How eight Jesuits survived the atomic bomb in Hiroshima: nuclear physics and the Holy Rosary

by Dr. Quirino M. Sugon Jr.

The Holy Rosary and the Jesuit Sodality of our Lady

This month is the month of the Holy Rosary and October 7 is the Feast of the Holy Rosary in commemoration of the victory of the Christian fleet over that of the Muslim Turks in the Battle of Lepanto last October 7, 1571, about 50 years after the discovery of the Philippines by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521.  St. Pius V attributed this victory to the procession of the rosary on that same day in Rome by the members of the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary (see Catholic Encyclopedia).  But the formal declaration of October as the month of the holy rosary was given by Pope Leo XIII in his 1883 encyclical, Supremi Apostolatus Officio.

In the month of October all Catholics are enjoined to pray the rosary everyday.  The popes gave indulgences for those who pray the daily rosary, especially in groups.  In fact the praying of the holy rosary is the mark of the Jesuit order and of Jesuit colleges.  In 1563, the Jesuit formed the Sodality of our Lady in the Roman College, which was commended by Pope Gregory VIII in his Papal Bull of 1584, Omnipotentis Dei.  Subsequent popes increased the indulgences attached to the Sodality, which culminated in Pope Benedict XIV’s Golden Bull, Gloriosae Dominae.

According to Article I of the Common Rules for Sodalities of Our Lady:

The Sodality of Our Lady, an association formed by the Society of Jesus and approved by the Holy See, is a religious body which aims at fostering in its members an ardent devotion, reverence and filial love towards the Blessed Virgin Mary, and through this devotion and the protection of so good a Mother, it seeks to make the faithful, gathered together under her name, good Catholics sincerely bent on sanctifying themselves, each in his own state of life, and zealous, as far as their condition in life permits, to save and sanctify their neighbour and to defend the Church of Jesus Christ against the attacks of the wicked.

And what devotion, reverence, and filial love towards our Lady could be more perfect than praying the rosary? Ateneo ROTC cadets during World War II prayed the rosary during sundown. The Ateneo Basketball team was known as the Hail Mary Squad because of their praying the rosary before and during the games (congratulations to the our basketball team for being the three-peat champions!).  And before its worldwide dissolution after Vatican II, the Sodality of Our Lady was the largest organization in Ateneo de Manila University and no one could become the student council president if he were not a member of the Sodality.

Rosary Miracle at Hiroshima – August 6th, 1945

There are many miracles attributed to the daily praying of the rosary as a devotion to Our Lady.  One of them is the story of the eight Jesuits who survived the nuclear blast in Hiroshima:

There was a home eight blocks (about 1 kilometer) from where the A-Bomb went off in Hiroshima Japan. This home had a church attached to it which was completely destroyed, but the home survived, and so did the eight German Jesuit missionaries who prayed the rosary in that house faithfully every day. These men were missionaries to the Japanese people, they were non-military, but because Germany and Japan were allies during WWII they were permitted to live and minister within Japan during the war. Not only did they all survive with (at most) relatively minor injuries, but they all lived well past that awful day with no radiation sickness, no loss of hearing, or any other visible long term defects or maladies. Naturally, they were interviewed numerous times (Fr. Schiffer, a survivor, said over 200 times) by scientists and health care people about their remarkable experience and they say “we believe that we survived because we were living the message of Fatima. We lived and prayed the rosary daily in that home.” Of course the secular scientists are speechless and incredulous at this explanation – and they are sure there is some “real” explanation – but at the same time over 55 years later the scientists are still absolutely bamboozled when it comes to finding a plausible scenario to explain the missionary’s unique escape from the hellish power of that bomb. (Holy Souls)

Dr. Stephen A. Rinehart, a devotee of the rosary and scientist working on the conventional and nuclear weapons development for the naval and Air Force combat weapon systems development for twenty-seven years, proposed the following analysis:

Part 1.

Richard, I will check but quick calculation says at 1 kilometer the bulk temperature was in excess of 20,000 to 30,000 degrees F (transients in microseconds greater than 100,000F perhaps as high as 1,000,000 F within 1 kilometer – depends on construction details and you are inside the fireball) and the blast wave would have hit at sonic velocity with pressures on building (at one kilometer) greater than 600 psi. and buildings were demolished over a mile from epicenter. The “fireball diameter” is probably on the order of two to four kilometers (depends on certain definitions). No way any human could have survived nor should anything have left been standing at one kilometer. Yet, at about ten to fifteen kilometers I saw the brick walls standing from an elementary school (some phasing due to bomb’s pineapple construction) and I think there were a few badly burned survivors at ten to fifteen kilometers (all – except the Jesuits – died within fifteen years of some form of cancer). Also, I think they were Jesuits that were near epicenter and a panorama view from epicenter at Shima Hospital did show some kind of two story house totally intact (at least from what I could make out and it look to me the windows were in place!?). Also there was a church with walls still standing but roof gone a few hundred yards away!? DOD never commented officially on this and I suspect it was classified and never discussed in open literature. I think it is possible the Jesuits were asked not to say anything either at the time.

Part 2.

The Hiroshima atomic bomb was an airblast burst (i.e., detonated at altitude between 600 yds. to 1000 yds.) as opposed to an atomic ground burst (i.e., designed to crater a certain area – possibly against deeply buried targets). Two of these types of weapons were built and the other was dropped on Nagasaki. The third weapon was larger and intended for a ground blast [Tokyo Harbor?] but was never used on Japan and no target ever identified. The bombing order was against cities not specific military targets. The cities selected were Kyoto, Hiroshima, Yokohama, and Nagasaki.

