On That Day, at That Time:
My Atomic Bombing
By Inosuke Hayasaki
(Mr. Hayasaki was fourteen years old at the time of the atomic bombing)
Mr. Hayasaki was working at Mitsubishi Arms Factory when the atomic bomb exploded 1.1 kilometers away. He was over at one of the engineering buildings at the time, having been ordered by his superior to go conduct parts repairs. The blast winds sent him flying, but his life was fortunately saved by the presence of a large column. The superior he had taken his orders from died instantly and only two of the thirty-two people present survived.
At that time I was fourteen years old. I experienced the atomic bombing while in the testing site of the engineering department at the Ohashi branch of the Nagasaki arms factory of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. As I was only 1.1 kilometers away, it was miraculous that I lived through that event, and now I speak as a living witness, as a survivor, about what happened the day the atomic bomb was dropped.
On April 1, 1945, at the age of fourteen, I entered the Ohashi branch of Mitsubishi Nagasaki Arms Manufacturing Plant as a trainee. From July 1, after completing three months of training, I was assigned to the workforce and sent to the testing site of the engineering department.
Being just fourteen and not having any idea of how to go about things, I found myself working like an office boy, obediently following orders my superiors day after day. The era was such that while the war situation grew darker and darker we weren’t able to tell our friends how we really felt about things.
And then the day of August 9 came around. It was still humid then and the sky was filled with clouds. At around nine thirty an air-raid alarm sounded and every last person at the factory went into the bomb shelter. The alarm was lifted at about 10:15, at which point everybody returned to work. We were just about to start testing an engine with alternative parts. Right then my superior said, “You, go and sharpen the tip of the pin on the gear wheel.” When I replied “Yes” he said, “Do it right away!” The time on the clock was 11:01. I jogged over to the engineering building, which was about fifteen meters away, and went to the corner where the machine room was. I squeezed by the large column of reinforced concrete beside the grinder and stood in the shadow of another column right beside it. Not a second had passed when a bluish-white light filled the entire room and a roar like a hundred bursts of thunder echoed out. Then a blast wind, the strength of which was impossible to fathom, picked me up off the ground and lifted me into the air. I was thrown right through the doorway about eight meters to the right and ended up at the back of the refrigerator unit.
If I hadn’t received that order from my superior, I would have died with him at the place where we had been just before that. And sure enough, that superior of mine was dead. I had banged my elbow against a solid wall, but strangely enough I wasn’t at all aware that I was bleeding. I was naked from the waist up and barefoot, with only a single pair of short pants on. At the moment of the explosion I had fleetingly thought, “What is this? There isn’t even an air-raid alert on. Is the end of the world here?” All I could hear was the roaring noise. In the pitch-black darkness I couldn’t even see right in front of me.
Five minutes later I was thinking about getting out by groping my way through the darkness and over to the door, but I couldn’t even move a step. The black smoke gave off a smell that was hard to describe. I had absolutely nothing at all with me. I was almost naked and for about twenty minutes my eyes and ears were of absolutely no use to me. I tried to put my mind to getting away, but nothing came of it. I hadn’t hit my head, so my thinking remained clear from the outset. I knew that all I could do was wait in the darkness until it started getting brighter. Then my unseeing eyes were vaguely able to make out my dirty feet. It made me happy to know that I could at least see a little now. The black smoke began changing to a yellowish colour and these colours then mingled like tiger stripes. I just couldn’t move. I found that I could see about ten or twenty centimeters beyond my feet and then my field of vision expanded to where I could see ten meters in front of me and one-and-a-half meters upward. The machines weighing several tons were no longer in the building. I set off toward the brightness, seeing that some ten meters away was a pile of where the thick building walls had collapsed on top of each other. I was in awe. There was dust on the ground and smoke was slowly rising up into the air. Outside the building people whose bodies were charred or bleeding profusely had fallen like logs. I looked at them out of the corner of my eyes as I made my way through the smoke, rushing toward the third gate. The pillars of that gate, the guard booth and the surrounding wall were all gone now. I couldn’t see a single person walking anywhere. Scared of fleeing by myself, I waited at the gate for about five minutes, but nobody came. If only even one other person had felt the impulse to flee somewhere safer and come running out of the building! Nothing was left of the green rice crops of August. Everything above the water line had completely burned away. When I turned around to look at the arms factory, I saw that the beautiful building I had been so proud of was now nothing more than a sad-looking pile of rubble.
