number lay in the water rolling slowly at the mercy of the waves….many flesh-like creatures moved slowly across the bridge at a snail’s pace.

Whenever I saw a little innocent baby among them, I looked up to the sky and bit my lip hoping to control myself from crying.

Two important roads met at a “I” junction in the village…. As far as the eye could see, victims filled the road, the school grounds, and all the other open places in the village.

[By evening, a makeshift field hospital was arranged]

…the stretcher groups…carried bodies out of the village one by one. A fire was going in the makeshift crematorium…

…looking up I saw what had once been Hiroshima. There was no city but only a burnt field. The entire town had been reduced to ashes in a single day.

…at that time no one knew that many of those who came to the city that day in search of tohers would themselves be killed by residual radiation.

There were many bodies whose intestines had been forced out of their rectums.

He had no clothes on except for a pair of short pants. His bare skin was strangely white. I realized immediately that he was a foreign prisoner. He must have been a crew member of a plane which had been shot down during the past several months. [The prisoner was still bound, and Dr. Hida cut his ropes to free him] Although I had no intention of feeling guilty, it still pricked my conscience that I had freed a prisoner without permission.

[Having finally returned to the hospital where he would have been at the time of the bombing] If I remember correctly, the full complement of staff and patients at the Hiroshima Hospital prior to the attack had been approximately 1,500. When I arrived, there were only seventeen confirmed to be alive.

I believe it was about a week after the bombing that an unexpected event happened. Unusual symptoms began to appear in the survivors at Hesaka…. It was just at the point when we thought we were beginning to make some headway that the unusual development occurred…. The nurse described how some patients had experienced sudden attacks of high fever which had risen above forty degrees Celsius….then they began to bleed from their mucous membranes and soon spat up quantities of blood.

The bleeding was sudden and violent…. All at once the new symptoms took hold of entire groups of survivors…. Very few patients who came down with these sudden symptoms escaped death despite all our efforts with Riger’s solution and even blood transfusions.

Although the survivors escaped an early death, the approach of death from atomic illness was not slowed. The fire which burned in the crematorium day and night could not keep pace with the number of bodies, which steadily increased.

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