Part 2 The Atomic Bomb
Section 1 August 9, 1945
Chapter 4：Atomic Bombing Damage Reports
Immediately after the atomic bombing, Nagasaki Prefecture Governor Nagano Wakamatsu sent the first report to the Kyūshū Regional Commissioner stationed in the Fukuoka Prefecture Office, the commander of Air Defense General Headquarters (through the Kyūshū Regional Commissioner), and the chief of the Western Force District. The report was sent by telegram as air defense information. Although it is unclear from where it was sent, this telegram was undoubtedly the first report on the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. Entitled “Air Defense Information First Report,” the telegram was worded as follows:
1. At 10:53 on August 9, two B-29 bombers proceeded north from Amakusa, Kumamoto Prefecture, passed over Tachibana Bay west of the Shimabara Peninsula, and reached Nagasaki City. Around 11:02, two new-type bombs with parachutes were released.
2. These bombs seem to have been small versions of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Although it is anticipated that the bombing has caused many injuries in Nagasaki, the city has suffered far less damage than Hiroshima. The death toll and the number of destroyed houses in Nagasaki are also much lower than those reported in Hiroshima.
Postscript: No injuries or fatalities are reported among the executive personnel of Nagasaki Prefecture.
The flight path followed by the two B-29 bombers on the atomic bomb mission has already been discussed in the previous section. Of course, the idea that “two new-type bombs” were released has been refuted.
The Western District Headquarters apparently compared the bombing to Hiroshima and arrived at the above conclusion regarding bomb number and damage level. However, the wording was changed to “something like a new-type bomb” and the conjecture on the number of bombs was deleted before the announcement regarding the atomic bombing of Nagasaki made as follows at 2:45 p.m., August 9:
1. Around 11:00 a.m. on August 9, two large enemy aircraft reached Nagasaki City and dropped something like a new-type bomb.
2. Although the details are now under investigation, it is anticipated that the damage is relatively low.
Subsequent reports verified that only one new-type bomb had been dropped over the city.
The first report says that Nagasaki suffered little damage. With regard to this information, Nagasaki Prefecture Governor Nagano Wakamatsu later made the following statement:
As I mentioned before, we were about to convene an emergency meeting in the shelter of the air-defense headquarters when the atomic bomb exploded. I went outside with the others, convinced that something strange had happened.
Smoke was already churning up from behind the mountain to the rear (Mt. Kompira). It spread while we watched, indicating that a huge fire was burning in the Urakami Valley. There were about 10 workers who had been outside the shelter at the time of the explosion. According to them, there had been a flash of light and the sound of an explosion from beyond Mt. Kompira, and immediately the smoke had become visible in the sky. I felt instinctively that something horrendous had occurred, but, looking around, I found that the houses nearby were unchanged. They looked the same as always. When I extended my gaze to the streets in the central part of the city it was the same: nothing seemed different.
But the descriptions of a flashing light, thunderous explosion and ensuing fires convinced me that new-type bombs were responsible. Still, although fires were apparently burning, the workers who had been outside suffered no injuries whatever and the bamboo groves nearby were intact. The scene did not fit with Mr. Nishioka's statement that everything on the face of the earth had been blown to oblivion in Hiroshima. As a result, I assumed with considerable relief that the new-type bombs had caused only fires this time, and I returned to the shelter to initiate firefighting measures. All of this passed in a matter of a few minutes.
Reports were coming into the headquarters from various police stations. The reports said that although a strange bomb similar to the new-type bomb dropped on Hiroshima had exploded, the damage in each police district was minimal. They stated that there were no serious injuries to people or animals, and that damage to buildings was minor. Virtually every glass window had shattered and a few people had suffered cuts from splinters, but the injuries were slight. Since this was the information at hand, I conveyed it to the inspector general as my first air defense report. This was the ‘slight damages’ report.
It soon occurred to me, however, that there had been no word from the Urakami area; the reports were coming from the Nagasaki Police Station (which would be destroyed in the ensuing conflagration several hours later), Ōura and other districts that had not suffered greatly from the bombing. We had focused initially on firefighting because the telephone lines were dead and we had no idea that thousands of people including the police had been killed or injured in the Urakami area.
Unlike conventional fires that break out in one spot and spread, the fires caused by the atomic bomb flared in numerous places and joined to form a huge sea of fire. I heard later from Ogawa Keiji, branch manager of Nagasaki Power Supply who had witnessed the fires from a rooftop or other high place, that innumerable points of fire had broken out like match heads simultaneously at the time of the flash and explosion.
Of course it took hours to grasp the total extent of the damages. Information about the neighborhoods north of Nagasaki Railroad Station was unavailable. It did not take long, however, to realize that a large number of people had been killed and injured. The police survey team we dispatched to investigate the situation encountered injured people fleeing from Urakami on the road below the NHK Nagasaki Broadcasting Station (situated on the hill which is now Nishizaka Park). A firefighting team also made its way to the Yachiyo-machi area via the railroad tracks.
Fires would soon break out there and prevent passage on the road, but at the time large numbers of people with severe burns and other injuries were fleeing southward toward central Nagasaki. As a result, the attention of the Nagasaki Police Station and Police Headquarters was again diverted, this time to the problem of assisting victims in the railroad station area.