I walked on to the railroad tracks, the crossties of which crackled as smoke rose up from them. Further on Shoenji Temple also gave off noises as it burned. The huge pine trees at its base had been blown over, falling from the south to the north, and not a single needle remained on them. I pinched myself to make sure I was still alive, for at that point I was wondering if this wasn’t just a dream and doubting even my own existence. While thinking about what things were like for the thousands of young people trapped underneath the debris, I fled off in the direction of Nishi-machi. At that time someone looking like a black person came passing by. His clothing had been burned off and his skin hung down in strips. He didn’t answer when I asked him, “What kind of injuries are those?” but just kept staggering on. He did not look human.
Turning right at the railroad crossing, I saw the horse, the driver and other people from the lunch wagon at Saigo Dormitories all lying dead in a rice paddy. Their bodies had been thrown there. Fallen trees kept me from going any further. I hopped over to the large house on the right, which was also giving off smoke. The wife came over to me and said, “There are children inside the house, and their grandparents, too.” She wanted me to help them, but I was just a weak child who didn’t know what to do. I hurried on another thirty meters, at which point I heard a child wailing loudly. He was kicking the ground with his feet and saying “Mother, wake up… Wake up!” This five-year-old boy was talking to me as well, but his mother’s hair was burned off and her skin was a purplish colour. There was nothing I could say. On top of that, his house had collapsed and caught fire. I didn’t speak to this boy who wasn’t injured himself but cried out as he looked at his mother and his burning house. There was nothing I could do for him except hold his body tightly. I still didn’t even know that this had been an atomic bombing.
Proceeding onward, I came across three men who looked to be in their thirties. They were completely naked, without even loincloths on. These were nightshift workers who had been in the baths (at the time of the bombing) and all of their backs were covered in blood. They were heading back to the factory to get changes of clothes. The three looked like blood-red Daruma dolls as they climbed over the mountain of debris, covering themselves with pumpkin leaves.
Further on I heard bizarre screeching voices that could have been belonged to either humans or animals. This was at the Saigo Dormitories, where a huge fire blazed. All twelve two-story buildings had been blown over and noises were coming from the flames, which shot up like cyclones. Pleas for help made by those pinned under the wood of the destroyed homes were coming from all around and made quite a noise. Not a trace of a single person could be seen, however. The sorrowful yells then died out one after another. They were being burned alive. My God, what was going on? I had witnessed a burning hell. My little body began shaking and goose pimples rose on my skin.
Fleeing up into the mountains was impossible. The air was thick with smoke. Terrified and unable to do anything else, I came to the railroad, where another surprise awaited me. Next I actually saw people, although they looked like a mixture of red and blue ogres. Their skin was torn, their hair was burned off and they had turned a purplish colour. They would fall down every five or ten steps as they headed to the field in front of the railroad, where they finally collapsed. All were wounded, but even those with blood flowing from their heads to their feet managed to walk. It was because of the (broken) glass that their entire bodies were as red as Daruma dolls. What an awful thing. Two hundred meters away, white smoke poured from the windows of the engineering room I had fled from earlier. I approached fearfully and looked inside, seeing sights that made me want to scream. All my superiors and fellow workers had been thrown by the blast, their bodies scorched black and bleeding profusely from (cuts caused by) the glass. There was not even one person was left alive among the fallen bodies. All my classmates, along with all the other students, were disfigured and had taken on worm-like appearances. It was like looking at a scene of the battlefront from the movies. I didn’t even want to continue on to the room where my change of clothes was. The factory of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which covered an area of fifty tsubo, had been completely annihilated. It had been reduced to rubble and those who hadn’t been able to flee lay dead among the ruins. Nowhere did I see any people talking to each other.
Near the railroad tracks was a site where the wounded were gathering. Not a single one of them was able to sit upright. They all lay sprawled out on the ground, murmuring pleas of, “Give me water… Water” as I walked by. One adult was walking around calling out, “If you drink any water you’ll die!” These people were no longer of this world, however. Coming to the conclusion that they only had a few hours of life left, I decided to try to get them some water, although I still harbored some doubt in my mind. Unable to get water for all of them, I finally out some cotton from the burning futons and took it over to the scorched rice fields, where I soaked it in water. Many of the people thirstily drank down the water squeezed out from that cotton.
