Thursday, August 6, 2009


"The world is a very different one now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty, and all forms of human life."
-John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address, 1961

On August 6, 1945, sixty-four years ago today, "Little Boy" was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, killing as many as 140,000 people, the majority of whom were civilians, and completely destroying almost 70% of the city's buildings. It's easy now to look back on that horrific event, and the one that followed three days later in Nagasaki, and pass harsh judgment. However, my birth was still almost fifteen years after this occurrence, and I know only what I have read of the horrible, unending days of war, the seemingly intractable and cruel Japanese government, the mounting deaths, and the fear that haunted most of the world. I don't know that I can fairly judge something I did not live through.

Two years ago we had the sobering experience of visiting the Hiroshima Peace Park. We were there during the off-season, and so there were many Japanese visitors but view white-skinned tourists. I must confess that we felt a bit uncomfortable, perhaps what mid-Easterners might feel when visiting the World Trade Center Memorial. When we signed in at the guest book, it was almost tempting to put "British" as our nationality, so overwhelming was the view before us.

However, we were soon put at ease because of the "Savvy magnet." The Japanese girls swarmed her wherever we went, touching her blonde hair and commenting on her piercing blue eyes. The girls' attraction to Savannah definitely helped us to feel a lot more comfortable.
The museum has some very interesting displays and reproductions, with written narration in multiple languages:
My favorite thing outdoors was the Children's Peace Monument:
The Children's Peace Monument has a display of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of paper cranes. The crane is a symbol of happiness and long life in Japan. This monument mourns the tragic deaths of many children in the atomic bomb explosion, and was inspired by 12-year-old Sadako Sasaki, who believed that if she could fold 1,000 paper cranes, she would be cured of her leukemia that was a result of the fallout radiation from the bomb. She died before she completed them, but thousands of Japanese school children have honored her with their own contributions of Japanese cranes. We saw several school groups making presentations, including this one below (uncharacteristically NOT in school uniforms):The Children's Monument includes this statue, a Japanese girl holding aloft a folded paper crane:The focal part of the Peace Park is the "A-Bomb Dome." It is the building closest to the hypocenter of the bombing that remained standing. It is an eerie site:
Today there will be a special ceremony at the Peace Park to remember the victims of the bombing and to pray for world peace. Some day I would like to attend one of those ceremonies, although I think I would like to have along a blonde, blue-eyed baby with me to ease the awkwardness.

Pulitzer-prize winning author John Hersey tells the story of Hiroshima through the eyes of six people who survived the dropping of that atomic bomb there in 1945. Published in 1946, it is an amazingly objective account that should be standard reading for anyone interested in understanding the impact of the decision to unleash atomic power.

As a reporter for Time and Life magazines, Hersey covered both the European and Asian theaters during World War II. After the war he was assigned by New Yorker magazine to cover the reconstruction of Japan. Additional material from a 1985 return visit to the city has been added to the original material.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this post. I watched Ken Burns WWII series and sat, riveted to the TV, as I knew they would drop the bomb. I heard all the reasoning why they did it, but the horrors for those who suffered are beyond comprehension. I hope someday to see this park, to see what you've seen. Thanks.