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Wnessing the Bob: Atomic Bomb Survivor Shizue Kobayashi
My grandmother, Shizue Kobayashi, was born on January 15, 1934. She lived in Saitamaken, Japan for twenty-two years with her mother, father, and brothers and sisters. After the bomb she met my grandfather and came to America. Although she felt that the war, especially the atomic bomb, was terrible, she does not hold any harsh feelings against the United States.
What was your schooling like? How did you get to school?
I graduated from a public school. I walked about a mile for twenty minutes. There were no sidewalks, so I walked on gravel.
Where were you when the atomic bomb was dropped? How old were you?
It was in the summertime, so I was in my yard. I was looking at the sky, and it was shiny, like a thunderstorm. The explosion was blue, and it made a loud noise that shook the ground. Sirens went off. My parents weren’t home, and I don’t even remember being scared. I was young, and I didn’t understand very well.
What was it like? Did you understand what was happening? How and when did you find out?
I did not know what was happening, but I knew something was wrong because I had felt the ground shake. Many people were dead and were dying. It was horrible, just horrible. The fire in Tokyo was burning so brightly it made night look as bright as day. I was ten miles away from Tokyo, and I could feel the heat from the fire. After the second bomb, I heard what was happening from adults talking, and that is how I found out. There were no televisions, and the radio was hard to understand.
What else do you remember about the war?
I remember that the American planes would fly so low that they almost hit the roofs. They would also shoot at us, and we would have to hide in the hole my father had dug for us. He had dug steps that led down to a room. The hole was also incase the sirens went off. I remember my father used to read the newspaper a lot. Once I looked at the front and there was a picture of Tokyo after the bomb. It was barren and empty, and it just looked terrible.
What was life like during the war, before the bomb was dropped? After?
During the war, we didn’t have any food because all the young men were fighting in the war. Most days we ate small amounts of potato, and I couldn’t even eat as much as I wanted, but just enough to keep me alive. After all of our potato was gone we ate weeds that we had found out in the yard. We were lucky, though, because a lot of people were dying of hunger. I also remember that every day the siren would go off, and we would have to hide in the hole. After the war, life was very hard. Many kids lost parents. Those kids that had lost parents would go from house to house asking for food. Many of us didn’t even have enough food to feed ourselves, but when the orphans came to our door my father would feed them. My mother would get angry because we didn’t have a lot of food, but my father continued to feed them anyway.
How old were you when you came to the United States? How did you get here and when?
I came to the United States in May of 1956 when I was twenty-two. I had met your grandfather at a war orphanage in Japan. I used to visit the orphanage on Saturdays and Sundays, while he had entertained the children with baseball. He was from the American air force, and they must have felt sorry for the innocent victims of the atomic bomb because they had also sent dried prunes. After his service at the war orphanage, we left Japan for America in a huge ship, and arrived in San Francisco. Then we went to Texas, where we got married. We stayed in Texas for six months, the moved to Michigan.
What was it like? How did you feel?
I thought America was so beautiful, especially San Francisco. It was so pretty. I was so happy, and it was so exciting. I was also a little scared. I didn’t feel any anger at the United States because of the bomb, because war is war. Nobody in the U.S. could have stopped the bomb from happening, and the United States needed to end the war.
How long did it take you to become a U.S. citizen?
I am actually not a U.S. citizen yet. I went to study to become a citizen, but I didn’t have time because I had to work. Someday I will become a true citizen. When I do study for it, I will try extremely hard.