Give me water! Give me water! - Haruo Iseki
Our house was located in Takara-machi which was 2 kilometres away from the centre of the blast. The nearest station was at Urakami. I lived there with my parents and younger sister.
It was a hot sunny day. I was attending Nagasaki Teachers college in Isahaya, studying to become a school teacher. It was a school day and was a farm maintenance day. We were at school of agriculture farm working in a sweet potato field.
It was just before lunchtime when we felt a tremendous flash like brilliant lightning. We wondered what on earth it was. A few minutes later a tremendous explosion came. Along with the blast charred pieces of newspaper and other paperwork dropped down with the wind. We were sure that something serious had happened. We felt very strange in seeing the sun looking like a big orange ball through a piece of smoked glass. This had been due to the ash in the air. We went to Isahaya city with the teachers. We reached the school which was on a hill overlooking Isahaya Station and established that the smoke was coming from the direction of Nagasaki.
Teachers told us that students from Nagasaki should return home immediately. Seeing the train home was waiting we headed for the station. On enquiring at the Station we were told by a porter that Nagasaki City had been completely destroyed and that there were a great many casualties and deaths. The train back was supposed to transport as many doctors and nurses as possible and that general passengers and students should wait longer. Also Isahaya people were told that they should take out shutter doors (see note) from their homes and bring them to the station to carry returning injured to large open areas such as school auditoriums, classrooms and the naval hospital. We were asked to tell students from other towns to stay and help with the rescue. Later people returned with shutters and gathered in the station square.
I think it was around five in the evening when the first train arrived and a crowd of victims came to the square. The sight of the people was just beyond description.Womens hair was dishevelled and their clothes torn to pieces. You could not tell whether the men were wearing uniforms or national clothing. It seemed that their clothes had been blown away and there was only pieces of cloth attached to their bodies. Their faces were covered with soot. If you looked closely at them you still could not tell who they were. This terrible sight made me tremble and made my hair stand on end. Those that could move unassisted got onto army trucks to take them to hospital. In the carriages injured lay five to six layers deep. The first to third layer was people who could stand the rest were unable to. So all of us helped carry them on the shutters to hospitals and schools. Towards the end the carriage was filled with smell of burnt flesh. I was feeling ill myself. The last of the wounded I carried off was a young woman. I took hold of her arms to put her on the shutter but the skin peeled off. I tried to take hold of her legs but the same thing happened. Her carotid artery had been cut with glass and blood spouted from the wound. She seemed to be dying and was asking for water. But we had been told that we were not allowed to give water to the wounded. We carried her to the school. I could not sleep that night. Thinking that my house had been destroyed I visited the schools and hospitals searching for my parents and sister.
The next day around 10 a.m. we finally managed to get a train back home. The smell of burning flesh still persisted making me ill. I arrived at Michino station by noon. Looking towards Nagasaki the city was in ruins all the way to Nagasaki station, so we had to go the rest of the way on foot. Along from Michino to Urakami station was a river bank. I was stunned to see so many dead bodies as if they were a swarm of ants that had been stamped on. They must have been girls, local, drafted and Korean workers that had fought their way to the bank on their last breath. It was not only the on the bank. The dead were everywhere. All the paths were covered with bodies leaving nowhere to walk. I was totally at a loss wondering how to get back home. Fortunately a truck passed by and gave us a lift. The truck made its way Ienomachi where the Peace Monument is located now. Matsuyama, Shimonokawa, Hamaguchi, everywhere was heaped with dead. We were stupefied at the strength energy and heat of the bombs blast. By the Ohashi bridge over the Urakami River was the body of a woman who had just given birth. Mother and baby were lying separately still attached by the umbilical cord. There was a tram full of passengers charred to death. Some sitting, standing, still held on to the strap. As we neared the centre a woman and child were positioned as if they had been running from the blast. A horse was dead still attached to the cart. The rails of the railway had been bent as if by hand. We were dumbfounded as we saw one thing after another.
At last I got off the truck in front of the house. For a while I stood at a loss. There was no house, The four or five bicycle carts we had used for business had gone, perhaps blown away. Nothing left but a radio speaker. I hadn't a clue how to start looking for my family. I went next door to the grocery shop. The lady and her four children had been burned and charred to death as they sat eating their lunch.
