Part 1 World War II
Section 2 Nagasaki in World War II
Chapter 3：Nagasaki under the Threat of Air Raids
1. Preparations for a Showdown
2. Defense Measures for Nagasaki City
(1) Communications (Emergency Telephones)
(3) Emergency Relief
3. Air Raids Prior to the Atomic Bombing
(1) The Air Raid of August 11, 1944
(2) The Air Raid of April 26, 1945
(3) The Air Raid of July 29, 1945
(4) The Air Raid of July 31, 1945
(5) The Air Raid on August 1, 1945
4. The Lives of Citizens (Part 2)
Japanese forces suffered total defeat at Iwo Jima on March 17, 1945 and surrendered the Okinawa archipelago on June 23. As a result, Japan’s disadvantage in the war quickly increased, making it ever more likely that the fighting would escalate into a showdown on the Japanese home islands. In Nagasaki and elsewhere across the country, the situation took on a frantic nature.
The military responded by forming the 122nd Independent Combined Brigade (commanded by Brigadier General Taniguchi Motojiro) on May 23, as previously mentioned. Other actions included the construction of a large number of bunkers along the coastline of Tachibana Bay, where enemy landings were expected. This work was undertaken by units of men who had been issued so-called “pink” draft notices, the red ink having been diluted due to shortages.
Mitsubishi Nagasaki Shipyard meanwhile received orders to increase production of the tokkōtei (“special attack boats,” officially referred to as “special weapons”) used in suicide missions. Construction of these boats began at the shipyard in 1944 and proceeded as follows:
June 30, 1944
Construction starts on the special attack boat Shinyo Model 1 (code name “Maru-yon”)
July 29, 1944
Construction starts on the special-attack boat Maru-re
Construction starts on trial prototypes of the special attack boat Ka Model 2 and Igo battle submarine
Construction starts on special attack boat Kaiten (code name “Maru-roku”), a kind of manned torpedo
September 2, 1944
Construction starts on trial prototypes of 1, 5 and 6-type Model 6 special attack boats (code name “Maru-yon”)
Construction starts on special attack boat Kohyoteki (Type “A” Target) and the Kōryu
midget submarine 41
As the name suggests, special-attack boats were wooden vessels loaded with explosives and intended specifically for surprise suicide missions to prevent enemy landings on the Japanese home islands. In their book The Decision to Drop the Bomb, F. Giovannitti and F. Freed quote as follows a naval lieutenant named Wachi, leader of a Shinyo attack unit ordered to defend the southern shore of Kyūshū:
Japan had lost most of its battleships by 1944, leading to the establishment of suicide attack units. These units featured the Shinyo, a suicide boat with maximum speed of 28–30 knots. Approximately 300 kg of TNT was put into each boat’s bow, to be rammed against a target. Approximately 600 Shinyo boats were stationed in small harbors and important military points along the shore. Moreover, approximately 100 manned torpedoes and 62 small submarines were stationed in the Koshiki Islands and Kagoshima Bay, respectively. It was firmly believed that these suicide attack units could sink 200 U.S. transportation vessels.
The United States was meanwhile planning the invasion of Kyūshū Island and the Kantō region, using the code names “Operation Olympic” and “Operation Coronet,” respectively. Operation Olympic was to be implemented on November 1, 1945.
With regard to the civilian population, the Japanese government passed the Volunteer Corps Conscription Law on June 22, 1945 as part of preparations for a final showdown. This required men between the age of 15 and 60 and women between 17 and 40 to join the so-called National Volunteer Fighting Corps, if and when their participation was deemed necessary. It also meant their integration with the military defense forces already deployed at home. The defense measures involving students included the suspension of all classes, except for those at the early elementary school level, as of April 1, 1945 for a period of one year. All students were subsequently mobilized for work at munitions factories and defense facilities.
In June the same year, local governments also geared up for a final showdown. The national government dissolved local government assemblies (established in July 1943) and divided the Japanese home islands into eight regions, each with its own sōtokufu (governor-general). Although only in existence for six months, these bodies exercised great authority. They had control over the national government’s local agencies and retained authority to demand the deployment of troops in emergency situations, thus consolidating the power of regional government. The seat of the Kyūshū District Governor-General (which included Okinawa) was established in Fukuoka, and Fukuoka Prefectural Governor Totsuka Kyuichiro assumed the post of commandant.
The first reports on the atomic bombing of Nagasaki were relayed from the Nagasaki prefectural government to the Kyūshū District Governor-General. Moreover, it was the Kyūshū District Governor-General who ordered the government of neighboring Saga Prefecture to send medical relief teams to Nagasaki.
The formerly Japanese-held Mariana Islands (Saipan, Guam and Tinian), which had fallen to the Allied forces in 1944, turned into bases from which American B-29 bombers struck at the Japanese home islands in an attempt to halt industrial production, create anxiety among the population, and paralyze transportation. It was only a matter of time before the American forces would launch full-scale air raids on Japanese cities.
On December 8, 1944, the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor and a monthly taishō hōtaibi (“day of prayers for victory”), the chief of the Nagasaki Police sent the following message to related organizations in the city ordering the re-examination and reinforcement of air-raid defenses.
Dispatch No. 889
December 8, 1944
From: Nagasaki Police Chief
To: All those concerned
Re: Air-Defense Reinforcements
Purport: The danger of full-scale air raids by enemy task forces stationed on the Chinese mainland has greatly increased. In view of this fact, you are requested to strengthen air-raid defenses and to execute without fail all related defense measures, focusing on the following points:
1. Prepare to immediately deploy defense units, volunteer transportation labor units, medical relief teams, emergency work units and food protection units.
2. Maintain evacuation shelters for use at all times. Repair shelters that might be in danger of collapsing due to recent rainfall.
3. Keep water tanks full.
4. Check the condition of air-raid defense equipment and facilities. Undertake repairs if any defects are found.
5. Secure personnel and equipment necessary to check the spread of fire by demolishing buildings in the event that water supplies and firefighting equipment prove insufficient.
By this time the entire city of Nagasaki was involved in the frantic efforts to improve air-raid defenses, and all the various organizations and groups were being subjected to a strict review. Three examples are presented here, namely communications (emergency telephone), security, and emergency relief, the last bastions of the defense system in Nagasaki.
(1) Communications (Emergency Telephones)
Authorities established special telephones for use in the event of air raids, initially on a temporary basis (in 1942) but later (in 1944) as emergency telephones in the communications bureau. Designated for use between the issuing and lifting of an air-raid alarm, the emergency telephone lines could also be used for calling outside the city when the main system was down.
The following is a list of the major facilities where emergency telephones were installed.
