A People’s Record of Hiroshima

Fifty-eight years ago, on August 6, 1945, a single atomic bomb dropped by the United States utterly destroyed the city of Hiroshima. Hundreds of thousands of residents died. Those who survived endured the overwhelming grief of losing family and friends and braved bewildering post-war confusion to rebuild their city. Even so, the horror and tragedy of the bombing have never faded from their collective memory. This museum, with the help of NHK Hiroshima Broadcasting Station and the Chugoku Shimbun, conducted an A-bomb drawing campaign entitled “To Convey…the Desire for Peace Across the Centuries.” The drawings we received derived from memories that remain vivid even after a half-century. Invested with still-intense grief for many who died in agony, begging for water, they also expressed the desire to somehow convey that horror, to make sure the world knows what happened. They are truly a people’s record of the atomic bombing, invaluable testimony to the fate nuclear weapons hold in store. Here we display selected drawings along with rare photos from that time and A-bomb artifacts from our collection. Together, they convey with great clarity the situation in Hiroshima after the bombing. These artists support our intent to continue using these drawings to convey the A-bomb horror and appeal for genuine and lasting world peace.
The Mushroom Cloud

The bomb detonated 600 meters above ground, and the cloud created by the rapidly expanded air blew upward fast and high, eventually reaching the stratosphere. The cap of the mushroom spread over several kilometers and was observed with fear and trepidation from distant locations in Hiroshima and even in other prefectures.

A white cloud rose fast into the sky
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A white cloud rose fast into the sky, eventually turning pitch black.
Drawing / Keigo Tanaka 8:15 a.m., August 6, 1945 Approx. 32km from the hypocenter Mibu-cho, Yamagata-gun (now, Chiyoda-cho, Yamagata-gun)

Collapsed Houses

The blast pressure was an extremely high 19 tons per square meter even 500 meters from the hypocenter. Virtually all wooden houses within a radius of 2 kilometers were toppled, their inhabitants instantly crushed or trapped underneath.
young boy was standing on a pile of collapsed roof tiles crying
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This young boy was standing on a pile of collapsed roof tiles crying, “My mother and father are under here! Somebody help them!”
Drawing / Hiroko Onoyama
Approx. 1,200m from the hypocenter
Near the Takanobashi Streetcar Stop

Crowds of people were fleeing to the north
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I crawled desperately and got out from under my house. Crowds of people were fleeing to the north. Some were staggering along with such terrible injuries that their skin was hanging in shreds. Others sat by the road staring vacantly into space. The sight of human beings in this state is beyond imagination.
Drawing / Mitsuko Matsutomi
August 6, 1945
Approx. 1,200m from the hypocenter
Tera-machi

Fire

Throughout the city, flames quickly rose from collapsed buildings, becoming a city-wide conflagration that seemed to scorch the heavens all day and into the night. Those who were able fled for their lives through the flames and black smoke. Countless people were trapped under buildings and burned alive.

Smoke blanketed the sky as Hiroshima City
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Smoke blanketed the sky as Hiroshima City went up in flames.

Photo/ Gonichi Kimura
Approx. 4,200m from hypocenter
Army Marine Training Division Ujima-machi

Those trapped under them were calling for help
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When I came to, I heard houses burning. Those trapped under them were calling for help.
Drawing / Yae Yamamoto
August 6, 1945

Crossing Misasa Bridge carrying a boy 43
Crossing Misasa Bridge carrying a boy who was injured and calling for help.
Drawing / Toyohiko Katagiri
Around 9:00 a.m., August 6, 1945
Approx. 1,500m from the hypocenter
Misasa Bridge


Black Rain

The city was engulfed in a great fire. Powerful fire storms and whirlwinds arose throughout. Beginning 20 to 30 minutes after the bombing, a heavy rain began falling in northwest sections of the city. This rainfall lowered temperatures dramatically. In mid-summer, people shivered from the cold. Furthermore, during the first hour or two, the huge black drops were full of dust, dirt, and soot lifted up by the explosion. The rain was radioactive.

