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SAOTOME Katsumoto interview, August 2009, part 2

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It's very difficult to discuss the air raid experience because it was such life or death situation. As a child it was overwhelming. --Can you describe your personal experience?-- A warning siren rang out at about 10:30 on the night of March 9th. The radio said that B-29s had appeared but were last seen off the Boso Peninsula. I now know from various materials that these planes were there to guide those that were still to come. They were acting as pathfinders to guide the 300 or so members of the formation to their target. The sirens began to wail, but no planes were over our heads yet and such warnings came almost every night. I wasn't surprised. So I sank deeper into my futon and slept, but when I woke up it was already too late. I heard my father yell out, "Wake up!" By that point, everything in all four directions had already become a sea of fire. With a normal fire, you just have one spot burning and all the firetrucks and everyone head off in that direction, right? This was not a fire in one spot. North, south, east, west... It was bright red in every direction. It was the middle of the night, but we could have easily read the newspaper outside. It just wasn't the kind of fire that you can put out. Actually, people were supposed to try. It was a legal requirement. But we knew we wouldn't accomplish anything by dying. So we piled our belongings onto a bicycle cart. It wasn't like today... All we had to take was our bedding and some pots and pans. Everyone was poor. That's really all there was. My father held the handlebars while my mother and sister pushed form behind. I was the smallest so I was in the very back. As we pressed on like this, we were assailed by a storm of sparks. It was so bad that if you weren't careful those sparks would get into your eyes and mouth. I was lucky to be in the back behind all the luggage. It helped to block a lot of the sparks that would have landed on me. We continued on... protecting our faces like this... avoiding the sparks as best we could as we entered a big road. The idea was to head somewhere where the fires weren't so intense--somewhere where the sky wasn't so bright. But it was dangerous because those places were the next targets for the B-29s. The dark spots around us were continually lighting up bright red. Eventually We came to a railroad crossing. My father was still pulling the bicycle cart. We were running fast and it was dangerous. My father was running... Everyone in the crowd was running... Of course, the rails at the crossing jutted up some so the tire of the cart caught on them and the whole thing shook. The lid to a pan that had been up on top fell to the ground. It started rolling alongside the tracks and kept on going. I saw it and hurried after it. I felt like a needed to catch it. We couldn't use the pan without the lid.... I remember chasing after it, but I never caught the lid. It was just hell. Specifically, I was chasing after the lid and there was another family running just ahead of it. The man who must have been the father looked up and yelled. "They're coming down!" Right then an incendiary scraped my shoulder and flew straight into a telephone pole. The bombs weren't coming down vertically. They flew down in a rapid diagonal trajectory. When it hit the telephone pole, it burst into flame like a match. Another incendiary cylinder hit that man who was running in front of me. Maybe it just caught on his clothes or maybe he was sprayed by the napalm inside it. I guess it could also have been a direct hit, but at any rate, he was instantly a ball of flame as well. He tried to put out the flames... rolled around on the ground while flames shot off his body. I think it was a little girl that he'd been holding hands with until then and I think she was safe, but I couldn't really tell from behind. If I'd been just a bit further along the road, I would taken a direct hit too. On the other hand, if I'd been just a little more to the left, I would have been killed by the bomb that hit the telephone pole.

Video Details

Duration: 7 minutes and 1 second
Country: United States
Language: Japanese
Genre: None
Views: 386
Posted by: japanairraids on Sep 14, 2010

SAOTOME Katsumoto interview, August 2009, part 2

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