1. Nagasaki District Communications Defense Division
2. Nagasaki Post Office Director’s Office
3. Nagasaki Telephone Station Director’s Office
4. Nagasaki Post Office Telephone Section
5. Nagasaki Telecommunications Construction Office Director’s Office
6. Nagasaki Telecommunications Construction Office
7. Nagasaki Telecommunications Tsukimachi Warehouse
8. Nagasaki Telecommunications Telegraph Machine Section
9. Nagasaki Post Office Telephone Service Section
10. Nagasaki Telegraph Station Communications Section
11. Nagasaki Motohakata Post Office Director’s Office
12. Submarine Cable Construction Office No. 4 Factory
13. Nagasaki Broadcasting Company Radio Communications Director’s Office
14. Moji Marine Transportation Bureau Nagasaki Branch
15. Nagasaki City Air Defense Headquarters
16. Nagasaki City Air Defense Patrol Headquarters
17. Nagasaki Prefecture Guard Unit
18. Sasebo Naval Guard Unit Nagasaki Guard Unit
19. Nagasaki Fortress Headquarters
20. Nagasaki Regiment District Headquarters
21. Nagasaki Military Police Squad
22. Nagasaki Naval Office
23. Western Armed Forces 2739th Unit
24. Western Armed Forces 2781st Unit
25. Nagasaki Prefectural Office
26. Nagasaki Police Station
27. Umegasaki Police Station
28. Nagasaki Harbor Police Station
29. Inasa Police Station
30. Nagasaki Fire Department
31. Nagasaki District Court
32. Nagasaki District Court Prosecutor’s Office
33. Urakami Branch Prison
34. Nagasaki Appellate Court
35. Nagasaki City Hall
36. Mitsubishi Hospital
37. Mitsubishi Nagasaki Shipyard
38. Mitsubishi Nagasaki Steelworks
39. Mitsubishi Nagasaki Arms Factory
40. Mitsubishi Nagasaki Electric Works
41. Mitsubishi Nagasaki Shipyard Saiwaimachi Factory
42. Kawanami Industries
43. Kawanami Industries Fukahori Shipyard
44. Nagasaki City Defense Unit Headquarters
45. Nagasaki Weather Station
46. Nagasaki Telecommunications Construction Office Telephone Testing Room
47. Army Supervisor
48. Naval Supervisor
49. Western Armed Forces Fukuoka POW Camps
50. Enemy Detention Camp
51. Nagasaki Shimbun Co.
52. Nagasaki Fisheries Wireless Telegraph Station
53. Nagasaki Broadcasting Company
54. National News Agency Nagasaki Branch
55. The Eighteenth Bank
56. Nagasaki Savings Branch Bureau
57. Asahi Shimbun Co. Nagasaki Communications Division
58. Nagasaki Railroad Station
59. Moji Railroad Bureau Nagasaki Administrative Division
60. Nagasaki Electric Tramway Co.
61. Nagasaki Prefecture Automobile Transportation Office
62. Nippon Transportation Co.
63. Nagasaki Motor Bus Co.
64. Mainichi Shimbun Nagasaki Bureau
65. Nagasaki Forestry Office
66. Nishinippon Shimbun Nagasaki Bureau
67. Nagasaki City Waterworks Section
68. Nagasaki City Hongōchi Kobu Dam Office
69. Nagasaki City Nishiyama Teibu Water Purification Office
70. Nagasaki City Izumomachi Office
71. Kyūshū Electricity Co. Nagasaki Branch
72. Kyūshū Electricity Co. Zenza Substation
73. Western Armed Forces 8064th Unit
74. Western Armed Forces 9764th Unit
75. Nagasaki Joint Steamship Co.
76. Nishiyama Kōbu Reservoir Office
77. Saibu Gas Co.
78. Nagasaki Medical College Hospital
79. Japanese Red Cross Society Nagasaki Branch
80. Nagasaki City Medical Association
81. Toa Marine Transportation Co.
82. Nagasaki Prefectural Food Cartel
83. Nagasaki Prefectural Lumber Co.
84. Nagasaki Prefectural Oil Distribution Co.
85. Kyūshū Shosen Co., Ltd. 42
The situation regarding wartime security measures in Nagasaki was discussed in a previous chapter. With tension rising in 1944, Nagasaki City invested ever greater efforts to strengthen defenses in terms of both materials and personnel, establishing the Nagasaki City Defense Headquarters, bolstering air-defense facilities and firefighting equipment, and reorganizing defense units in response to the changing circumstances in each district. Moreover, authorities established the Nagasaki Prefectural Association of Mobilized Security Forces on February 17, 1945 to ensure that defense measures were being implemented at all levels.
The following table outlines the situation regarding security in Nagasaki prior to the atomic bombing.
|Name||Structure and Personnel||Source|
|Police (as of August 1945)||Nagasaki Police Station, Umegasaki Police Station, Inasa Police Station, Harbor Police Station, 20 patrol stations and 7 substations||“Sixty-Five-Year History of the Nagasaki Municipal Administration”|
|Nagasaki Fire Department (as of April 1945)||Central fire station and subsidiary stations in Matsugae, Inasa, Ōhashi and Maruo (148 persons)||“United States Strategic Bombing Survey Report”|
|Nagasaki City Defense Units (as of August 9, 1945)||Nagasaki Defense Unit (13 groups, 1,497 persons)
Umegasaki Defense Unit (4 groups, 675 persons)
Inasa Defense Unit (7 groups, 691 persons)
Doinokubi Defense Unit (5 groups, 252 persons)
Harbor Defense Unit (5 groups, 300 persons)
|Total 3,415 persons||Nagasaki Fire Department documents|
|Special Protection Units(as of April 1945)||51 units, 8,902 persons (Special Protection Units were organized as a self-defense measure in governmental offices and private companies.)||“United States Strategic Bombing Survey Report”|
|Household Air Defense Alliance Units||Defense groups organized in each chōnaikai (neighborhood association), 292 units||“Sixty-Five-Year History of the Nagasaki Municipal Administration”|
|Household Air Defense Units||Defense groups organized in each tonarigumi (small neighborhood association), 4,882 units|
|Meal Distribution Cooperation Units||16 units, 590 persons|
|National Food Protection Units||34 units, 200 persons|
(As of March 4, 1943)
The number of blankets (possessed by hotels and traveling agencies) was 6,000. (These numbers fluctuated because of conscription and evacuations to the countryside.)
The following is a description of the firefighting capability in Nagasaki at the time of the atomic bombing:
Led by Nagasaki Fire Department Chief Fujimoto Soshiro, the Nagasaki Fire Battalion consisted of the Nagasaki Fire Department forming the 1st Company (three platoons and six squads), Nagasaki Fire Demolition Unit (composed of two companies and two emergency engineering units), the 2nd Company (four platoons and 13 squads), the 3rd Company (two platoons and four squads) and the 4th Company (two platoons and seven squads). The 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th companies consisted of the Nagasaki Fire Department, the Nagasaki Defense Unit, the Umegasaki Defense Unit and the Inasa Defense Unit, respectively. Moreover, members of the Patriotic Units of Nagasaki Medical College, Nagasaki City Commercial School and Nagasaki Teachers Training School served as messengers and drivers. With regard to firefighting equipment, the battalion had 37 pumper trucks (36 of which were available for use), 67 cart-type gasoline pumps (64 pumps available) and 49 manual pumps (42 pumps available). 43
Other firefighting equipment included the five patrol boats of the Harbor Police and the 36 manual pumps installed at elementary schools across the city. All neighborhood associations had manual pumps, totaling 1,434 in number. Other air defense facilities and firefighting tools are listed in the following chart.
Principal Air-Defense Facilities in Nagasaki City
|Facility and Equipment||Quantity||Notes|
|Public shelters||556||Plans called for this number of public shelters to be built along major city streets by the police force and the municipal government|
|Household shelters||46,988||More than one per household|
|Small manual pumps||1,164||Plans called for one per neighborhood association|
|Water tanks for neighborhood associations||5,200||Plans called for one per neighborhood association|
|Waterproof buckets||100,036||Plans called for at least two per household|
|Stretchers||2,100||Plans called for one per neighborhood association|
|Shovels||33,000||Plans called for one per household|
|Ladders||10,142||Plans called for an appropriate number for each neighborhood association|
|Pickaxes||55,450||Plans called for at least one per household|
|Fire smothering tools||56,512||Plans called for at least one per household|
|Metal helmets||5,000||This was the number of applications received from communities|
|4-to barrels (4-to was a measurement equivalent to approximately 72-liter tubs||5,460|
Survey conducted by the Nagasaki City Defense Department
(3) Emergency Relief
Emergency Relief Measures taken by the Nagasaki City Medical Association
The chain of command for the implementation of medical relief efforts during air raids was, from top to bottom, the governor, mayor, chief of Emergency Relief Headquarters, heads of each emergency relief center, and finally the centers themselves. However, the Nagasaki City Medical Association held complete responsibility for developing emergency relief measures. Following the outbreak of World War II, the association revised the relief system in response to the lessons learned from repeated air-raid drills imitating actual war conditions.
From 1944 to 1945 the emergency relief system consisted of the following organizations and personnel.
Emergency relief facilities (number)
Emergency relief headquarters (1)
Emergency relief stations (28)
Emergency relief hospitals (16)
Maternity relief stations (8)
Special emergency relief hospitals (5)
Mobile relief units (2)
Public health nurses (25)
28 emergency relief stations were situated at the following locations: the Nagasaki City Medical Association, elementary schools (Kaminagasaki, Katsuyama, Shinkōzen, Irabayashi, Togiya, Kamiōura, Kitaōura, Minamiōura, Naminohira, Tomachi, Kogakura, Doinokubi, Sako, Yamazato, Nishiurakami, Shiroyama, Zenza, Fuchi, Inasa, Asahi, Tategami, Akunoura, Kosakaki and Kaminoshima), the Nagasaki Medical College, the Association of Pharmacists and the Nursing Association. 44
These relief organizations were established in elementary schools under the control of defense units and staffed by medical practitioners mobilized in each neighborhood. A municipal report published in 1945 provides the following description:
To prepare for mass casualties during air raids, it is necessary to stockpile emergency medical equipment and supplies, to construct additional relief stations, and to prevent panic by informing the public of the location of relief stations. This was carried out on December 17, 1944, with information disseminated through the chairman of the Coalition of Neighborhood Associations and leaders of individual neighborhood associations, as well as leaders of defense units and defense-unit sub-groups. 45
After that date, however, the number of available medical practitioners decreased as a result of conscription. Then, on April 26, 1945, Nagasaki suffered its second conventional air raid of World War II. This reduction in personnel and experience of air raids prompted a review of the emergency relief system in effect to date. The result was as follows:
At 1:30 p.m., July 4, the association held a meeting to re-examine the city’s emergency relief system. City officials, the president of the Nagasaki Prefectural Medical Association and Mr. Imaizumi, section chief of the Municipal Hygiene Department, were in attendance. A decision was made to implement changes to relief stations as of noon, July 7. 46
The new relief stations established as a result of these amendments came into existence just one month before the atomic bombing and marked the last emergency relief measure adopted during the war.
The new relief stations are listed below, with the total number of doctors, dentists, pharmacists, nurses and midwives stationed at each center shown after the name of the representative. The place names are those in use at the time.
