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The Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki Part 8

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Most of the ruins have now burned down. The darkness kindly hides the many forms that lie on the ground. Only occasionally in our quick progress do we hear calls for help. One of us remarks that the remarkable burned smell reminds him of incinerated corpses. The upright, squatting form which we had pa.s.sed by previously is still there.

Transportation on the litter, which has been constructed out of boards, must be very painful to the Father Superior, whose entire back is full of fragments of gla.s.s. In a narrow pa.s.sage at the edge of town, a car forces us to the edge of the road. The litter bearers on the left side fall into a two meter deep ditch which they could not see in the darkness. Father Superior hides his pain with a dry joke, but the litter which is now no longer in one piece cannot be carried further.

We decide to wait until Kinjo can bring a hand cart from Nagatsuke. He soon comes back with one that he has requisitioned from a collapsed house. We place Father Superior on the cart and wheel him the rest of the way, avoiding as much as possible the deeper pits in the road.

About half past four in the morning, we finally arrive at the Novitiate. Our rescue expedition had taken almost twelve hours.

Normally, one could go back and forth to the city in two hours. Our two wounded were now, for the first time, properly dressed. I get two hours sleep on the floor; some one else has taken my own bed. Then I read a Ma.s.s in gratiarum actionem, it is the 7th of August, the anniversary of the foundation of our society. Then we bestir ourselves to bring Father Kleinsorge and other acquaintances out of the city.

We take off again with the hand cart. The bright day now reveals the frightful picture which last night's darkness had partly concealed.

Where the city stood everything, as far as the eye could reach, is a waste of ashes and ruin. Only several skeletons of buildings completely burned out in the interior remain. The banks of the river are covered with dead and wounded, and the rising waters have here and there covered some of the corpses. On the broad street in the Hakushima district, naked burned cadavers are particularly numerous.

Among them are the wounded who are still alive. A few have crawled under the burnt-out autos and trams. Frightfully injured forms beckon to us and then collapse. An old woman and a girl whom she is pulling along with her fall down at our feet. We place them on our cart and wheel them to the hospital at whose entrance a dressing station has been set up. Here the wounded lie on the hard floor, row on row. Only the largest wounds are dressed. We convey another soldier and an old woman to the place but we cannot move everybody who lies exposed in the sun. It would be endless and it is questionable whether those whom we can drag to the dressing station can come out alive, because even here nothing really effective can be done. Later, we ascertain that the wounded lay for days in the burnt-out hallways of the hospital and there they died.

We must proceed to our goal in the park and are forced to leave the wounded to their fate. We make our way to the place where our church stood to dig up those few belongings that we had buried yesterday. We find them intact. Everything else has been completely burned. In the ruins, we find a few molten remnants of holy vessels. At the park, we load the housekeeper and a mother with her two children on the cart.

Father Kleinsorge feels strong enough, with the aid of Brother n.o.buhara, to make his way home on foot. The way back takes us once again past the dead and wounded in Hakushima. Again no rescue parties are in evidence. At the Misasa Bridge, there still lies the family which the Fathers Tappe and Luhmer had yesterday rescued from the ruins. A piece of tin had been placed over them to shield them from the sun. We cannot take them along for our cart is full. We give them and those nearby water to drink and decide to rescue them later. At three o'clock in the afternoon, we are back in Nagatsuka.

After we have had a few swallows and a little food, Fathers Stolte, Luhmer, Erlinghagen and myself, take off once again to bring in the family. Father Kleinsorge requests that we also rescue two children who had lost their mother and who had lain near him in the park. On the way, we were greeted by strangers who had noted that we were on a mission of mercy and who praised our efforts. We now met groups of individuals who were carrying the wounded about on litters. As we arrived at the Misasa Bridge, the family that had been there was gone.

They might well have been borne away in the meantime. There was a group of soldiers at work taking away those that had been sacrificed yesterday.

More than thirty hours had gone by until the first official rescue party had appeared on the scene. We find both children and take them out of the park: a six-year old boy who was uninjured, and a twelve-year old girl who had been burned about the head, hands and legs, and who had lain for thirty hours without care in the park. The left side of her face and the left eye were completely covered with blood and pus, so that we thought that she had lost the eye. When the wound was later washed, we noted that the eye was intact and that the lids had just become stuck together. On the way home, we took another group of three refugees with us. They first wanted to know, however, of what nationality we were. They, too, feared that we might be Americans who had parachuted in. When we arrived in Nagatsuka, it had just become dark.