About one hour after the bombing, a man whom I recall was a neighborhood committee chairman rushed into the Air-Defense Headquarters with news that thousands of injured people had fled into the forest to the rear, that they were begging for water and help and that many had already died. Hearing this, I roared angrily about the inefficiency of the police, but as I've said several times, we had no way of knowing that such a situation had developed. I still remember the appearance of the medical student who came to the shelter shortly thereafter. He had suffered burns but struggled across the mountain to inform us of the destruction of Nagasaki Medical College.
The information related by these people gave us a rough idea of the extent of the disaster in Urakami and the fact that a large number of citizens had been affected. Obviously, doctors, nurses and medical supplies were urgently needed. I ordered the chief of the prefectural health division to mobilize doctors and nurses in central Nagasaki.
I was confident about our relief and medical capabilities. The prefectural and municipal governments had long since organized conventional emergency medical systems, but Nagasaki was especially fortunate to have its own medical college with a large teaching staff and student body. By their third year, the students would be able to handle first-aid treatment, which meant that in an emergency we would have a large number of medical personnel ready to assist the injured. This knowledge had bolstered me at the time of my appointment to the position of governor, and, just to make sure, I had gone to the college to ensure that large quantities of medicine and medical supplies were securely stored in concrete-reinforced warehouses.
However, the explosion of the atomic bomb over Urakami, where the medical college was located, ruined our preparations for relief and treatment. The bomb destroyed the college buildings and instantly snuffed out the lives of a majority of the teachers and students.
The navy fortunately sent out medical teams before receiving our request for assistance. The commander of the naval station in Sasebo had apparently caught wind of the situation in Nagasaki and immediately ordered the mobilization of medical teams from naval hospitals in the military districts of Isahaya, Ōmura and Hario Naval Yard and dispatched these to the Urakami district of Nagasaki. Thus, unbeknownst to the prefecture administration, the transportation of the injured to the naval hospital in Isahaya had already begun that day. (The Isahaya Naval Hospital relief team, which was the first, arrived in Nagasaki during the afternoon of the day of the bombing and provided medical assistance at Irabayashi Elementary School and other places.)
What I wanted to know most urgently was the number of fatalities. It was Okada Jukichi, mayor of Nagasaki, who brought me that information before anyone else.
Mr. Okada came to the shelter the following morning, or rather just before dawn. It was about 4:00 a.m. Showing me the scorched soles of the shoes he had worn in the destroyed neighborhoods, he related how he had waited all night for the fires to subside before going to his house in Urakami (the site of the fountain in front of present-day Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum). He said that he found more than 10 people, including his entire family and several people who had been visiting from the countryside, dead in the garden air-raid shelter, that everyone in the adjacent neighborhood (Oka-machi), including the wife and family of Deputy Mayor Mori, was dead, and that everyone in the next neighborhood and the neighborhood after that was also dead. Rattling off a list in this way, he estimated that about 50,000 people had been killed. I had just sent a telegram to the Ministry of Home Affairs reporting that the death toll was 20,000, and so the figure 50,000 seemed much too high. But it is said now that between 74,000 and 75,000 people died as a result of the atomic bombing (up to the end of 1945), so Mr. Okada's estimate was probably quite accurate. (The figure 50,000 did not appear until the fifth report on the atomic bomb damages.)
Now I would like to tell you how I felt as I continued my reports to the Ministry of Home Affairs during the following days. Although convinced at first that the damages had been slight, I realized with growing alarm that they had not been slight at all, but rather that the destruction was on a par with that in Hiroshima. I then attempted to obtain an accurate estimate of the damages and to pass this information along to the Ministry of Home Affairs as quickly as possible. Hiroshima had been destroyed; now Nagasaki lay in ruins. For all we knew the Americans might be poised to use still more of these bombs. Information about the damages in Nagasaki might be crucial to the government's decision as to whether or not to prolong the war. Not a moment could be wasted. It was imperative, therefore, that we obtain the most accurate information available.
But the havoc allowed nothing more than rough estimates. As a result I decided to proceed with three measures, that is, to issue reports at 30-minute intervals, to investigate the damages in view of estimating the immediate explosive power of the bomb, and to gather the police chiefs at regular intervals to pool information about the death toll in each area and to estimate the overall figure on the basis of that information.
I was told much later that these hard-fought reports never reached the Ministry of Home Affairs. I do not know the exact place from which the telegrams were sent, but I think that they were relayed via the regional commissioner’s office in Fukuoka. On August 11, contemplating the possibility of a communication failure, I entrusted all the previous reports (No.1 to No.7) with two senior police officers going to Tōkyō. They reached the capital on the 13th, and so the reports must have reached their destination on that day. I do not know what happened to the reports after that. 130
The governor issued the first report in the form of an emergency telegram but suggests that the report did not reach the Ministry of Home Affairs. Is this correct? Kojima Noboru, the author of the book Tennō (“Emperor”), comments as follows:
At 10:30 a.m., about half an hour before the atomic bomb exploded over Nagasaki, a meeting of war leaders was convened in an air-raid shelter at the imperial palace. The atomic bombing of Hiroshima and the declaration of war by the Soviet Union (at 12:00 a.m. that day) made it imperative to decide whether or not to accept the terms of the Potsdam Declaration. At 11:30 a.m., in the middle of the meeting, an atomic bomb exploded over Nagasaki. 131
The meeting was followed at 2:30 p.m. by a Cabinet meeting. Kojima Noboru continues as follows:
The atomic bombing of Nagasaki was reported at the Cabinet meeting. On the basis of information obtained from a captured American pilot, War Minister Anami Korechika reported that: ‘Atomic bombs generate a flash of light and blast simultaneously using electricity rather than gunpowder. Their explosive power is equivalent to that of 2,000 B-29 bombers carrying 36 500-pound bombs. The effect of atomic bombs is significant when the sky is clear, while not so in case of rain. The reinforcement of shelters with logs will provide sufficient protection… The Americans have another 100 atomic bombs and are capable of producing three per month, but these bombs are not durable.’ Anami said that he based his report on statements by First Lieutenant Marcus McDilda of the 7th U.S. Army Air Corps. Aside from the reference to explosive power, none of the information was correct, but Anami’s report passed without arousing doubt because no one at the meeting had any idea about the nature of atomic bombs.
