In a Nutshell
After the bomb went off, Hiroshima was transformed from a dull backwater city into a momentary vision of Hell. Among the horrors witnessed by survivors were the ‘ant-walking alligators’—creatures of the blast that seemed neither human nor animal, neither living nor dead.
The Whole Bushel
When the ‘Little Boy’ exploded 750 yards above Hiroshima during the Monday morning rush hour, no-one had ever seen anything like it. A great light filled the sky, a sound that could flatten buildings rolled across the city and 80,000 people died instantly. The statistics are rightly famous: up to 40% of the population dead, two thirds of the city destroyed and fires burning at 4,000C. But the experience of survivors in the immediate aftermath is less well-known, and far more disturbing.
In his book, Last Train to Hiroshima, Charles Pellegrino combed through thousands of eyewitness statements. Among the horrors of radiation poisoning and the initial firestorm, he uncovered one ‘creature’ unique to the atomic wasteland: the ‘ant-walking alligators’.
They had once been human. When the sky exploded, they’d had the misfortune to survive. Faces turned to the blast, the skin had been seared from their skulls; leaving only a black, leathery substance without eyes or features. All that remained was a red hole where their mouths had once been. They staggered about the outskirts of Hiroshima, avoided by other survivors – but the real horror was the sound they made. According to Pellegrino:
“The alligator people did not scream. Their mouths could not form the sounds. The noise they made was worse than screaming. They uttered a continuous murmur — like locusts on a midsummer night. One man, staggering on charred stumps of legs, was carrying a dead baby upside down.”
None of them survived for long. In most modern accounts of the bombing they’re noticeably absent. But the alligator people are a reminder of the human cost of our victory in the War – one we should never allow ourselves to forget.
Show Me The Proof
New York Times: After Atom Bombs’ Shock, the Real Horrors Began Unfolding
The Star: The Last Train from Hiroshima: Stories of Fat Man and Little Boy
Amazon: The Last Train From Hiroshima