August 6, 2008
Every year on this date, in honor of Aunt Terry, a nisei aunt interned at Manzanar, California during World War II, we mark the anniversary of the world’s first wartime nuclear bomb blast. Thousands of people gathered in Hiroshima today at Peace Memorial Park to mark the 63rd anniversary of the unleashing of “Little Boy” and its lethal aftermath. Prayers were offered at 8:15 a.m., at the exact moment in 1945 when “Little Boy” dropped from the Enola Gay, an American aircraft, upon the city’s residents. At least 80,000 people died instantly. Ultimately, the death toll rose to more than 140,000, while thousands of other people sustained severe radiation burns.
Among the 45,000 attendees were Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda and the mayor of Hiroshima, Dr. Tadatoshi Akiba. Akiba called on the United States — one of three countries opposing a United Nations resolution which seeks a unilateral ban on nuclear arms — to endorse the U.N. resolution. He said: “We can only hope that the president of the United States elected this November will listen conscientiously to the majority, for whom the top priority is human survival.” Akiba spoke of “the grave import of the truth, born of tragedy and suffering, that the only role for nuclear weapons is to be abolished.”
While most countries have attended the annual ceremony commemorating the atomic bomb blast victims, Britain, France, North Korea and the U.S. have never done so. Akiba has been haunted all his life by the “beautiful incendiary bombs coming down on us at night and the terror they created.” Akiba, three at the time and living outside of Tokyo, once said: “The longest minute I ever experienced was the time I was waiting for my mother to come back from our bomb shelter where she carried my baby brother first when the air raid warning sounded. Later, when I learned what had happened to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it was very natural that those experiences merged with mine to form my basic feelings about war and human suffering.”
Dr. Akiba also serves as president of Mayors for Peace. Established in 1982, the nuclear disarmament NGO’s membership has grown to include 2,368 cities in 131 regions and countries. In 2002, Akiba said: “What the Hiroshima survivors are telling us is that no one else should ever go through the experience they suffered…An atomic bombing creates a living hell on Earth where the living envy the dead.“
In one annual peace declaration at Hiroshima, the mayor commented: “The world at large has no strong awareness of what the Hiroshima and Nagasaki experience actually means: that is, its meaning with respect to the lives of those who experienced it. I feel it is my duty as mayor of Hiroshima to represent those voices. He’s also said that the “annual reliving of that terrible tragedy” is made more painful for survivors because “their experience appears to be fading from the collective memory of humankind. Having never experienced an atomic bombing, the vast majority around the world can only vaguely imagine such horror and, these days, John Hersey’s Hiroshima and Jonathan Schell’s The Fate of the Earth are all but forgotten. As predicted by the saying, ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,’ the probability that nuclear weapons will be used and the danger of nuclear war [is] increasing.”
In three days, victims of “Fat Man,” the nuclear bomb dropped on Nagasaki which killed 70,000 people, will be remembered in a memorial service observing the August 9, 1945 bombing.
Read about Colorado governor Ralph Lawrence Carr, who sacrificed his political career trying to protect the civil rights of Japanese-Americans during World War II.
Photo credits: AFP / Getty and Tufts University
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