“No More Hiroshimas!”
ALTHOUGH the Japanese were elated over the Pearl Harbor victory and remembered it while they were winning, the date was consigned to oblivion after they lost the war. When the Japanese government was asked recently about not having apologized for the attack, the chief cabinet secretary answered: “Strategically and generally speaking, I have the feeling that the Pearl Harbor attack was anything but commendable. However, matters regarding the war between the United States and Japan were settled by the San Francisco Peace Treaty.”
His words represent the feelings of some Japanese toward the surprise attack that ignited the Pacific war. Although over a million Japanese visit Hawaii every year, reports the newspaper Mainichi Shimbun, only a relatively small number visit the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial, which was built to commemorate the Pearl Harbor attack.
While the slogan “Remember Pearl Harbor!” brings back bitter memories to some Americans, the Japanese recall their sufferings with the outcry “No More Hiroshimas.” Atom bombs that exploded over the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 had a traumatic effect not only on the direct victims but on the nation as a whole.
Hearing the firsthand experiences of survivors helps us understand their feelings. Take, for example, Itoko, who was just out of school and had become a secretary at the Naval institution in Hiroshima. Even though she was inside the building where she worked, she felt the flash of the atom bomb, as though she were swayed by the light itself. “I worked with soldiers to clean the city of dead bodies,” explains Itoko. “In a river, the soldiers trawled a fishing net from a boat and recovered more than 50 bodies every time they pulled up the net. We took the bodies ashore and stacked them in fives and burned them. Most of them were naked. I couldn’t tell men from women, and their lips were swollen like ducks’ bills.” The Japanese cannot forget the horrors wrought by two atom bombs.
Why the Weapon of Mass Destruction Was Used
Professor Shigetoshi Iwamatsu of Nagasaki University, who is an A-bomb victim himself, wrote to Western newspapers more than 20 years ago to inform them of the plight of the victims. “He was stunned by the responses,” reports Asahi Evening News. “Half of the answers were that it was the atomic bombs that had stopped the Japanese aggression and it was odd for the bomb victims to appeal for peace.”
Explaining the reason for using the weapon of mass destruction, The Encyclopedia Americana says: “He [Harry S. Truman] made the decision to use atomic bombs against Japan, believing that they would end the war quickly and save lives.” Although not insensitive to the feelings of A-bomb victims, Kenkichi Tomioka, a Japanese journalist who reported the chaotic postwar conditions, admits: “Looking back at the period between March/April and August 1945, when operations to conclude the war reached a climax putting the fate of the nation at stake, we cannot ignore the role played by the two doses of corrective medicine [atom bombs], specific for cooling hot heads, that were administered to militarists clamoring for a showdown to defend the homeland. A showdown would have meant the gyokusai (charging into death rather than surrendering) of the 100 million population.”
Nevertheless, those who lost loved ones in the atom bombings and those who suffer illnesses caused by radiation find that their pain cannot be salved by words that justify the dropping of the pikadon, or “flash-and-blast,” as the survivors called the A-bombs. Although they have long seen themselves as innocent victims, some A-bomb survivors now realize that as Japanese, they must acknowledge, as Professor Iwamatsu went on to say, the “crimes they committed in their aggression against other countries in the Asia-Pacific region.” In 1990 a bomb victim apologized for Japan’s war crimes in front of foreign delegates at the annual antibomb demonstrations in Hiroshima.
Did They Really Have Reasons to Kill?
A strong loathing for war dwells in the hearts of many survivors and eyewitnesses of Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki. Looking back, some question whether their countries had valid reasons to demand the sacrifice of their loved ones.
In order to whip up fervor for the war and justify the killing, both sides launched verbal attacks as well. The Americans called the Japanese “sneaky Japs” and found it easy to fan the flames of hatred and revenge with the words “Remember Pearl Harbor!” In Japan people were taught that the Anglo-Americans were kichiku, meaning “demonic beasts.” Many in Okinawa were even led to commit suicide rather than fall into the hands of “beasts.” Similarly, after the Japanese surrendered, when American invasion forces landed at a nearby port, young Itoko, mentioned earlier, was handed two doses of poisonous potassium cyanide by her commander. “Don’t you be a plaything for the foreign soldiers,” he ordered.
However, through her Japanese-Hawaiian friends, Itoko gradually widened her views and came to realize that both the Americans and the British can be friendly, genteel, and kind. She met George, an Irishman born in Singapore, whose father was killed by the Japanese. They came to know each other and married. They are only one example of many who found their ex-enemies to be amicable persons. If all had seen the “enemies,” not through glasses tinted by war, but through their own unbiased eyes, they could have showered them with love instead of with bombshells.
Yes, peace between individuals based on mutual understanding is essential for world peace. But in view of the scores of wars fought since 1945, it is evident that men have not learned this basic lesson from Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima. However, even peace between individuals is not enough to bring world peace. Just what will it take? The next article will explain.
[Blurb on page 7]
While the slogan “Remember Pearl Harbor!” brings back bitter memories to some Americans, the Japanese recall their sufferings with the outcry “No More Hiroshimas!”
[Blurb on page 8]
Peace between individuals based on mutual understanding is essential for world peace
[Picture on page 7]
Lloyd Barry and Adrian Thompson, missionaries of the Watch Tower Society, in front of Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial in 1950
[Picture on page 8]
Hiroshima in ruins after the atom-bomb blast
U.S. Army/Courtesy of The Japan Peace Museum