In a past article in Guns & Patriots, I pointed out why we were justified in using the Atomic Bomb on both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It would be wrong not to also acknowledge the extreme and hurtful devastation of that decision. It is important that I attribute the receipt of this information from the source.
Colonel John Nicoll, a Surgeon in the British Army served as Part of the British Occupation force in Japan. During his service in this capacity, he operated on a Roman Catholic Priest, Father P.T. Siemes, S.J. Father Siemes, wrote a first-hand account of the Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima. Father Siemes, was there on that very day. As a result of his terrible experience, he wrote a riveting account of what took place that day and passed it on to Colonel Nicoll. His English is weak, but the account is excellent. It is in his own words, grammar, and spelling as he wrote it.
His feeling was that it should never be used again and he asked Colonel Nicoll to pass the accounting on to anyone he could. Colonel Nicoll later gave it to his son Richard Nicoll and I have been given permission from him to use it in Guns & Patriots. His only request was that I emphasize that Nuclear warfare should never be used again. The important thing to remember is the fact that the bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and later on Nagasaki were Atomic Bombs. Today, what we have is a bomb which is 1,000 times more devastating than the A-bombs used then. This is strong justification to keep Ahmadinejad from getting it. (If he doesn’t already have it.)
The Account of P.T. Siemies, S. J.
As he wrote it.
“Up to August 6th, occasional bombs, which did no great damage, had fallen on Hiroshima. Many cities roundabout one after the other, were destroyed, but Hiroshima itself had so far had been spared. There were almost daily observation planes over the city, but none of them had dropped a bomb. The citizens wondered why they alone had remained undisturbed for so long a time. There were fantastic rumours that the enemy had something special in mind for this city, but no one dreamed the end would come in such a fashion as on the morning of August 6th.
August 6th began in a bright clear summer morning. About seven o’clock, there was an air raid alarm such as we had heard almost every day and a few planes appeared over the city. No one paid any attention and at about eight o’clock, the all clear was sounded. I am sitting in my room at the Novitiate of the Society of Jesus in Nagatusuka; during the past half year, the philosophical and theological section of our Mission had been evacuated to this place from Tokyo. The Novitiate is situated approximately five kilometres from the centre of the city, half way up the side of a broad valley which stretches from the town at sea level into the mountainous hinterland, and through which crosses a river. From my window, I have a wonderful view down the valley to the edge of the city. Suddenly, the time is approximately 8:14, the whole valley is filled by a garish light which resembled the magnesium light used in photography, and I am conscious of a wave of heat. I jump to the window to find out the cause of the remarkable phenomenon but I see nothing more than that brilliant yellow light. As I make for door, it doesn’t occur to me that the light might have something to do with enemy planes. On the way from the window, I hear a moderately loud explosion which seems to come from a distance and, at the same time the windows are broken with a loud crash. There has been an interval of perhaps ten seconds since the flash of light. I am sprayed with fragments of glass. The entire window frame has been forced in the room. I realise now that a bomb has burst and I am under the impression that it exploded directly over our house or in the immediate vicinity. I am bleeding from cuts about the hands and head. I attempt to get out of the door. It has been forced outwards by the air pressure and has become jammed. I force an opening in the door by means of repeated blows with my hands and feet and come to a broad hallway from which opens the various rooms.. Everything is in a state of confusion. All windows are broken and all doors are forced inwards. The book shelves in the hallway have tumbled down. I do not note a second explosion and the fliers seem to have gone away. Most of my colleagues have been injured seriously. All of us have been fortunate since it is now apparent that the wall of my room opposite the window has been lacerated by long fragments of glass. We proceed to the front of the house to see where the bomb has landed. There is no evidence, however, of a bomb crater; but the southeast section of the house is severely damaged. Not a door nor a window remains. The blast of air had penetrated the entire house from the south-east, but the house still stands. It is constructed in a Japanese style with a wooden framework, but has been greatly strengthened by the labour of our Brother Gropper. Only along the front of the chapel which adjoins the house, have three supports given away (it has been made in the manner of a Japanese temple, entirely out of wood). Down in the valley, perhaps one kilometre toward the city from us, several peasant homes are on fire and the woods on the opposite side of the valley are aflame. A few of us go over to help control the flames. While we are attempting to put things in order, a storm comes up and it begins to rain. Over the city, clouds of smoke are rising and I hear a few slight explosions. I come to the conclusion that an incendiary bomb with an especially explosive action has gone off down in the valley. A few of us saw three planes at great altitude over the city at the time of the explosion. I, myself, saw no aircraft whatever.
