The following material was originally submitted to the Association of physically handicapped people in our prefecture. Since then, I have added some more to the material.
It was during WW II when I was a junior high school student, us students were sent to help farmers or to help construct air strip as part of service to the war effort. During those years, due to the lack of necessary food and proper nutrients, I contracted tuberculosis. I subsequently had fundal hemorrhage and lost my eyesight and I was getting treatments at a hospital. It was at that time, the dawn of July 4th, 1945, the city of Kochi was air raided by B29s. The center of the city was flattened by the incendiary bombs and as much as 430 people perished.
Since many other cities had been raided by B29s, I anticipated that sooner or later our city, Kochi, would be bombed, too. Surely, the air raid started when I was staying at my uncle's house right in the middle of the city. We had heard warning sirens alerting us about the Kochi Park air raids since the night before, but we did not feel much urgency. However, I was wildly awakened by the urgent siren at dawn. Hearing the roaring sounds of the air planes, I got dressed quickly and ran outside thinking, "It's going to be a disaster". The incendiary bombs had already hit and burning the main street where the street cars had been running. In spite of the sturdy bomb shelter in our garden, we ran toward the park. But the bomb shelter there was already full. We decided to run toward north since that area was not burning yet. When I looked up, I saw numerous flames from the bombs raining down. We ran as if we were chased by the burning flame to the outside of the city. Even with my very weak eye sight, I could see Kochi City in blazing fire. We returned toward the city around noon but the city was still burning and filled with smoke. The stench filled the air. Finally, I got a rice ball and pickle at the soup kitchen in front of a Tenri Buddhist temple east of the castle and filled my stomach.
I saw, then, a young woman crying as if she was mad. She said she had run away from bombing carrying her new born baby and an emergency bag. On the way, she had to throw away the emergency bag because it became too heavy for her. When she had reached a safe ground, she tried to nurse the baby but to her horror, what she was carrying was the emergency bag instead of the baby. She had searched and searched but could not find the baby. People lose their senses and run for their lives when they are thrown into a life or death crises such as bombing fire.
In other instance, I remember there was a store that sold nuts and beans. That family was running south along the Ohashi Street toward Kagami-river. On the way, the head of the family remembered that he had left the cashbox and decided to run back to get it. By the time he got the box, the fire had spread all around him and had to escape into the town bomb shelter. Many people had already been there and even though they tried to cover and protect the entrance from the fire, they all died and blackened by the smoke. The rest of the family members survived submerged in the river water. I learned that just a tiny misjudgment or greed creates life or death situation.
All the citizens ran away from the bombing fire for their lives. They had exercises against air raids and had said that they would help each other when the bombing started. Many households dug bombing shelters in the yard or under the floor to run in for safety but most of those who overestimated the shelters died. As for us, hearing that the train would be running if we walked as far as the city of Gomen, we started walking toward the city. On the way, we were lucky enough to be picked up by an army truck. At the Gomen station, we were finally able to catch the train and reached safely home of my parents.
This is the 64th anniversary year since the end of the war. It has been a long time but I still cannot forget the experience. The Kochi Air Raid Exhibition has been held every year but the people who actually experienced it have been diminishing rapidly. I wrote this because I want many people to know even a tiny portion about the horrible experience.
Wars have been fought in different lands even now and creating lots of victims. There is nothing worthwhile for human race in any wars. Whatever the reasons, wars kill people and take away peace. I sincerely hope that the world peace would be realized as soon as possible.
Translation by Teruyo Matsumoto