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Did You Know...

...that the wind velocity beneath the hypocenter was almost 1000 km/h - five times stronger than a strong hurricane?

... that 50% of the people killed by the atomic bomb were killed from the the bomb's blast?

Hiroshima: Survivors

(International Schools Cyber Fair 1998 Project)

Index to Survivor Stories

Introduction Father Wilhelm Kleinsorge
Michiko Yamaoka Takako Okimoto
Eyewitness Account


The dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki thrust our world into the nuclear age. By developing nuclear weapons, human beings placed themselves on the brink of self-extinction. Hiroshima, having experienced a preview of that extinction, was transformed. A city known for education and military facilities became a city known for its efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons and bring about lasting world peace.

Today, in a world that still maintains huge stockpiles of nuclear weapons and faces the real and present danger of nuclear proliferation, the human race must apply the full potential of our collective wisdom to controlling the nuclear threat.

The unspeakable horror of their atomic bomb experience convinced the people of Hiroshima that human beings cannot coexist with nuclear weapons. The indelible conviction that nuclear weapons are unacceptable gave rise to the Spirit of Hiroshima, the constant and unwavering desire for the abolition of nuclear weapons and a world permanently at peace. It was this spirit that set Hiroshima on its quest.

The atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima was an inhumane weapon that caused inestimable suffering at the time, of course, but has continued to cause mental and physical suffering to this day. We must reflect critically and truthfully not just on the A-bomb but on war and the processes that lead to war. Only through reflection and active inquiry can we learn the lessons of war.

That August 6th and the days following were a time the survivors find painful to recall. Despite the pain. some survivors have devoted their lives to the task of describing their experience: the destruction, the tragedy, the overwhelming numbers of dead, the grief over the family members they were unable to save. the physical disabilities, the constant fear of aftereffects. They put themselves through the memories time and again to convince the world never again to allow the use of a nuclear weapon. Through such activities they manifest the Spirit of Hiroshima and give powerful expression to Hiroshima's mission that all peoples around the world join hands to make peace a reality.

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Michiko Yamaoka

As reported by Stephanie Ryan, Grade 8

When the bomb dropped, 53 years ago, Michiko Yamaoka was fifteen years old, and working as a switchboard operator. At the time of the war, everyone who was over the age of twelve or so had to work. Women did what they could by sewing parachutes and uniforms and working as telephone operators, or making the streets wide enough for people to drive through in case of an emergency. The men went to war, and the boys who were not old enough to go to war also made parachutes, or worked clearing the roads. At the place where Michiko was working, there were 178 other people.

Michiko was still going to school for one hour of study during the day, but worked for the rest of the time. She ha never been told that Japan was loosing the war. She had always been told that Japan was doing well. Before this, a bomb had never been dropped on Hiroshima. No one there had experienced the time that she called "a living hell."

The night before the bomb dropped, there were seven people staying at Michiko's home. She had been living with her mother; her father died when she was only three. They had invited some of her cousins to stay with them, because they truly did not expect a bomb to be dropped. Altogether, in the house, there had been Michiko, her mother, her uncle, two of her aunts, and two of her cousins. The house which they owned was a wooden structure, about 8,000 m from the hypo center (where the bomb had been dropped). During Michiko's visit to Hiroshima International School on the 24th of February, 1998, she said, "We had such fin' that night. My cousins were so impressed with the airplanes. They had lived in the country and had not gotten a chance to see all of the airplanes that I had seen. We would look up at them, and they would say ‘what a beautiful airplane.' That was the last thing that I ever heard them say. That was the last I had ever heard or seen of them up to this day."

On the morning the bomb was dropped, August 6th, Miss Yamaoka set out to go to work at about 8:05am with two sweet potatoes in her hands, for lunch. She said "See you later" to her mother. Her mother told her to be careful because she thought there was still an airplane hiding above the clouds. Michiko though that this was ridiculous and told her mother so.

She looked up into the sky about nine minutes after leaving the house, because she did hear the engine of an airplane, and was just beginning to shield her eyes with her right hand when she saw the "beautiful blue-yellow flash." She felt her face begin to inflate, and was aware of her body being thrown backward. She lost consciousness.

When she regained consciousness, she was buried under something, and was m complete darkness. The houses were all built with wood, so she could hear the popping of the wood as the houses burned. She heard others around her calling for help, or water. She called too, but no one came. Finally, she heard her mother calling her. She yelled back. She heard her mother say something about the dangerous fire around her. Her mother dug her out of the debris, and so she had escaped the fate of being burned alive.