Perhaps a half-hour after the explosion a procession of people begins to stream up the valley from the city. The crowd thickens continuously. A few come up the road to our house. Their steps are dragging. Many are bleeding or have suffered burns. We give them first aid and bring them into the chapel, which we have in the meantime cleaned and cleared of wreckage, and put them to rest on the straw mats which constitute the floor of a Japanese house. Some display horrible wounds of the extremities and back.. The small quantity of fat which we possessed during this time of war was soon used up in the care of the burns. Father Rector who, before taking holy orders, had studied medicine, ministers to the injured. But our bandages and drugs are soon gone. We must be contet with cleaning the wounds. More and more of the injured come to us. The least injured drag the more seriously wounded. There are wounded soldiers and mothers carrying burned children in their arms. From the houses of the farmers in the valley comes the word: “Our houses are full of wounded and dying. Can you help, at least by taking the worst cases?” The wounded come from sections at the end of the city. They saw the bright light, their houses collapsed and buried the inmates in their rooms. Those that were in the open suffered instantaneous burns, Particularly on lightly clothed or unclothed parts of the body. Numerous fires sprang up which soon consumed the entire district. We now conclude that the epicentre of the explosion was at the edge of the city near the Jokogawa Station, three kilometres from us. We are concerned about Father Koop, who, that same morning, went to hold Mass at The Sisters of the Poor, who have a home for children at the edge of the city. He has not returned as yet.
Toward noon, our large chapel and library are filled with the seriously injured. The procession of refugees from the city continues. Finally, about one o’clock, Father Koop returns together with the Sisters. Their house and entire district where they live has been burned to the ground. Father Koop is bleeding about the head and neck, and he has a large burn on the right palm. He was standing in front of the nunnery ready to go home. All of a sudden, he became aware of the light, felt the wave of heat and a large blister formed on his hand. The windows were torn out by the blast. He thought that the bomb had fallen in his immediate vicinity. The nunnery, also a wooden structure made by our brother Gropper, still remained but soon it is noted that the house is a good as lost because of the fire, which had begun at many points in the neighbourhood, sweeps closer and closer and water is not available. There is still time to rescue certain things from the house and to bury them in an open spot. Then the house is swept by flame, and they fight their way back to us along the shore of the river through the burning streets.
Soon comes news that the entire city has been destroyed by the explosion and that it is on fire. What became of Father Superior and the three other Fathers who were at the centre off the city at the central
Father Stolte and Father Erlinghaghen go down the road which is still full of refugees and bring in the seriously injured who have sunken by the wayside, to the temporary aid station at the village school. There iodine is applied to the wounds but they are left uncleansed. Neither ointments nor other therapeutic agents are available. Those that have been brought in are laid on the floor and no one can give them further assistance. What could one do when all means are lacking. Under these circumstances it is almost useless, purposeless, insensate manner, distraught by the magnitude of the disaster, most of them concerned with the welfare of their own families. It became clear to us during those days that the Japanese displayed little initiative, preparedness, and organizational skill to meet a catastrophe. They despaired of any rescue work when something could have been saved by a cooperative effort, and fatalistically let the catastrophe take its course. When we urged them to take part in the rescue work, they did everything willingly, but on their own initiative did very little.