Also my sister should have been at the commercial school in Aburaki as a volunteer. I wanted to leave but there was still an ocean of fire around us and the dugout my mother had gone to had no access route. My uncle suggested I stay the night until the fires had burned low. As I stayed in the dugout that night, wounded died one after the other. Many of them cried in pain from their burns. I can never forget those cries. The next evening my uncle and I fought our way around the fires as they subsided to the dugout where my mother was.
I called her name and she answered from the back. It was too dark in side to be able to see how she was. She was anxious to know what had become of my father and sister. She said she was burned all over as she as she was coming out of the dugout at the time of the blast. The all clear had sounded and she was going home to cook dinner for father. She kept apologising. We could not get get out of the dugout and decided to wait for my father and sister. Being worried how injured she was we took her out of the dugout the next day. She was badly burned all over her front. The burns had already began to fester so we took her back inside until we could talk about what to do. She had a wad of ten yen bills in a her basket. We were surprised to find out that the money had burnt out through the net of the basket. There were many acquaintances in the dugout. It was shocking to see many children, young girls and elderly dying one after the other from slight burns. Many of them bathed in a stream beside the dugout and cried for help.
There were so many wounded and not enough hospitals or doctors. We were totally lost on how we should treat them and what to give them. In addition we had nothing to eat. Everyone had lost their homes with not so much as a grain of rice, and being at the foot of the mountain we could not expect anyone to bring us anything. We searched around for food and found some sweet potatoes. With steamed them as we cremated the dead every day. We were alarmed that the food was poisoned by the radiation but had nothing else to eat at the time. Those who had cooled themselves in the mountain stream died one by one. This was a very sad incident. Looking back now I must have been mentally paralysed as I was absolutely insensible to so many people dying miserably. However if this had not been the case I might have lost my mind.
Our first anxiety was our mother. She was burned all over and festering. The smell was almost unbearable. We set up a mosquito net over her. We had a Doctor look at her but he was at a loss what to do with her. There was no treatment for her and she just lay there. Without the lay the flies would lay their eggs on her and the maggots would get inside her. She cried in pain but we could do nothing more than pick them off with tweezers. We kept it up until she passed away on the afternoon of the 14th. On her last breath she said, There are no American planes today, strange isnt it?
After the war ended I commuted between Michino and Nagasaki City on foot to go to school everyday as there was no train service anymore. I had to walk through Takara-machi, Matsuyama, Ohashi, Rokujizo. The badly destroyed areas with the most casualties. Whilst walking all those terrible memories came back. I could hear all those terrible screams for help again although the area was completely silent except for the noise of my wooden sandals on the asphalt. I would take them off, hold them in my arms at run all the way home until I was out of breath. It lasted for about a year. Even now when we have a school reunion I always think of my old friends that passed away and talk about the terrible experiences we shared.
My aunt was in the blast as she carried her baby on her back. She was saved at the sacrifice of her baby. She bears the cross of her life on her back, a keloid scar. When we meet she always talks and says that wars should be avoided by any means, and that we should tell of our experiences to the people of the world. Our children, grandchildren, all future generations. We should also be determined to do anything we can for world peace as long as we live.
Finally I would like to pray for the souls of the victims including my old classmates. I remain, wishing for world peace.
After the interview - Mr. Iseki was a warm man and told us of many horrible stories. For those of us being born after World War 2 his stories surpassed our imagination. As we listened we were moved to tears many times. This war had a tremendous affect on many peoples lives. They have great exasperations and sorrows like Mr. Iseki does and will continue to have them for the rest of their lives. We must not forget that wars is manŐs deed. As long as it is possible to start wars it will be just as possible to avoid them. On the way home from the interview we talked to each other about it. As mothers of today with no experience of war we must protect our children by telling them what actually happened and the miserable experiences of our grandparents generation.
October 16th 1994 - Interviewers Sachiko Kato, Kazue Matsumoto, Shigeko Tanabe of Chikushino City. Mineko Umio of Dazaifu.
(Note) As Typhoons are frequent in Japan, most houses have sliding shutter doors to pull across and protect windows.