Former mobilized student recalls the bombing at “A-bombed Structures Speak”

by Shunsaku Iwanari, Staff Writer

Yoshie Oka, 77, a Hiroshima resident and a former mobilized student at the time of the atomic bombing, visited the special exhibit entitled “A-bombed Structures Speak” at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum on July 31. As a girl, Ms. Oka was the first person to transmit the news of Hiroshima’s destruction to the outside world on August 6. When the blast occurred, she was working at the Chugoku Military District Headquarters, located on the grounds of Hiroshima Castle. She recalled her experience of the bombing as she stood before a photograph showing the devastated headquarters where she had been stationed that morning.

“This picture brings back all the terror I felt that day,” remarked Ms. Ota in a mournful voice. The concrete building that housed the military headquarters was turned to rubble, a wreckage of stone and twisted metal.

At the time, Ms. Oka was a third-year student at Hijiyama Girls High School. Along with her classmates, she had been mobilized to assist at the headquarters building. Although this building was located near the hypocenter, she was in the communications room in the basement when the bomb exploded and so she survived the blast. When she ventured above ground, she was shocked to find that the city had abruptly become mounds of rubble as far as the eye could see. She then rushed back to the communications room and telephoned authorities in the city of Fukuyama.

Ms. Oka has been sharing her account of this experience with high school students and other groups at the former site of the headquarters building for more than 10 years. She tells her story to young people in order to hand down what she witnessed that day, including her classmates, crying for water and tumbling into the castle moat, and soldiers charred completely black from the blast.

Ms. Oka commented that the exhibition “encouraged me to continue conveying the horror of the bombing.” And so she has renewed her commitment to speak out on behalf of her lost classmates.

“A-bombed Structures Speak” depicts the great magnitude of the devastation wrought by the atomic bomb by highlighting the historical background of the A-bombed buildings of Hiroshima. The exhibition runs until December 15, 2008.

(Originally published on August 1, 2008)