We took under our care fifty refugees who had lost everything. The majority of them were wounded and not a few had dangerous burns.

Father Rektor treated the wounds as well as he could with the few medicaments that we could, with effort, gather up. He had to confine himself in general to cleansing the wounds of purulent material. Even those with the smaller burns are very weak and all suffered from diarrhea. In the farm houses in the vicinity, almost everywhere, there are also wounded. Father Rektor made daily rounds and acted in the capacity of a painstaking physician and was a great Samaritan. Our work was, in the eyes of the people, a greater boost for Christianity than all our work during the preceding long years.

Three of the severely burned in our house died within the next few days. Suddenly the pulse and respirations ceased. It is certainly a sign of our good care that so few died. In the official aid stations and hospitals, a good third or half of those that had been brought in died. They lay about there almost without care, and a very high percentage succ.u.mbed. Everything was lacking: doctors, a.s.sistants, dressings, drugs, etc. In an aid station at a school at a nearby village, a group of soldiers for several days did nothing except to bring in and cremate the dead behind the school.

During the next few days, funeral processions pa.s.sed our house from morning to night, bringing the deceased to a small valley nearby.

There, in six places, the dead were burned. People brought their own wood and themselves did the cremation. Father Luhmer and Father Laures found a dead man in a nearby house who had already become bloated and who emitted a frightful odor. They brought him to this valley and incinerated him themselves. Even late at night, the little valley was lit up by the funeral pyres.

We made systematic efforts to trace our acquaintances and the families of the refugees whom we had sheltered. Frequently, after the pa.s.sage of several weeks, some one was found in a distant village or hospital but of many there was no news, and these were apparently dead. We were lucky to discover the mother of the two children whom we had found in the park and who had been given up for dead. After three weeks, she saw her children once again. In the great joy of the reunion were mingled the tears for those whom we shall not see again.

The magnitude of the disaster that befell Hiroshima on August 6th was only slowly pieced together in my mind. I lived through the catastrophe and saw it only in flashes, which only gradually were merged to give me a total picture. What actually happened simultaneously in the city as a whole is as follows: As a result of the explosion of the bomb at 8:15, almost the entire city was destroyed at a single blow. Only small outlying districts in the southern and eastern parts of the town escaped complete destruction. The bomb exploded over the center of the city. As a result of the blast, the small j.a.panese houses in a diameter of five kilometers, which compressed 99% of the city, collapsed or were blown up. Those who were in the houses were buried in the ruins. Those who were in the open sustained burns resulting from contact with the substance or rays emitted by the bomb. Where the substance struck in quant.i.ty, fires sprang up. These spread rapidly.

The heat which rose from the center created a whirlwind which was effective in spreading fire throughout the whole city. Those who had been caught beneath the ruins and who could not be freed rapidly, and those who had been caught by the flames, became casualties. As much as six kilometers from the center of the explosion, all houses were damaged and many collapsed and caught fire. Even fifteen kilometers away, windows were broken. It was rumored that the enemy fliers had spread an explosive and incendiary material over the city and then had created the explosion and ignition. A few maintained that they saw the planes drop a parachute which had carried something that exploded at a height of 1,000 meters. The newspapers called the bomb an "atomic bomb" and noted that the force of the blast had resulted from the explosion of uranium atoms, and that gamma rays had been sent out as a result of this, but no one knew anything for certain concerning the nature of the bomb.

How many people were a sacrifice to this bomb? Those who had lived through the catastrophe placed the number of dead at at least 100,000.

Hiroshima had a population of 400,000. Official statistics place the number who had died at 70,000 up to September 1st, not counting the missing ... and 130,000 wounded, among them 43,500 severely wounded.