焼け跡に残る電車の残骸
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White wall bearing stains of black rain
Donation / Akijiro Yajima

The black rain fell over injured people.
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Injured people fled along the river to avoid the flames. Then, the black rain fell.
Drawing / Kichinosuke Tamada
August 6, 1945
Approx. 1,300m from the hypocenter
Tenma-cho

he black rain poured. Suddenly
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The black rain poured. Suddenly, it was cold. We all huddled together and waited out the rain in a streetcar.
Drawing / Shigeo Moritomi
Around 10:00 to 10:30 a.m., August 6, 1945
Approx. 1,300m from the hypocenter
Tenma-cho


Victims Fleeing

The horror of the A-bombing was city-wide. Injured victims fled blindly through flame and smoke seeking a safe refuge. Nearly all were naked and in terrible pain, their clothes and skin burned to shreds. Many fell exhausted as they fled, breathing their last on a road or in a river.
The city was a sea of flame.
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The city was a sea of flame. The people fleeing out of it were burned too badly to be recognized even as men or women.
Drawing / Terumasa Hirata
Around 8:45 a.m., August 6, 1945
Approx. 2,200m from the hypocenter
Ushita-machi (now, Ushita-minami 1-chome)

A friend carrying his badly injured daughter
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A friend carrying his badly injured daughter
Drawing / Yasuko Kajino
Afternoon, August 6, 1945
Approx. 1,100m from the hypocenter
Funairi-machi

Hiroshima at Night

The city was destroyed. Transportation and communication were paralyzed. Those who managed to survive received inadequate treatment and little or no food, passing the night in fiery thirst and pain. Many died before morning. The fire continued. From the outskirts of town, people watched in horror as the sky over Hiroshima turned bright red. Full-scale relief activities began the following day.

We slept out on the riverbank 49
We slept out on the riverbank. Here and there corpses were being cremated. We could hear the groans of burned people
Drawing / Takako Yoshioka
Around 10:00 p.m., August 6, 1945
Approx. 3,500m from the hypocenter
Near Ujina-machi


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All night until dawn I spent shivering in a bamboo grove with my mother, brother and sister. I saw bright red flames in the city.
Drawing / Harumi Watanabe
Night, August 6, 1945
Approx. 3,500m from the hypocenter
Near Mitaki-machi

Transporting the Injured

The first to begin relief activities were the soldiers of the Army Marine Headquarters (known as the Akatsuki Corps) stationed in Ujina. They carried the injured to relief stations and outlying towns in trucks, trains, and ships. Those who took the victims in were horrified by their gruesome appearance, the terrible burns covering their bodies, but they cared for them in every way they could.


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Rescuers lifted the injured onto trucks and carried them to safety in the suburbs.
Photo / Mitsuo Matsushige
August 6, 1945
Approx. 8km from the hypocenter
Yasufuruichi-cho, Asa-gun (now, Furuichi, Asaminami-ku)

Many injured victims were carried in hospital by trucks.
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Many injured victims were carried in hospital by trucks.
Drawing / Hatsue Miyoshi
Around 11:50 a.m., August 6, 1945
Approx. 26km from the hypocenter
Saijo-cho, Kamo-gun (now, Higashi Hiroshima City)

Begging for Water

The powerful heat rays from the atomic bomb caused severe burns. Barely covered by tattered clothing, the victims held their peeling arms forward as they wandered in blind confusion. Their burns, the fire, and the mid-August heat made the victims terribly thirsty. Many died without receiving even a final drink.

Injured victims gathered seeking water
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Injured victims gathered seeking water and stared resentfully at the dry water pipe.
Drawing / Shinakichi Suekuni

People burned begged continually for water
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People burned begged continually for water.
Drawing / Yoshihisa Harada
Around 4:00 p.m., August 6, 1945
Approx. 1,750m from the hypocenter
Minami-ohashi Bridge

Corpses in Cisterns

Fire cisterns were placed throughout the city to provide water for fighting fires in the event of an air raid. The fire ignited by the A-bomb, however, vastly exceeded Hiroshima’s fire-fighting capacity. The population was helpless in the face of the ferocious conflagration. Surrounded by fire, many sought safety in the fire cisterns, where they died.