Reorganized Relief Stations
1) Emergency Relief Headquarters (representative: Takao Katsumi), six, Imauo-machi
2) Shinkōzen Elementary School (representative: Ikeyama Kozo), 32, Kōzen-machi
3) Katsuyama Elementary School (representative: Tsuda Den), 29, Katsuyama-machi
4) Zenza Elementary School (representative: Suzuki Yoshikazu), 12, Zenza-machi 1-chōme
5) Yamazato Elementary School (representative: Kurimoto Katsuo), 15, Hashiguchi-machi
6) Sako Elementary School (representative: Oi Ayumu), 18, Nishikoshima-machi
7) Takagi Hospital (representative: Takaki Tomohiro), 20, Hirobaba-machi
8) Nagasaki Branch of the Japanese Red Cross Society (representative: Kuwasaki Seitaro), 38, Togiya Elementary School (representative and staff numbers are the same as those of the affiliated Red Cross facility), Shimbashi-machi, Suwa-machi
9) Irabayashi Elementary School (representative: Nakamura Kingo), 25, Irabayashi-machi 1-chōme
10) Urakami Daiichi Hospital (representative: Akizuki Tatsuichirō), two, Motohara-machi 2-chōme
11) Nagasaki City Hall; Nishiurakami District Branch (representative: Kobayashi Hiromitsu), ten, Tohokugō
12) Okada Relief Station (representative: Okada Yasuharu), 15, Ōura-machi. At the time of the atomic bombing this relief station had changed as follows: Ōura Relief Station, Matsugae-machi (representative: Maruki Kiyoshi)
13) Tomachi Elementary School (representative: Maeda Minoru), nine, Tomachi
14) Doinokubi Elementary School (representative: Fujise Naotaka), five, Ōaza Doinokubi (present-day Yanagida-machi)
15) Shiroyama Elementary School (representative: Urabe Kojiro), ten, Shiroyama-machi 1-chōme
16) Nagasaki Hospital (representative: Kawazoe Yasuji), 20, Takenokubo-machi
17) Inasa Elementary School (representative: Aritomi Shigekuni), nine, Inasa-machi 3-chōme
18) Goshinji Temple (representative: Fukushima Sakuichi), four, Inasa-machi 2-chōme
19) Akunoura Elementary School (representative: Takahata Yoshimichi), seven, Akunoura-machi
20) Ekisaikai Hospital (representative: Yano Jiro), 17, Kabashima-machi
21) Kobayashi Hospital (representative: Kobayashi Shigeru), seven, Ima-machi
22) Shimomura Hospital (representative: Shimomura Hiroshi), four, Togiya-machi
Total: 22 facilities; 314 staff members
Emergency Relief System at Public Medical Institutions
Nagasaki Medical College
Nagasaki Medical College played an important and predominant role in the emergency medical relief system established in Nagasaki.
In preparation for wartime emergency conditions, the college organized a medical relief unit consisting of 11 battalions under the direction of Professor Takase Kiyoshi. Each battalion was assigned doctors, nurses and students and made ready for immediate mobilization. The United States Strategic Bombing Survey report includes the following comment on the college:
The college was the pride of the city, enjoying status as one of the best hospitals in Japan at the time. This excellent facility of 500 beds was overseen by 20 professors and a large number of medical staff members and nurses. There were also 800 students, most of whom were well-enough trained to serve as first-aid practitioners in the event that a disaster were to occur. 47
The authors of the United States Strategic Bombing Survey report also point out that the 500 beds at the Nagasaki Medical College accounted for more than three-quarters of all the hospital beds in the city.
Mitsubishi Hospital and Kawanami Nagasaki Hospital
The Mitsubishi Hospital was important in that it served as a medical care center for the tens of thousands of employees working at the Mitsubishi Nagasaki Shipyard and various other company factories. The main hospital building at Akunoura-machi was supported by branch facilities in Funatsu-machi and Mori-machi. The main hospital had two operating rooms, five examination rooms, and an X-ray room, as well as 101 beds, 22 doctors, 51 nurses (including trainees), five pharmacists and eight training pharmacists.
The Mitsubishi Nagasaki Shipyard compound was also the site of three treatment facilities for the wounded, with seven nurses on duty at all times, and a first-aid treatment unit run by an instructor and approximately 60 staff members. The staff members had undergone training in basic first-aid procedures, such as the application of bandages and methods to stop bleeding.
Kawanami Nagasaki Hospital, located in Dejima-machi, had five doctors and 15 nurses (some of whom were trainees).
Other military and public hospitals included the Nagasaki Army Hospital (in Tokiwa-machi), Nagasaki Railroad Clinic (Onoue-machi) and Nagasaki Communications Clinic (Kouya-machi), all of which made their utmost efforts to prepare for emergency situations.
The number of air-raid alerts and air-raid alarms issued in the city of Nagasaki from the outbreak of war between Japan and the Allies until August 16, 1945 are as follows:
- 1942: seven air-raid alerts and two air-raid alarms
- 1943: four air-raid alerts
- 1944: 15 air-raid alerts and ten air-raid alarms
- 1945: 149 air-raid alerts and 77 air-raid alarms 48
During this period Nagasaki City experienced six actual air raids, the last of which was the atomic bombing. The dates and targeted districts are as follows:
1. August 11, 1944, urban area
2. April 26, 1945, waterfront docks
3. July 29, 1945, waterfront docks
4. July 31, 1945, Kawanami Shipyard
5. August 1, 1945, Mitsubishi Nagasaki Shipyard and the railroad switchyard
6. August 9, 1945 (the atomic bombing), urban area
The information on targeted areas is derived from the United States Strategic Bombing Survey report.
The following is a description of the five conventional air raids on Nagasaki prior to the atomic bombing.
(1) The Air Raid of August 11, 1944
In 1944, the U.S. armed forces began to launch air raids on Japan from bases in the Chinese interior. The B-29 bomber, also known as the “Superfortress,” made its first appearance in the theater of war, signaling the beginning of full-scale air raids on Japan. The bombers attacked the industrial district of Kitakyūshū on June 16 and July 7 and the city of Nagasaki on August 11, 1944. All of these air raids were conducted at night. In Nagasaki, a light rain was falling, and low-lying clouds obscured the city. Authorities issued an air-raid alert at 11:20 p.m. (August 10) and upgraded this to an air-raid alarm at 11:30. 15 minutes later bells frantically reported the approach of enemy aircraft. The alarm was lifted at 3:12 a.m. the following day. According to historian Carl Berger, this attack on the industrial district of Nagasaki was conducted by small groups of planes from the 20th Bomb Squadron. Initially 29 bombers, all loaded with three tons of incendiary bombs and other explosives, had taken off from the base in Chengdu (China), but only 24 of them reached the target area. Berger says that the results of this attack, like others of the time, were unsatisfactory. 49
Indeed, this first air raid on Nagasaki veered off-target and left the Mitsubishi factory district mostly undamaged. A few fires broke out in the adjacent neighborhoods of Hiradogoya-machi, Inasa-machi and Furuko-machi, but the bulk of the incendiary bombs fell into the damp forest near Ōyama and Mt. Hiko. Records kept by Nagasaki Prefecture indicate that nine houses were totally or partially destroyed by fire and one house destroyed by an explosion, while 13 people were killed and 26 seriously injured. 50 These were Nagasaki’s first air-raid casualties. The United States Strategic Bombing Survey report, on the other hand, estimates that 15 people were killed and 31 injured and that 59 houses were destroyed by fire and five damaged by explosions resulting from this air raid.
Nagao Tatsuya, who witnessed the air raid from a boat in Nagasaki Harbor, describes the scene as follows in his memoir:
It was mid-August 1944. At around 11 o’clock that night I was aroused from sleep by the piercing sound of an air-raid siren. Dressing quickly, I left my home in Katafuchi-machi and rushed to Ōhato. I was a member of the defense squad associated with the military affairs department at Mitsubishi Nagasaki Shipyard, and I was on duty that day.
A deep-bottom motorboat (the sides of which came up to eye level) had come to meet us at Pier 3… Shortly afterward the motorboat pulled away from the pier.
Clouds were hanging low over Nagasaki, making it impossible to see any enemy aircraft, but I could hear the distinctive roar of the bomber formations flying high above the clouds. It occurred to me that they would soon be directly overhead just when the incendiary bombs started falling. We all crept over to the corner of the boat and huddled there, gulping with fear. Our boat was about fifty meters away from the pier…
The incendiary bombs were falling in the area of Mt. Nabekanmuri and Mt. Hoshitori. They dropped slowly through the clouds in rapid succession, trailing beautiful plumes of fire and creating a spectacular curtain of light that filled the sky all the way from Mt. Hoshitori to Koshima.
The anti-aircraft fire returned from the ground was also quite a spectacle. Countless numbers of tracer bullets shot up toward the sky in a dazzling array of light. At the same time, the guns on a new aircraft carrier still moored at the No. 3 building berth sent up great volleys of bullets that disappeared into the thick clouds.
My coworkers and I could do nothing but watch all this from our motorboat. The planes also rained incendiary bombs on the area around Mt. Atago and Mt. Hiko. Then for some reason they launched a blistering attack on the peak of Mt. Hiko. The scene of lights wafting downwards and bombs exploding gave the impression of a fireworks display. We could only gaze up in silent awe.
We started moving again only after the attack on Mt. Hiko subsided, this time toward the pier at the canning factory. The enemy planes flew persistently around the Akunoura and Mt. Inasa areas and dropped incendiary bombs there as well. Just as we scrambled up onto the pier, we spotted the streaking flames of incendiary bombs overhead. Fearing that they were aimed directly at us, we crept in the direction of the office, taking cover in the shadow of stacks of steel plates along the way. The barrage of anti-aircraft fire aimed at the enemy bombers was also intense, and shell fragments came hurtling through the darkness, making a high-pitched whistling sound. It was under these circumstances that we finally made it to our destination, Office No. 1. This was my first personal experience of an air raid. 51
The first late-night air raid on Nagasaki may have missed its target and left the Mitsubishi factory district intact, but it caused great apprehension among the people of the city, who heard bombs exploding and anti-aircraft fire shattering the still of night for the first time in their lives.
In September 1944, a month after the first air raid, the Nagasaki City Defense Headquarters (headed by Naruse Kaoru) came into operation. Created to complement the already existing defense division and strengthen air-raid defense mechanisms, the new entity geared for immediate response to emergency situations and handled air defense and related issues with sections administrating general affairs, facilities, relief efforts, military provisions, aid and assistance, waterworks and harbor construction works.
