Voices: My Hiroshima A-Bomb Experience by Miyanaga Ryuma

My Hiroshima A-bomb Experience: Why Nuclear Weapons Cannot Be Allowed in Our Universe
By Miyanaga Ryuma, Morioka-City, Iwate Prefecture

Flash!… I was engulfed in an intense ray of light and felt an incredible heat. In an instant, everything around me became red, as if I had been thrust inside a fiery blaze. In the same instant, I was knocked over by a blast of hot air containing a tremendous amount of pressure.

When I came to, I was sprawled on the floor and the drawing easel I had just moments before been working on was on top of me. With a rush of noise the ceiling opened up and the roof totally collapsed in, sagging down near the window. Previously solid pillars all broke in the same way, forming a shaped that looked like a sideways “V”. They seemed to be hanging at an angle in mid air, capable of collapsing at any moment. The entire floor was covered in broken pieces of glass. I could hear people groaning and screaming. The floor was covered in blood and bodies lay there with pieces of glass piercing them like knives. I was covered everywhere in dust and felt fuzzyheaded, unable to stand up but finally able to crawl on my knees. From outside, I could hear thousands of employees yelling and screaming.

Workers covered in blood gathered in the open grounds near the side of the building. Among this horrendous scene was a steady stream of people pouring through the front gate who looked like they came from some horrible other world. They were people fleeing from the city center. An unending line of people came walking through, eyeballs protruding out of their sockets, hair clinging to their head, their skin burnt and dripping, still smoldering, with blisters beginning to form. Unable to distinguish between men and women, they no longer looked human. The cries and moans of “I’m so hot! It hurts! Water, water!” began to fade away and people started dying like flies in front of me. I was so stunned by this scene that I didn’t even notice my own injuries.

On August 6, 1945 at 8:15 am, I was exposed to the atomic bomb dropped by America. I was fifteen years old at the time and I was inside the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Hiroshima Shipyard four kilometers away from the hypocenter. When day broke the following morning, the shipyard had become an even more hellish field of corpses. I entered the city to help in the rescue efforts of survivors about 1 kilometer to 1.5 kilometers away from the hypocenter. Fires were breaking out all over the city. Thousands of people had jumped into the river to find relief from their burns, and the river had become choked with floating corpses. All the bridges and roads were covered with burnt, blackened bodies. There was no place to walk without stepping on arms, legs, heads or bodies stuck to the surface of the road. Bodies hung from the bridge railings like rags hung out to dry. All that was left of a train stopped in its tracks was its frame. All of the people inside had been incinerated.

In another scene, the upper body of person trapped under a collapsed houses remained intact while their legs had been completely burned away. I couldn’t rescue them. I felt like I was loosing my mind amid this unspeakably horrifying scene. Dead bodies and those people barely alive were left outside in the intense heat and began to rot. The stench from the city’s crematoriums drifted as far away as the shipyard four kilometers from town, making it difficult to breath.

More than 140,000 people died during this time. The atomic bomb is truly horrific. That single A-bomb dropped half a century ago instantaneously wiped out 78,000 people within a 1.5-kilometer radius of the hypocenter. It decimated our culture, incinerated all vegetation and turned the city to ashes. In addition, those A-bomb survivors that are still alive today have suffered from a lifetime of residual illness due to radiation fallout. Immediately following the atomic bombing I was in a state of total shock and didn’t help rescue a single person. However, I will never forget that scene of truly evil hell and the sadness of those robbed of life in such a tragic way.

While the wounds on my forehead and limbs healed over the course of time, my body was inundated with radiation during my participation in rescue efforts near the hypocenter. Many of the people who were with me at the time died soon after and each day I was tormented by fears that I would soon die as well. Three years after the atomic bombing I left Hiroshima and moved to Iwate Prefecture. Twenty years later, I am receiving treatment for a hormonal disorder, diabetes and cataracts due to radiation fallout. Although I constantly carried with me fears of becoming sick, I was able to work for a long period of time and just retired from my teaching position a few years ago. Currently I am a member of the Iwate Prefectural Hibakusha Association. I speak about my experiences as an A-bomb survivor whenever I have the chance.

While I stood by helplessly at the time, that image of the living hell of Hiroshima on “that day” has been burned into my brain. As a surviving atomic bomb victim, I believe I have a duty to speak out on the reality of the destruction wrought by nuclear weapons. No matter how one attempts to justify nuclear weapons, they should absolutely never be used and they should never be built. If they are used again it would destroy the cultural heritage of the world, reduce every country to ashes and cause the extinction of the human race. This atrocious, horrific and inhumane event simply cannot occur again on this earth. For true peace and happiness among human kind, I strongly appeal from my heart for the total elimination of nuclear weapons.