A-Bomb Essay, Research Paper
3. The Greater East Asia War and the A-Bomb
3.1 The Greater East Asia war
Along with expansion of its role as a military city, Hiroshima became a modern city.
After the Manchurian Incident, the Shanghai Incident, and the outbreak of the full-scale war between Japan and China, the Japanese army and navy launched an attack on the northen Malay Peninsula and attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on December 8, 1941 (Japan time). Japan rushed into the Greater East Asia War (the Pacific War). In Hiroshima, a center of military affairs since the Sino-Japanese and the Russo-Japanese wars, military installations were expanded and various heavy industries developed rapidly.
In 1942, a Marine headquarters (under the command of Lieutenant General Fumio Saeki) was set up in Ujina, and related units were placed on the coast around Hiroshima City. Later, when the atomic bomb was dropped, these units, located about 4 kilometers away from the city, escaped destruction. They sent out relief squads and took a very active part in aiding the wounded, clearing the dead bodies and cleaning the streets.
3.2 Preparations for the Decisive Battle on the Mainland
After the outbreak of the war, the air defense setup of the city was rapidly strengthened and was much stronger than in other cities. However, after Japan, which had been victorious in the early stages of the war, lost the battle of Guadalcanal in 1943, the military situation grew steadily worse, and it appeared that the mainland of Japan would be turned into a battlefield. The army hurriedly prepared for a decisive battle on the mainland. With these preparations Hiroshima was to take on a new role. Japan was divided into two parts; the First General Headquarters was placed in Tokyo, and the Second General Headquarters (under the command of Marshal Shunroku Hata) in Hiroshima, where the headquarters of the Chugoku District Governor-General (led by Isei Otsuka), the highest administrative body commissioned by the central government, was also established.
In 1944, U.S. forces occupied Saipan, the last strategic point of the Japanese army on the south Pacific front, and established an air base from which to attack the mainland of Japan. In November full-scale air raids were begun, devastating the cities of Japan one by one.
Under such conditions, Hiroshima City began the evacuation of students above the third grade of elementary school and of other citizens whose presence was not essential. With the threat of incendiary bombings, demolition of buildings to make fire lanes was carried out on a wide scale. For the demolition of buildings, volunteer army corps in various places, organized according to the National Volunteer Army Conscription Law, and mobilized students of various middle schools and girls’ schools were gathered to engage in the work each day.
An evacuation plan for citizens was made in preparation for the outbreak of a major conflagration caused by air raids. The evacuation destination of each neighborhood association was specified in advance in order to avoid confusion. The evacuation of people that had been organized at the outset of the air raids was prohibited near the end of the war in order to secure personnel necessary for air defense.
3.3 Demolition of Hiroshima
On August 6 1945, one atomic bomb instantly destroyed almost all of the houses and buildings in Hiroshima. They caught fire immediately and were reduced to ashes. In the case of wooden houses, those which were within one kilometer of the hypocenter were smashed at the moment of the explopsion. Those in the area between one kilometer and two kilometers from the hypocenter were completely destroyed. Those in the area two to three kilometers away were severely damaged. Even houses three to four kilometers from the center of the explosion were badly damaged.
In the case of reinforced concrete buildings, the roofs of those near the center of the explosion collapsed. Some of the buildings were flattened and became piles of rubble.
A fierce fire followed destruction by the violent blast caused by the explosion. Every building within one kilometer of the hypocenter was totally destroyed by the fire whether it was wooden or reinforced concrete. The buildings located one to two kilometers from the center were mostly destroyed by the fire, and those two to three kilometers from the center were partially destroyed.
Hiroshima Prefectural Government Hall, which was a wooden building 900 meters from the hypocenter, was flattened and burned. Hiroshima City Hall (1.2 kilometers from the center) also caught fire and the entire building was gutted, although the main shell of the hall which was reinforced concrete, was left standing.
Mayor Awaya died at his home and a great many officials were killed in their offices. The A-bomb destroyed all levels of administration, transportation facilities, including railroads, the communication system, journalism, offices, factories of private and public corporations, and all other facilities. The total destruction of these facilities caused such great confusion that it was utterly impossible to grasp the number of dead and wounded.
Army troops deployed around Hiroshima Castle, which was the center of Hiroshima as a military city, were nearly annihilated. On the evening of August 6, Vice Inspector General Hattori of the Chugoku District Superintendent’s Office, Director of Hiroshima Prefectural Police Ishihara, and Governor Takano, who had returned from a business trip, gathered at Tamon-in Temple at the entrance to Hijiyama Park. They formed both a temporary prefectural government office and a temporary air-defence headquarters. Thirteen hours later they reported the disastrous situation and asked for help from the central government and other related organizations. Therefore relief activities on the day of the explosion were limited to the Akatsuki Corps sent from Ujina, naval personnel sent from the naval base at Kure, and a few small hospitals which survived the disaster.
3.4 Life in the Burnt-out City
About a month after the A-bomb was dropped, the temporary first-aid stations established in hospitals and schools around the city, gradually returned to normalcy. People who had escaped to the suburbs began to come back one by one to the city which had become a wide stretch of burnt-out ruins. They built shacks made of tin sheets dug out of the ruins and started life again. However, back in the city, they experienced a state of lethargy since there were no companies or factories to employ them, there was not enough food to eat, and they were worried about developing A-bomb related diseases. At that time, a typhoon hit the city. It raged from the middle of the night on September 17 to the next morning. The burnt city was completely sub-merged and the air-raid shelters and shacks in which the A-bomb survivors lived were destroyed. The people were hard hit, losing their place to sleep and what little belongings they had. Quite a few of them gave up living in the city and went back to the countryside again. After the typhoon had passed, autumn suddenly arrived. Beautiful weather continued for some time and green weeds started to grow here and there in the burnt city. The plants were horseweed, which grew as tall as an adult person. Using the horseweed as a main ingredient, dumplings were made and sold in Eba and other areas which had remained unburnt. People who could go no longer on an empty stomach ate them to relieve their hunger, though they were unappetizing. According to foreign news dispatches, Hiroshima, contaminated by radio- activity, would be barren for the next 70 years and no one would be able to live there. However, finding green weeds starting to grow again, hibakusha (A-bomb survivors) were given new hope for life. Around the middle of September, elementary school children who had been evacuated returned to the city and schools were reopened in the burnt- out shells of ferroconcrete buildings. However, many classes had to be held outside and there were no teaching materials. Moreover the children could not concentrate on their studies because of their empty stomachs. Among those children who had returned were some who had lost their homes, parents, and brothers and sisters. Some of them were eventually either put in the custody of relatives living at a distance or adopted. Around that time, black-market stalls were opened by discharged soldiers and people from other areas along the streets where people gathered in front of Hiroshima Station, and were doing a good business. However, many hibakusha could not afford to buy goods there. They planted vegetable gardens around their shacks after clearing away the rubble. Seedlings and seeds were either supplied by the city office or donated by acquaintances living in the countryside. Winter in the burnt-out city was the severest one in many years. In this freezing cold weather, hibakusha made fires with the unburnt pieces of wood they had raked up. With this scanty heat they warmed themselves and managed to survive.