This information indicates that the first telegram reporting on the Nagasaki atomic bombing was in fact received by the Ministry and that “11:30 a.m.” was, not the time of the Nagasaki atomic bombing, but the time that the first telegram reached the Ministry of Home Affairs through the Kyūshū District Government-General or the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters through the Western Force District Headquarters. In any case, it is clear that the first report reached the ministry during the cabinet meeting. There is a possibility that the subsequent reports (regarding explosive power, casualties, damage level etc.) by Nagasaki Prefecture were also presented at the meeting.
The cabinet meeting continued late into the night. In the middle of the night, a conference was also held in the presence of the Emperor. During that conference, at around 2:30 a.m. on August 10, the Emperor decided to accept the Potsdam Declaration and to end the war.
On August 9, the 1st to 5th atomic bombing reports dispatched by the governor of Nagasaki Prefecture were sent to the ministry, followed by the 6th and 7th on August 10 and the 8th to 11th from August 14 to September 3, after the end of the war. The 10th report, sent on August 27, presents a summary of the information regarding the atomic bombing of Nagasaki.
The following is an outline of the information provided in the 11 reports:
Immediately after the detonation (estimated)
Enemy B-29 bombers released new-type bombs with parachutes.
Between 1:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. (estimated)
Information on the location where the new-type bombs exploded and other details.
As of 3:00 p.m.
Information on fires in Nagasaki City and the situation in the Urakami district.
As of 6:00 p.m.
Information regarding the explosive power of the new-type bomb, the situation near the hypocenter and other details.
As of 8:00 p.m.
Information on casualty estimates, the names of damaged areas and buildings such as public offices, factories and schools, the progress of emergency measures and victim transport via relief emergency trains and other details.
As of 11:00 a.m.
Information regarding the approximate number of casualties, the approximate number of damaged buildings, relief efforts for victims, and measures to deal with the psychological impact of leaflets dropped by enemy forces.
The timing of this report is unclear.
Information regarding the detonation of the new-type bomb, its tremendous explosive power, the estimated number of casualties and other details.
On August 14 (As of August 13)
Information regarding the subsequent situation in the city, including: approximate number of deaths and injuries, building damage, important factory damage, the use of guard units, air-defense units and other emergency units, casualty relief efforts, disposal of the dead, relief efforts for victims and support for restoration work (on the 11th, regular train service resumed; the first train, which was the last train on the 11th, left Nagasaki Railroad Station at 10:15 p.m.).
August 20 (As of August 19)
Information regarding subsequent damage and the progress of restoration work at various facilities.
Information on the number of casualties, as well as the progress of medical relief efforts, sanitation efforts, temporary repairs to various facilities and medical treatment of injuries at facilities
Information regarding the sounding of air-raid alarms, the approach of enemy aircraft, damage level, emergency measures, and the results of research on the explosive power of the atomic bomb.
* This was the first official report to use the term “atomic bomb.”
* The research was carried out according to distance from the hypocenter.
* The lists attached to the report present the damage level of main buildings and the use of relief units sent from other areas.
September 3 (As of September 1)
Information on the death toll, the number of missing and the progress of relief efforts for victims (accommodation and emergency rationing of household goods and clothing)
Around noon, approximately one hour after the conflagration engulfed the hypocenter area, fires also broke out in the old part of the city and the neighborhoods on the opposite side of Nagasaki Harbor. These fires broke out in different places at the same time. It is believed that heat rays generated at the moment of detonation ignited combustible materials that smoldered for a while and later burst into flames. Firefighting efforts were futile, a fact discussed later in this chapter. Fires first occurred at the hypocenter then spread to adjacent areas and culminated in a huge conflagration.
Around 3:00 p.m., the central districts of Nagasaki continued to suffer from the spread of fire, including Hokaura-machi, Ōmura-machi, Daikoku-machi, Daiba-machi, Gotō-machi, Motofuna-machi, Nishiuwa-machi and Shimochikugo-machi. Serious fires had also broken out in the area north of these neighborhoods, namely Yachiyo-machi, Nishizaka-machi, Zenza-machi, Takenokubo-machi and Inasa-machi on the opposite side of Nagasaki Harbor. These fires temporarily hampered access between the hypocenter area and central Nagasaki.
