一緒に逃げた子連れ女性が焼け死んだ~2012根津山追悼会

~SPtakaニュース~

昭和20年4月13日は、城北(池袋)大空襲があった日。
16万人が被災し、778人が犠牲になった。その追悼会「根津山(池袋)小さな追悼会」が、毎年この日に、南池袋公園で行われている。
今年は、三村和男さんが、当日の被災経験を語った。
前日夜中の空襲警報で、家族で板橋方面に逃げて、氷川神社の近くで夜明かしした。
朝になって巣鴨の自宅に戻ってみると、前日一緒に逃げたはずの赤ん坊を背負った女性が、そのまま焼け死んでいた。
火災に巻き込まれて、逃げ遅れたようだった。

 

Translation by Richard Sams

 

For me this place, Nezuyama, is full of memories. In those days, the woods were dense and it was very dark inside. It was quite scary. One of my friends used to say, "There are foxes in there."

 

In 1945 I was sixteen years old and in the fourth grade at middle school, though I hardly attended school at all. I was a mobilized student working at the Takinogawa factory of the National Printing Bureau in Nishigahara.

 

On April 13, my older sister, also a mobilized student, my father and I were still in Tokyo because of our work. The air-raid alert sounded at just after 10.00p.m. Since we had got up very early that day, we were just getting ready for bed. Not long after that, the full air-raid siren rang. My father said, "This looks bad."

 

The next moment we heard a bomb fall with a terrific explosion. Incendiary bombs fell on the house in front of ours and it caught fire. A strong wind started blowing. The oil from the incendiary bombs stuck like jelly to the wainscoting of the house next door and it started burning too.

 

The wind grew stronger. My father said, "We've got to get out of here. Get ready to leave." With no time to put on my gaiters, I stuffed them into my rucksack, tied a water bottle to it, and put on my steel helmet.

 

At that moment, a young mother with a baby on her back ran into our house with her shoes still on and sat down on the floor, trembling. "It's no use, this neighborhood will all be in flames soon. We've got to get away now!" she cried. She held out a white woolen hat and asked me to put it on her baby's head. Then she took off her white shawl and put it over the baby.

 

Together with the young mother, my father, sister and I ran towards the wide Meiji Road. A fierce wind blew down on us from the direction of the Cancer Research Institute in Nishi-Sugamo. The wind blew sparks with it, though they were more like large clumps of fire. "Look out!" "Get down!" we shouted to each other as we dashed madly into Meiji Road, heading for the only place that was still dark. That was between Ikebukuro and Itabashi, in the direction of the electric train depot. We climbed over the fence and ran beside the railway tracks towards Itabashi.

 

In Itabashi, fires were also burning around the old Nakasendo Road. We ran into the wide street, heading for Shimura. Finally we got to Hikawa Shrine. The sky over Shimura-Sakaue was bright red. My father shouted, "I think we've had it. Anyway, let's stay here. If we're going to die, it would be better to die near the gods."

 

We stayed at the shrine until break of day. We didn't even hear all-clear siren. Finally my father said, "Let's go back." We returned along the route we had come. On the road back to Ikebukuro, on the right-hand side, was Ishikawa Hospital. Just beyond it was a ranch. The cows at the ranch were all dead, burned black by the fires. It was a shocking sight. It was almost impossible to walk on the pavement, so we made our way along the road back to Ikebukuro.

 

The concrete building of Sugamo Middle School was covered with black soot. The school gave us a landmark for our house, so we walked in that direction. Looking for way through the debris, we came across a charred dead body on the pavement. Lying face down, it was just a torso. The arms and legs had mostly burned away. Then we noticed a red mark on its back like the shape of a tiny human being. Next to the body was a small charred torso. Though it looked like a stick of charcoal, you could still see it was the remains of a baby. The stomach was slightly red. Then it dawned on us: they were the bodies of that mother and her baby.

 

If only I had held her hand more tightly and pulled her more strongly! We were all so terrified with that fierce wind blowing. I thought they would keep up with us. Without noticing, we had become separated. Even now I keep wishing I had pulled her more strongly. It's the thing I regret most of all.

 

I'm old now and don't have long to live. When I go to the other world, the first thing I'll do is apologize to that young mother. She was so weak and helpless. If only I had pulled her more strongly.

 

Charred bodies with their arms and legs burned off. A reddish-black sticky mess would ooze out from their stomachs and chests. After a couple of days, they would start to rot. Then the stench came. Of course I have not smelled it since then. You cannot smell it anywhere nowadays. It is the stench of war.

 
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