May this, the experience of one atomic bomb survivor, make even a small contribution towards actualizing real peace in this world.
—Fr. Tadashi Hasegawa
Excerpt From Chapter 4
“Hey! I hear a ‘Bee’ engine, you’d better get up here quick!” ‘Bee’ meant B-29. However, those of us swimming in the water couldn’t hear any noise, and we dismissed them, thinking they were trying to trick us because we were having fun playing in the cool water.
Nevertheless, we eventually realized the gravity of the situation when we saw them running right and left desperately screaming from shore with both hands cupped on their mouths. We got up on shore and quickly threw on our clothes and two or three of us gathered together and listened; yes, we could faintly hear the sound of a plane like the buzz of a mosquito. However, we couldn’t see the plane. The other strange thing was, that although they would normally sound an air raid siren for even a single enemy plane flying over Hiroshima airspace, why had there been no such siren?
I yelled in a loud voice, “Hey, that’s definitely the sound of a ‘Bee.’ It’s flying at about 10,000 meters high.” We fixed our eyes on the direction of the sound. As we did so, we saw something about the size of a grain of white rice, gleaming as though it were reflected in the sunlight for a split second. “There it is, there it is,” I said to myself as I kept my gaze on the airplane, in order not to lose sight of it.
Right after that, one of the members in our group screamed from somewhere nearby, “Hey, a red parachute, or something, is falling down,” and he pointed his finger in the direction of the center of town, due southeast of where we were standing. I quickly shifted my glance, but I couldn’t locate it right away. By the time I found the red object, it felt like it was closing in right over my head at a faster and faster pace.
The object that we saw attached to a parachute was an instrument (radiosonde)¹ that was dropped by the American Army to measure the force of the atomic blast. One of the three parachutes that were dropped at this time was later found at Kabe Village of Asa County, Hiroshima (now called Kabe, Asa North Ward, Hiroshima City) and is presently preserved at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. The parachute that we had thought was red, must have been an optical illusion caused by the conditions of the light; it was actually white.
The Moment of the Atomic Bomb Explosion
The next moment after turning my body towards the falling parachute, I noticed everything suddenly go dim. Even though I had no time to judge what had just happened, my entire body instinctively felt “danger,” and right as I was about to cover up my eyes with the four fingers of both hands, there was a flash from behind me and the entire sky turned deep yellow. In the middle of the flash there was something like white granules about the size of a ping-pong ball, and they came pouring down like hail and it felt as though it was coming towards me and enveloping me.
Even though I had both of my ears firmly plugged, a hideous searing crackling noise coming from my entire back was transmitted through my flesh. The back part of the short-sleeve underwear that I was wearing had melted away instantaneously from the heat flash. An extreme pain shot through me like heat and hurt all jumbled up together. While bearing this pain I let out an incomprehensible groan.
Then, in the next moment, the murmuring sound that had been audible to me suddenly disappeared and my surroundings were enveloped in an eerie stillness. I felt as if time had stopped. I’m not sure how much time had elapsed since I first saw the flash, but it was probably 5 seconds, maybe 10 at the most.
As I had learned in the escape drills we did in sixth grade, I was sitting with my legs underneath me, leaning my torso forward, covering my eyes and ears with both hands and trying to inhale. But I could not draw air into my body. I puckered my mouth like a goldfish, but to no avail.
¹ A balloon-borne instrument that measures atmospheric pressure