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TAMURA Sawako(TAMURA Sawako) 
Gender Female  Age at time of bombing 21 
Recorded on 2003.10.7  Age at time of recording 79 
Location at time of bombing Nagasaki(Indirect exposure) 
Location when exposed to the bombing  
Status at time of bombing Medical staff 
Occupational status at time of bombing Omura Naval Hospital, Sasebo Headquarters, Navy Command 
Hall site Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims 
Dubbed in English/
With English subtitles
With English subtitles 

TAMURA Sawako was 21, working as a military nurse in a hospital in Omura City, not far from Nagasaki. She helped to receive and treat hundreds of A-bomb victims. Here she describes in detail the damage done by the atomic bomb.
I was living in housing provided by Omura Naval Hospital. Everyone there had been conscripted to work as military nurses. We were a military unit, so we were all living in that housing. Because of the war, even women were getting "red papers" and being drafted, just like soldiers. Each unit comprised about 21 women. We were not told where we were going, so I was happy when I got to Moji City. I thought we were being sent overseas. After a while, we re-entered Kyushu, eventually arriving at the Naval Hospital in Omura. The hospital had medics, doctors and plenty of soldiers as patients. I was assigned to internal medicine, which meant I was almost entirely caring for tuberculosis patients.
That day, I was on duty. I had received  morning instructions from the previous shift at the nurses station on  Ward 5. I had finished one procedure and was just about to take a break. Suddenly, there was an intense flash. It was still in my eyes when there came a loud booming. That was followed by a blast.
I immediately fell to the floor under a desk. The medical journals on the desk all came crashing down. Someone issued an order for us all to evacuate. Having no idea what was going on, I hurried outside. To the west I saw a huge cloud that seemed to be covered with an umbrella. Climbing higher and higher, with red light flashing inside, it gradually took on the shape of what we now know as an atomic cloud. At the time, of course, we had no idea what it was. Later, we learned it was the atomic cloud.
A rescue team was sent from the hospital. By evening, victims were flooding in. People who could walk came in following the train tracks. About 8pm, we started receiving many who were too injured to move. I had been on the internal  ward, not surgery, so the patients I saw had relatively minor problems. Now I was seeing people whose exposed skin was completely burned. Hair singed off; clothes burned to tatters. Their skin seemed to have shrunk and was hanging off them. The victims were nearly all in daze. I heard about 100 of them died that night. Many died before they could tell us their addresses or even their names. From those, we cut hair or fingernails and put them in paper bags. On the bags we wrote descriptions of the person and got them ready to give to family members if they came looking. Because so many were dying, the cremation facilities couldn't keep up. Our hospital was on a small mountain, so soldiers took the dead up the mountain behind us and buried them in the earth.
We took in lots of burn victims, but  we had very little medicine, and they were not ordinary burns. There was a lot of talk about how we should treat them. In the end, we divided into treatment teams of three or four . First, we would disinfect the wounded area with cresol. Next, we would moisten some square gauze with Rivanol. For faces, we made holes for the eyes, nose and mouth. We placed the gauze on the patient's wound,  wrapped it with bandage and sent the patient off to the next station. After our treatment, the patient was transferred to a ward. Dividing into groups, we treated them continuously until about 4 in the morning. Even as we were treating the patients, we worried that the enemy would come back, so at night we worked behind black curtains, allowing no light to get out. When things settled down a little, I looked out the window. The sky was just getting light, which is why I think it was about 4am. We went back to our house and had a meal. From that time on, we worked continuously. We had breaks but no significant time off.  We just kept working. It was summer so we were working inside mosquito netting. Still, flies would get in during treatment procedures. They laid their eggs in the  blisters. When we went to change the patients' bandages, we would find huge maggots engorged with blood. We would cut the surface skin off, disinfect it and bandage it again, but the next day, the maggots were back. Throughout, the smell of feces, burns and medicine filled the air. For 4 or 5 days that smell wouldn't leave my nostrils and I couldn't eat.
Some patients with only light injuries surprised us by losing their hair after 2 or 3 days. This was a symptom of radiation poisoning. Men and women both, just touching their hair caused it to come out in clumps. One girl in the volunteer corps was feeling better after 2 or 3 days so she asked for a comb. When she started combing her hair, it came right out. Her whole head of hair came out at once. Also, usually when we give people shots, the blood clots quickly. In our patients, the needlemark would turn a blackish purple and the area would begin to rot. Because of a lack of white blood cells, their immunity was low. Once the purple spots appeared, they would gradually grow or spread, and in 2 or 3 days, the patient would die.
Because I was treating these patients until late November, I was exposed to the radiation they carried and was indirectly exposed. The atomic bomb released three energies: an inconceivably powerful blast, heat and radiation. I never got cancer, but I did develop fibroids in my uterus and my bones were said to be weak. Some of my friends died of cancer. I got off light.
I got married, but after a while I was divorced, so I had to work desperately to make a living. I had no time for anything else. When my children  were older, I told them I was a hibakusha, but when they were small, I couldn't tell them anything about it. In fact, at first I didn't talk to anyone about it. About the time I got my survivor healthbook, attitudes gradually changed and I started speaking out. Until that time, I just kept quiet. If I hadn't, I wouldn't have been able to get married.
I heard from those who went into the city to do relief work that they were unable to lift up the badly burned corpses by hand. They ended up having to use a tool to lift them up.
That sort of weapon is absolutely unacceptable. I can't ever forget the misery it caused. People around the world are surprisingly casual in their thinking about nuclear weapons. I know it's because they didn't see it and don't really know what it is. If they had seen the atomic bombing, they would know that such weapons can never be used again. If they're used, it will be terrible. The whole area will disappear. The people living there will be killed. Even our little bomb caused such tragedy. The threat is much greater today. If a nuclear weapon is used, everyone anywhere near will just vanish. It's truly frightening.
This is absolutely necessary. Talking about it can never really get it across, but it's a lot better than not hearing about it at all. I was a school nurse in a high school. Whenever I spoke about the atomic bombing, the children's eyes would burn, they were listening so intently. Even if I just casually mention something about it, the people who hear seem to be affected. I think it's vital to keep talking about this and communicating it to people who know nothing about it at all. Otherwise we will gradually go back to fighting wars like before.
Translator: Steve Leeper
Translation superviser: Miwako Sawada
Translation coordination: NET-GTAS(Network of Translators for the Globalization of the Testimonies of Atomic Bomb Survivors)

*Many more memoirs can be viewed at both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki Peace Memorial Halls.
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