Wasteland of War: Part I

June 23rd, 2005 - by admin

George Weller / Chicago Daily News – 2005-06-23 23:42:43


NAGASAKI, Sept.8, 19445 — The atomic bomb may be classified as a weapon capable of being used indiscriminately, but its use in Nagasaki was selective and proper and as merciful as such a gigantic force could be expected to be.

The following conclusions were made by the writer — as the first visitor to inspect the ruins — after an exhaustive, though still incomplete study of this wasteland of war.

Nagasaki is an island roughly resembling Manhattan in size and shape, running in north and south direction with ocean inlets on both sides, what would be the New Jersey and Manhattan sides of the Hudson river are lined with huge-war plants owned by the Mitsubishi and Kawanami families.

The Kawanami shipbuilding plants, employing about 20,000 workmen, lie on both sides of the harbor mouth on what corresponds to battery park and Ellis island. That is about five miles from the epicenter of the explosion.

B-29 raids before the Atomic bomb failed to damage them and they are still hardly scarred.

Proceeding up the Nagasaki harbor, which is lined with docks on both sides like the Hudson, one perceives the shores narrowing toward a bottleneck. The beautiful green hills are nearer at hand, standing beyond the long rows of industrial plants, which are all Mitsubishi on both sides of the river.

On the left, or Jersey side, two miles beyond the Kawanami yards are Mitsubishi’s shipbuilding and electrical engine plants employing 20,000 and 8,000 respectively. The shipbuilding plant damaged by a raid before the atomic bomb, but not badly. The electrical plant is undamaged. It is three miles from the epicenter of the atomic bomb and repairable.

It is about two miles from the scene of the bomb’s 1,500 feet high explosion where the harbor has narrowed to 250 foot wide Urakame River that the atomic bomb’s force begins to be discernible.

This area is north of downtown Nagasaki, whose buildings suffered some freakish destruction, but are generally still sound.

The railroad station, destroyed except for the platforms is already operating. Normally it is sort of a gate to the destroyed part of the Urakame valley. In parallel north and south lines? here the Urakame river, Mitsubishi plants on both sides, the railroad line and the main road from town.

For two miles stretches a line of congested steel and some concrete factories with the residential district “across the tracks. The atomic bomb landed between and totally destroyed both with half (illegible) living persons in them. The known dead-number 20,000 police tell me they estimate about 4,000 remain to be found.

The reason the deaths were so high — the wounded being about twice as many according to Japanese official figures — was twofold:

1. Mitsubishi air raid shelters were totally inadequate and the civilian shelters remote and limited.

2. That the Japanese air warning system was a total failure.

I inspected half a dozen crude short tunnels in the rock wall valley which the Mitsubishi Co., considered shelters. I also picked my way through the tangled iron girders and curling roofs of the main factories to see concrete shelters four inches thick but totally inadequate in number. Only a grey concrete building topped by a siren, where the clerical staff had worked had reasonable cellar shelters, but nothing resembling the previous had been made.

A general alert had been sounded at seven in the morning, four hours before two B-29’s appeared, but it was ignored by the workmen and most of the population. The police insist that the air raid warning was sounded two minutes before the bomb fell, but most people say they heard none.

As one whittles away at embroidery and checks the stories, the impression grows that the atomic bomb is a tremendous, but not a peculiar weapon. The Japanese have heard the legend from American radio that the ground preserves deadly irradiation. But hours of walking amid the ruins where the odor of decaying flesh is still strong produces in this writer nausea, but no sign or burns or debilitation.

Nobody here in Nagasaki has yet been able to show that the bomb is different than any other, except in a broader extent flash and a more powerful knock-out.

All around the Mitsubishi plant are ruins which one would gladly have spared. The writer spent nearly an hour in 15 deserted buildings in the Nagasaki Medical Institute hospital which (illegible).

Nothing but rats live in the debris choked halls. On the opposite side of the valley and the Urakame river is a three story concrete American mission college called Chin Jei, nearly totally destroyed.

Japanese authorities point out that the home area flattened by American bombs was traditionally the place of Catholic and Christian Japanese.

But sparing these and sparing the allied prison camp, which the Japanese placed next to an armor plate factory would have meant sparing Mitsubishi’s ship parts plant with 1,016 employees who were mostly Allied. It would have spared a Mounting factory connecting with 1,750 employees.

It would have spared three steel foundries on both sides of the Urakame, using ordinarily 3,400 but that day 2,500. And besides sparing many sub-contracting plants now flattened it would have meant leaving untouched the Mitsubishi torpedo and ammunition plant employing 7,500 and which was nearest where the bomb up.

All these latter plants today are hammered flat. But no saboteur creeping among the war plants of death could have placed the atomic bomb by hand more scrupulously given Japan’s inertia about common defense.

A Nagasaki Report: Part 2

“A NAGASAKI REPORT” by George Weller
Copyright (c) 2005 by Anthony Weller.
All rights reserved.
Published with permission of Anthony Weller, Gloucester, Massachusetts through Dunow & Carlson Literary Agency, New York via Tuttle-Mori Agency, Inc., Tokyo.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.