I kept going down the line of people, giving everyone drinks of water, but after the twenty-fifth person I decided to take a break and went back to the place where a boy named Yamada was. He was the first one I had given a drink to, but he had stopped calling, “Water!” I said, “Yamada… Yamada…” and touched his chest, but as I did so the skin came peeling away. Now I had really done it. I became terrified and started to shake. I looked back at the people I had given drinks to and saw that all of them had died. What horrible crime had I committed? Blaming myself, I stopped giving drinks to those around me who were wailing “Please give me water…” Fretting over the fact that I had become a murderer, I began crying uncontrollably.
An hour went by with me sitting alone like that, not wanting to move. Weren’t people to be shown any compassion? While my heart was aching, another one of those bloodied Daruma figures came walking by in silence. Looking closely, I saw that it was Kidahide Nakano, the corporal of our unit. When I moved closer and called “Mr. Nakano!” he responded, but what a state he was in. I said “You must be in a lot of pain” and he answered that he was. One of his arms was broken, his shirt and pants were torn and he was coated in blood, giving him the appearance of a deformed creature in red clothing. When I asked him why all this had happened he said, “It was a new-type bomb, like the one dropped on Hiroshima the other day. Nothing is left of Nagasaki. My house and my family are gone. Your dormitory at Sanno is completely destroyed and the students of the nightshift were all killed. There is no food, clothing or water, and nowhere to find relief.” His voice was growing feeble. “Go back to your parents… Go back to your parents” he urged me on before falling unconscious. All that speaking had been too much of a strain for him.
Which way was I supposed to go? I didn’t have even the slightest idea. Just then I heard a steam whistle and grew elated at the thought that a rescue train had arrived. The progress of the train was minimal, however. The burning crossties were being distinguished as the train back in and finally stopped in front of Shoenji Temple. Astonishingly, people who had been charred black were stumbling along in the direction of the train. They would walk five steps and then fall down, then walk another five steps and fall again. I hurried to get there as well, but when I came up to the train I was told, “The injured board first. Bring the wounded in on stretchers!” I went over get a stretcher, but there was no one there to help me carry it. And when I went over to the gate for the train I was turned away.
I couldn’t board the next train either, or the one after that. At dusk the sun went down behind Mt. Inasa and the light of the fires scorched the sky a deep red colour. I just wanted to board a train and get back to my well-lit home as soon as possible. At that point it struck me that the only way I would be able to get on a train was if I made myself look like a burn victim, so I covered my body with mud that I found at the edge of the rice paddy. Now that I had taken on the appearance of a burn victim, I went back to wait for a train to come. Then, at around 8:30, another unlit train silently backed its way in and came to a stop. Thinking that this was my chance, I got onto the train and crawled under the seats without anybody saying anything. One after another people were brought on board by members of civil defense units from Isahaya or Kikitsu and placed on the seats. But most of the people were unable to sit upright and simply lay flat on the floor. None of the sick people were talking to each other and all they seemed to be doing was waiting for death to come. The train, on which hope seemed to be a hundred to one shot, stayed in the tunnels because enemy planes might be outside. Inside a member of the relief squad called said, “This person over here is dead. What kind of squalid affair is this?” People were being put on this night train not knowing where they were going. The journey of death continued.
After two hours we reached Isahaya. Not a single person was able to walk off the train on his own. It would be a forty minute wait for the train to Shimabara. At that, someone said that a number of the dead would be unloaded from the train. When I boarded the train for Shimabara, the passengers said, “Look at this creature coming along” and stared at me for a while. After asking what had happened to me though, they began offering sympathy.
The train reached Shimabara at 2:20 in the morning. From there it was a two hour walk to the home I longed to see. My joy at arriving home alive was immeasurable, but I still carried with me the feeling that I was a murderer. So I walked along lightly, my heart not particularly full of joy. Despite knowing that I was one of the few among thousands who had survived, I found myself thinking about how sad it was for the innocent people who had lost their homes and didn’t even know where to search for their relatives.
When I reached my home the lights were still shining. I knocked at the door and got a surprise when it opened. Seeing that I was completely black, I wasn’t even greeted with an audible sigh. That was because my mother was crying so hard that she couldn’t get any words out. As I began washing myself at the well, my joy at being back with my family was unfathomable. But so many people had died because of war and then there was that five-year-old boy who had lost his mother and his home. When I thought about how heartrending a loss must be in the mind of a five-year old, I cried uncontrollably.
While I was resting in bed, which I did for four or five days, I heard that the war was over. I was overjoyed, the words that the fighting was over making a far greater impression on me than the talk of defeat. After ten years, peace had finally returned. War itself is the enemy of mankind. I believe that even in poverty, there is joy to be had from living in peace, and pray that it lasts for eternity.Tweet