When the Sun Turned Black | Paul Glynn, S.M. | From "A Song for Nagasaki" | Ignatius Insight
When the Sun Turned Black | Paul Glynn, S.M. | From A Song for
Nagasaki: The Story of Takashi Nagai, Scientist, Convert, and Survivor of the Atomic Bomb | Ignatius Insight
Major "Chuck" Sweeney had
an extremely risky takeoff before dawn, loaded as he was with the 4.5-ton A-bomb,
"Fat Man". Now they were over their primary target, Kokura. He had
made three runs over the hopelessly clouded city when he made a shocking
discovery: the auxiliary gasoline pipe was blocked. Unless they dropped the
bomb soon, they would never get home. He turned his plane southwest for the
secondary target, "Nagasaki, urban area".
His B-29 was over Shimabara just before 11 A.M. A radio announcer saw this and excitedly broadcast a warning, and
Nagasaki people who heard him ran for their shelters. Moments later, Sweeney
and his crew saw Nagasaki right below them through a cloud break, immediately
recognizing the Urakami River and the Matsuyama Sports Ground. That put them
almost two miles northwest of the planned drop, but time had run out. Bombardier
Kermit released the bomb. It was just 11 A.M. when Fat Man went plummeting down
onto the city of two hundred thousand souls, of whom more than seventy thousand
would die, many without a trace.
Inside the Urakami Cathedral, Fathers
Nishida and Tamaya were hearing confessions again after the all-clear. The
cathedral was only a third of a mile from where Fat Man detonated and was
reduced to rubble in an instant. No one would be sure how many perished inside.
Less than two miles away from the
cathedral, Chimoto-san was working on his rice paddy on Mount Kawabira. He
heard a noise, looked up and saw a B-29 emerging from the clouds. It disgorged
a huge black bomb, and he threw himself to the ground. He waited a minute. Then
came an awful penetrating brightness, followed by eerie stillness. He looked up
and gasped at the huge pillar of smoke, swelling grotesquely as it rose.
Suddenly he realized that a hurricane was rushing toward him. Houses,
buildings, trees were being cut down before his startled eyes as if by some
enormous, invisible bulldozer. Then came a deafening roar, and he was hurled
like a matchbox into the stone wall sixteen feet behind. Shaken to his very
soul, he gaped at the pines, chestnuts and camphor laurels torn from the ground
or broken off at the trunks. Even the grass was gone!
Midori's nineteen-year-old cousin Sadako
Moriyama had just found her two small brothers chasing dragonflies in the
Yamazato school yard. She told them their mother wanted them. At that moment,
she heard the plane and ran with them to the school shelter. As they entered,
they were picked up and hurled to the far wall, and she blacked out. Coming to,
she heard the two children whimpering at her feet and wondered why it was so
dark. As a little light began to penetrate the gloom, she was paralyzed with
terror. Two hideous monsters had appeared at the shelter's entrance, making
croaking noises and trying to crawl in. As the darkness lifted a little, she
saw they were human beings who had been outside when the bomb exploded. In less
than seconds, they had been skinned alive, half a mile from the epicenter, and
their raw bodies had been picked up and smashed into the side of the shelter.
She went outside. The light was weak, as
if it were barely dawn. She cried aloud when she saw beside the sandbox four
children, without clothes or skin! She stood there transfixed, her eyes
involuntarily drinking in the hideous details. The skin of their hands had been
torn away at the wrists and hung from their fingernails, looking like gloves turned
Feeling she was losing her reason, she
dashed back into the shelter, accidentally brushing the two victims still
squirming and moaning near the entrance. Their bodies felt like potatoes gone
rotten. Their horrible animal croaking sound began again. She realized they
were saying something. Mizu, mizu. Water, water. That cry was to run like a
cracked record in the nightmares of Nagasaki survivors for years.
Michiko Ogino was ten years old and
enjoying the summer holidays at home. Just after 11 A.M. she was terrified by a
giant lightning flash, followed by a horrendous roar, and within seconds she
was one of the thousands pinned under the roofs or walls of their homes. The
blast of the bomb caused air to rush from the epicenter at over a mile a
second, knocking houses flat. Almost immediately, an equally violent wind
rushed back into the vacuum left at the epicenter.
Michiko was hopelessly pinned there, but
her screaming brought a stranger who freed her. Outside, she was startled to
see evil-looking clouds that twisted and writhed and blackened out the sun.
'What kind of new lightning had done this? Then she became conscious of a tiny
voice becoming hysterical. It was her two-year-old sister trapped under a
crossbeam. She turned for help and saw dashing toward them a naked woman, her
body greasy, and purple like an eggplant, and her hair reddish brown and
frizzled. Oh no! It was Mother! The speechless Michiko could only point to her
sister under the beam. The mother looked wildly at the fires that had already
started, dived into the rubble, put her shoulder under the beam and heaved. The
two-year-old was free, and the mother, hugging her to her breast, collapsed
onto the ground. There was no skin left on the shoulder that she had put under
the beam, just raw bleeding meat. Michiko's father appeared, badly burnt too.