The fires in the latter area began in the elevated district encompassing Nagasaki City Hall, Nagasaki Prefectural Office and other government buildings. Winds reached a maximum speed of eight meters per second here. As a result, the fire grew and spread to the low-lying neighborhoods to the east such as Tsuki-machi, Motoshita-machi, Sakaya-machi and Imauono-machi. By the middle of the night, about 30 machi (city quarters) had burned to the ground.
In several places, including the Nagasaki Prefectural Office, the strange phenomenon of spontaneous ignition occurred. In Fukuro-machi, a hemp palm tree in front of the municipal auditorium suddenly began to burn. The fire was extinguished by a bucket brigade led by Mr. Jyūbashi, chief of the wartime life division at City Hall. Also in Fukuro-machi, around 2:30 p.m., a window frame on the second floor of the city waterworks building caught fire, and Mr. Sumita (chief of the general affairs division) and Mr. Uno (section chief) extinguished it. They had been on their way to City Hall from their evacuation site at Koshima Elementary School when they discovered the fire and poured water over it from a large vase (despite their efforts the building later burned down).
Furthermore, the tips of many electric poles suddenly caught fire, such as those in front of the police station near City Hall and Katsuyama Elementary School. When these fires broke out is unclear. Fires also suddenly erupted in rice paddies near Michino’o.
Around 12:30 p.m., fire broke out in the main building of Nagasaki Prefectural Office, located 3.3 km from the hypocenter in Matsuyama-machi. This was the most distant point of ignition in the central part of Nagasaki. The first indication of fire was a column of white smoke rising from the bronze roof. Since the three-story brick building stood on the south edge of a hill, many people witnessed the white smoke.
Ogawa Takeshi, a reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, noticed the column of smoke from the hillside in Tera-machi, where he had evacuated. He also saw smoke rising from the roof of the Nagasaki Shimbun Office and reported seeing several columns of black smoke rising from the high roof of Nagasaki Railroad Station, like steam being emitted intermittently by machines.
Okuda Kunio, an engineer working in the hygiene section at the time, discovered the fire in the main building of the prefectural office and initiated firefighting activities. When he first witnessed the fire, he was in the annex on the hill at Edo-machi. The annex was a two-story wooden building, with a parking lot and cafeteria at ground level and the hygiene section of the police division on the second floor. Okuda reported on the firefighting activities as follows:
After a while, I looked out a window, the glass panes of which had been blown away by the blast. I saw a thin column of white smoke rising from the dome of the main building. With my coworkers in the section at the time, I went to the second floor of the main building. Setting ladders against a wall in the governor’s office, we looked inside the dome and found that the beams, which were framed vertically and horizontally, were burning.
In front of the governor’s office, there was a row of large tubs filled with water. We immediately climbed the ladders and began to spray the water onto the fire using manual pumps. This succeeded in bringing the fire under control. If we had continued we could have extinguished the fire, but an air-raid alarm was sounded and we jumped down the ladders and rushed into the air-raid shelter built in the corridor. After a while, we left and resumed our firefighting activities, but the alarm sounded again and we had to take cover. We repeated this several times, and soon the fire grew out of control. When our manual pumps became useless, we gave up our firefighting activities and fled from the building. 132
Fire soon erupted from the bronze roof of the main building, but few prefecture employees were aware of the fact. Okazawa Suginosuke, accounting section chief at the time, learned about it for the first time from verbal reports:
At the time, I was responsible for maintenance of the prefectural office buildings. I heard people shouting that a fire had broken out in the office and immediately began firefighting activities.
Seeing a column of smoke rising from the building, some employees nearby rushed inside to save important documents. There was one gasoline pump available, but it wasn’t powerful enough to extinguish the fire overhead. I rushed to the fire department and asked the chief, Fujimoto Sōshirō, to send fire trucks. However, since the department was very busy dealing with the fires in Urakami, I was able to secure only one fire truck. On the way back to the prefectural office, an air- raid alarm was sounded and I sought shelter. After a while, the fire truck began to fight the fire, but it was too late. 133
The fire soon spread to the Nagasaki Prefecture Assembly Hall, nearby private residences, and the buildings of the Nagasaki District Court.
The destruction of the Nagasaki District Court buildings by fire is described in detail in a report submitted on August 15 to the associate attorney general by Ishida Hisashi, president of the Nagasaki District Court, and Yamai Hiroshi, prosecutor in the public prosecutor’s office of the Nagasaki District Court. The following is an excerpt from the report:
On August 9, air-raid alerts and warnings were issued two or three times, but it was shortly after 11:00 a.m., when the alarms had been lifted, that the atomic bomb exploded. At the time, employees were working in the district court, ward court and the public prosecutor’s office (in fact some court cases had already started). There was a sudden flash of light and an explosion. Everyone tried to evacuate, but the buildings were severely damaged. In the district court, the roof fell in on the president’s office, conference rooms and other rooms on the second floor. Moreover, public waiting rooms and arbitration rooms on the second floor were completely destroyed. In the ward court, judges’ offices were severely damaged. Furthermore, almost all the roof tiles were blown off, doors and windows broken, earthen walls shattered, and office supplies scattered on the floor. The building was so damaged that it could not be used without large-scale repair. The appellate court was also severely damaged.