The same year, the rationing of goods came under the administration of Nagasaki City Hall through the creation of a wartime life division with two departments handling production and distribution.
From September 1944 authorities enforced strict blackout orders throughout the city of Nagasaki, making it compulsory to cover all lights with dark cloth and draw curtains after 10:00 p.m.
The air-raid drills held on the 15th of every month also took on an unprecedented air of urgency and severity. These drills had been initiated during the Second Sino-Japanese War and held two or three times a year, but from June 1943 they were conducted every month in each neighborhood block. Needless to say, after the first air raid on Nagasaki in August 1944, citizens participated in the organization of bucket relays, firefighting exercises and every other element of the air-raid drills with an earnestness not seen theretofore.
From late 1944 until the early months of 1945, three-pronged air-raid drills were held involving the military, administrative officials, and the general public. According to Nagasaki City records, “The military, government and local citizenry conducted a large-scale joint air-raid drill under real-war conditions on December 27, with an emphasis on firefighting, fire prevention and first-aid efforts. It is hoped that the city defenses are now fully prepared for the brutal warfare that may come at any time.”
This turned out to be the last large-scale air-raid drill conducted in Nagasaki. From early 1945, the city, which lay in the path of the B-29 bomber squadrons flying to the Japanese interior, was preoccupied day and night with air-raid alarms.
On March 24, 1945, Nagasaki City restructured its wartime administration in a desperate attempt to bolster preparations for emergency air defense, downgrading its waterworks and harbor divisions to department status and creating new general affairs and defense divisions. The same month, the removal of wooden ceiling boards from houses was enforced as a way to limit the spread of fires caused by incendiary bombs.
(2) The Air Raid of April 26, 1945
At 11:00 a.m. April 26, 1945, Nagasaki City was subjected to the second conventional air raid of World War II. A single B-29 bomber of the 20th Air Force slipped through the Japanese antiaircraft surveillance system and dropped four tons of sophisticated bombs and seven time bombs on the city, which was not under air-raid alert at the time.
The time bombs, designed to impair Nagasaki’s sea and land transportation systems, fell near Dejima Wharf, the ferries docked at Ōhato Pier, and the Nagasaki Railroad Station compound and yards. Some of the bombs never went off, while others exploded immediately or after a delay of up to 100 hours.
By coincidence, large shipments of corn from Dalian, China were stacked on Dejima Wharf at that time, and one of the time bombs penetrated the piles and cut deep into the wharf. Although it failed to explode, the bomb left the wharf tilting toward the sea and created an 80-centimeter-wide crack that extended for about 50 meters along the widest part of the wharf.
Both of the piers at Ōhato were busy with ships preparing to depart. The passenger liner Kawakō-maru was docked at the pier in front of Shōwakaku Inn (near present-day Hotel New Port), and city transport ferries Tsuru-maru and Mizunoura-maru were taking on passengers at the municipal pier. The bombs fell into the harbor and did not cause significant damage to the ships, but about 30 crewmembers and passengers were killed or injured by the blast and by shards of glass from shattered windows.
Platform No. 2 at Nagasaki Railroad Station suffered the most serious damage in this air raid. A bomb exploded near a platform where the 11:02 train to Sasebo was about to depart, severely damaging three passenger cars and causing 90 deaths and 170 injuries. 52 Nagasaki Prefecture guards and defense units rushed to each location to look for unexploded bombs and provide emergency treatment to the injured.
Hiruzaki Takenori, a third-year student at Nagasaki Medical College at the time, wrote as follows about the events of that day:
I was working in the pediatrics outpatient clinic when, without any warning, two loud explosions shook the ceiling. At first I had no idea what was happening, but the doctors, staff and patients started shouting, “Bombs are falling!” and I looked out the window to see a B-29 bomber flying toward Mt. Inasa at an altitude of probably 7,000 meters. About 10 minutes later an alert was issued and then upgraded to a full-scale air-raid alarm.
Fearing for the worst, we took off our laboratory coats and donned military uniforms and leggings, then headed to the nursing dormitory, which was our assigned station. While discussing the location of the bombings and other matters, the members of Medical Unit No. 2 received an order to proceed to Ōhato and provide emergency care. We immediately assembled in front of the hospital entrance, only to see that the wounded were already arriving on stretchers for treatment.
We scrambled into a truck and hurried to Nagasaki Railroad Station. The people we found there were gripped with fear and running around in panic. This scene made me realize the gravity of the situation. From the top of the truck I could see a train overturned in the station and the platform roof torn apart. The extent of the resulting casualties defied all guesses.
The open area in front of the station had been roped off because of the danger of unexploded bombs, but we went straight through and headed to the railroad company’s first-aid room, where we were informed that most of the injured had been taken to Ekisaikai Hospital in Ōhato. When we arrived at the hospital, we found that most of the wounded had already received first aid from the staff of Professor Kitamura Seiichi and were being transported to Nagasaki Medical College Hospital by truck. We also saw eight blood-soaked corpses lying in the hospital.
Some of the wounded carried to the college hospital had already died by the time we arrived. With no time to carry the patients to the surgery ward, the doctors, medical students and nurses were treating the wounded in vacant outpatient examination rooms. The screams and groans of the wounded echoing throughout the hospital were as ghastly as anything one might imagine. 53
The damages inflicted by the air raid on April 26, 1945 were as follows: 129 people killed, 278 people injured, one house totally destroyed, and three houses partially destroyed.
Iwasaki Shiro, a first-year student in the former Nagasaki Junior High School at the time, provides a vivid account of his personal experiences and observations of the air raids on and after April 26, 1945 in his book Nagasaki genbaku ikenroku (Differing Accounts of the Nagasaki Atomic Bombing). The following excerpt is presented here to help supplement and verify the preceding section.
The first-year students were in the middle of an English lesson when the sudden sound of a succession of explosions shook the floor, followed by the roar of an aircraft pulling up into the sky. It all happened in an instant, without any warning from the air-raid sirens. Official documents state that the attack occurred at around 11:00 a.m. on April 26 and was conducted by a single B-29 bomber, but other accounts describe the airplane as a smaller medium-sized bomber. I was indoors at the time and did not see the airplane with my own eyes, but judging from the relatively light sound of the engine, I would guess that the attack was carried out by a B-24 or B-25 bomber. 54
(3) The Air Raid of July 29, 1945
Nagasaki City experienced its third air raid on July 29, 1945. By mid-June, air-raid alerts had become daily occurrences, and it was not unusual to have three or four issued in a single day. On July 29, however, the number was particularly high.
- The air-raid alert of the previous night was lifted at 12:55 a.m.
- An air-raid alert was issued at 1:49 a.m. and lifted at 5:05 a.m.
- An air-raid alert was issued at 7:39 a.m. and lifted at 2:25 p.m.
- An air-raid alarm was sounded at 8:03 a.m. and lifted at 12:29 p.m.
- An air-raid alert was issued at 2:41 p.m. and lifted at 3:18 p.m.
- The air-raid alert sounded at 4:46 p.m. was lifted at 5:30 p.m.
- An air-raid alarm was sounded at 4:49 p.m. and lifted at 5:15 p.m.
- An air-raid alert was issued at 10:30 p.m. 55
The frequency of air-raid alerts and alarms revealed by this simple list makes it easy to imagine the tense situation in Nagasaki in the days leading up to the atomic bombing.
The air raid of July 29 lasted for about two hours from 10:00 a.m. to noon while the first air-raid alarm was in effect. According to the prefecture report, “a formation of 32 enemy A-26s from the Seventh Air Force attacked Nagasaki and dropped 51 tons of bombs and six tons of fragmentation bombs.” The bombers broke up into small groups and attacked in waves, targeting primarily the Mitsubishi Nagasaki Shipyard but also districts to the north and south of the city.
The damages to the Mitsubishi Nagasaki Shipyard included total destruction of the ship fittings factory, as well as partial destruction of the power substation at Mukaishima and sections of the rigging factory. Furthermore, 15 dormitories at Mukaishima were totally or partially destroyed, and the 10,000-ton Sansui-maru No. 5, moored at Akunoura at the time, sank as a result of the air raid. 56
Itoki Nobuo, who witnessed the air raid while constructing bunkers on a hilltop in Tagami, described his experience as follows:
I watched the sinking of the Sansui-maru No. 5 as though my own body were under attack. As I recall it took some time for the ship to sink, perhaps because it had suffered few direct hits or the shape of its hull kept it afloat. The anti-aircraft guns behind Nagasaki Railroad Station returned fire, and I saw a number of the enemy planes spew gasoline after taking hits. Eventually, however, the attack from the air silenced the anti-aircraft guns, and the American bombers attacked the shipyard as though engaging in target practice. 57
The book Genbaku Zengo (Before and After the Atomic Bombing), from which the above is excerpted, is a collection of atomic bomb testimonies written by former employees in various Mitsubishi industries (shipbuilding, electric works, steelworks, and arms manufacture) and published independently by Shirai Hideo.
The air raid of July 29 also destroyed a 20-meter stretch of streetcar track and overhead power lines near Zenza-machi, a neighborhood to the north of Nagasaki Railroad Station. The damage halted all streetcar service north of the station for several days (service was resumed on August 6). Moreover, two institutions north of Mitsubishi Arms Factory in Ōhashi-machi, including Nagasaki Teachers Training School, sustained damage in this air raid. The bombs exploded in the center of the three-story school building complex, but no fires broke out in the aftermath.
