|5.Under the Mushroom Cloud
On the morning of Monday August 6, 1945, there wasn't a cloud in
the sky over Hiroshima.
An air-raid warning had sounded a little after midnight, but nothing
happened, and the all-clear was given at 2:10 a.m. Again at 7:09 in
the morning, a yellow alert was issued, but the all-clear came at 7:31.
People were relieved and, after a simple wartime breakfast, were
beginning their day's work. Then, at 8:15 a.m., there was a flash of
light in the sky.When the yellow alert was issued a little past seven
o'clock, a B-29 had in fact appeared over Hiroshima to conduct a
weather survey for dropping an atomic bomb. Nobody imagined such
a thing was happening. It was a midsummer day and people in the city
were starting to move about.
Approximately 8,400 mainly first and second year middle-school students
(mostly twelve to fourteen-year old boys and girls) were about to help
dismantle buildings to make firebreaks as protection from air raids.
About 10,000 volunteer guards were coming from neighboring towns and
villages into Hiroshima City to join them, and they were also arriving at
their work sites. There were students who had been mobilized to work
at military factories, and others who were ready for a day at school.
Akira Ishida, who would later work to promote peace education as a
teacher and as a hibakusha (A-bomb survivor), was on a streetcar in
the center of the city. Fumio Shigeto, who from this day on would work
for the rescue activities of survivors and give them medical treatment
at the Red Cross Hospital, had just arrived at Hiroshima Station. Ichiro
Moritaki, who would dedicate the rest of his life to hibakusha relief
movements, was at the Hiroshima Shipyard of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries,
in the south of the city where, together with his students at Hiroshima
Higher School of Education, he had been mobilized as part of the labor
force. The experience of the three, of whom only Ishida is still alive
today, was in many ways typical of a large number of other hibakusha.
Although it was still wartime, another day had just started for people
in Hiroshima. At 8:15 a.m., people were going to work, doing housework,
going to receive rations, seeing the doctor, visiting sick friends or
relatives, going to the bank to draw money out, or busy with other things.
-Hiroshima Just After the A-bomb-
Many hibakusha say that straight after the bomb, people tried to get
away in the oppositedirection from where the bomb had exploded
(the hypocenter); people near Hiroshima Station escaped to the east
or to the north, those near Yokogawa Station to the north, those
around Hijiyama Hill to the south or to the east. There were, of
course, some people who were going against the flow because of
their families or jobs.
There were still other people who were coming into Hiroshima from
the surrounding communities to help with the rescue work. The Army
Marine Transport stationed near Hiroshima Port at Ujina dispatched
soldiers from its unit called the "Akatsuki Corps" to the city center
to be engaged in the rescue effort.
They saw hideously disfigured corpses which could not be identified;
schoolgirls who were desperate for water jumping into the river;
people walking about like zombies, with burned and peeled-off skin
hanging from their bodies; a boy trying to save his groaning mother who
was trapped under fallen walls. Fire was approaching. A man was
beating his dying daughter hard with a piece of wooden board, saying,
"Your pain will be over soon." It was hell all around.
Flames and screams filled the city, where refugees and rescue teams
were going to and fro. Hanging over them was another evil of the
atomic bomb: residual radiation.
-Fireball at 580Meters Above the City-
The atomic bomb was dropped from the B-29 Enola Gay at an altitude
of about 9,600 meters and exploded at approximately 580 meters above
the city. At that moment,the temperature of the air at the point of
explosion reached several million degrees Celsius, and a fireball appeared,
radiating white heat.
After 1/10,000 of a second, the fireball grew to a diameter of 28 meters
and its temperature was close to 300,000℃. In one second, the fireball is
estimated to have expanded to a maximum diameter of about 280 meters.
At the instant of the explosion, intense heat rays and radiation were
released. The surrounding a ir expanded with enormous pressure, causing
a tremendous blast.
A stream of people who had managed to escape from the raging fire
kept coming to the temporary first-aid post at the west end of Miyuki
Bridge. (A little past 11:00 a.m. Photograph by Yoshito Matsushige of
the Chugoku Shimbun.)