Private residences around the court buildings had also suffered severe damage. There had been no sign of fire anywhere in the vicinity that morning, but around noon columns of black smoke could be seen in the distance to the north, indicating the outbreak of fires. Shortly after noon, we urged the many employees who had suffered injuries to go home. Around 1:00 p.m., fire broke out in the main building of the Nagasaki Prefectural Office in Hokaura-machi (apparently due to spontaneous combustion). Around 2:00 p.m., despite the efforts of firefighters, the fire spread to the annex of the prefectural office and burned wildly. The fire also spread to the building housing the jury courts of the district court, located downwind. After a while, fire broke out in the appellate court building (it is unclear whether the fire was due to the spread of fire or to spontaneous combustion). To secure the safety of the district court underground warehouse, employees immediately shut the doors of the warehouse and began firefighting activities. However, a strong wind was blowing at the time, fanning the fire. In about one hour, despite the efforts of firefighters, all the wooden parts of the court buildings and warehouse were gutted. In the evening, the fire finally subsided, after spreading to Motohakata-machi, Shin-machi and Kōzen-machi.
A month earlier, the Nagasaki District Court and the Nagasaki Appellate Court had requested that Nagasaki Prefecture store portraits of the emperor safely in a storage vault in the commander’s office of the Prefecture Defense Headquarters, located in a tunnel-type shelter near Suwa Shintō Shrine. The shelter escaped damage. It has already been confirmed that the portraits are undamaged.
The court buildings burned to the ground in about an hour, and the smoldering pillars and beams rolled down the east hill and caused fires in Motoshita-machi. The report entitled Genbakujōhō daisanpō (Third Report on Air-Raid Damage) includes information on the following buildings completely burned as of 3:00 p.m., August 9:
Nagasaki Medical College (Sakamoto-machi)
Nagasaki Prefectural Office (Hokaura-machi)
Former Nagasaki Appellate Court, Nagasaki District Court, Nagasaki District Court Public Prosecutor’s Office, Nagasaki Ward Court and Nagasaki Ward Court Public Prosecutor’s Office (Manzai-machi)
Around 3:00 p.m., fires broke out in the Shinnagasaki Hotel, Asahi Shimbun Nagasaki Bureau (Hokaura-machi), Uenoya Ryokan Hotel (Manzai-machi), Nagasaki Shimbun Office, Holy Trinity Church, Nagasaki Branch of Nippon Kangyō Bank, Nagasaki Branch of Meiji Insurance Company and Nagasaki Branch of Nishinippon Shimbun on the second floor of the Meiji Insurance Company building (Ōmura-machi). Spreading to the north, the fires destroyed Motohakata Post Office, Jūseisha Office (Motohakata-machi) and Nagasaki Women’s Commercial School (Shin-machi). The fires were gradually approaching Nagasaki City Hall. It was around 5:30 p.m. that Motohakata Post Office succumbed to the flames.
Perceiving the risk of a conflagration, the staff at the relief center in Shinkōzen Elementary School, located downwind, temporarily suspended their activities and moved all of the patients in the relief center, under the scorching sun, to the relief centers at Katsuyama Elementary School, Togiya Elementary School, Irabayashi Elementary School, the Nagasaki Branch of the Japanese Red Cross Society and other facilities. While the seriously injured were carried on stretchers, the slightly injured walked without assistance.
During the ordinary Prefecture Assembly of December 1945, Nagasaki Prefecture Governor Nagano Wakamatsu expressed regret over the destruction of the prefecture office buildings and responded to a question from assembly member Fujimatsu Yoshio as follows:
I would like to apologize to the people of Nagasaki for the destruction of the prefectural office by fire… The atomic bomb was different from incendiary bombs. After the atomic bombing, fires started from the rooftops. It was difficult for bucket brigades to check the spread of fire overhead. Furthermore, air-raid alarms were repeatedly issued, raising fear that the office would be attacked again… Of course, even after the alarms were issued, some of the office staff continued their firefighting activities… Despite their efforts, however, the buildings burned down, a fact that causes me terrible regret. I express my deep apologies.
The governor also responded to a question from assembly member Nakayama Hachirō:
Please let me continue. It is said that the fire at the Nagasaki Prefectural Office ignited other fires. I don’t mean to make excuses, but it is a fact that other large fires had already broken out before spreading to the office. Actually, it is rather difficult for me to accept the opinion that the office fire caused the fires sweeping through Nagasaki, although I can understand that some people might say so.
The above replies from the governor shed light on what happened in and around the Nagasaki Prefecture Office on the afternoon of the atomic bombing.
Due to the destruction of the Nagasaki Prefectural Office, the Nagasaki Prefecture Assembly of December 1945 convened for one day in the Nagasaki Prefecture Women’s High School auditorium and then moved to Katsuyama Elementary School.
Nagasaki City Hall managed to escape the spread of fire, due to firefighting activities by municipal employees and a change in wind direction.
Around noon on August 9, the municipal authorities adopted an emergency measure: while some employees, including Nagasaki City Defense Headquarters Chief Naruse Kaoru, remained at City Hall, everyone else, including Mayor Okada Jukichi, took shelter at Koshima Elementary School in Atago-machi, designated earlier as a secondary evacuation shelter. This emergency measure arose from the concern that more bombs might be dropped on Nagasaki. Nagasaki City Hall was severely damaged by the blast, and many employees suffered injuries. Koshima Elementary School was located in a valley and deemed safer than Katsuyama Elementary School, which had been designated as the primary evacuation shelter. However, even though Koshima Elementary School was located about 4.7 km from the hypocenter, the school’s iron door was dented, indicating the tremendous explosive power generated by the atomic bomb.
