Silent Witness

Silent Witness: Glass fragment embedded in body until death

by Yumi Kanazaki, Staff Writer

The round fragment of glass, with a rough surface, is about 1.3 centimeters in width. It remained embedded in the left shoulder of Yukiro Banba, who was badly wounded in the atomic bombing of August 6, 1945, throughout his life until the day he died in 2012 at the age of 84. After his body was cremated, the piece of glass was picked up with his ashes.

When the atomic bomb exploded, Mr. Banba was at a police academy in Kako-machi (now part of Naka Ward), 1.1 kilometers from the hypocenter. He was trapped under the wreckage of the building, and numerous fragments of shattered glass pierced his body. He managed to make it home to Sera-cho, in Hiroshima Prefecture, where 47 pieces of glass were removed at a local clinic. But it was impossible to remove them all. The wound on his back would not heal, which forced him to remain in bed for about two years.

Kako-machi, the site of the Hiroshima Prefectural Government Office and the Hiroshima Prefectural Hospital at that time, suffered devastating damage. People who had been mobilized to help tear down buildings in the area were killed by the bomb or were severely injured. Mr. Banba hardly spoke about his own experience of the bombing or the horrific scenes he witnessed. He visited the Peace Memorial Museum only once, with his son, Yukiyoshi. After that visit, he said only, “This is exactly what I saw.”

Although Mr. Banba continued to suffer from the glass fragments that remained lodged in his body, it was also as if they became a part of him. One year after his father’s death, Yukiyoshi donated two glass fragments to the Peace Memorial Museum: the one picked up with his ashes and another fragment that was removed from Mr. Banba’s body while he was still alive. Yukiyoshi hopes that these fragments of glass will help visitors to the museum understand the terrible damage wrought by the atomic bomb.

(Originally published on June 24, 2019)