Survivors said that the flash of light that came from the fireball was like an
"intense magnesium light". With its flash and the deafening sound that
followed, many people sensed that this was not an ordinary bomb.
-Gigantic Mushroom Cloud-
An atomic cloud was created by the sudden extraordinary turbulence
right after the explosion and it was lifted up in the rising current.
A U.S. Forces observing plane reported that five minutes after the
bombing a massive gray cloud about 5 kilometers in diameter was hanging
over the center of the city. The mushroom cloud rapidly grew into a
gigantic pillar of rolling white smoke, and soon it reached an altitude of
about 17,000 meters, spreading out wide at its top. Four hours after
the bombing, a photo-reconnaissance plane flew over Hiroshima and
reported that the whole city was still so thickly covered with the cloud of
smoke that all they could see were scraps of flames around its edges.
-Terrible Heat Rays and Blast-
The destruction caused by the atomic bomb was due to the combined
effects of the tremendous pressure, the blast and the heat rays.
The result was horrific.
Within about two kilometers of the hypocenter, almost all wooden
houses were completely destroyed and burned down. More solid buildings
which did not collapse had their windows shattered and their interiors
burned out. Some fires were caused by the embers from kitchen stoves,
but within 1.8 kilometers of the hypocenter, it is thought that the wooden
houses caught fire by direct exposure to the heat rays.
Buildings between two to four kilometers from the hypocenter were
either completely destroyed or partially destroyed, depending on how far
away they were.In some cases, however, buildings quite a distance away
caught fire due to the radiant heat.
Fires began to spread in the city about an hour after the bombing, and
raged until about two o'clock in the afternoon of that day. By the evening,
a vast area of the city was reduced to ashes, and in some places the fires
did not completely die down until a few days later.
-"Black Rain" Spreading Toward the Northwest-
It had been a clear summer day, but about 20 to 30 minutes after the
bombing, pitch-black rain began to fall over a wide area of Hiroshima
and northwest of the city. The rain was a result of the rising current of
air which sucked up fine particles of dust containing an enormous amount
of radiation from the A-bomb cloud.
The black rain fell on people who had just escaped from the burning city
and those in the suburbs who were worrying about their families' safety in
the city. People exposed to this sticky black rain did not know that it was
radioactive fallout, or radioactive rain, caused by the nuclear bomb.
The heroine in Masuji Ibuse's novel, "Black Rain", eventually falls ill of
what was called "A-bomb disease", as a result of this rain. According to
investigations so far, this rain fell in an oval area up to 30 kilometers long,
but some people have suggested that it rained over an even wider area.
-First Ten Days after the Bombing-
The following ten days were the "ten days after the bombing" for
Hiroshima, but they were also "the ten days still at war".
The national government dispatched a survey team from the army
and the navy, and summoned scientists to investigate the extent of the
damage.On August 10, they determined that the bomb was an "atomic
bomb" and, on the same day, they protested to the United States,
"We denounce the government of the United States and demand the
immediate renunciation of the use of such an inhumane weapon."
The government, however, did not tell the Japanese public this, but
just said that matters were "under investigation".
In Hiroshima, both the prefectural and municipal government offices
were seriously damaged, so the relevant local government bodies discussed
emergency measures, moving temporarily from one place to another. On
August 8, in order for the administration to be most effective in the relief
and restoration work, a liaison meeting of military personnel, government
Officials and the private sector was held, and decided among other measures
that damage certificates could be issued by volunteer guards as well, that
lists of patients' names be urgently made and posted where they were
accommodated, and that the government should continue to provide meals
for one week, after which they would resume food rationing.
The survivors took refuge with their relatives in the suburbs, at first-aid
stations within and outside the city, at temples, factories, military facilities and
schools. Some were carried by naval ships to Ninoshima Island off the coast
of Ujina. People who were terribly burned or seriously injured died one after
the other. Even those who looked well, without apparent injuries, would
suddenly die. Some lost their hair, others suffered from severe diarrhea.