When she looked at herself; she noticed that the skin was hanging loosely around her arms, and the black trousers and white blouse that she had been required to wear by the dress code at her job as a switchboard operator were in disarray. The trousers were tattered and torn, but strangely, her white blouse was not burned at all. Her mother told her to run to the neighboring district. Not with words, but by a gesture of her hands. Michiko knew what she meant by this; the neighboring district had not been burned yet. She and her mother separated again.

Michiko started on her way to Hiyajima as her mother instructed her. This was about the time she ran into Keko. Keko was her friend from school. She did not reply at first to Michiko's calls. But when she did, "Michiko, is that you?" She turned around, and Michiko was frightened by her appearance. Her face was completely puffed up, to the point where it was a smooth surface, and her skin was also hanging off her limbs. Keko joined her on her way to the nearby district. When they came to a bridge, they stopped. There were so many bodies in the river. So many lost lives. Keko told Michiko to go into the water. Michiko, however, would not go into the water, and this was the very thing that saved her. But she could not stop Keko who leaped into the river. Michiko felt bad about leaving her friend behind. She never saw Keko again.

When the soldiers came to help, and dispose of the dead bodies, they had nothing to give the people for their wounds, so they rubbed tempura oil on them Some of the injured had maggots eating at their skin; even Michiko had them on her skin. 'The worst part," she says, "was that if you stopped yelling, if you stopped screaming, the soldiers considered you dead, and threw you on top of the pile of corpses." Michiko waited in Hiyajima for what seemed like hours, and was thinking she was never going to hold out, when her mother came looking for her. Her mother didn't recognize her, but she knew her voice.

Michiko's mother died a few years later, and was cremated. When the ashes were examined, she found pieces of broken glass that had been embedded in her mother's body from the bomb burst. This happened because she was inside the house at the time of the explosion, and the glass that had flown at her went so deeply into her skin that it would not come out without a proper operation.

Michiko took a long time to recover from the damage done by the bomb. When she did heal, her neck was tilted to the left, her fingers had been melted together on the inside and she had lost her hair. She lived for ten years like that.

After those ten years, she was brought to the USA for medical treatment. The hospital that she was admitted to was that of Jewish origin. There, she had 27 operations and stayed for over a year and a half She had skin transplants on her neck and face. Later, she found out that she had breast cancer, very weak bones and problems with her internal organs.

After about six months after the explosion, Michiko leaned about the type of bomb that was used against Hiroshima. This was because of the and-nuclear movements which had been organized. She stated, "Nuclear weapons are such an inhumane way to kill people. I don't want anyone to have to go through what I did."

Now, 53 years later, she has made it her life work to tell people about how it was in Hiroshima after the explosion, with the prejudice and poverty, and speak out against war. She wants everyone to know that what happened to her is not just a story from the past, it did happen, and everyone should know what a horrible thing war is.

*** Michiko Yamaoka visited HIS on February 24, 1998. We thank her for sharing her story with us.

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Eyewitness Account

Taken from "The Outline Of Atomic Bomb Damage In Hiroshima" booklet

The following is from an eyewitness account by a middle school student who was in a classroom during the bombing. The student managed to escape the collapsed school building but suffered injuries.

"I'll never forget that day. After we finished our morning greetings in the schoolyard, we were waiting in the classroom for our building demolition work to begin. Suddenly a friend by the window shouted 'B-29!' At the same instant, a flash pierced my eyes. The entire building collapsed at once and we were trapped underneath. I don't know how long I remained unconscious. When I came to, I couldn't move my body.

Cuts on my face and hands throbbed with pain. My front teeth were broken and my shirt soaked in blood. As I crawled along, encouraging myself I somehow managed to poke my head out of the wreckage. The school that should have appeared before my eyes was nowhere to be seen. It had vanished and only smoldering ruins remained. Beyond the school toward the center of town, all I could see was a sea of flames. I was so terrified I couldn't stop shaking. Moving my body a little at a time, I was finally able to work free of the collapsed structure. Making sure to head upwind to escape the fires, I made my way staggering haphazardly through the rubble of the city

Burn Victim Hiroshima - close to the hypocenter

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Father Wilhelm Kleinsorge

A Character Sketch from the Novel "Hiroshima"

Written by: Dorothy Van Duyne, Grade 7

Immediately before the bomb was dropped, Father Wilhelm Kleinsorge went out onto the deck of his missionary home in his underwear and began to read a magazine. A few minutes later, the bomb was dropped, and his life was changed forever. He was a 38 year old living in Japan with other priests when the bomb dropped, and I'm going to tell you about him.

