Hiroshima was serene and so was the sky above it as the people continued on their daily routine. Those who noticed the three parachutes imagined that the plane had been hit and that the crew was bailing out or that more propaganda leaflets had been jettisoned. One man, remembering how the last leaflets had shimmered down in the sun, thought, "The Americans have brought us some more beautiful things. -- from "The Rising Sun," by John Toland
That was the day the bomb fell, Aug. 6, 1945. Yesterday, the past was remembered and displayed in the old Senate Office Building, where dozens of artifacts and photographs testified.
The photographs are hardest to look at. No one speaks as they walk from one to the other, held by the fascination of catastrophe. The blackened doll-like figures of mother and child lying in broken arabesques on scorched earth. The black rain that fell that day, traced on a white wall, still standing. The views from the air of the mushroom cloud. The view hours later of a city of cinders. The naked bodies of the wounded, clothes torn away, flesh torn as well.
In glass cases, the twisted artifacts of daily life bear witness to the way the mundane was mutilated. Sake bottles melted together to form a garish sculpture. The burnt, tattered remnants of a teen-agers's clothing, donated by the parents who survived him. A blackened cash box -- "All steel safe," it still reads. "New model with alarm."
Michiko moved through a nightmare world -- past charred bodies -- a crying baby sealed behind the twisted iron bars of a collapsed reinforced-concrete building. She saw someone she knew and called out.
"Who are you?" the other girl asked.
The friend stared at her. "Your nose and eyebrows are gone!" -- from "The Rising Sun."
Akiro Takahaski tries to explain, through an interpreter, why the exhibit is here. He is the director of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. His black suit hides nearly all the burns he received that day as he and his schoolmates stood listening to a morning ceremony.But nothing hides the little finger that is permanently crooked nor the fingernail that continues to grow out blackened and disfigured. He does not remember what he screamed into the night, that first night after the bomb, but his mother told him afterwards. "I hate America," he had screamed. "I hate Tojo," (the Japanese premier).
Later, he says, he began to realize that "the deaths should not be wasted, that by hatred we can not make the deaths of my friends useful. It is important," he says with quiet unblinking eyes, "to transcend hatred, to transcend the agony, to transcend the sorrow. That, at least, is how I feel."
Sen. Mark Hatfield (R-Ore.) saw Hiroshima a month after the bomb exploded and it was through his help that the exhibit was brought to the rotunda, to remain there for the rest of this week. Hatfield rode on a bicycle through what remained of the streets. The smell of decomposed bodies was still in the air. The people were digging through the rubble, looking for the shards of what was left of their lives. Hatfield remembers picking up "a couple of figurines, they were Shinto household gods. They had no color left on them at all," he said. "The heat had blasted it all away."
Then, Hatfield was ambivalent. "The bomb had saved my life," he said. He would have been part of the American invasion force if there had been need for one. "But to see the indiscriminate devastation and to think that now the world has one million times the nuclear explosive power of that one bomb -- maybe this exhibit will give us pause."
Shigeyoshi Morimoto was on his way home to Nagasaki, a nervous and shaken man. Only three days before, he miraculously escaped death in Hiroshima, where he had been working for the past months making anti-aircraft kites for the Army . . . He had fled the city . . . in a coal car bound for Nagasaki and safety . . . As he approached his shop, which was in the center of town, it was almost 11 a.m. . . .
Morimoto, the kitemaker, was breathlessly telling his wife that a terrible bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima and that he feared Nagasaki would be next . . . A blinding blue flash cut off his words. He flung back a trap door in the floor and shoved his wife and infant son into their shelter. As he pulled down the heavy lid there was a terrifying tremor, like an earthquake. -- "The Rising Sun."
Takahashi is asked if the lesson has been learned. He would like to think so, he says, but then he cites a study conducted of Japanese and American teen-agers recently, which showed that 60 percent of them believe there will be a nuclear holocaust in the future.
Outside, in sunlight that left little room for shadows, two young tourists argued with a woman protesting registration for the draft. "I'm an Army brat," said one of them, about the age that Takahashi was that day in August. b"And I'm idealistic and all that. But I know what will happen if we don't have a lot of nuclear weapons." We'll lose, she said. And no, she wasn't going into the rotunda. She knew what was there. Too gory, she said.