In the southern part of the city, houses and other buildings suffered damage in Minamiyamate-machi, Furuko-machi, Nishikotohira-machi and Kosuge-machi, and two warehouses at the Mitsubishi Shipyard Kosuge Slip Dock (known popularly as Sorobandokku or “Abacus Dock”) were completely destroyed by fire.
The human cost of the air raid was 22 persons killed, 41 injured, and three reported missing. In addition, 43 houses were totally destroyed and 113 houses and one school building damaged.
The following excerpt from the book Nagasaki genbaku ikenroku (Differing Accounts of the Nagasaki Atomic Bombing) by Iwasaki Shiro is presented here for the sake of supplementation and verification:
Nagasaki experienced a succession of air raids in the period leading up to the atomic bombing, that is, from the end of July to the beginning of August. The following is an account of my personal experiences of these air raids just as I remember them, including the time that I was assisting in the construction of bunkers. For dates and times I have consulted documents such as Nagasaki Genbaku Sensaishi (Records of the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Damage), but all other details come from my own recollections.
(Note: The workplace mentioned here is the hilltop between Tadewara and Tōhakkei in the eastern part of the city, where I was mobilized to engage in bunker construction.)
July 29: The two-hour period starting at 10:00 a.m.
While I was working I saw a succession of twin-engine bombers pass over our workplace, heading southeast. I had never seen this type of bomber before: black bodies and single vertical tail rudders. I stopped what I was doing and focused my attention on the air raid that I assumed was about to start. When the bombers reached the sky over the center of the harbor, one group suddenly turned right and circled back toward us, slowly gaining altitude. They came closer and closer, gradually pulling up as they flew through a heavy barrage of anti-aircraft fire from the battery at Mt. Nabekanmuri. It was a formation of around 30 P-38s, with twin engines and twin booms.
I rushed from the place where I had been digging up soil, over to a thick patch of summer grass. As soon as I got there I heard a voice say, “Stay still!” I passed the message on to the next group and crouched down in the grass. I turned my head up to get a look at the planes as they roared by overhead, and right at that instant I heard the thudding noise of bombs hitting the ground. I shouted “Get down!” as I covered my eyes and ears with my hands and pressed my body against the ground. Then there was a loud “bang!” and I felt the ground reverberate against my stomach. No more than a few minutes had passed since we first spotted the airplanes. When the explosions tapered off, I got to my feet and breathed a sigh of relief. Then one of the planes broke away from the others in the formation and headed northeast, diving sharply toward Mt. Kompira and dropping more bombs there. I saw clouds of dust rise from the middle of the mountainside. The nose of the aircraft rose at that point, and it flew back in the direction of the formation. The twin engines and twin booms were unmistakably those of P-38s. While I only saw one aircraft turn back to make a second attack, some friends of mine working at the same site said they saw another one do the same thing. So it is possible that two aircraft returned to launch additional attacks. In addition to the direct hits on farmhouses, Mitsubishi Nagasaki Shipyard, Nagasaki Teachers Training School (in Urakami), the anti-aircraft batteries and soldiers’ barracks at Mt. Kompira also suffered damage in the attack we witnessed. Official documents claim that 32 A-26 Invaders (later known as B-26s) participated in the air raid, but I am positive that they were P-38 Lightnings, because I saw them with my own eyes. 58
(4) The Air Raid of July 31, 1945
The fourth conventional air raid on Nagasaki came on July 31, 1945, only two days after the previous air raid. This time, 29 B-24 heavy bombers from the Seventh Air Force broke up into small formations off Iōjima Island (Nagasaki Prefecture) and launched attacks on the harbor area and the central part of the city, all with an air-raid alarm in effect. According to official documents, the air raid lasted from 9:45 a.m. to around noon.
In the harbor area, one wave of bombers withstood heavy shelling from anti-aircraft guns while repeatedly attacking the Kinko-maru, an 8,000-ton wartime ferry anchored offshore at Kibachi. Another group conducted low-altitude bombing on the Kawanami Shipyard at Kōyagishima. Although damage was light at the shipyard, the Kinko-maru suffered several direct hits and sank that evening. The stern of the ship, which was loaded with ammunition, sank first, leaving the bow slightly above water.
The enemy planes that penetrated the central part of the city also came under anti-aircraft fire, dropping bombs on Kibachi-machi (a forested area), Hiradogoya-machi, Inasa-machi, Takenokubo-machi (vacant land), Iwakawa-machi, Atago-machi, Doinokubi-machi and Tadewara before retreating. The heaviest damage was inflicted on Iwakawa-machi (especially the area near the first torii gate at Sanno Shintō Shrine), where three persons were killed and 10 injured and a number of houses destroyed. 59
The total damage caused by the fourth air raid was as follows: 11 persons killed, 35 persons injured, 72 houses totally destroyed, and 76 houses partially destroyed. Some ten crewmembers of the Kinko-maru were either killed or injured and were carried to the hospital inside the air-raid shelter at Kawanami Shipyard, but it is not clear whether or not these casualties are included in the figures listed above.
The following excerpt from the book Nagasaki genbaku ikenroku (Differing Accounts of the Nagasaki Atomic Bombing) by Iwasaki Shiro is presented here for the sake of supplementation and verification:
I was engaged in the construction of bunkers on July 31 when, at just about the same time as (the air raid of) the 29th, I noticed puffs of black smoke that looked like anti-aircraft fire over the center of Nagasaki Harbor. I scanned the sky carefully, but I could not spot any aircraft. Then I looked downward and saw several twin-engine B-25 bombers skimming the surface of the water as they flew toward the mouth of the harbor. I watched as they wove to the left and right, skillfully dodging the columns of water gushing from the explosion of bombs. One or two of the planes flew in the opposite direction, along the whole length of the harbor, then turned around and did the same thing again. This scene convinced me that yet another air raid was about to begin. Call it bravery or call it recklessness, the pilots seemed to pay no attention whatever to the anti-aircraft fire.
Although the spot where I was working did not command a particularly good view of the harbor entrance or the islands of Iōjima and Kōyagi, I can still state with confidence that some of the information in official records is incorrect. One account has it that 29 B-24 bombers split up into small groups over Iōjima and, after bombing the neighborhoods of Takenokubo and Iwakawa-machi from the sky over Urakami, conducted low-altitude attacks on Kawanami Shipyard at Kōyagishima. However, although smaller than the B-29, the B-24 was a four-engine heavy bomber that would have been incapable of maneuvering in and around the narrow harbor at low altitude. The bombers that I saw from my workplace on the hilltop were obviously twin-engine B-25s.
The main target of this air raid was the Kawanami Shipyard on Kōyagishima and cargo ships moored near the harbor entrance. These spots were not visible from my workplace, but I did see B-25 bombers penetrate deep into the harbor area and make low-altitude runs up and down its length. It is also said that bombs fell on the Tadewara district, which was near my workplace. However, I continued working even after the air raid, right through to the evening, and at no time did I see any B-25 bombers. The mistake may be due to the delays in initiating surveys and submitting damage reports from Tadewara, which was outside the city center. Or perhaps the records were confused with those from the air raid of July 29. The low-altitude bombing raids on this day (the 31st) exclusively targeted the area around the harbor, and I can testify with certainty that no B-25 bombers flew near the Tadewara district. 60
(5) The Air Raid on August 1, 1945
On August 1, 1945, Nagasaki experienced its fifth conventional air raid. This was conducted on a larger scale than previous air raids. A total of 50 bombers including 24 B-24s and 26 B-25s dropped 112 tons of bombs, mainly on munitions factories in the city. Heavy damage was inflicted on Mitsubishi Nagasaki Shipyard, the main target of the air raid, as well as Mitsubishi Steelworks, Nagasaki Medical College and other important facilities.
Yasunaka Shōkichi, then chief of engineering at the Mitsubishi Nagasaki Steelworks, wrote about the air raid as follows in his diary:
Wednesday, August 1; Sunny
Air-raid alert sounded. As the person in charge of the safety of all employees and factories, I took
leave of the meeting for section chiefs and immediately went to Security Headquarters.
Warning status upgraded to full-scale air-raid alarm. Hearing that 20 small aircraft were flying
north over the Koshiki Islands, and recalling the air raids of recent days, I knew that another
air raid was imminent. At 11:20, I issued orders for everyone to evacuate.
Bomb explosions heard near Tameishi on the Nomo Peninsula. Fortress Headquarters informed us
by telephone that two medium-sized aircraft were flying east over Nomo. I felt that a crisis was
imminent and hoped that all the employees had taken shelter.
The lead bomber, a small enemy plane, reached the mouth of Nagasaki Harbor.
Enemy planes circled over the city of Nagasaki. P-51s dropped bombs on Tomachi and Takahoko.
Thirteen Japanese fighter planes were placed on call in Ōmura.
Enemy aircraft circled over Nishiyama. Seven explosions were heard. The lookouts on the roof
frantically dashed inside the headquarters.
The ground shook and loud explosions sounded as bombs hit the steelworks. The underground
security headquarters vibrated. A painful and sorrowful atmosphere prevailed. A phenomenal
number of explosions occurred. I could hardly endure my anger and regret that the steelworks
might no longer exist. Regrettably, the reports that 13 fighter planes were on call amounted to
nothing. I brooded about the powerlessness of our military… 61
In this air raid, the core of Mitsubishi Nagasaki Shipyard including the general administrative office and a cluster of factories in Akunoura bore the brunt of the attacks. According to eyewitness Yamamoto Tadaichi, the enemy bombers turned off their engines over the mountains near Tomachi, on the opposite side of the harbor, glided over the middle of the shipyard and then restarted their engines and pulled up, almost scraping the hillsides at Akunoura. 62
In all probability, the “seven explosions” heard by Yasunaka Shōkichi were caused by the bombs dropped on the shipyard at this time. The initial wave was followed by second and third waves of bombing attacks, the explosions reverberating as far away as the neighboring city of Isahaya. According to the “Sixty-Five-Year History of the Nagasaki Municipal Administration,” the bombs dropped on the shipyard were of the 500-kilogram type.
