No words can fully describe the sinking caused by the atomic bomb | News, Sports, Jobs


Commander Daniel P. Hornbogen in his uniform, Nov. 8, 1942.

MARQUETTE – On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped the first atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. A second bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki on August 9. Japan surrendered on August 15, ending World War II. The hospital ship USS Sanctuary arrived in Nagasaki on August 15 to receive our POWs. My grandfather, Marquette Physician Commander Daniel P. Hornbogen was on that ship. He sent two letters home describing what he had seen and felt on the ground in Nagasaki. The Daily Mining Journal published this letter in its October 5, 1945 issue.

“We arrived here on the afternoon of the 22nd and received prisoners of war. On this trip we also get a few civilian internees, including a few women. The harbor entrance is beautiful. After leaving the open ocean, which is the China Sea here, there is a channel about a mile wide that meanders among the hills and mountains for several miles before reaching the port. The hills are lush green and offer a very individual appearance due to the many terraces used as gardens.

At a distance of two or three miles on either side of the city are various shipyards which have been bombed out, and everywhere one sees sunken and stranded ships. This is the only area previously bombed, the rest was deliberately avoided until the atomic bomb was dropped. All of the damage in the city proper is the result of that single bomb.

After viewing the ruins of Nagasaki, one is inclined to pause and wonder what the future holds for mankind. It is certain, after all nations have learned the secrets of the atomic bomb, that another war would be suicidal. It is horrifying to imagine that a simple man, with all his weaknesses and flaws, could have at his disposal such a powerful and utterly destructive instrument; one which, if properly controlled, could bring untold benefits to all, but which, if left unchecked and used to encourage the greed and avarice of aggressive nations, could lead to the destruction of mankind.

The bombed area is referred to as that “devastated” Area. I find “extinguished” is a better term because everything has been so completely destroyed that only a minimal amount of trash needs to be removed before the area can be rebuilt. By that I mean not only the buildings that have been pulverized down to a little foundation at ground level, but often the people inside as well.

The medical school and the hospital, which were on the outskirts of the area and were newly built to be earthquake-proof, still stand without doors and windows. However, all occupants were killed and, moreover, no bodies were found. They had apparently disintegrated and been sucked into the stratosphere along with the rest of the debris.

At the edge, the buildings still stand, although the windows are gone and the roofs have collapsed. I wonder if it will ever be possible to accurately determine the number of dead. The number of bodies removed by Nagasaki authorities is now 20,937, but to realize that’s an understatement one has only to smell the ever-present odor. Bones can be seen in many places, and of course a great many bodies disintegrated at the time of the explosion.

I visited the local hospital and saw a number of bomb victims. They still have patients who were injured or burned at the time of the bombing nine weeks ago, and they’re still taking in patients who were injured by the radioactive element, gamma rays. Destruction of the blood-forming structures, especially the bone marrow, occurred in these patients. They suffer from bleeding due to destruction of platelets, anemia and agranulocytosis, the latter being an insufficient number of white blood cells.

Some are bald from the irritating effects of the ray. The early cases of this type all died, and even last week there were an average of about five deaths a day, although the rate has now dropped to about one a day. Most cases that are still being admitted are mild and recovering.

The city has not yet formally capitulated. When we arrived, the USS Haven was already here, along with the cruiser Wichita and four destroyers. The Wichita Marines were in control and everything was off-limits except for an area two blocks from the pier.

We visited the devastated area in trucks, but I managed to get a blocking pass from the Navy Captain and walked alone to the hospital about a mile and a half away. The hospital was a three-story building with some bomb damage on the third floor. All of the buildings surrounding it for several blocks had been destroyed.

The place was quite dirty and consisted of big rooms with 20 or 30 patients. The patients lay on mats on the floor covered with dirty quilts. They were so close together that there was just room to get between them as the mat on which one patient lay made contact with the others. On the third floor I managed to find a doctor doing her rounds and I followed her for a while. It was very depressing.

I don’t know anything about the psychology of the Japanese, but after seeing many of them driving and walking around, I get the impression that most of them are stunned. I don’t see how they could be any different in Nagasaki.

The 2nd Marine Division arrived last night and will take control of the area. They are the group, along with the first division, that took Guadalcanal in 1942 and fought its way up the islands. It seems more like a fitting culmination of their efforts to eventually have them arrive in Japan and take over. It’s a shame more members of the original group aren’t alive to see the fruits of their efforts.

I still have a lot to tell you, but that will have to wait.”

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