Father Kleinsorge was a very generous man. After the bomb was dropped, he offered help to any who needed it, when he was strong enough to move. He routinely got water for the thirsty people who asked him for it, and searched the town for the relatives of some survivors. When a young girl told him she was cold, he responded by giving her his jacket. When he received food, he gave it to others, even when he was very hungry himself. Some time after the bomb, he received German sweets, but gave them all away. Once he was given some penicillin for his numerous ailments, but promptly gave that away also. He led a very selfless life.

Once, when giving a sermon, Father Kleinsorge fainted, and was thereby bedridden for three months. The doctors advised him to have regular naps and not to sap his strength, advice that was good but not heeded. He continued to baby-sit for hibakusha, survivors of the bomb, gave mass and lessons in high fever, and visited numerous families.

Father Kleinsorge loved Japan and its people. After the bomb, he hurried to prove that he had lived in Japan for a least five years, was over twenty years old, was mentally sound, was of good character, was able to support oneself, and was able to accept single nationality, the traits that were required to receive citizenship of Japan. He was accepted, and changed his name to Father Makoto Jakakura. Though he was now Japanese, his Japanese friends still thought him unshakably German.

A little while after he became a Japanese citizen, he became very ill, and went into the Red Cross Hospital for a year, where he was diagnosed with radiation sickness. When he was released, he took up resident in Mukaihara. A woman named Satsue Yoshiki became his cook, and grew to love him dearly. He once told her that he liked to read only the timetables of trains and the Bible because they were the only things that never told lies. He was very pleased with himself when he found a discrepancy in the timetables, making the Bible the only thing that never told lies.

One day he found he could not move and lived the rest of his life as a vegetable, with Yoshiki-san changing his diapers and bathing him. He died November 17, 1977, 32 years after the bomb dropped at the age of 70. He was a kind, generous, selfless, man, ready to help and to see the good things in any situation. He wed some 40 couples and baptized some 400 babies in all of his years. And there were always fresh flowers at his grave.

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Takako Okimoto

This biography was taken from the book "Children of Hiroshima"

Written by a 10th grade boy who was in the 4th grade at the time of the bombing.

The sixth day of August, 1945! A date deeply engraved on my heart, when the cruel bomb claimed so terrible a toll of precious human lives in an instant. I go cold whenever I think of that day. I am one of those many who were deprived of their irreplaceable parents, brothers, and sisters, relatives and friends. All of them died, one after another. My big brother, who had been out on labor service, is still unaccounted for. My other brother suffered serious burns all over his body and died the next day at Koi Primary School. We left his body at the school and went to the country with my parents and sisters. However, there were no good doctors there, so Mother went back to Hiroshima. The day after she went, my uncle sent us a message saying that she’d suddenly got worse, and asked us to come back to the city. The following morning, the three of us took the first train there. There was a nasty smell everywhere in the city, and the scene was most horrible. Everything in sight had been devastated as completely as could have been; we couldn't see anything of what was Hiroshima. Somehow, we got to our home only to be told that Mother had passed away just before. I cried and cried. We cremated her body on the dry river. People were cremating corpses here and there. We got to my uncle’s in the country with Mother’s remain that evening, and there my big sister died.

Though I was too young to know what to do, I did everything I could to help my father and little sister. But despite my care, she passed away a day after the funeral services for the first sister. Father came to my big sister’s funeral services, but he’d got so weak by the time my little sister died that he couldn't’t come. The Buddhist monk who did the service at my two sisters’ funerals must have breathed the poison, because he did not come to do my father’s funeral.

Father must have felt very sad and lonely to see his sons and daughters die before him, one after another, but whenever I said, "How do you feel this morning?" he would say, "I feel a little better this morning, my dear." He didn't want me to worry, but he was just getting weaker and weaker. On the morning of September 10, he departed this life, with the thought of leaving me alone weighing on his mind. Before h s death, he often said, "I hope I don’t die. Now that our house and possessions have been lose in the fire, I want to stay here in the country and do farming, dressed in rags but leading a quiet life with you."

Japan surrendered at last on August 15. There were lots of poor beggars in and around the station. The city had become full of thieves and robbers and things had been getting worse.

What in the world brought all this about? The war! Had it not been for the cursed war, so many people wouldn’t have been made so miserable. Without war, the world can always be a peaceful and happy place to live in. In the new Constitution, it states that war is renounced. Even if there is no war between country and country, in the country of Japan, the Japanese people continue to fight each other even though they are all the same human beings. Japan will never get peace like that. I think that if we are to build a peaceful country, we should be more thoughtful toward each other.

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