Dead with heads thrust into a fire cistern
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Dead with heads thrust into a fire cistern
Drawing / Takami Aoki

People seeking water piled up on each other in the fire cistern.
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People seeking water piled up on each other in the fire cistern.
Drawing / Yozo Tanaka
Around 1:00 p.m., August 7, 1945
Approx. 1,000m from the hypocenter
Teppo-cho

Corpses Floating in the River

Hiroshima is built on the Otagawa River delta, and the seven rivers running through it were vital to its growth. They provided a convenient network for the transportation of cargo and served as children’s playgrounds as well. After the bombing, burned victims went to the rivers for water. Some jumped in or swam across to escape the fire, but many died in the water, floating down with the current or hung up on the pilings. The Otagawa River was completely full of corpses.

Thousands of bloated corpses drift on the water surface
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Thousands of bloated corpses drift on the water surface.

Drawing / Shunsaburo Tanabe
August 7, 1945
Motoyasugawa River

a completely naked corpse was being tossed by the waves
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Its leg caught on a bridge beam, a completely naked corpse was being tossed by the waves.

Drawing / Kiyomi Kono
August 7, 1945
Approx. 2,250m from the hypocenter
Miyuki Bridge

Corpses in the Ruins

When everything combustible had burned, the fire died down. In the burned ruins lay the charred corpses of those who were trapped under buildings and burned alive. Countless people-adults, children, men and women-suffered this terrifying fate.

Human bones and pieces of metal
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Human bones and pieces of metal

Donation / Junichi Yoshizawa
Approx. 200m from the hypocenter
Nakajima-hon-machi (now, Nakajima-cho)


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The blackened corpses of a woman and the child at her feet appeared to have been trying to get off the streetcar.

Drawing / Miyoshi Kokubo

The ruins were strewn with corpses
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The ruins were strewn with corpses, burned black and thoroughly bloated.

Drawing / Michie Matsushima
Around 10:00 a.m., August 7, 1945
Approx. 450m from the hypocenter
Ko-machi (now, Naka-machi)


The Burned Plain

Within two kilometers of the hypocenter, buildings burned to the ground, leaving nothing but scorched earth. With nothing standing but a few ferro-concrete buildings, the view from Hiroshima Station to Ninoshima Island in Hiroshima Bay was unobstructed. Survivors gathered unburned wood and scorched tin roofing to build shacks in the rubble.

Formerly crammed with houses
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Formerly crammed with houses, the neighborhood was reduced to a burned plain.

Photo / Shigeo Hayashi
Courtesy / Tsuneko Hayashi
Approx. 80m from the hypocenter
Saiku-machi (now, Ote-machi 1-chome)


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I rode my bicycle through the ruined city, my nostrils assaulted by peculiar smells.

Drawing / Yoshio Kawata
Around 9:00 a.m., August 7, 1945
Approx. 2,250m from the hypocenter
Near Miyuki Bridge


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We built a hut in the ruins for our family of four.

Drawing / Sumie Sasaki
Night, August 20, 1945
Approx. 1,700m from the hypocenter
Nishi-kan-on-machi


Mobilized Students

In 1945, schools at the junior high level and above had nearly abandoned schooling. Instead, students were mobilized to work in military factories or demolish buildings for fire lanes. Of the approximately 8,400 students mobilized, 6,300 were killed. The first- and second-year junior high students and girls who were out in the open demolishing buildings in the city center were hardest hit.

Lunch box
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Lunch box

Donation / Shigeru Watanabe
Approx. 500m from the hypocenter
Zaimoku-cho (now, Nakajima-cho)


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Mobilized students lying on each other on the riverbank passed away.

Drawing / Misae Kinoshita
Early morning, August 7, 1945
Honkawa River


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Mothers moved among the wounded mobilized students who had been laid out. When one found her child, she would burst into tears and embrace her or him.

