Saturday, 6 August 2011

How to survive a nuclear holocaust!

No going back - Hiroshima
6th August 1945

08.15 hours on 6th August 1945 and a searingly bright light appears in the sky over Hiroshima. The blinding flash of light lasts only a few seconds before the city of Hiroshima receives the first atomic bomb to be used in warfare and the epicentre of the blast obliterates most of the city. All is flattened within 700 to 800 yards, except for the chamber of commerce building, a concrete structure over an iron frame, that survives in a fragile skeletal form and, a presbytery occupied by a small group of Jesuit priests.

Beyond 1000 yards the blast goes into fragmentation mode and instantly fires break out and spread,  so great is the backdraft of air after the bomb blast. Most of Hiroshima's buildings are made of wood and the intensity of the fireball heat that develops, consumes buildings and bodies leaving only ash in its wake.

The population of Hiroshima (those within 750 - 1000 yards of the epicentre) disappear totally - well, almost totally, some sections of buildings will be found after the blast with just the ghostly silhouettes of men, women and children left on them as an irradiated shadow. In all, between 90,000 and 150,000 people will die either immediately in the holocaust or some time afterwards as a result of their injuries and radiation sickness.

But back in the Jesuit presbytery, eight priests are dusting themselves down; they are not hurt in any way (other than  a few minor scratches); they never suffer from radiation sickness in the years that follow.

Why? How? This is an impossiblity. Anyone that has visited the Peace Museum in Hiroshima can see the models of the city and all that was left of it after the bomb - there is nothing at all at the site of the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption and the presbytery (there was a ruin that the priests extricated themselves from but this was demolished as being too dangerous to leave standing). For over one mile from the epicentre all people were killed and all buildings flattened; the scene was one of utter desolation. No human could have survived unscathed within a mile of the epicentre.

But these men did.   Fr Hubert Schiffer SJ was to give a reason for their survival:

"We said the Rosary, we lived Fatima"

Here is an account of the events that morning:

  "On the morning of August 6, 1945, he had just finished Mass, went into the rectory and sat down at the breakfast table, and had prepared a grapefruit. No sooner had he put his spoon into the grapefruit when there was a bright flash of light.  His first thought was that it was an explosion in the harbour (this was a major port where the Japanese refuelled their submarines.)

Then, in the words of Fr.  Schiffer: “Suddenly, a terrific explosion filled the air with one bursting thunder stroke.  An invisible force lifted me from the chair, hurled me through the air, shook me, battered me, whirled me ’round and ’round like a leaf in a gust of autumn wind.” The next thing he remembered, he opened his eyes and he was laying on the ground.  He looked around and there was NOTHING in any direction: the railroad station and buildings in all directions were levelled to the ground". 

Apart from one or two superficial cuts from flying glass, all the priests were safe and went on to resume their duties after the war was over. Nine days later, on the feast of the Assumption, a ceasefire was declared.

The second A Bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki on 9th August with similar consequences. Again, the religious occupying the Franciscan Friary founded by St Maximilian Kolbe remained safe and well (I have been unable to verify this report).

It is too simplistic to condemn nuclear warfare outright. Whether 100,000 tonnes of conventional TNT or a nuclear warhead are dropped on a city, the results are the same. As for a civilian target, we know that Japan was mobilising old men, women and children as young as 12 or 13 to not merely fight in a sort of Home Guard capacity; they were being groomed for suicidal attacks on Allied troops. And what of the allied forces men, women and children (civilians as well as military) who were held under appalling conditions in death camps around SE Asia. Some of them were on the brink of death from malnutrition and torture. Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved them.

All war carries horror with it, all deaths, especially innocent ones, are to be abhorred. But there is a case for stating that the bombing of two  Japanese cities brought the war to a speedy end and saved many hundreds of thousand Allied lives.

There is no mention of the bombing of Hiroshima on the website of the Diocese of Hiroshima and no mention of the miracle that took place. Why? Because the Japanese do not like to comprehend that there were survivors so close to the epicentre (other than one Japanese woman who is hailed as a hero).
To admit this fact would, so they believe, in some strange way, weaken their story of the bomb. It would also pay recognition to the fact that a power far greater than Buddhism or Shintoism exists.


  1. The story of Maximillian's priest are also true. They were praying the Rosary when it hit. I've read it several times. Try a Google search to find it.

  2. Tito - many thanks for that.
    Isaac, thank you.

  3. The Rosary, the rosary, the rosary!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Really interesting post. Amazing story. Thanks. However do you have any proof for your statements in the last paragraph or are these your opinions only?

  5. Chris - my last para is based upon my own experiences in Hiroshima and what I have encountered when speaking to Japanese people regarding the miracle. Not exactly proof but not opinions either - more experiences.

  6. Thanks for the clarification, Richard. Experience can be a powerful influence on our conclusions. I'm married to a Japanese (non-Catholic) Christian convert from Buddhism (very much a rare breed) who found your comments perplexing, and obviously disagrees.

  7. Amazing post Richard, thanks. I'll definitely mention this next time nuclear weapons come up in the classroom (or anywhere else for that matter)!

  8. Chris - I have many Japanese friends and a great affection for most things Japanese but, as a nation, they do have difficulty in interpreting western beliefs and thoughts (and the same is maybe true regarding westerners).
    As you will be aware, the bombings hold a certain place in the minds of Japanese people especially those from Hiroshima who find it quite hard to converse with a westerner without bringing the topic into the conversation.