Firsthand account transcribed
of Hiroshima’s devastation
“There were fantastic rumors that the enemy had something special in mind for this city, but no one dreamed that the end would come in such a fashion as on the morning of August 6th.”
This is the beginning of a firsthand account when the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945. It was written by a priest who said he saw “a garish light which resembles the magnesium light used in photography, and I am conscious of a wave of heat.”
The 8½-page document, typed in 1946, was provided to Darrell Ames, public affairs officer for Program Executive Office for Missiles and Space, by a friend, John Siddons, who owned the report written by Father Siemes.
Ames said he met Siddons in church last July and, while talking over the last several months, Siddons asked him to transcribe the account digitally to preserve it.
“When I mentioned to him that I collected World War II memorabilia and artifacts, and that I once served as the historian at the Pearl Harbor Submarine Base and a tour guide on the USS Arizona Memorial, his ears perked up,” Ames said. “He then wanted to share some items that he had collected.”
Also among the items were a deployment flag from the cruiser USS Pasadena, which was anchored in Tokyo Bay during the signing of the Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri, and Japanese currency.
But it was the document from the priest that grabbed Ames’ attention and his heart.
“The third piece of his collection was, to me, the most significant,” Ames said. “It was the typed eyewitness account of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945.
“The 8½-page document is in very fragile condition and Mr. Siddons asked me to transcribe it to electrons so that we may have it for eternity.”
In the account, Father Siemes wrote of sitting in his room at the mission, two kilometers from Hiroshima, up a mountain with a “wonderful view down the valley to the edge of the city.”
“He describes in great detail sitting in his room at the mission two kilometers from Hiroshima up the side of the mountain,” Ames said. “The 7 a.m. air raid alarm sounds across the city as it generally did during that summer.
“The all-clear was eventually delivered at 8 a.m., but then, as he settled into his chair at 8:14 a.m., he witnessed the entire valley fill with a garish light.”
Ten seconds after the light, Siemes hears a moderately loud blast and is covered with glass and wood as the incredible force of violent air pressure practically caves in the side of the structure, Ames said.
“This was two kilometers away,” he said. “Imagine the devastation at the epicenter.”
Siemes describes the agony of the survivors as they make their way up the mountain, toward the mission, seeking first aid, water, anything to relieve the pain.
“Bandages, medicine, and drugs are soon gone, but the people continue to trek up the mountain hoping to escape the carnage behind them,” Ames said. “It’s quite the fascinating read.”