As a result of this air raid, some of the buildings in the shipyard were demolished by direct hits while others became enveloped by fire. Moreover, the explosion of bombs wrought havoc on the shelters built underneath the flat sections of land. Twelve people died when one shelter collapsed, and another 32 lives were lost when water (sea water according to some sources) flooded another shelter through a crack in the wall. Full-scale firefighting and rescue activities began even before the enemy planes had departed, but these were not enough to prevent the devastating damage.
The damage to buildings and facilities included the loss of Office No.1 and one of the warehouses in Akunoura to fire, the complete destruction of the Building and Construction Factory and the loading dock at Akunoura Pier, and the partial destruction of the general office at Akunoura, a canning factory, Foundry No.1 and the various factories of the No.1 Machinery Division. The death toll soared to 124. 63
Moro’oka Seihachi, whose wife and child were killed by a direct hit, recalled the events of this air raid as follows:
On August 1, I went to work as usual. An air-raid alarm was sounded around noon and I evacuated to an underground shelter. After a while, the alarm was lifted. Feeling relieved, I checked to ensure that my staff were safe as part of my duties as chief of a fire protection group. It was then that an employee in the copper factory, who lived near me, told me that our neighborhood had apparently been hit in this attack and that the whereabouts of my family were unknown.
With the permission of the factory chief, I rushed home, praying that my family members were safe, but I was horrified to see the place where my house had been. For a moment everything went blank. I could not believe my eyes. My house had taken a direct hit from a 250-kilogram bomb and now nothing was left of it, only a huge hole more than eight meters across, like a crater carved out of the ground. The debris was scattered all about, leaving only pillars stabbing the ground and the splintered remains of wooden furniture. My wife and I had been planning to evacuate the city because of the increasing intensity of air raids, but this terrible tragedy occurred before we made a decision. Although probably intended for Mitsubishi Nagasaki Shipyard, three of the large bombs had fallen directly on our small community of just eight households. As a result, every single house was demolished and all the inhabitants killed. The explosion of a bomb in the kitchen area killed my wife and youngest child. I had been digging a tunnel-type shelter behind our house in order to provide some protection for my wife and children, working on my days off and in the evenings after coming home from the office. The shelter, however, was now so horribly transformed that I could ascertain little more than its location. My neighbors and coworkers came to help, at which point I was finally able to dig through the shelter. We pulled out three ravaged bodies, one the wife of the family next door and the others my wife, wearing a protective air-raid hood and baggy mompe trousers, and our two-year-old child still strapped firmly to her back.
My writing skills are far too limited to allow me to express the mixture of grief, anger and despair that overcame me. In the evening, however, when my eldest daughter and eldest son returned home safely from school and labor service, my fatherly instincts naturally took over and I gradually regained my composure. After that my children and I moved into my sister’s house at 3-14, Akunoura-machi.
On August 2, I took the bodies of my wife and child to the crematorium in Takenokubo-machi, but 50 or 60 other corpses were already waiting for cremation as a result of the previous day’s air raid, when the area around the shipyard meal distribution center in Akunoura had suffered a direct hit. It was not until August 6, when the bodies were starting to decompose and give off a foul odor, that I was finally able to cremate the remains of my loved ones. 64
The damage sustained at the Mitsubishi Steelworks included the total destruction of Factory No. 2, the forging plant for small parts (this facility was minimally-equipped) and a furnace, as well as the partial destruction of two pumps in the power room for a 3,000-ton hydraulic forging press (horizontally-positioned) and a gas generator. Although there were no fatalities, 20 people suffered injuries of varying severity.
The Mitsubishi Steelworks Saiwaimachi Factory was also targeted in this air raid, but damage was limited to part of one building.
The number of bombs dropped on the Mitsubishi factories that day (using substantiated figures only) was as follows: 13 on Mitsubishi Nagasaki Shipyard, eight on Mitsubishi Steelworks, one or two on the Saiwaimachi Factory, and one on the Mitsubishi Arms Manufacturing Plant in Mori-machi. 65
The Nagasaki Medical College suffered air-raid damage around 11:30 a.m., either before or after the attack on the Mitsubishi Steelworks. Eight bombs exploded on or near the hospital, causing three deaths and a number of injuries. Honda Yurin, a lecturer in the college at the time, wrote about the resulting damages as follows:
The bombers that suddenly appeared above the city on August 1 flew toward the hospital at low altitude and released a flurry of 250-kilogram bombs. I think the roof of the hospital had a large red cross painted on it, but the bombers continued their attack as if there was no mark of any sort, let alone a red cross. They circled over the hospital for nearly an hour, dropping bombs every which way and hitting a number of locations, such as the internal medicine department, the surgery department, the ear, nose and throat department and the obstetrics and gynecology department. The damage was appalling. The annex of the obstetrics and gynecology department, which accommodated surgery rooms, the division chief’s office, the library and other facilities, took a direct hit. The bomb crashed right through the roof and down through each of the floors to the basement. Moreover, a fire broke out in the library. Nurses, students and members of the medical staff came out en masse to fight the fire, and, with the help of reinforcements from each department, they were finally able to put it out.
To this day, I can still hear the voice of Ueno-kun, a student who bravely stood out on the roof of the dermatology department building all alone, yelling reports about the enemy fighters.
In this air raid many invaluable documents stored in the library were lost to fire, much to the disappointment of Prof. Naito. Unable to just stand by idly, I spent the next few days going around picking up the singed pages one by one and binding them together. I never imagined that one week later Nagasaki would experience an atomic bombing. 66
In Shiroyama-machi, a neighborhood facing Urakami River, a tunnel air-raid shelter collapsed as a result of the bombing and buried all of the people who had evacuated there. Luckily, however, immediate rescue efforts averted loss of life. Yasunaka Shōkichi recalls these efforts as follows:
A report came that about 70 people were buried alive in a tunnel shelter at the bottom of the cliff on the other side of Takeiwa Bridge. 36 members of an engineering unit and 15 members of a naval engineering unit rushed to the scene and rescued all of the distressed people. Since they were thought to be employees of Mitsubishi Electric Works, I contacted the foundry of Nagasaki Electric, which also sent a relief unit. Five more workers were buried under debris at the scrap yard, where another bomb had exploded. Students from the Shisei Dormitory in Shiroyama came to dig them out. Four of the workers survived but one person had been crushed to death. 67
Houses in several city neighborhoods also suffered varying degrees of damage, including Ōura-machi, Inada-machi, Daiba-machi, Kotobuki-machi, Zenza-machi, Iwakawa-machi, Sakamoto-machi, Yamazato-machi, Shiroyama-machi, Takenokubo-machi, Inasa-machi and Akunoura-machi. The losses incurred as a result of the fifth air raid are as follows: 169 people killed, 215 people wounded, 40 people missing, 107 houses totally destroyed, and 134 houses partially destroyed.
The railroad tracks between Urakami and Nagayo also suffered damage that day, bringing rail service to a halt. The damage was limited to one section, however, and operations resumed by early the next morning.
As outlined above, Nagasaki experienced five conventional air raids from August 1944 until shortly before the atomic bombing. As a result of these air raids, 344 people were killed, 595 people suffered injuries, 43 people were reported missing, 224 houses were totally destroyed, 326 houses were partially destroyed, five houses burned to the ground, and four houses were partially destroyed by fire. 68
Military expenditures, ballooning with the aggravation of hostilities, caused the scale of national finance to expand to abnormal levels. The government enacted the Price Control Act in October 1939 to stabilize prices, but inflation continued as time went by. By 1945, commodity prices had soared to approximately 3.5 times their levels ten years earlier.
On April 1, 1945, the government imposed drastic increases on public utility rates and the price of certain goods. Postage rates rose from 3 sen to 5 sen (sen = 1/100 yen) for postcards and 7 sen to 10 sen for standard letters, while radio subscription fees rose from 5.5 yen to 12 yen for one year and from 3 yen to 6.5 yen for six months. With regard to train fares, the price of third-class tickets rose by about 30%, with the rates for second and first class adjusted to three and six times the third-class rate, respectively. Furthermore, various restrictions were imposed on travel.
Extreme supply shortages and decreased rations caused the black market price of commodities to skyrocket. For example, while the official price of a pound of butter was 3.8 yen, citizens paid 6.5 yen for the same quantity on the black market. This was actually one of the more moderate cases. In other examples, one kanme (3.75 kg) of sugar, officially priced at 2.2 yen, sold for 50 yen on the black market, and a single egg could cost a stunning 3.5 yen. In reality, however, luxury items such as butter or sugar were not readily available, even to people willing to pay these exorbitant prices. With the exception of select individuals, the general public rarely ever laid eyes on these products.
