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Much of what Kawamoto saw between the school playground and the Miyuki Bridge is exhibited in the museum he directs. It is after hours now, so he is free to move easily from display case to display case, using one exhibit or another to illustrate his story. During regular hours the museum is packed with schoolchildren in uniform, pressing their noses against the windows of the cases; chattering; some horseplay from the bigger boys. On display is all that became of Hiroshima once the bomb dropped, along with historical memorabilia such as the directive from Lieut. General Carl Spaatz, commander in chief of the U.S. Strategic Air Force, ordering that the city be bombed; a large photo of the A-bomb known as "Little Boy," looking like a sea mammal in profile; messages of resolve or condolence from distinguished visitors; leaflets dropped by the Americans in early August 1945 that warned of some general disaster but not of the A-bomb specifically. "The Americans did warn Nagasaki about the Bomb, but not Hiroshima," says Kawamoto. "It made no difference anyway. Our military ordered the people not to read any of the leaflets, so none of our citizens knew what was coming."
Strange objects fill the display cases: testaments to the Bomb's effects on ordinary things. A twisted beam from a seven-story building; a charred tobacco pipe; a melted lump of coins; a mass of nails, of sake cups. A watch stopped at exactly 8:16 was found in the sands of the Motoyasu River. A horse is on display; its legs are missing. One case contains hair that had fallen in a clump on the ground. (Kawamoto's hair fell out after six weeks, but two months later it grew back again.) Another case contains black fingernails two or three inches in length that had grown on a hand where the skin was entirely burned off. The black nails had blood vessels in them; nothing like them was ever seen before.
And photographs of the suffering, their burned backs looking like topographical maps. And shadows of vaporized people that remained on streets after the people disappeared. And a wall streaked with "black rain," the large radioactive rain drops that fell shortly after the explosion.
The displays that touch Kawamoto most deeply are those of a middle-school uniform, much like his own, the jacket torn with one sleeve missing; and of wax models of victims walking as if stunned or asleep, their arms held out in front of them. Their skin hangs loose on their bones, like ill-fitting clothing. Their real clothes are rags. In the display case they stand blank-eyed against a backdrop of a wasteland of ashes and a fire-streaked sky. "It is the way people really looked," Kawamoto says. "They did not seem to walk voluntarily; they appeared to be pushed.