Estimates made by ourselves on the basis of groups known to us show that the number of 100,000 dead is not too high. Near us there are two barracks, in each of which forty Korean workers lived. On the day of the explosion, they were laboring on the streets of Hiroshima. Four returned alive to one barracks and sixteen to the other. 600 students of the Protestant girls' school worked in a factory, from which only thirty to forty returned. Most of the peasant families in the neighborhood lost one or more of their members who had worked at factories in the city. Our next door neighbor, Tamura, lost two children and himself suffered a large wound since, as it happened, he had been in the city on that day. The family of our reader suffered two dead, father and son; thus a family of five members suffered at least two losses, counting only the dead and severely wounded. There died the Mayor, the President of the central j.a.pan district, the Commander of the city, a Korean prince who had been stationed in Hiroshima in the capacity of an officer, and many other high ranking officers. Of the professors of the University, thirty-two were killed or severely injured. Especially hard hit were the soldiers. The Pioneer Regiment was almost entirely wiped out. The barracks were near the center of the explosion.

Thousands of wounded who died later could doubtless have been rescued had they received proper treatment and care, but rescue work in a catastrophe of this magnitude had not been envisioned; since the whole city had been knocked out at a blow, everything which had been prepared for emergency work was lost, and no preparation had been made for rescue work in the outlying districts. Many of the wounded also died because they had been weakened by under-nourishment and consequently lacked in strength to recover. Those who had their normal strength and who received good care slowly healed the burns which had been occasioned by the bomb. There were also cases, however, whose prognosis seemed good who died suddenly. There were also some who had only small external wounds who died within a week or later, after an inflammation of the pharynx and oral cavity had taken place. We thought at first that this was the result of inhalation of the substance of the bomb. Later, a commission established the thesis that gamma rays had been given out at the time of the explosion, following which the internal organs had been injured in a manner resembling that consequent upon Roentgen irradiation. This produces a diminution in the numbers of the white corpuscles.

Only several cases are known to me personally where individuals who did not have external burns later died. Father Kleinsorge and Father Cieslik, who were near the center of the explosion, but who did not suffer burns became quite weak some fourteen days after the explosion.

Up to this time small incised wounds had healed normally, but thereafter the wounds which were still unhealed became worse and are to date (in September) still incompletely healed. The attending physician diagnosed it as leucopania. There thus seems to be some truth in the statement that the radiation had some effect on the blood. I am of the opinion, however, that their generally undernourished and weakened condition was partly responsible for these findings. It was noised about that the ruins of the city emitted deadly rays and that workers who went there to aid in the clearing died, and that the central district would be uninhabitable for some time to come. I have my doubts as to whether such talk is true and myself and others who worked in the ruined area for some hours shortly after the explosion suffered no such ill effects.

None of us in those days heard a single outburst against the Americans on the part of the j.a.panese, nor was there any evidence of a vengeful spirit. The j.a.panese suffered this terrible blow as part of the fortunes of war ... something to be borne without complaint. During this, war, I have noted relatively little hatred toward the allies on the part of the people themselves, although the press has taken occasion to stir up such feelings. After the victories at the beginning of the war, the enemy was rather looked down upon, but when allied offensive gathered momentum and especially after the advent of the majestic B-29's, the technical skill of America became an object of wonder and admiration.

The following anecdote indicates the spirit of the j.a.panese: A few days after the atomic bombing, the secretary of the University came to us a.s.serting that the j.a.panese were ready to destroy San Francis...o...b.. means of an equally effective bomb. It is dubious that he himself believed what he told us. He merely wanted to impress upon us foreigners that the j.a.panese were capable of similar discoveries. In his nationalistic pride, he talked himself into believing this. The j.a.panese also intimated that the principle of the new bomb was a j.a.panese discovery. It was only lack of raw materials, they said, which prevented its construction. In the meantime, the Germans were said to have carried the discovery to a further stage and were about to initiate such bombing. The Americans were reputed to have learned the secret from the Germans, and they had then brought the bomb to a stage of industrial completion.

We have discussed among ourselves the ethics of the use of the bomb.

Some consider it in the same category as poison gas and were against its use on a civil population. Others were of the view that in total war, as carried on in j.a.pan, there was no difference between civilians and soldiers, and that the bomb itself was an effective force tending to end the bloodshed, warning j.a.pan to surrender and thus to avoid total destruction. It seems logical to me that he who supports total war in principle cannot complain of war against civilians. The crux of the matter is whether total war in its present form is justifiable, even when it serves a just purpose. Does it not have material and spiritual evil as its consequences which far exceed whatever good that might result? When will our moralists give us a clear answer to this question?

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The Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki Part 8 summary

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