From April, streetcars on all routes were regularly packed with people forced to alter their commuting patterns as a result of house demolitions and the relocation of factories. When a streetcar became filled to its capacity of less than 50 passengers, another ten or more people would cling to the door outside with a foot on the step. Another four or five people would crouch in the well beside the brake, while 20 or more hung from the side windows, bringing the total to at least 120 passengers. Still, people were able to endure this utterly chaotic manner of transportation in the midst of the cruel, dog-eat-dog conditions of wartime society. In January 1944, students were enlisted to make up for the shortage of drivers, and soon women could also be seen holding the streetcar steering wheel. 69
Not everyone was enduring willingly. Young people were beginning to desert the Patriotic Students Corps, and a strike by conscripted laborers from Korea had caused turmoil in the city. The “Sixty-Five-Year History of the Nagasaki Municipal Administration” describes the situation as follows:
The war was by no means free of dissent. For example, a poet (Shimauchi Hachiro) was arrested for composing the haiku: omeshi kite yūutsunaru mon wo izuru (Receiving orders to serve, they pass through the gate despondently). While this is hardly an explicit criticism, it reflects a passive weariness with war as an honest human emotion, and the military police were so high strung that they took exception even in cases such as this. The arm of the law intervened, overtly and covertly, even in the content of poems and songs. Ten or more people intending to hold a meeting, including even poetry gatherings, were subject to surveillance. 70
The Supreme War Council held an imperial conference (a conference of matters of grave national importance convened by the government in the presence of the Emperor) on June 8 and passed a new set of guidelines on how the war should be conducted henceforth. 71 The reports provided for consideration at this conference included the following passage under the title Minshin no dōkō (Trends in Public Opinion):
The people are loyal to the nation from the bottom of their hearts and ready to resist an enemy invasion, but on the other hand they also yearn for a change in the situation.
Criticism of the military and the government is gradually building and may even mean a wavering of public trust in the country’s leaders. Moreover, public morale shows signs of declining, with people increasingly devoted to self-interests and failing to exhibit an adequate level of war spirit and public service. With regard to the common people, a tendency toward resignation and despair is evident among the rural population, and leaders of the intelligentsia are growing impatient for the return of peace. There is also evidence that certain ambitious radicals are maneuvering to take advantage of the situation and advance revolutionary goals.
If the Battle of Okinawa takes a turn for the worse, it will be necessary to pay strict attention to the trends in public opinion and to exercise leadership accordingly. Moreover, the enemy will undoubtedly make ever greater efforts to disturb ideological order in Japan. 72
Propaganda leaflets, one of the methods used by American forces to disrupt public morale, were first scattered in the Nagasaki area on March 18, 1945. Recalls Yasunaka Shōkichi: “The leaflets dropped by airplanes flying from enemy aircraft carriers… had no value whatever in weakening the morale of the Japanese people. In fact, they served only to heighten the spirit of loyalty. We found a total of nine leaflets, eight in the factory and one in the Shisei Dormitory, and immediately submitted all of them to the
The air raids conducted by B-29 bombers based in the Mariana Islands and bombers deployed on aircraft carriers escalated sharply after the surrender of Okinawa on June 23, 1945. On an almost daily basis, relentless carpet bombings set cities throughout the country ablaze and reduced them to ashes.
Nagasaki, however, remained free of air raids for three months after the second conventional air raid of April 26. Large formations of 30 to 50 bombers appeared in the sky over Nagasaki day and night but merely disappeared into the distance. On one occasion, a carrier-based aircraft sprayed the city with machine gun fire but did not inflict any significant damage. This happened on May 14, the same day that a ship was attacked at sea outside Nagasaki Harbor and the wounded were transported to Ekisaikai Hospital in Nagasaki for treatment. 74
As these days of relative tranquility continued, a series of groundless rumors began to circulate in Nagasaki. These included hearsay that Nagasaki was being spared from bombings because of its historic role in international relations, or because of the divine protection of the great serpent said to reside at Mt. Inasa, or because prisoners-of-war were under internment here. However misinformed, these rumors reflect the longings of ordinary citizens at the time.
When the traditional Bon Festival (Buddhist ritual to commemorate the souls of the deceased) was celebrated in Nagasaki, air-raid alarms were being sounded regularly in the city without anything happening. Yasunaka Shōkichi writes about the festival as follows in his diary:
July 15 - Sunny
Today was the third day of the Bon Festival. Ordinarily the hillsides would be teeming with people visiting their family graves from the 13th to the 16th of this month and illuminated with lanterns. The whole town used to come alive for the famous Shoronagashi procession on the 15th, which attracted visitors from far and wide. This year, no one made offerings at their family graves because of the wartime shortage of goods, and people concluded their visits before dusk because of strictly-enforced blackout orders. As a result, the various ceremonies for relatives and friends were held in the daytime. As a child, I always looked forward to fireworks such as Chinese firecrackers, flaming arrows, sparklers and screechers. I also used to enjoy watching the procession on the 15th, when elaborately-decorated floats carrying images of family members recently deceased were carried through the streets amid the sound of Chinese gongs. For the past three years these things seem to have faded into the realm of memory where no one can experience them any longer. 75
On July 19, 1945, Nagasaki Prefecture “ordered all national (elementary) schools in the prefecture’s five cities to move classes to sites such as shrines, private residences and temporary schoolhouses along the seaside as a dispersion measure and to immediately adopt other wartime educational measures for both single and
76 The purpose of this order was to ensure the safety of elementary school children as the number of air raids increased. Classes at schools in Nagasaki were moved to a number of alternate sites, the location being determined according to the specific conditions of each school.
In the case of Shiroyama Elementary School, a “neighborhood study system” was adopted. Arakawa Hideo, vice-principal of the school at the time, describes the circumstances as follows:
From sometime around April, after the air raids had intensified, it became impossible to evacuate the children each and every time an alert was issued. There was nothing we could do except limit the students’ attendance to just a single hour in the morning one day a week. We would then inform them about the state of the war and lecture them on how to face current conditions before sending them back home. Sometime around the end of June or the beginning of July, when the number of students began to dwindle, we decided at a school principal’s meeting to switch over to the “neighborhood-study system”. The second and third floors of the school building were already being used to house the hundred-or-so staff workers who had been relocated there from the administrative offices of Mitsubishi Arms Factory. “Neighborhood studies” meant gathering all the children of one neighborhood together for lessons, mainly Japanese and math, from teachers who went around visiting a number of sites in the areas they had been assigned to. 77
Half of the area of the schoolyard at elementary schools had been dug up by teachers and students for the cultivation of vegetables and now was covered with the green leaves of sweet potatoes. Also, pumpkin flowers were blooming wildly in the empty lots around the city deserted due to evacuation orders, and small green pumpkins had started to appear.
The food situation was growing worse by the day. Since the city was not a food production area, authorities in Nagasaki had to adopt special measures to procure staple foods. The Nagasaki City Administrative Report for 1944 states that “committees are being established to encourage and maximize shipments from food-producing regions and to subsidize food producers as a way to procure supplies.” By 1945, the municipal government was scrambling ever more frantically to obtain food supplies. However, distribution remained poor and, from May, alternative products like defatted soybeans comprised 30% to 40% of food rations. By July even the rationing of these foods was regularly suspended.
The same conditions applied to fruits and vegetables. The production section at City Hall assembled a group of traveling performers that toured towns and villages in the company of produce wholesalers, presenting farmers with gifts like footwear, saké and shochu (distilled liquor) in an attempt to secure supplies. 78
On July 11, the government decreased rations of staple foods by ten percent in order to deal with the food shortage. The previous allotment of 2.3 gō (345 g) per day was reduced to 2.1 gō (315 g). This included not only rice and wheat, but also alternate foods. Authorities also actively promoted efforts to increase the consumption of alternate foods: newspapers carried articles on how to pound corn and acorns into flour, how to use waste starch, and how to make weeds edible.
Pumpkin stems and potato vines were already starting to appear on Nagasaki dinner tables. The meals of boarders at dormitories (mobilized workers, students in patriotic corps and women in volunteer units) went from miso soup and brown rice mixed with soybeans to defatted soybeans mixed with a meager amount of brown rice and a salty seaweed soup.
The book “History of Food Rationing in Nagasaki Prefecture” contains the following description of the rationing system at the time and the public reaction:
Black Market Rice Sales Begin
The shortage of rationed rice grows worse with the passage of time. This situation cannot be remedied by shouting slogans like ‘Desire nothing until victory is achieved’ or by broadcasting the valiant melodies of patriotic marches. Housewives, who are responsible for the management of each household, are becoming frantic… Obeying rules and regulations (regarding food rationing) will not cause anyone to starve to death, but it will certainly lead to malnutrition and illness. As a result, people are making journeys to rural areas to purchase additional rice on the black market. They take slow local trains and rickety charcoal-powered cars. At night the land is steeped in darkness due to blackout regulations, and production in rural villages is low because of the lack of workers.
A point system is also used to regulate clothing, with a full kimono and the accompanying undergarments counting for 48 points and a one-piece dress with a scarf for three points. Women’s ‘fashion’ is out of the question in these hard times. Long-sleeved kimono must not be worn. Hair styling is the culture of the enemy. Women must wear only mompe workpants and join in fighting exercises with bamboo spears so as to be ready for battles on the home islands. And on and on, the rallying cries are loud, but…
Matches, soap, tissue paper, candles and other goods are subject to a ticket system. Miso, soy sauce and sugar are also rationed. Even then, the rationing of sugar and other items has been suspended since August 1944. There is no soy sauce or sugar and never enough of even the things still available. Only a trickle of low-quality produce continues. In July 1945, rations of rice were reduced from 2.3 to 2.1 gō per adult per day, and that is unpolished brown rice.
