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Hiroshima Story - Part 1

This is a story previously told by Sachiko Masuoka about living through the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

I would like to welcome all of you. Thank you for the introduction. My name is Sachiko Masuoka. I would like to speak to you as I remember my experience when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima 63 years ago.

At 8:15 a.m. on August 6, 1945, we were all lined up for the morning ceremony, as all Japanese schoolchildren do. At that moment, the bomb was dropped. When I heard the sound of the explosion, I looked up at the sky, and I saw a beautiful blue sky, and I also saw the white trails from airplane exhaust. At that very moment, a bright light shone and I felt something hot on my cheek. Without thinking I covered my face. My school was about 3.5 kilometers from the center of the explosion.

The glass of the windows was blown out because of the strong force from the bomb. I saw some people walking around the school with bloody faces. I realized that they were injured by flying pieces of glass. I had no idea what had happened. We were all dismissed and ordered to go home. However, in the direction of my house there hung a cloud of black smoke.

When I stood at the entrance gate of our school, I saw many people who were fleeing. We asked where the bomb was dropped, but everybody named different parts of town. I learned later the reason was that so many different areas were destroyed simultaneously.

It was impossible to go home. I thought of going to my grandmother’s house which was located in the suburbs. The center of the city was still covered with smoke, so I decided to walk to where the fire was already extinguished.

It was difficult to walk because there were so many people on the ground who were injured. Some people were groaning, some were crying out with pain, some heard our footsteps and just looked up at us. There was not one person who was wearing their entire clothing. Some clothes were torn, some were burnt, but the vast majority of the people had nothing on. The entire city was filled with people like that.

Even among those people who were walking, most of them were covered with rags. Some people were complaining about being cold and covered themselves with futon. This is what I learned later, that when you lose your skin, you are no longer able to adjust your body temperature. I saw some people whose eyeballs were protruded by the force of the bomb.

I saw numerous fighter planes in the sky, flying so low. Of course it was still during the war, so they might still drop more bombs. There was absolutely no place to retreat from more bombing. We saw only the mountains of broken bricks and torn houses. However, there was not another bombing. If they decided to shoot us, a lot more people would have perished.

Just recently I had an opportunity to read a book, Mail Delivery in Nagasaki, written by a British author. In that book, at midnight on the day the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, the American planes rained down with bullets. I never knew that until I read this.

To my left and to my right, the people who were injured and burnt beyond recognition kept walking without a word. The ones that could walk were better off. Others were covered with burns and lay on the road.

I have no idea how many hours I walked under the blazing summer sun, but before the sundown, I finally reached my grandmother’s house. Everyone was so happy to see me and welcomed me.

The early morning of the following day, my father, who came home late the previous night, and I went to look for the rest of the family. There were no buses, nor trains, so we walked.

Once we reached the city limit, as far as we could see there was nothing left. Everything was totally destroyed. There were only mountains of debris. Not only that, there were people laying everywhere. They were all naked. At that time, I didn’t notice the burns on their bodies. Most of the people were still alive. As soon as they heard our footsteps, they looked up at us but they were too weak to utter a word. I think some of the people did not die instantly, even though they were close to the epicenter. There was nothing we could do for them. There was absolutely no medical help available. Where the rail line used to be, there was a dead body laying on top of a pile of debris.

We walked all day long but we could not find our family, so we decided to go back. On the way back to grandma’s house, we saw a horse on the bridge by the current site of the Atomic Dome. It was swollen to three times its original size. In addition to the dead horses, there were many bodies were all over the place.

When I saw the river from the bridge, it was filled with more than 100 dead bodies. The river used to be so clean and we were able to see the bottom of the river. I saw a drowned woman in a strange position because of her long hair.

There was a boat by the riverside. We saw a person leaning against the boat, so we went down to see, but we found that he or she was already dead. There were bodies all over the place. It was full tide, so many of the bodies sank to the bottom of the river.

Normally no one goes to the river on Monday morning, so those people were trying to escape the fierce fire or seeking water to cool off the burns and they must have gone to the river. Though I was getting used to seeing the dead bodies, the scene made me not only close my eyes, but it made me cry. I prayed for them.

In October of this year, I went back to Japan and I went to the Peace Park almost every day. Everything was so orderly and beautiful. There was not even a suggestion of what it was like then. Where we saw a boat, steps had been built, so I sat on the step and looked at the surface of the water. That brought back the memories so vividly. I could not stop crying.

When we passed by the river again on the way home, those who were still alive in the morning were all dead. Even at that time, there was absolutely no medical help.

Part 2 >>

* This article was originally published in Voices of Chicago, online journal of the Chicago Japanese American Historical Society.

© 2010 Sachiko Masuoka

atomic bomb atomic bomb survivors hibakusha Hiroshima (city) Hiroshima Prefecture Japan war World War II
About this series

The articles in this series were originally published in Voices of Chicago, the online journal of the Chicago Japanese American Historical Society, which has been a Discover Nikkei Participating Organization since December 2004.

Voices of Chicago is a collection of first-person narratives about the experiences of people of Japanese descent living in Chicago. The community is composed of three waves of immigration, and their descendants: The first, about 300 people, came to Chicago around the time of the Columbian Exposition in 1899. The second, and largest, group is descended from 30,000 who came to Chicago directly from the internment camps after World War II. Called the “ReSettlers,” they created a community built around social service organizations, Buddhist and Christian churches and small businesses. The third, more recent, group are Japanese nationals who came to Chicago, beginning in the 1980s, as artists and students and remained. A fourth, non-immigrant, group are Japanese business executives and their families who live in Chicago for extended periods, sometimes permanently.

Chicago has always been a place where people can re-create themselves, and where diverse ethnic communities live and work together. Voices of Chicago tells the stories of members of each of these four groups, and how they fit into the mosaic of a great city.

Visit the Chicago Japanese American Historical Society website >>


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About the Author

Sachiko Masuoka was born in Hiroshima. She survived the atomic blast. In 1962, she came to the US through an arranged marriage with a Nisei Japanese American. She moved to Chicago, where he had settled after being released from the Topaz internment camp. They have two children.
She is a member of Soyokaze Chorus group and Chicago Hiroshima Kenjinkai.  She is know in Chicago for her Fukashi manju.  Each one is identical in size because she meticulously measures each an before  placing it in the center of a piece of dough and shaping it into a ball. She made 1000 for a New Years Party in 2009.

Updated June 2010

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