At about four o’clock in the afternoon, a theology student and two kindergarten children, who lived at the Parish House in the city, come and report that the Superior La Salle and Father Schiffer had been seriously injured and that they had taken refuge in
Hurriedly we get together two stretchers and seven of us rush towards the city. Father Rector comes along with food and medicine. The closer we get to the city the greater is the evidence of destruction and the more difficult is it to make our way. The houses at the edge of the city are all severely damaged. Many have collapsed or burned down. Further in, all dwellings have been consumed by fire. Where the city stood, there is a gigantic burned-out scar. We make our way along the street on the river bank among the burning and smoking ruins. Twice we are forced into the river itself by the heat and smoke at the level of the street. Frightfully burned people beckon to us. Along the way there are many dead and dying. On the
While they are eating the food that we have brought along they tell us of their experiences. They were in their rooms at the Parish House – it was quarter after eight,
exactly the time we heard the explosion in Nagatsuka – when came the intense light and immediately thereafter the sound of breaking windows, walls and furniture. They were showered with glass splinters and fragments of wreckage. Father Schiffer was buried beneath a portion of a wall and suffered a severe head injury. The Father Superior received most of the splinters in his back and lower extremity from which he bled copiously. Everything was thrown about in the rooms themselves, but the wooden framework of the house remained intact. The solidity of the structure that was work of Brother Gropper again shone forth. They had the same impression that we had in Nagatsuka; that the bomb had burst in their immediate vicinity. The Church, and all buildings in the immediate vicinity collapsed at once. Beneath the ruins the people cried for help. Several were freed with great effort. Even the Father Superior and Father Schiffer, despite their wounds, rendered aid to others and lost a great deal of blood in the process. In the meantime, fires which had begun some distance away are raging even closer, so that it becomes obvious that everything would soon burn down. Several objects are rescued from the Parish House and were buried in a clearing in front of the church, but certain valuables and necessities which had been dept ready in case of fire could not be found on account of the confusion which had been wrought. It is high time to flee, since flames leave almost no way open. Fukai, the secretary to the
In the meantime, it has become midnight. Since there are not enough of us to man both litters with four strong bearers, we determine to remove Father Schiffer first to the outskirts of the city. From there, another group of bearers is to take over to Nagatsuka; the others are to turn back in order to rescue the Father Superior. I am one of the bearers. The theology student goes in front to warn us of the numerous wires, beams and fragments of ruins which block the way and which are impossible to see in the dark. Despite all precautions, our progress is stumbling and our feet get tangled in the wire. Father Kruger falls and carries the litter with him. Father Schiffer becomes half conscious from the fall and vomits. We pass an injured man who sits all alone among the hot ruins and whom I had seen previously on the way down. On the
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 the 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 this 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 ashes, we find a few molten remains of the 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 Nobuhara 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
After we have 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 lost their mother and who had lain near him in the park. On the way, we were greeted by strangers who had notice 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
During the next few days, funeral processions passed our house from morning to night, bringing the deceased to a small valley nearby. There, in six places, the dead were cremated. People brought their own wood and and themselves did the cremation. Father Luhmer and Father Laures found a dead man in a nearby house to this valley and incinerated him themselves. He had already become bloated and emitted a frightful odour. 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 who we had sheltered. Frequently, after the passage 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
houses were damaged and many collapsed and caught fire, It was rumoured that the enemy fliers had first spread an explosive and incendiary material over the city and then had created the explosion and ignition. A few maintained that they saw the plane drop a parachute which had carried something that exploded at a height of 1,000 metres. 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 the dead as at least 100,000.
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 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 of the number of the white corpuscles.
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 centre of the explosion, but who did not suffer burns became 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 demonstrated a leukopenia. There cannot be any doubt that the radiation had some effect on the blood. I am of the opinion, however, that their generally undernourished and weakened conditions was partly responsible for these findings. It was noised that the ruins of the city emitted deadly rays and that workers who went there to aid 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. I 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 Japanese, nor was there any evidence of a vengeful spirit. The Japanese 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 B29’s, the technical skill of
We have discussed among ourselves the ethics of the use of the bomb. Some consider it in 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
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