Drawing / Anonymous
August 7, 1945
Approx. 1,700m from the hypocenter
Outside Yokogawa Station, Yokogawa-cho 3-chome


Bridges

With everything destroyed by fire, bridges were precious landmarks for orientation. Many of the fleeing victims rested on or below bridges, often breathing their last there. Seven bridges collapsed or were burned due to the A-bomb, but another 20 were washed away in the typhoon and flooding that struck the city that September and October. These subsequent losses, too, were largely attributable to A-bomb damage.

A cart driver and his horse died 68
A cart driver and his horse died together on the approach to the bridge.

Drawing / Masahiko Nakata
Approx. 1,250m from the hypocenter
Yokogawa-shin Bridge


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Dazed people crouched on the riverbank path at the foot of a bridge.

Drawing / Shizuko Matsunaga
Around 9:00 a.m., August 6, 1945
Approx. 1,750m from the hypocenter
Near Minami-ohashi Bridge


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Near the approach to the bridge lay girls whose clothes had totally burned off.

Drawing / Kazuaki Kui
Approx. 300m from the hypocenter
Aioi Bridge


Mothers and Children

Most victims were ordinary citizens, and the corpses of women and children were found in the burned ruins. The sight of mothers who obviously died trying to protect their babies provoked great sorrow and rage against war.

Utterly alone, a little girl watches over her dead mother 71
Utterly alone, a little girl watches over her dead mother.
Drawing / Toshio Ushio
Before noon, August 7, 1945
Approx. 2,100m from the hypocenter
Eastern Drill Ground Onaga-machi

A mother with child had collapsed and died but still looked alive
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A mother with child had collapsed and died but still looked alive.

Drawing / Yuko Narahara
August 9, 1945

Relief Stations

Relief stations were hastily established in still-standing schools throughout the city and in outlying communities. However, the enormous number of injured soon exhausted medical supplies. There was also a shortage of doctors and nurses, and the victims in relief stations continued to groan and cry in agony.

Injured persons were laid on floors in the school
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Injured persons were laid out on straw mats spread on classroom floors in the school.

Photo / Army Marine Headquarters
Courtesy / Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Casualty Council
Approx. 3,100m from the hypocenter
Oko Elementary School Asahi-machi

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Medicines

Donation / Anonymous
Medicines


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The injured lined up at a relief station set up on the riverbed.

Drawing /Shichi Tsukamoto
Around 2:00 to 3:00 p.m., August 6,1945


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A classroom at Elementary School. People with burned skin peeling, burned all over their bodies, chunks of flesh dangling, begging for water, trying to get help.

Drawing / Takayoshi Yamaoka
August 7, 1945
Approx. 8km from the hypocenter
Kaitaichi-cho, Aki-gun (now, Kaita-cho, Aki-gun)


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A woman fanning away the flies swarming over injured bodies swathed in bandages

Drawing / Takeshi Watanabe
Around August 8 to 10, 1945
Approx. 7km from the hypocenter
Kaitaichi-cho, Aki-gun (now, Kaita-cho, Aki-gun)


Flies and Maggots

Sanitation and hygiene deteriorated rapidly. Hiroshima was soon infested by flies. In the absence of medicine and bandages, flies swarmed open wounds, which were soon crawling with maggots. These emitted a terrible stench and added to the victims・torment.

A man complained 78
A man complained that his head was so itchy he couldn’t sleep. When the swollen wound was opened with pincettes, dozens, hundreds of maggots dropped out.
Drawing / Kyoko Masaki
Around August 8, 1945
Approx. 30km from the hypocenter
Otake-cho, Saeki-gun (now, Otake City)

Injured people with faces
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Injured people with faces so charred and peeling they were unrecognizable. Flies swarmed around them and bred maggots. They died begging for water.

Drawing / Chieno Yamamoto
Within two weeks of August 8, 1945

The maggots that bred in the burns on his back were picked off
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The maggots that bred in the burns on his back were picked off with chopsticks and put into an empty can.

