Remembering the Hiroshima Atomic Blast

From My Japan, 1930-1951

Hiroko Nakamoto, as told to Mildred Mastin Pace

Questions to Consider

  1. What was most shocking to Hiroko Nakamoto about the atomic blast?
  2. According to Nakamoto, was the bombing racially motivated?
  3. did American officials realize the destructiveness of the bomb?  Was it necessary?
  4. What can be deduced about Japanese views of the bombing of Hiroshima from Nakamoto's account?

        Whenever I see strong sunshine, I remember the day very clearly, the day I will never forget as long as I live.  That day, in one quick second, my world was destroyed.  The day was August 6, 1945.
        It was 8:15 in the morning, and I was on my way to work.  I was walking.  The night before, as usual, there had been alerts all night.  I was groggy from lack of sleep.  The all clear had sounded just as I left home.  Now all seemed calm and quiet.  I did not hear any sounds of airplanes overhead.
        Suddenly, from nowhere, came a blinding flash.  It was as if someone had taken a flashbulb picture a few inches from my eyes.  There was no pain then. Only a stinging sensation, as if I had been slapped hard in the face.
        I tried to open my eyes.  But I could not.  Then I lost consciousness.
        I do not know how I got there or how long it was before I awoke.  But when I opened my eyes, I was lying inside a shattered house.  I was dazed and in shock, and all I knew was that I wanted to go home.  I pulled myself up and started stumbling down the street.  The air was heavy with a sickening odor.  It was a smell different from anything I had ever known before.
        Now I saw dead bodies all about me.  The buildings were in ruins, and from the ruins I could hear people crying for help.  But I could not help them.  Some people were trying, as I was, to walk, to get away, to find their homes.  I passed a streetcar that was stalled.  It was filled with dead people.
        I stumbled on. But now a great fire came rolling toward us, and I knew it was impossible to get home.
        I passed a woman on the street.  She looked at me, then turned away with a gasp of horror.  I wondered why.  I felt as if one side of my face was detached, did not belong to me.  I was afraid to touch it with my hand.
        There was a river nearby, and the people who could walk began walking toward the river - burned people with clothes in shreds or no clothes at all, men and women covered with blood, crying children.  I followed them....
        When I reached the river, I saw that the wooden bridge which I had crossed each day on my way to the factory was on fire.  I stopped.  And for the first time I looked at my body.  My arms, legs and ankles were burned.  And I realized that the left side of my face must be burned, too.  There were strange burns.  Not pink, but yellow.  The flesh was hanging loose.  I went down to the water's edge and tried to pat the skin back with salt water from the river, as I saw others doing.
        But we could not stay by the river.  The fire was coming closer, and the heat was more intense.  Everyone started moving again, away from the fire, moving silently, painfully....
        I found myself on a wide street.  I saw a number of burned people standing around a policeman.  He had a small bottle of iodine, and some cotton he was dabbing it on the badly burned back of a man.  I stared too dazed to realize how futile and pathetic it was....
        When I woke again, I asked a man sitting next to me what had happened.
        He said a bomb had destroyed almost the entire city.  For the first time, my heart was filled with hate, bitter hate, for a people who could do this.  I remembered a propaganda picture we had been shown of Americans laughing as they looked at corpses of Japanese soldiers.  At the time I did not believe it.  But I believed it now....
        By the time we reached doctor's house, his house, his office, even his yard were filled with people lying waiting for help.  I lay in the yard and waited a long time.  When at last he saw me, he did not even know what to do.  These were burns such as no man had ever seen before.  A nurse hastily put some oil on my burns, then hurried on to the next person.  People were screaming; many were begging for water.  And so few hands to help!
        Some people were burned so black you could not tell whether they were lying face down or on their backs.  It was hard to tell they were human beings.
        But they were still alive.
        More and more burned and injured kept arriving....
        Hiroshima was burning.  The sky was red.  Pine Street, its trees where I spent my childhood hours, the rice warehouse, the hotel, all were destroyed.
        Friends and neighbors were dead.  Everything we owned was gone.  The rivers where we had enjoyed boating on summer evenings were filled with dead bodies floating in the water.  People were screaming as they lay along the banks of the rivers.  The dead and the half dead were lying among the wreckage in the streets.
        The sky was red.  Hiroshima was burning.  My aunt, Teruko, and all the Kaitaichi relatives sat that night, in the darkened room, watching my face in silence.