He watched in dumb helplessness as his wife groaned and struggled to rise. Then
all her strength ebbed away, and she collapsed, dead.
Nagasaki was now burning, and Sakue
Kawasaki sat in disbelief inside the Aburagi air-raid shelter. He could see
people staggering about outside, naked and swollen like pumpkins. Then came a
babel of croaking voices piteously begging for mizu, mizu, but where could he
get water? There was a puddle of dirty water outside the entrance to the
shelter, and one of the victims crawled over, lowered his lips into it and
drank with succulent noises. He tried to crawl to the shelter but collapsed and
stopped moving. One by one, the others drank from the puddle and crumpled up
motionless. What terrible thirst could drive men to act like demented lemmings?
The plutonium-239 bomb exploded in
Nagasaki with the equivalent force of twenty-two thousand tons of conventional
explosives but with vast differences. Setting aside for the moment the A-bomb's
lethal radiation, there was its intense heat, which reached several million
degrees centigrade at the explosion point. The whole mass of the huge bomb was
ionized and a fireball created, making the air around it luminous, emitting
ultraviolet rays and infrared rays and blistering roof tiles farther than half
a mile from the epicenter. Exposed human skin was scorched up to two and a half
miles away. Electric light poles, trees and houses within two miles were
charred on the surface facing the blast. The velocity of the wind that rushed
out from the epicenter was more than one mile per second, sixty times the
velocity of a major cyclone. This caused a vacuum at the epicenter, and another
cyclone rushed back. in, picking up acres of dust, dirt, debris and smoke that
darkened the writhing mushroom cloud.
Young Kata-san was walking his cow on a
hillside outside Oyama, five miles south of the epicenter. He was startled by
the flash and watched, rooted to the spot, as a huge white cloud rose up like a
grotesque organism fattening itself by some weird magic. The cloud was white on
the outside but fired by some hideous red energy within. Then came alternating
flashes of red, yellow and purple. Gradually the cloud went into a mushroom shape,
and a black. stain grew on its stem. When the cloud reached a great height, it
burst open and collapsed like an obscene grub that had gorged on more than its
stomach could hold. The mountains all around were lit by the sun, but the area
below the cloud was shrouded in darkness. Then came Kato's second shock, a roar
of wind so strong that Kato mistook it for another bomb exploding nearby.
A Song for
Nagasaki: The Story of Takashi Nagai, Scientist, Convert, and Survivor of the Atomic Bomb
by Paul Glynn, S.M.
On August 9, 1945, an American B-29 dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan, killing tens of thousands of people in the blink of an eye, while fatally injuring and
poisoning thousands more. Among the survivors was Takashi Nagai, a pioneer in radiology research and a convert to the Catholic Faith. Living in the rubble of the
ruined city and suffering from leukemia caused by over-exposure to radiation, Nagai lived out the remainder of his remarkable life by bringing physical and
spiritual healing to his war-weary people.
A Song for Nagasaki tells the moving story of this extraordinary man, beginning with his boyhood and the heroic tales and stoic virtues of his family's Shinto
religion. It reveals the inspiring story of Nagai's remarkable spiritual journey from Shintoism to atheism to Catholicism. Mixed with interesting details about
Japanese history and culture, the biography traces Nagai's spiritual quest as he studied medicine at Nagasaki University, served as a medic with the Japanese
army during its occupation of Manchuria, and returned to Nagasaki to dedicate himself to the science of radiology. The historic Catholic district of the city,
where Nagai became a Catholic and began a family, was ground zero for the atomic bomb.
After the bomb disaster that killed thousands, including Nagai's beloved wife, Nagai, then Dean of Radiology at Nagasaki University, threw himself into service to the
countless victims of the bomb explosion, even though it meant deadly exposure to the radiation which eventually would cause his own death. While dying, he also wrote
powerful books that became best-sellers in Japan. These included The Bells of Nagasaki, which resonated deeply with the Japanese people in their great suffering as it
explores the Christian message of love and forgiveness. Nagai became a highly revered man and is considered a saint by many Japanese people. Illustrated
"Christians and non-Christians alike were deeply moved by Nagai's faith in Christ that made him like Job of the Scriptures: in the midst of the nuclear wilderness he
kept his heart in tranquility and peace, neither bearing resentment against any man nor cursing God." -- Shusaku Endo, from the Foreword
Also available in E-Book format.
Fr. Paul Glynn, S.M., a Marist Missionary priest from Australia, is the author of several books including the best-sellers
The Healing Fire of Christ: Reflections on Modern Miracles and The Smile of the Ragpicker.
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