Mayor Okada and the other employees soon returned from Koshima Elementary School to City Hall. No small enemy aircraft were flying over the city, nor had any subsequent bombs been dropped, but the mayor and his staff were informed that fire had broken out in the prefectural office. Around 2:30 p.m., they arrived at City Hall and began to prepare for the spread of the fire.
Regarding these preparations, Takeda Yūsuke, formerly defense section chief, provides the following testimony:
Crossing the bridge over Nakashima River from Enokizu-machi with the mayor, I noticed smoke rising from the roof of the prefectural office. As soon as we reached City Hall I climbed up to the lookout tower. From this vantage point I could see that the fires were raging out of control. Fanned by a seasonal westerly wind, the fires were spreading quickly to homes in the adjacent Hokaura-machi, Ōmura-machi and Kōzen-machi neighborhoods, and to the lower neighborhoods of Motoshita-machi and Hikichi-machi.
When the conflagration threatened to spread from Kōzen-machi to the neighborhoods adjacent to Nagasaki City Hall, the mayor ordered all municipal employees to organize themselves and to prepare to fight the fires. ‘We cannot allow City Hall to burn,’ said the mayor. ‘We have to focus all the strength of the members of the defense headquarters on protecting the buildings.’ He then ordered me to organize the firefighting teams.
I lost no time in putting together a firefighting team, deciding on the measures to be taken and giving individual instructions to each person concerned. By 4:30 p.m. the blaze had spread from Motoshita-machi to Sakaya-machi.
I left for Fukuro-machi with Mr. Naruse, chief of the defense headquarters, to check on the situation at the water supply bureau, sanitation section, and wartime subsistence department at the city auditorium. We found the water supply bureau and sanitation section deserted; the entire staff had already taken refuge elsewhere. At the wartime subsistence department, however, we found Mr. Jyūbashi, and while we were talking with him, the palm tree in front of the building suddenly burst into flames. The three of us put out the fire by means of a bucket relay from the first floor.
Around 5:30 p.m., two municipal employees appeared at the defense headquarters covered in sweat and dirt and suffering from severe burns all over their bodies. Both had been exposed to the flash of heat generated by the explosion, one at the Urakami Reservoir and the other at a construction site in Aburagi-machi. It was a pitiful sight. When I asked the latter, Mr. Matsuo, how he could have walked all the way from Aburagi-machi, he answered, ‘I could not walk along the roads in Urakami. I walked through the river from Ōhashi to Inasa Bridge and then followed the roads from there.’ Both men were in urgent need of medical care, but there were no doctors or medical supplies available and so we could do nothing.
Although his companion left to return to the water supply bureau, Mr. Matsuo remained behind so that we could treat his burns with the sesame oil stored in the defense headquarters. ‘This will probably hurt but try to endure it,’ I said as I poured the oil over his head and let it ooze down the upper half of his body. After that I had several other employees carry him by stretcher to the relief station at Togiya Elementary School. I learned with great sadness that the treatment had been in vain and that he died at his home several days later.
By 6:00 p.m. the conflagration had extended from the area in front of Nagasaki Railroad Station to Daikoku-machi, Ebisu-machi and Ogawa-machi. Another fire burning from the direction of Shin-machi had extended to the neighborhoods behind Shinkōzen Elementary School and was licking at the back door of the Shironita Barber Shop. It seemed inevitable that the flames would reach City Hall. The mayor issued an emergency order for all important documents and other movable property to be evacuated to the cleared-out lot in Uchinaka-machi.
The employees in each section immediately removed everything they could carry from the building. Two or three persons were left to guard the materials while the others endeavored to stave off the fire burning its way toward City Hall.
Around 8:00 p.m., an order came from the mayor for all employees remaining in City Hall to come to the defense headquarters for final instructions, but only 36 people including the chief of headquarters gathered. The turnout was so small that not so much as a whisper was heard from the ranks of those assembled. I felt more irritation than anything else. Still, the mayor's subsequent words of encouragement were deeply moving and infused us with a renewed determination to do everything in our power to minimize the damage caused by the bombing.
By 8:30 the fire in Kōzen-machi had reached the rear of Sushi Ichi Restaurant, and the fire in Sakaya-machi had burned as far as the base of Gondō Hospital in Hikichi-machi. Around that time a small platoon led by an army officer appeared at the defense headquarters. ‘City Hall is in serious danger,’ said the officer in a peremptory tone of voice. ‘Immediately order your staff to demolish the adjacent houses to prevent the fires from reaching City Hall. The army will assist you.’
‘That is no doubt a good idea,’ I answered. ‘But certain procedures must be followed in demolishing private homes for fire-prevention purposes. Without specific orders from the governor, the mayor does not have the authority to issue that order. At any rate, we have neither the personnel nor the equipment to carry out such a task. We still have time, so I will contact our local fire-prevention authorities and confer with them about what action to take.’
