My Grandmother and August 6th

                 by Valerie M. Fravel


August 6th, 1945. "It was a beautiful sunny morning outside that day." Chieko Matsuura was only twenty years old, and lived with her grandmother, mother, husband, little boy (Shinichiro), three cousins, aunt, aunt's mother-in-law. Shin-chan was only nineteen months old.


Chieko, her mother and little boy were all alone the night that just passed. Her husband, a professor of the University of Hiroshima, was 15 miles away with some students. They were at the Toyo company for students' labor. "The next morning I felt relieved since we hadn't been bombed. It is hard to imagine your life may be taken and there is nothing you can do. I was very scared the night before; now it is another day I am a little at ease" she thought.


"It was around eight o'clock that same morning when Chieko's little boy pointed to his stomach. "So I fixed him some rice balls. When he finished eating, he said to me, 'Mommy, more. ' I said to him, 'Let's go outside to enjoy the weather,' I carried him on my back outside. While we were walking, I noticed an American airplane, and I pointed it out to my little boy, although he didn't understand why it was there he did know that it was an airplane. "  


"After we walked back inside, I was trying to stay calm after seeing the U.S. airplane. I had no idea what was to come of it, I figured I should try to steel myself as much as possible; I brushed my hair with fast, hard strokes. Then the warning sirens started going off! I had no time to prepare for protection for my boy and me. My mother was living with us. She had been sitting in a chair reading a bible when the sirens went off, but I had no time to prepare for her protection, either. Before I knew it I was trapped under debris and couldn't get away. I could hear my little boy screaming, 'Mommy. I'm hurt!' At that time I knew that I had to hurry and free myself so that I could get to my son. He cried out for me three times, each time getting softer. I was getting hot from the air, and began to give up hope, but I thought of my cousin who had been visiting us that morning.


He was a fifteen-year-old cadet, and I guess it was just a miracle he was there that day. I yelled out for him; a few seconds later he came and freed me. As I dusted myself off I saw I was bleeding a lot. I told him I had to find my mother and son and we began searching under the debris in every room possible, but some rooms in the house were now burning quickly. We soon found my mother and the fire was moving fast towards us. My aunt and aunt's mother-in-law were trapped under debris, moving out of the house dreadfully, I had to leave my son without being found. Soon m hair was burning. We had to crawl on our hands and knees because we were so week. As I was crawling on the ground outside, the hot air caught my hair on fire again so rolled on the ground to put it out and people around helped me. It was like an ocean of fire; everything around was burning. All but one of the houses were melted; they were nothing more than piles of bodies and debris. I can remember only one cement house that survived the bomb. I saw many people around dead as I crawled slowly away. They had been working at the fruit and vegetable stands that day. It was hideous, you couldn't tell who was man or woman. Their skin was just hanging from their bodies. People's heads were torn off of them. Everyone's clothes were torn and burned. Babies were sitting beside their dead mothers crying. 

"My mother, cousin, and I kept on crawling until we reached a designated area where we were given first aid, we were both covered in blood. I guess you can tell by now that the U.S. defeated us.


"It took a while for my family and me to get ourselves back on our feet. We had a lot of replacing to do. We didn't have a home for about two months. We had to live in a place with hundreds of other people. Once my husband came back a few days after the war, I had to tell him the dreadful news about our child. He was so upset about our son that he said it was my fault out child died. Day after day I listened to him tell me what a bad mother I was, and how I could have prevented our son from getting killed. Things were never the same between my husband and me after our child's death. For a whole year I listened to him blame me; there were days all I did was cry. There was never a day after he came back that I was happy. A year had passed when I walked up to my mother one day and told her that I didn't want to live that kind of life any more. In Japan you have to have your parent's consent, so my mother allowed me to get a divorce. It was in April of 1946 that we were divorced.


"I wanted to start my life all over again. In 1947, I moved to Yokohama, and met another man and we fell in love and I got pregnant but h received orders to return home and never came back. I had the child and it was another boy.


"In 1950 I met Ray Fravel who was an American soldier. Back then people married Americans so that they could come to the U.S. to be free. When Ray and I were dating, he asked me if I was using his to come to the U.S. Of course, my answer was no. In 1951 we got married at the American Consul office at Yokohama. I went with him to Springfield, Missouri. Today we have six grown children of our own. Considering my past experiences I am very happy today; although there are still days when I get back-flashes and think of August 6th, 1945. I'm now working on writing a book about my life."


I wrote about my grandmother because I want people to see the great effect that one person's life can have on another.


#55 Parkway Vol.6 No. 4 August 1992

See the related story of Chieko Fravel