Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to visit the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for Atomic Bomb Victims as part of the Kakehashi Young Public Intellectuals Trip. During the visit, our delegation had the opportunity to meet with one of the survivors of the Hiroshima bombing and hear about its impact on his life. He spoke at length about his experience during and after the bombing, including the deaths of his mother, neighbor, and playmates. It was a moving presentation that serves as a reminder of the devastating effects of nuclear war.
Following the presentation, our delegation was provided an opportunity to ask questions of the survivor. Many centered on how the attack affects his personal views on various contemporary security issues, including the Japan-United States Alliance.
When asked for his opinion on the U.S. military currently stationed in Japan, the survivor responded that this was necessary given the threat by the People’s Republic of China and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. At the same time, he emphasized the importance of peace throughout his remarks and challenged our delegation to remain committed to securing a world without war.
At the end of the event, a few members of our delegation were able to continue our discussion with the survivor. This provided an opportunity to hear his personal take on the U.S. military officials who perpetrated the bombing. When asked if he considered those who ordered and carried out the bombing to be war criminals, he responded that he did. But, at the same time, he reminded us that many atrocities were carried out by all parties during the war.
For this reason, he said that he did not feel that those officials associated with the bombing should be barred from burial in U.S. military cemeteries. Nor did he feel that American leaders should stop paying their respects at Arlington National Cemetery – even if those affiliated with the attack are buried there. In his words, one should not disrespect the dead. I found these comments to be particularly interesting given the international debate over the Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to the Yasukuni Shrine.
This is the first in a series of reports related to the Japan Foundation’s Kakehashi Visit for Young Public Intellectuals from January 12-22, 2014. The author represented the Federation of American Scientists as part of the Pacific Forum CSIS Young Leaders delegation.