The banner image, above, is a sketch drawn by Tamotsu Shimizu, provided by Shigeaki Mori.
Chapter 8: Some Mysteries Surrounding the Aioi-bashi Bridge
☆ Were American Soldiers Slaughtered There?
Mystery persists about the U.S. soldier who was on the Aioi-bashi Bridge. The Aioi-bashi Bridge appears in the article publicized by Father Arrupe about his atomic bombing experience, which I have mentioned. When Fr. Arrupe passed by, the soldier seems to have been still alive. He told Fr. Arrupe that he was a crew member of the Lonesome Lady.
This description has made the view persuasive that the soldier might have been Atkinson. I was one of those who wanted to confirm the testimonies that an American serviceman was slaughtered on the Aioi-bashi Bridge. Suppose there had been actually two US personnel present at some point in time but they were moved around separately. That would explain how disparate testimonies about the number present could all be factual.
However, what was clearly admitted as a fact was that after August 6, the POWs had not been given any food or water at all. On that summer day, in the circumstances of Hiroshima then, even those who were uninjured must have found it difficult to survive the hot summer. This would be the case particularly for the U.S. soldiers who were exposed to a great amount of radiation. They would not have been able to survive, whether any additional violence befell them, or not.
What drew my attention were those drawings and paintings that NHK (Japanese public television station) had collected by calling for contributions from the general public during 1974 to 1975. Among them, were images that depicted the U.S. soldier on the Aioi-bashi Bridge. I would verify them one by one, and ask the illustrator to tell me what he or she had seen. To understand what happened, I asked each to start from the beginning and re-visit the experience depicted in their art. I also listened to other witnesses, and asked them to draw the scene that they saw. New witnesses appeared after more than half a century; those who saw the US soldier who was tied to the Aioi-bashi Bridge stood out, and I heard the testimony of eight people. I asked them to come to the bridge, and to draw pictures of the US soldier who fell at the Aioi-bashi Bridge, with his torso naked. I had pictures of the two who fell there, side-by-side. The witnesses said the pictures showed exactly what they had seen.
However, I was sure that the U.S. soldiers who died on or near the Aioi-bashi Bridge must have been more than two. There were pictures in which two were depicted; also witnesses said one of the soldiers looked small and around twenty-years old, while the other was largely built, looking like as a senior officer. After all, there was no choice but to believe there were two different personnel. The following newspaper article gave some clues about these questions.
On September 3, 1979, a newspaper in Kyushu posted an article about a U.S. soldier who died at the Aioi-bashi Bridge. It denied the view that he was slaughtered. Former Military Police Sgt. Makoto Otsuka, who had been stationed at the Chugoku Military Police Headquarters, wrote this article, titled “A Flash of Lightning”. He contributed this because he felt anger about the article of a national paper that I have already mentioned, which exaggerated the testimony of a woman who was eighteen at that time. Mr. Otsuka writes that the article is not accurate. He writes as follows:
On August 5, 1945, Mr. Otsuka worked till midnight. Therefore, the next day, August 6, he was allowed to arrive at the office at 10:00 a.m. His home was in Midori-machi, which was several kilometers away from the epicenter; he was hit by the atomic bomb while he was still at home. He hurriedly tried to go to the Chugoku Military Police Headquarters, but the entire city was on fire and it was impossible to enter the city. Around 4:00 p.m. he managed to reach the Headquarters, having soaked himself with bucketsful of water. The building had been destroyed leaving just the stone foundation. When he looked around, he found nineteen Chugoku Military Police personnel, injured but alive. One U.S. soldier was wandering in a puddle. Fortunately, several tens of military policemen from Kure Military Police came to aid. They immediately tried to move the injured to Ujina, but streets had been blocked by fallen electric poles. Therefore, they had no other choice but carry them to the Aioi-bashi Bridge and attempt to evacuate them by boat. However, it was during the low tide so boats could not travel that far up the river. On August 6, he bivouacked on the Aioi-bashi Bridge with the injured. He had brought the U.S. soldier also, trying to save him, but he looked quite weakened already. They tied the soldier to the railing of the bridge. Mr. Otsuka gave him a cigarette but he inhaled just once. He was around 175cm (5 ft. 9 in.) tall, with an oblong face and looked as if he was twenty-two or three. He was of slim build. The next morning, August 7, the Ujina Military Police Branch Commander arrived with several members in a truck, so he put the nineteen injured personnel onto the truck. When he saw the U.S. soldier, his head had been dropped and he seemed to have been dead; leaving him there, the others left for Ujina. Mr. Otsuka later knew that some people threw stones at this POW.
This is the summary of Mr. Otsuka’s memoir. He writes that it was impossible to know if this American soldier was Sgt. Hugh Atkinson. Although he had not confirmed his death by checking the heartbeat, he judged the soldier was dead or nearly so by the morning of August 7. It is by no means possible that he was killed later, he says.