Drawing / Michiko Yamamura
August 16, 1945
Approx. 23km from the hypocenter
Suzuhari-mura, Asa-gun (now, Suzuhari, Asa-cho, Asakita-ku)


Gathering and Cremating Corpses

The vast numbers of corpses filling the burned ruins and the rivers were gathered by military and civil defense teams. In the mid-August heat, corpses immediately began to decompose and smell, so they were cremated one after the next without even confirming their identities. All around the city, smoke rose from cremation fires day and night.


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Cremating on the riverbank bodies gathered in trucks

Drawing / Shigeo Fujii
August 17, 1945
Approx. 2,000m from the hypocenter
Fukushima-cho

Countless blistered, gray, unrecognizable corpses
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Countless blistered, gray, unrecognizable corpses

Drawing / Anonymous
3:00 to 4:00 p.m., August 8, 1945
Approx. 250m from the hypocenter
Moto-machi


Searching for Family

People walked through the burned ruins to relief stations searching for family members who had left home that morning and failed to return. With transportation and communication paralyzed and the city in turmoil, this was no easy task. Eyes, noses and other features in burned, swollen faces were unrecognizable. Those searching had to listen for familiar voices and look carefully at victims’ belongings. Many simply vanished without a trace.


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Among victims burned beyond recognition, I found my uncle calling for my aunt in a weak voice. He breathed his last four hours later.

Drawing / Yukiko Migitani
Approx. 1,700m from the hypocenter
Yokogawa-cho 3-chome


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Myself, six years old, searching for my missing mother. A corpse with its entire face burned copper and swollen, only the area around its eyes still white. Under the mid-summer sun, the stench was unbearable.

Drawing / Katsuko Kuwamoto
August 8, 1945


The Deaths of Loved One

The atomic bomb killed indiscriminately. Most survivors lost their family members. Time can never fully heal the grief of suddenly and incomprehensibly losing several loved ones.

Me digging my father's remains

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Me digging my father’s remains out of the still-hot ruins of our house.

Drawing / Taeko Matsui
Around noon, August 8, 1945
Approx. 350m from the hypocenter
Togiya-cho (now, Kamiya-cho 1-chome)


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My younger sister waiting for our father to return. Every time she saw a man, she would follow him calling, “Daddy’s home!” She waited for him day after day.

Drawing / Hisako Aobara
Approx. 4.4km from the hypocenter
Gion-cho, Asa-gun (now, Gion, Asaminami-ku)

Acute Effects

Symptoms appearing within a short time of the bombing were called acute effects. The distinctive characteristic of the A-bomb was its massive emission of radiation. Radiation destroys cells, bone marrow and other blood-forming functions, causing serious damage to human bodies. Many survivors with no external injuries whatsoever suddenly lost their hair, vomited blood, became covered with purple spots and died.


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People went completely bald, bled from their skin and gums, and later died.

Drawing / Fumie Munakata


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Me holding my hair that had just fallen out. Beginning about September, I developed a fever and lost my hair, even my eyebrows. I was as bald as a monk.

Drawing / Midori Harada
September 1945

Recovery

Even under the hellish conditions after the bombing, the people had to find a way to live. They built shacks in the burned ruins, reopened schools, and taught their children in open air classrooms. And new life was born.


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Survivors worked together to gather materials and build shacks

Courtesy / Mainichi Shimbun
September 12, 1945
Approx. 1,250m from the hypocenter
Shimo-yanagi-cho (now, Kanayama-cho)


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Flag with メReconstructionモ written in charcoal ink

Donation / Taiji Obara


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School reopens at Koi Elementary School. However, the crematory site in the playground was still piled with cremated human ash and bone.

Drawing / Takashi Nagara
September 18, 1945
Approx. 2,900m from the hypocenter
Koi-machi


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With people dying one after the next and my mother herself hovering on the brink of death, she miraculously survived and gave birth.

Drawing / Shoji Yamaguchi
Approx. 70km from the hypocenter
Yamanouchi-nishi-son, Hiba-gun (now, Shobara City)

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