Brown rice is praised for its nutritious value, but that hardly applies to the rice at hand. People put the rice into an empty glass bottle and pound it with a stick for hours on end. By the time their shoulders are aching and their arms and legs have gone numb, the product of their labor finally comes to resemble white rice.
If it were brown rice alone it would not be so bad. The problem is that the rationed brown rice is mixed with other foods, such as rolled barley, potatoes, udon noodles, hardtack, corn and potato vines. The quality of these other foods is so low that in ordinary times it would be used as livestock feed… Rations are delivered up to 20 days late in some parts of Nagasaki Prefecture.
Black market traders are increasing in number, as are the women who take clothing and household appliances to the countryside to trade for food. It is rice that they are seeking. People are selling their possessions to survive. 79
It was under these conditions—12-hour shifts at munitions factories, air-raid alarms day and night, a diet on the brink of starvation—that Nagasaki suffered successive conventional air raids on July 29, 31 and August 1, 1945. The weather was rainy on August 2 and windy and rainy the following day, and not a single air-raid alarm was sounded. Indeed, these were to be the last two days of peace for Nagasaki and its citizens.
On August 4 the air-raid sirens started up once again; two air-raid alerts and one full-scale alarm were sounded that day. The number over the subsequent four days is as follows: three alerts and two alarms on the 5th, three alerts and two alarms on the 6th, three alerts and one alarm on the 7th, and four alerts and one alarm on the 8th.
August 8, 1945 was to be the last taishōhōtaibi (prayer-for-victory day held on the 8th of each month). The newspapers published that day carried an announcement from the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters that "on August 6, a small squadron of B-29 bombers attacked Hiroshima with a new-type bomb and caused considerable damage."
The report used the vague adjective “considerable” in reference to the damage and stated only that investigations were underway. However, people who had experienced the atomic bombing or who had passed through Hiroshima on the 7th had already conveyed news about the devastation of that city. One of the latter was the president of Nagasaki Medical College, Tsuno’o Susumu, who arrived at Nagasaki Railroad Station on the morning of August 8 and went to the campus to join the faculty, nurses and office staff on the athletic field for the taishōhōtaibi proceedings. After these were over, he reported what he had witnessed in Hiroshima to the other participants. In another case, Nishioka Takejiro president of Nagasaki Shimbun Co., reached Nagasaki in the evening and visited Nagasaki Prefecture Governor Nagano Wakamatsu to talk about the damages in Hiroshima.
Still, no one in Nagasaki understood the meaning of the term "new-type bomb." (In fact, announcements about the atomic bombings would not be made until August 15, the day the war ended.) Nor could anyone have imagined that a second “new-type bomb” would be dropped on Nagasaki the following day.
In connection with the above, the first formal document in Nagasaki to use the term “atomic bomb” (other than the national government’s official announcement) was the “Tenth Report on Damages Caused by the August 9th Air Raid on Nagasaki” released on August 27, 1945 by the governor of Nagasaki Prefecture. This report includes a passage mentioning “the power of the atomic bomb.”
With regard to newspapers, the August 11, 1945 issue of Mainichi Shimbun carried the headline “Truman Vaunts the Power of the Atomic Bombs in Anti-Japan Broadcast.” On August 16, the same newspaper published an interview with Dr. Nishina Yoshio on the subject of atomic bombs. Another headline from the August 27 issue of Mainichi Shimbun read: “The Remaining Terror of the Atomic Bombs – The Sites will be Uninhabitable for 70 Years.”
41 Mitsubishi Shipbuilding Co.(ed.), Sōgyōhyakunen no nagasaki zōsenjo (One-Hundred-Year History of the Nagasaki Shipyard)(1957) ^
42 Nagasaki Prefectural Medical Association Nagasaki Branch (ed.), Kyūgobōkūshiryō (Relief Activities and Air Raid Defense) ^
43 Nagasaki City (ed.), Nagasaki shisei rokujūgonenshi (Sixty-Five-Year History of the Nagasaki Municipal Administration)(Nagasaki,1959) ^
44 Personal communication from Takeda Tomosuke (chief of the Nagasaki City Defense Department at the time) ^
45 Nagasakishi jimuhōkokusho (Nagasaki City Secretary-report) ^
46 Shiishikai shibunisshi (Nagasaki City Medical Association Daily Report) ^
47 The United States Strategic Bombing Survey ^
48 Ninth Division of the Nagasaki Fire Prevention Unit (ed.), Shōbō nisshi
(Daily Firefighting Reports) ^
49 Carl Berger, B29: The Superfortress, (New York: Ballantine, 1970) ^
50 Nagasaki ken hōkoku (Nagasaki Prefecture Reports) ^
51 Nagao Tatsuya, Genbaku zengo (Before and After the Atomic Bombing) Vol. 17, edited by Hideo Shirai.) ^
52 Nagasaki City (ed.), Nagasaki shisei rokujūgonen shi (Sixty-Five-Year History of the Nagasaki Municipal Administration) ^
53 Association for Bereaved Families of Atomic Bomb Victims of the Former Nagasaki Medical College (ed.), Wasuregusa (Forget-Me-Not), Vol.5 ^
54 Iwasaki Shiro, Nagasaki genbaku ikenroku (Differing Accounts of the Nagasaki Atomic Bombing) ^
55 Nagasakishi ishikai “shibu nisshi” (Daily Journal of the Nagasaki City Medical Association) ^
56 Mitsubishi Shipbuilding Co.(ed.)Sōgyōhyakunen no nagasaki zōsenjo (One-Hundred-Year History of the Nagasaki Shipyard)(1957), p.297-8 ^
57 Itoki Yoshio in Genbaku zengo (Before and After the Atomic Bombing) Vol.5, edited by Hideo Shirai) ^
58 Iwasaki Shiro, Nagasaki genbaku ikenroku (Differing Accounts of the Nagasaki Atomic Bombing”) (Tōkyō: Bungeisha, 2003), p.31-32. ^
59 Nagasaki City (ed.), Nagasaki shisei rokujūgonenshi (Sixty-Five-Year History of the Nagasaki Municipal Administration)(1954) Vol.2, p.111-3. ^
60 Iwasaki Shiro, Nagasaki genbaku ikenroku (Differing Accounts of the Nagasaki Atomic Bombing)(Bungeisha, 2003), p.33-34. ^
61 Yasunaka Shōkichi, “Yasunaka nikki” (Yasunaka Diary) in Genbaku zengo (Before and After the Atomic Bombing) Vol.25, edited by Shirai Hideo, 1974) ^
62 Yamamoto Chuichi in Genbaku zengo (Before and After the Atomic Bombing) Vol.3, edited by Shirai Hideo, 1974) ^
63 Mitsubishi Shipbuilding Co.(ed.)Sōgyōhyakunen no nagasaki zōsenjo (One-Hundred-Year History of the Nagasaki Shipyard)(1957), p.298. ^
64 Moro’oka Seihachi in Genbaku zengo (Before and After the Atomic Bombing) Vol.10, edited by Shirai Hideo, 1974) ^
65 Shirai Hideo, Genbaku zengo (Before and After the Atomic Bombing), Vol.27. ^
66 Honda Yurin, “Sanfujinka kyoshitsu genbakuki” (The Obstetrics and Gynecology Department Record of the Atomic Bombing) in Tsuioku (Reminiscences) (Publishing Committee for Works Commemorating the 10th Anniversary of the Atomic Bombing at Nagasaki Medical College ed., 1955), p.86. ^
67 Yasunaka Shōkichi, “Yasunaka nikki” (Yasunaka Diary) in Genbaku zengo (Before and After the Atomic Bombing) Vol.25, edited by Shirai Hideo, 1974) ^
68 The United States Strategic Bombing Survey ^
69 Nagasaki Electric Streetcar Co. (ed.), Gojūnenshi (Fifty-Year History)(1967), p.44-5. ^
70 Nagasaki City (ed.), Nagasaki shisei rokujūgonenshi (Sixty-Five-Year History of the Nagasaki Municipal Administration)(1954) Vol.3, p.450. ^
71 Kongo toru beki sensō shidō no kihontaikō (Basic Outline of Wartime Leadership Policy to be Adopted Henceforth) ^
72 National Defense College War History Office (ed.), Hondo kessen junbi <2> Kyūshū no bōei (Preparations for War on the Japanese Mainland <2> The Defense of Kyūshū)(Tōkyō: Asagumo Shimbunsha, 1972) ^
73 Yasunaka Shōkichi, “Yasunaka nikki” (Yasunaka Diary) in Genbaku zengo (Before and After the Atomic Bombing) Vol.25, edited by Shirai Hideo, 1974) ^
74 Nagasaki City Medical Association (ed.), Shibu nisshi (Daily Records) ^
75 Yasunaka Shōkichi, “Yasunaka nikki” (Yasunaka Diary) in Genbaku zengo (Before and After the Atomic Bombing) Vol.25, edited by Shirai Hideo, 1974) ^
76 Nagasaki Prefecture (ed.), Nagasaki kensei nenpyō (Nagasaki Prefecture Administration Chronology)(1961), p.65. ^
77 Genbaku sanjūshūnen kinen zadankai (Round-table Discussion on the 30th Anniversary of the Atomic Bombing) ^
78 Comment by Jubashi Yusaku in Genbaku sanjūshūnen kinen zadankai (Round-table Discussion on the 30th Anniversary of the Atomic Bombing) ^
79 Nagasaki Prefecture Rice Growers Collective (ed.), Nagasaki-ken no shokuryō haikyūshi (History of Food Rationing in Nagasaki Prefecture) ^