The school uniform Nobuko Oshita made for herself looks like it would turn to dust at the slightest touch.
One sleeve of what is left of her stained summer blouse is missing.
A metal badge bearing the name of First Hiroshima Prefectural girls’ high school is still attached to the lapel.
The 13-year-old was helping with demolition work when the US B-29 bomber Enola Gay released its atomic payload over Hiroshima on the morning of 6 August 1945.
Rescue workers found Oshita barely alive amid the rubble and took her to her parents’ home where she died that night.
Not far from Oshima’s uniform are the blackened remains of a bento lunch that Shigeru Orimen – another Hiroshima schoolchild would never eat.
Three days passed before the 13-year-old’s mother Shigeko found her son’s charred remains – his metal lunchbox clasped to his stomach.
Barack Obama has yet to decide whether exposure to the harrowing exhibits at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum will be on his itinerary when he becomes the first sitting US president to visit the city this month.
Touring the museum – an experience his secretary of state John Kerry described as “gut-wrenching” – would bring him uncomfortably close to physical reminders of young lives ended in an instant 71 years ago by a weapon used on the orders of a previous holder of his office.
(ed:..and of course what compounds the ‘horrors’ of all this is that these two war-crimes – hiroshima and nagasaki – did not need to happen..
..the excuse/reason usually trotted out by the victors/apologists to justify these acts of infamy is that it saved american lives because it obviated the need for a land invasion of japan..that it ‘ended the war’..
..this is complete and utter bullshit – as the historical records clearly show that the military commanders of the time thought japan was a couple of weeks away from surrender anyway..and there would be no need for any invasion of mainland japan..
..even one of the most notorious hawks from that time..the general curtis le may..was emphatic that the bombings were unnecessary and did not end the war..
..essentially they were war-crimes of a horrifying magnitude..
..and if obama could confront that fact – that would as least be a start on a path to america realising what was actually done in their name –
and – what is the horror of horrors – for entirely spurious reasons..)
Moral leadership suggests both sides apologize for unspeakable acts.
When President Obama visits Hiroshima later this month he might do well to reflect on the views of another President who was also the five-star general who oversaw America’s military victory in World War II.
In a 1963 interview on the use of the atomic bomb against Hiroshima President Dwight D. Eisenhower bluntly declared that ‘…it wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing’.Eisenhower was even more specific in his memoirs – writing that when he was informed by Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson the bomb was about to be used against Japan ‘…I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings – first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was I thought no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives…’
Eisenhower was not alone.
Many of the top military leaders – mostly conservatives – went public after World War II with similar judgments.
The President’s chief of staff William D. Leahy–the five-star admiral who presided over meetings of the Joint Chiefs of Staff–noted in his diary seven weeks before the bombing of Hiroshima:
‘It is my opinion that at the present time a surrender of Japan can be arranged with terms that can be accepted by Japan and that will make fully satisfactory provision for America’s defense against future trans-Pacific aggression’.
After the war Leahy declared in his 1950 memoir: ‘It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan.
The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender….
My own feeling was that in being the first to use it we had adopted ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages.
I was not taught to make war in that fashion and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children…’
Just a few weeks after the bombing the famous ‘hawk’ who led the Twenty-First Bomber Command Major General Curtis E. LeMay stated publicly that ‘The war would have been over in two weeks without the Russians entering and without the atomic bomb…the atomic bomb had nothing to do with the end of the war at all’.
Here we are 70 years after the nuclear obliteration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and I’m wondering if we’ve come even one step closer to a moral reckoning with our status as the world’s only country to use atomic weapons to slaughter human beings. Will an American president ever offer a formal apology? Will our country ever regret the dropping of ‘Little Boy’ and ‘Fat Man’ those two bombs that burned hotter than the sun?
Will it absorb the way they instantly vaporized thousands of victims – incinerated tens of thousands more and created unimaginably powerful shockwaves and firestorms that ravaged everything for miles beyond ground zero?
Will it finally come to grips with the ‘black rain’ that spread radiation and killed even more people — slowly and painfully — leading in the end to a death toll for the two cities conservatively estimated at more than 250,000?Given the last seven decades of perpetual militarization and nuclear “modernization” in this country the answer may seem like an obvious no. Still – as a historian I’ve been trying to dig a little deeper into our lack of national contrition.(cont..)