Certainly, a lot of boats were going up and down beneath the Aioi-bashi Bridge in those days. There must have been at least 5,000 of them. The idea of the military policemen to carry people out by boat is plausible. However, it was low tide, unfortunately. Another difficulty was that logs and dead bodies had dropped to the bottom of the river, making it impossible for boats to come upstream. The reason he knew the height of the U.S. POW was because he made him walk beside him. His face was oblong, and he was twenty-two or three years old. It was Mr. Otsuka who had taken him to Aioi-bashi Bridge. The one who tied his hand to the parapet of the bridge was a Kure military police man. They never let others touch the POW. He had already been more dead than alive, anyway. He managed just to walk, and after he had reached the bridge, he had not had enough energy left for smoking.
Mr. Otsuka told me he first brought this memoir to a newspaper for publication in Hiroshima, but was turned down.
Ryan of the Lonesome Lady had an injured leg. Mr. Akio Nakamura, former professor of Osaka Municipal University saw it on August 5. He also saw Looper and Ellison at the same place. Porter who was aboard the Helldiver SB2C, certainly died at the Chugoku Military Police. Those four personnel must have been at the Chugoku Military Police Headquarters on August 6, and, therefore, must have died there.
According to the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Victims' Journal (page 175, Vol. 1), it is written that Allan (John Alan) Long, a U.S. POW and a crew member of the Lonesome Lady, died from exposure to radiation in the Detention House (cell?) of the Legal Affairs Division of Chugoku Area Army Headquarters, which was situated in the Ni-no-Maru, the secondary enclosure of the Hiroshima Castle. However, Mr. Tadashi Ihara, a reporter of Domei Press in those days, witnessed Long's body on August 7. When Mr. Ihara took me to the site, he told me that Long had got out of the Detention building after the bombing, and was dead by the moat of the Hiroshima Castle inside the Ni-no-Maru. Being a former newspaper reporter, Mr. Ihara's story was brief and to the point. There is additional testimony given in the above-mentioned Journal about Long on August 7, and some say Long was sitting on the ground. Mr. Ihara's witness was after Long’s death, but he writes that Long was injured quite seriously on both feet so that it seemed to have been difficult for him to flee for a long distance. Neal died together with Brissette, which will be mentioned later. These are all the records of the POWs who were held at Chugoku Military Police Headquarters, except for Atkinson and Hantschel. Combining the statement by Mr. Otsuka and the witness who says the POW was wearing a cap, the soldier who Mr. Otsuka took to and left at Aioi-bashi Bridge can rightly be defined as Atkinson, because Hantschel was a Commissioned Navy Officer (Ensign).
Let us discuss the possibility that there was more than one US soldier on the bridge.
Molnar, who had been aboard the Taloa, had been injured, therefore, it is possible he had been treated in a hospital which was behind today’s Hiroshima Citizens Baseball Stadium. Even though he seemed to have died there, the possibility cannot be denied that first he crawled out and wandered around.
Regarding Baumgartner and Dubinsky, both had been aboard the Taloa, and it is not clear where they died. We cannot deny the possibility of either of them being at Aioi-bashi Bridge.
Whatever happened, it is not likely that any Japanese people killed the POWs through cruel deeds–––was the truth not that all the deaths were directly caused by injuries caused by the atomic bomb？I have carried out my research for years; as a result, I could find no evidence of a massacre of POWs. I conclude they died because they had been exposed to radiation.
☆ Atkinson’s Bereaved Family
Towards the end of 1990, two Americans, Mr. Sam and Mrs. Sharon Olson (Sharon is the daughter of Atkinson), visited Hiroshima. They came over with the wish to learn about the last moments of Sharon Olson’s father who died forty-five years earlier. They also hoped to bring home any of his personal possessions that had been preserved. They visited the A-Bombing Department of the Hiroshima City Government, the Peace Memorial Park and so on; however, they returned home disappointed to not find any new information. I learned the news of their visit through newspaper articles. They posted the comments of the couple asking anyone who might know about her father’s death to contact them. Right away, I sent a letter to them stating that “I have some information about your father.” On receiving a response from Sharon, I sent to her a copy of the old newspaper article (with English translation) about Mr. Kawamoto, who buried her father’s body. At the same time, I wanted to search for Mr. Kawamoto’s bereaved family, and send back the shoes that were in Mr. Kawamoto’s possession. However, it took time to find the Kawamoto family because the late Mr. Kawamoto was an adopted step-son of the family and thus had a different family name. However, according to the article, the late Mr. Kawamoto owned a bicycle shop. I thought the bereaved family must run a bicycle shop. As I continued the search using this clue, I finally found them.
I told the son of Mr. Kawamoto of my wish to send the personal belongings of the US soldier to the bereaved family of Mr. Atkinson. Unfortunately, it was too late. I was told that they had discarded the clothes and shoes because they were so dirty. Regarding the ashes, it turned out that when the city authorities had renovated the A-Bombing Memorial in 1955, the remains of the U.S. soldier were mixed with those of the Japanese people, and it was impossible for them to respond to the wish. I wrote those circumstances to Sharon, but probably because she had been disappointed, her response did not come for a long time. It was more than ten years later that she wrote to me again, telling me in calm words “I have not told the facts to my mother”.
It is known that the biological harm caused by the atomic bombing may induce long-lasting effects on the human body–––even sixty years later (now 72 years later as of the publication of this English version) many people are still suffering.