Thursday, August 6, 2015

70th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima & Nagasaki

I meant to spend time working on a post for the 70th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but because I spent the past month writing about the Kimono Wednesdays protests I haven't had time. I didn't want to let today's anniversary pass without posting something so here's a round up of stuff happening in the Boston area and some interesting articles.
Mass Peace Action seems to have collected a lot of the 70th anniversary events in the Boston area on their website. Unfortunately, some events already happened but there's a Concert in Observance of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki Bombings tomorrow night at The Church of the Advent in Boston and a free film screening on Sunday of Article 9 Comes to America by local filmmaker David Rothauser as part of an evening of activities organized by Watertown Citizens for Peace, Justice and the Environment.

Apparently, there's a private museum in Natick called the Museum of World War II that houses original bombing orders for Hiroshima and Nagasaki along with other WWII artifacts. You can only visit by appointment.
I would like to note that the United States has never apologized to Japan for dropping the bombs and killing somewhere between 129,000 - 246,000+ civilians (mostly Japanese, but including others) and maiming hundreds of thousands more including Japanese Americans, Koreans, and other foreign nationals. For scale, compare that to the nearly 16,000 who died in the 3.11 tsunami, earthquake, and nuclear disaster. Many Americans persist in the belief that the bombing was "an act of mercy" that ended the war rather than the result of rabid racism that fueled things like the imprisonment of 120,000 Japanese Americans and Japanese for committing the "crime" of being Japanese or of Japanese descent. Look up pictures of hibakusha (people who survived the bombings - the literal translation is "explosion-affected people") and tell me the bombings were merciful.

Japanese, Americans Disagree on Bombing of Hiroshima, Nagasaki 

Although opinion on the use of atomic bombs has shifted in the US, there is very little support for an apology. A US president has never attended ceremonies to mark the anniversaries; the highest ranking official we have ever sent have been US ambassadors to Japan and that only started five years ago (see The New York Times article below for more details).

I was very surprised to read that the Battleship Missouri Memorial at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii is currently displaying an exhibit of artifacts from the Chiran Peace Museum for Kamikaze Pilots (Wikipedia) which has never been displayed outside of Japan before. Elsewhere in the US WGN America has been making a fictionalized TV show called Manhattan about life in Los Alamos and the building of the bombs. They style the show's title as "MANH(A)TTAN" with the "(A)" on top of an unexploded bomb stuck into Los Alamos. The show premiered last year just a few days before the 69th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. I thought about writing about it, but I was so disgusted after watching the trailer and reading reviews that praised the show that I couldn't bring myself to watch the first season. There's nothing entertaining about how the US maimed and killed up to half a million people and Americans still think it's funny to joke about it. Incredibly the show got renewed for a second season.

It has always amazed me that Japan and most of its citizens don't hate the US. It is widely believed that this is due to the US's heavy involvement in rebuilding post-war Japan during the US-led Allied occupation that lasted until 1952. Earlier this year the Pew Research Center published the results of a survey titled, Americans, Japanese: Mutual Respect 70 Years After the End of WWII. While US-Japan relations are generally seen as good, Japanese see Americans as inventive and tolerant but not honest or hardworking. Interestingly, 75% say they trust the US even though 79% don't think that the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were justified.


Further Reading

For some stories from Hiroshima, please see Koji Kanemoto's blog, Masako and Spam Musubi and A-Bomb and Us, a website containing translated stories from surviviors.

  •  8/8/15: Added Further Reading section with Masako and Spam Musubi and A-Bomb and Us.


  1. It would be beneficial if there could be a traveling exhibit of some of the artifacts from the Hiroshima Peace Memorial. I'll admit (probably because of history book's I was raised on) I was one of those who thought dropping the bomb was "justified." However, after visiting the memorial and seeing documentation of the real horror of that day, my mind was immediately changed. It's too easy for us to distance ourselves from the reality of something that happened 5,000 miles and 70 years away.

    Here's a blog post of a friend of mine. Some of his family members, including his father, are survivors of that day. His posts put the reader there.

    1. My mom handed me a copy of John Hersey's Hiroshima as a young teen because she knew that what I would be taught at school would gloss over the horror of it. In college a peace group came to visit and showed us film that the US government had taken of hibakusha they treated afterwards. They benevolently sent doctors over to care for (really to collect research on) the injured. I was disgusted. Every time I hear Americans complain about Japan’s war crimes (which admittedly were terrible) I wonder when we’ll take responsibility for Hiroshima & Nagasaki.

      Thank you for sharing Koji’s writing. His stories were very moving. I’ve added them to the post.

  2. I'm old enough to remember when the Enola Gay (well, "part" of it) was put on display at the Smithsonian Air & Space. And yes, that museum exhibit was protested... but in reverse to some of the more "recent" protests: many Americans believed the extensive background and history painted a picture that was too sympathetic to the Japanese and didn't frame the bombing in the proper context that was treated as gospel history (taught in all the public schools as fact) during the seventies and eighties: that the atomic bombs were the direct and only cause for Japan's surrender, and they saved not only American lives, but Japanese lives.

    Here's a nice summary of those days:

  3. Hi Eido-san, Thanks for sharing this. I seem to remember reading something about the controversy but I didn't realize it had been something ongoing over many years. I can understand why veterans (from any country) are uncomfortable with questioning their role in war-time atrocities but I wish more of them would. Our Boston chapter of Veterans for Peace participates in marking the Hiroshima/Nagasaki anniversary every year (with Massachusetts Peace Action and other groups) which I very much appreciate.