"This is something very strange," people thought, terribly worried about
the extraordinary effects of the bomb.
The war ended. Japanese people were later informed that their
government had kept discussing in one meeting after another whether to
accept the unconditional surrender of Japan until, finally, the end of the war
was announced in an Imperial edict on August 15. The Emperor Showa's
edict broadcast on the radio was called "Gyoku-on Hoso (Broadcast of
His Majesty's Voice)". People reacted in different ways. Some were
devastated to hear that Japan had lost the war. Others were just glad
that the war was over. Some felt relieved, now that they were free to
turn on the light at night.
The gash caused by the A-bomb damage, however, was still wide
open and ready to engulf the people and the city of Hiroshima.
-The Next Four Months After the Bonbing-
Living conditions were very hard for the survivors. In August, the
burned-down city was frequented by people who were looking for their
relatives, and an uncountable number of bodies were cremated. In
September, medical doctors who came to Hiroshima from Tokyo University,
Kyoto University and others to survey conditions advised hibakusha to
carefully monitor their health. On September 17, the Makurazaki Typhoon hit
the Hiroshima Region. In October, classes at Noborimachi Primary School
and other schools started again. In November, most of the railway lines
under the jurisdiction of the Hiroshima Railway Administration Bureau were
restored after the damage caused by the A-bomb and the typhoon. In
December, the unidentified remains of about 6,000 people in the care of
the Hiroshima Municipal Government were moved to Zempo-ji Temple in
Koi-machi. At the end of the year, as winter was setting in, survliving
citizens felt very insecure because there was very little shelter, clothing
or food available.
【Sharp Decrease in Population On September 6,】
one month after the bombing, Buddhist services and memorial services
were held for the deceased at government offices, schools and workplaces
in Hiroshima. The Governor of Hiroshima Prefecture, Genshin Takano,
commented, "By keeping large open spaces and constructing wide streets,
I seek to prevent the spread of fires and also make vegetable plots in the
future." He added, "The population of the city now stands at 130,000."
The population had sharply decreased from the estimated civilian population
of 300,000 before the bombing. On January 1, 1946, four months after the
bombing, Hiroshima City announced that its population was 151,693 .
【U.S. Survey Team】
On September 8, a U.S. A-bomb survey team arrived in Hiroshima. It was
composed of Brigadier General Thomas Farrel and twelve others. By this
time, university medical doctors and other people had come to Hiroshima
from all over Japan to conduct research and to assist with medical treatment.
The U.S. survey team seized survey results regarding human casualties and medical
statistics from these experts, as well as a large volume of film showing the physical
destruction caused, taken by Japanese news photographers and documentary film
crews, and took these materials back to the United States. It was not until 28
years later, in 1973, that they were returned by the United States and made available
to the Japanese public.
The atomic bomb wreaked great havoc on the economy, too. It was impossible to
produce goods needed for everyday life, including even the most essential
commodities. The distribution systems for clothing and food were also paralyzed.
Black markets filled this gap and, springing up around Hiroshima Station and in other
locations, provided what people urgently needed. Anything that people needed
to live was bought and sold at these black markets, including vegetables, clothes
and furniture brought from nearby towns and villages, as well as military uniforms,
shoes, and medicine found in the former military warehouses. The survivors in
Hiroshima, suffering severe shortages, joined together to hold a rally on December
7, and adopted a resolution requesting the Governor to make essential provisions
The rain which continued from the end of August turned into a solid downpour
on the morning of September 17. The rivers rose, the sewage flowed backward,
temporary shelters and half-destroyed houses were blown down, and the railway
service was cut off. According to the records of the Hiroshima Local Meteorological
Observatory, the total rainfall on this day was 197 millimeters, with the dead and
missing totaling 2,012. Victims included members of the A-bomb survey team from
Kyoto University who were washed away in the landslide at Ono Army Hospital in
Ono-cho to the west of Hiroshima City. Eleven people, including Professor Toshikazu
Mashimo, died on the spot.