‘There is no time for any procedures,’ retorted the officer. ‘The fires are burning right outside. You must act immediately.’ It was as though the officer were issuing an order to his men on the battlefield. When I continued to resist, he shouted, ‘It is pointless to talk to you. I will go to the mayor, and if the mayor refuses to cooperate, the army will go ahead alone.’ I had no way of knowing how the mayor replied, but I learned later that he had taken a position similar to mine.
After a few minutes the officer split his platoon of about 30 men into two groups, dispatching one to Hikichi-machi to demolish the two or three homes including the Kaneko residence, and the other to demolish the houses across the street from City Hall on the Kōzen-machi side. But it was not an easy task, even with the resources of the army. The two groups had managed to dismantle only the rain troughs, storm windows, entrances and part of the roofs of two or three houses when they suddenly left the area.
The special firefighting team composed of city employees meanwhile followed its plan to use gasoline engines and two hose extensions to pump water in the direction of Kōzen-machi and the area below Gondō Hospital. The engines functioned as hoped, but the employees manning the hoses had a very difficult time because there were only two or three instead of the usual five persons to a hose. When I ran from the engine to the end of the hose near the hospital, I found that only one person had been left to subdue the writhing hose and to keep the water aimed at the fire.
It was a display of great courage. After a while, assistance came from the 4th Division of the Umegasaki Civilian Air Defense Corps and the 10th Division of the Nagasaki Air Defense Corps, making it possible to halt the progress of the Kōzen-machi fire at Shironita Barber Shop and that of the Hikichi-machi fire at the rear of Gondō Hospital. These efforts were aided by a timely change in the direction of the wind. By midnight the fires had completely subsided and we were finally able to relax. We had had nothing to eat or drink since breakfast but water. In retrospect, it is remarkable how, despite the lapse of time, the great excitement kept me from feeling any pangs of hunger.
As previously described, the fires in the neighborhoods to the east of the hill running through central Nagasaki started from Motoshita-machi. By early evening, the fire had spread to the public hall in Fukuro-machi. The municipal production, rationing and other sections had been relocated to Fukuro-machi as a wartime evacuation measure. According to Urakami Hisashi, a group chief in the production section at the time, important documents such as rationing ledgers were removed from the debris of windows and walls in the public hall immediately after the atomic bombing and transported to the Protestant church in Ginya-machi across the river. The documents were carried with the aid of about ten soldiers who happened to pass in front of the public hall. As a result, the documents escaped the conflagration. Around the same time that the public hall caught fire, the buildings accommodating the city waterworks division and Nagasaki Kindergarten (temporarily housing the hygiene section) also succumbed to fire.
In his diary, Ezaki Eiichi describes the spread of fire in the central neighborhoods of Nagasaki. According to him, the wind direction changed to the southeast around sunset, fanning the blaze. The fire spread to Sakaya-machi and Hikichi-machi. Defense units visited private residences located downwind and urged residents to evacuate immediately. By this time people had already begun to transport their belongings to community shelters near Nakashima River. Moreover, military units ordered people to quit their homes and began to destroy private residences to keep the fires from spreading. It is unclear how many residences were destroyed as a result. Although the wind became weaker around 2:00 a.m., the fire continued to spread. Fire trucks, fuel and firefighting personnel were insufficient, but local residents joined in firefighting activities and tried to bring the conflagration under control. Around 5:00 a.m., after having burned out the Kaminokiri area along the electric tramway in Imauono-machi, the fires finally subsided.
According to Matsuzaki Kiyoji, the welfare section chief at the time, Nagasaki City distributed emergency food in cooperation with Nagasaki Prefecture on the evening of the atomic bombing, although it is unclear at what time this food was distributed. Volunteer meal preparation units had been organized long before the atomic bombing, but they did not operate that day, and dry sesame-seed biscuits were distributed to residents of the city core as a stopgap measure. Food distribution centers were established at Togiya Elementary School and Irabayashi Elementary School. Although the city hall staff announced the food distribution using megaphones, few people came to the centers because most residents had already left their homes to take shelter in the mountains.
As of August 1, 1945, fire prevention in Nagasaki City was the responsibility of the Nagasaki Fire Battalion led by Nagasaki Fire Chief Fujimoto Sōshirō. The battalion consisted of the Nagasaki Fire Department 1st Company (three platoons and six teams), Destruction Fire Unit (two companies and three emergency units), Nagasaki Defense Unit 2nd Company (four platoons and 13 teams), Umegasaki Defense Unit 3rd Company (two platoons and four teams) and Inasa Defense Unit 4th Company (two platoons and seven teams).
Moreover, the battalion also included cooperation units from Nagasaki Medical College, Nagasaki City Commercial School and Nagasaki Teachers School, serving as messengers and drivers. For firefighting equipment, the battalion had 36 pumper trucks, 64 cart-type gasoline pumps and 42 manual pumps. Of this equipment, seven pumper trucks, 14 cart-type gasoline pumps and two manual pumps had been damaged by the atomic bomb explosion (with two of the seven trucks completely destroyed), which decreased the amount of equipment available for firefighting.
With regard to the day of the atomic bombing, a Nagasaki Fire Department record states that, “the atomic bomb exploded around 11:05 a.m. There was a flash and then heat and blast pressure, generating an atomic cloud. The actual explosion was not audible in the city, but the noise of crashing objects followed the flash of light, and a cloud of dust arose, obscuring the city for a short time.”