In reviewing the damage patterns and blast characteristics of the Hiroshima blast, it appears this weapon was detonated at a height of 0.6 to 1.0 kilometers [Highest probable fireball diameter is about 1.4 kilometers]. This weapon was detonated at this height to produce the maximum damage area from the fireball (maximum sustained fire/airblast damage from the propagating temperatures and airblast pressures in the shock wave front). However, the epicenter was not the area with the greatest damage since the weapon was designed to “spread the fireball effects” over a wide area. The strongest building [steel reinforced frame] was the Hiroshima Bank building which was gutted inside by fire 250 meters from hypocenter of bomb but its walls remained standing but the window frames were blown away.

The overriding conclusion from my review of the weapon effects at Hiroshima is that this weapon was intentionally designed and deployed to kill or maim as many humans as possible in residential housing (or unprotected outside) over the widest possible area for the weapon’s size (while minimizing radiation effects from contaminated debris being thrown up into atmosphere). Since much of the Hiroshima industrial capacity was also located in unreinforced brick structures this type of airblast would also destroy any unreinforced masonry or brick buildings. One of the most flammable items on a person is their hair and clothing.  Much of the clothing at this time was cotton (or blended cotton) which would be considered highly flammable. I suddenly came to the realization that the intent of propagating a fireball at this height was to be able to set fire to a person’s clothing (and all types of fabrics) at relatively long distances from the blast’s epicenter. The airblast would be felt for miles (blowing out windows and damaging most all structures by cracking the walls) and terrorize the remaining population. Hence, the description by those who survived of seeing burned bodies everywhere (or charred skeletons) and skin that was shredded into strips is consistent with the bombing order to hit a populated city in the center without specific regard to military objectives [See Remarks – located four paragraphs below].

It appears the Jesuits (at one kilometer from the geometric epicenter) had greater than 90% probability of being outside the atomic bomb’s “plasma” since it was an airburst but they were on the “hairy edge”. Depending on the actual height of detonation, the Jesuits must have had the edge of the fireball literally outside their window. Assuming they were just outside of the plasma, their residence should still have been utterly destroyed (temp > 2000 F and airblast pressures > 100 psi). In contrast, unreinforced masonry or brick walls (representative of commercial construction) are destroyed at 3 psi, which will also cause ear damage and burst windows. At ten psi, a human will experience severe lung and heart damage, burst eardrums and at 20 psi your limbs can be blown off. Your head will be blown off by 40 psi and no residential or unreinforced commercial construction would be left standing. At 80 psi even reinforced concrete is heavily damaged and no human would be alive because your skull would be crushed All the cotton clothes would be on fire at 350 F (probably at 275F) and your lungs would be inoperative within a minute breathing air (even for a few seconds) at these temperatures.

Conclusion: There are no physical laws to explain why the Jesuits were untouched in the Hiroshima air blast. There is no other actual or test data where a structure such as this was not totally destroyed at this standoff distance by an atomic weapon. All who were at this range from the epicenter should have received enough radiation to be dead within at most a matter of minutes if nothing else happened to them. There is no known way to design a uranium-235 atomic bomb, which could leave such a large discrete area intact while destroying everything around it immediately outside the fireball (by shaping the plasma).

From a scientific viewpoint, what happened to those Jesuits at Hiroshima still defies all human logic from the laws of physics as understood today (or at any time in the future). It must be concluded that some other (external) force was present whose power and/or capability to transform energy and matter as it relates to humans is beyond current comprehension. >From the standpoint of the current universal “string” theory in physics (relating atomic scale effects to macroscopic world)
it suggests that the physical “strings” (i.e., bodies) of the Jesuits and the “energy strings” representing the house’s physical matter) were either transformed at the moment of the blast into an opposing energy field (to cancel the weapon effects and then transformed back on a time scale totally imperceptible to humans) or an enormous external force field was present which precisely cancelled the weapon’s effects over the totally irregular geometry of the residential house including protecting the occupants. Either way it is a plausibility argument for the existence of a Creator who left his “calling card” at Hiroshima. (Source: Holy Souls)

Hail Mary Index

It would be interesting to compute Ateneo de Manila University’s Hail Mary index H for the month of October.  The Daily Hail Mary index is is mathematically defined as follows:

H = \sum_{i=1}^{N} n_i h_i,

where n_i is the number of people in the i^{th} prayer meeting during the day, and h_i is the number of Hail Mary’s prayed (and not the Planck’s constant in Quantum Mechanics).  For example, 100 people praying a decade (10) of a rosary has a Hail Mary Index of  100 \times 10=1000.  The equation given for the Hail Mary Index is a mathematical translation of St.  Louis de Montfort’s law of public prayer:

One who says his Rosary alone only gains the merit of that one Rosary. But if he says it together with others, he gains the merit of each Rosary. This is the law of public prayer. (www.

Those who want to participate in the study can use the comment form of this blog post.  Please write your full name, affiliation (course or department), date and time of the rosary, the number of Hail Mary’s prayed, and the number of persons in the group.  Plotting the Hail Mary Index as a function of time (days) would be an interesting metric for Department of Theology, Loyola House of Studies, and Campus Ministry, as a measure of the strength of Ateneo’s Marian devotion.  A tentative hypothesis is as follows: The Daily Hail Mary Index is a multimodal distribution centered on Marian Feast days.  The integral of the daily Hail Mary Index over the number of days in a year would give the Yearly Hail Mary Index.  Another tentative hypothesis: the Yearly Hail Mary Index follows the 11-year sunspot cycle.

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Physics News and Features from Ateneo de Manila University

2 Responses to How eight Jesuits survived the atomic bomb in Hiroshima: nuclear physics and the Holy Rosary

  1. captain picard says:

    Oh fairy tales…

    • Terry says:

      Some continue to deny even after 2000 years. Pray the rosary daily and surrender yourself by saying the daily rosary.

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