I hadn’t planned to, but recently watched a story on SBS TV about 1st year High School Students (aged 12 and 13 years) in August 1945 from various schools in Hiroshima (the seventh largest Japanese city) and outlying areas were taken daily from their classrooms to help clear fire breaks in the city centre and assist city representatives and the army to pull down rows of wooden houses and remove the debri in anticipation of US bombing raids.
Nearly 7% of the city’s residential units had been torn down to make fire breaks.
Japanese military representatives had earlier met with schools to discuss the above project. The school boards were not happy with this request. Although not a direct order, it was made very clear this request could not be refused. For their adored demigod, Emperor Hirohito and Japan these young students had to volunteer their efforts towards the war.
There was a clear blue sky over Hiroshima on the morning of 6 August 1945 at 8.15 am ‘little Boy’ (equivalent of 15,000 tons TNT) was dropped on the city – it was an ideal target being flat and surrounded by hills. It is estimated there were about 27,000 students working on that morning.
The true number of dead will never be known. Initially the US estimated Hiroshima’s population was 255,000. 66,000-70,000 had died with 69,000 or more injured. These figures vary from sources – many of these would die within the next month or so from their serious burns and injuries received and from ongoing sickness for years/decades following.
Junko was home sick from school and was one of few survivors of her school class. Although not wounded, her siblings were and they made their way towards the river anxious to quench their thirst created by the excessive heat, fires and smoke. They joined hundreds and hundreds of burned Japanese of all ages making their way towards one of Hiroshim’a seven rivers seeking water, desperate to cool their red burning bodies and appease their thirst.
Another student survivor who had been working told how he woke to find his class-mates either dead or severely burned. Their clothes and hair burned from their bodies. Red-bodied students now hardly recognisable, were crying for their mothers and water. Those who could walk stumbled towards the river.
All of Hiroshima’s schools would have been lost in the horrific blast. Many families of students resided out of the immediate radius of the city such as Junko’s family. Distraught parents of students from these outer areas went into the flattened city centre in search of their children.
The numbers of Japanese victims Hiroshima and Nagasaki were only a small portion of WW2 deaths. How many lives were lost to Japanese brutality and invasion during the Pacific War between 1940-1945 and in China and Korea from 1937 to 1945.
Let us hope there will never be another world war.