The cloud of dust settled in about five minutes, and visibility gradually improved. It turned out that the communication line between the city hall watchtower and Nagasaki Fire Department had been severed. The employees in charge of the watchtower immediately went to the roof of Shinkōzen Elementary School, located in front of the fire department. As an emergency measure, they were ordered to report the occurrence and spread of fires to the department using megaphones. The staff identified a fire around Nagasaki Railroad Station. In response to this report, the department’s firefighting teams (the 1st and 2nd teams) hurried to the station.
By this time, the Urakami, Shiroyama and Takenokubo neighborhoods were already engulfed in flames and black smoke. Despite the grave situation in these areas, it was difficult for fire engines to reach them because of the debris of destroyed houses.
The 2nd team arrived at the station first and assumed responsibility for firefighting in the area around the station. The 1st team meanwhile proceeded to the area around the Saibu Gas Co. in Yachiyo-machi and established a temporary base near Kotobuki Bridge. Using four water hoses, the team pumped water from the nearby river to check the spread of fire to the gas tanks (water injection cooling).
The 2nd team established a temporary base near the 100-ton water tank in front of the station and, climbing onto the roof, extinguished the fire in the lookout post. After that, another fire soon broke out from the roof of Daikokukan, the theater in front of the station. The team hurried to the second floor of the theater and used their six water hoses to douse the fire. By this time other small fires were breaking out near the station and merging to form a large conflagration. The team did not have sufficient manpower to keep the fire from spreading. Nagasaki Fire Department Chief Fujimoto therefore ordered the satellite station in Matsugae-machi to support the firefighting here.
However, the fires continued spreading. At around 1:00 p.m., the fires threatened to surround the 1st team near Saibu Gas Co., the 2nd team near the station and the 3rd team dispatched from the satellite station in Matsugae-machi. The only choice was to retreat. All the firefighters could do was pump water onto nearby houses in an attempt to halt the spread of fire. The 3rd team moved to the area near the Kyūshū Electric Distribution Co. (currently a Saibu Gas Co. subsidiary) in Gotō-machi to keep the fires from spreading there. After a while, the fires began to burn fiercely in the area stretching from the station to Gotō-machi. All three teams reluctantly abandoned their firefighting activities and moved to the Nagasaki Prefectural Office.
Several plumes of smoke were seen near the prefectural office and in the Inasa neighborhood. Fires also broke out in Kanaya-machi, near the fire department. Facing the unprecedented situation of so many simultaneous fires, Fire Chief Fujimoto ordered all firefighting teams in the city to gather at fire department headquarters. However, since the entire city was in a state of panic and devastation, only three teams from Nagasaki and Umegasaki appeared.
Three teams, namely the 1st team, 3rd team and another team with a standby fire engine, fought the fire at the prefectural office. They pumped water on three places including the main building and the assembly hall. Nevertheless, the fire gutted the prefectural office by around 3:00 p.m. As previously stated, the fire was fanned by winds reaching a speed of 8 m/s. Having consumed the prefectural office, the fire continued to spread, forcing the teams to retreat. When fire broke out in the Meiji Insurance Company Nagasaki Branch Office at around 4:00 p.m., the teams were in Motohakata-machi.
In the areas near the municipal markets in Motoshita-machi and Tsuki-machi, the 2nd team and two teams from Nagasaki and Umegasaki battled the fires. However, as with the fires on the hill, the fires in Motoshita-machi and Tsuki-machi were fanned by the wind and resisted all efforts to check their spread. The teams had no choice but to retreat. When the fires spread to Nagasaki Women’s Commercial School at around 6:00 p.m., the 2nd team joined the above three teams (1st team, 3rd team and another team with a standby fire engine). All of the teams held their ground along the final control line from Shinkōzen Elementary School to the fire department. They did their utmost and finally managed to bring the fire under control.
Around 1:00 a.m. on August 10, the Nagasaki Fire Department relocated its headquarters to the area in front of the Nagasaki Prefectural Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Economic in Sakura-machi. At dawn, all the teams began to remove embers from the debris of the major buildings, such as the prefectural office, Meiji Insurance Company Nagasaki Branch, and Nagasaki Women’s Commercial School.
In the Inasa neighborhood, the 4th team of the satellite station in Inasa-machi and defense units played an important role in fighting fires. Immediately after the atomic bombing, they extinguished a fire in the Inasa Elementary School auditorium. By 8:00 p.m., they had stopped the spread of fires that had broken out in several places in the 2-chōme and 3-chōme blocks of Inasa-machi. On the morning of August 10, they also succeeded in minimizing damage from a fire in the Imperial Marine Products Administrative Co. (Asahimachi ice-making plant) in Asahi-machi. Moreover, they removed embers from the debris of the Mitsubishi Shipyard Inasa Lumbermill.
130 Hibaku wo Kataru [Talking about the Atomic Bombing], recorded by the Nagasaki Broadcasting Co. ^
131 Kojima Noboru, Tennō (Bungeishunjū, 1981), Vol.5 ^
132 Nagasaki City Medical Association Report, Part 10, Vol.4) ^
133 Atomic Bomb 30-Year Anniversary Meeting ^