Marion and I attended a forum on March 21 at JANM, on the topic as described above. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the dropping on the A-bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki
I was 11 when the bombs were dropped. The conflicting feelings I had about the two events continue to affect me to this day: I was happy, of course, that at last the war that had disrupted our family would be over. And yet, there was this profound sadness, that thousands of innocent people, some of whom lived in Hiroshima, where some of my relatives came from, were killed in this horrible way.
The American view was most influential: The “Japs” started the war by bombing Pearl Harbor, so this is what they deserved. We shortened the war and saved the lives of thousands of our men, to say nothing of the civilians who would have died defending Japan. I was Japanese and my loyalty was being questioned, so I was not about to express an opposing view. My feelings remained buried inside of me.
The program opened with a video interview of Nisei pediatrician Dr. James Yamazaki, author of “Children of the Atomic Bomb,” an account of a lifelong effort to understand and document the impact of the atomic bomb’s nuclear exposure on children.
Along with video interviews of A-bomb survivors, Wataru Namba and Kaz Suyeishi were present to speak personally of their experiences.
One of the panelists, Dr. Akiko Mikamo, is a lecturer and psychologist based in San Diego. She received the 2014 Peace and Prosperity Foundation Award. She grew up in Hiroshima.
Dr. Mikamo tells the story of how her father perished while standing on the roof of his house on Aug. 6, 1945. She says she tells his story to send out the message of love and forgiveness.
Another panelist, Ms. Tomoko Maekawa, has taken leadership roles in a number of peace organizations in Nagasaki. She has traveled extensively, sometimes accompanied by hibakusha (someone affected directly by the A- bomb). She had pictures of a “Stone Walk,” which involved students marching with tombstones symbolizing the civilian victims of war, some of whom were her students.
The master of ceremonies for the event was Doug Erber, president of the Japan America Society of Southern California. He repeated a comment made by Gen. Curtis LeMay concerning the incendiary bombing of Tokyo. LeMay said of the bombing, “If we were to lose the war, I would probably be tried as a war criminal.”
This caused me to Google the subject of the pre-Hiroshima/Nagasaki bombings. The dropping of the incendiary bombs decimated several major Japanese cities, including Tokyo. One estimate was that the bombings that occurred from June of 1945 until the A-bombing in August of that year killed one million civilians, including the Hiroshima/Nagasaki victims.
The last speaker of the afternoon was Dr. David Krieger, the founder and president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. He authored or edited over 20 books dealing with the nuclear age. His latest book is “The Path to Zero: Dialogues on Nuclear Dangers.” A comment he made had me searching Google once more: Krieger said that Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, when he was assigned in Europe, declared that the A-bombing was unnecessary.
Sure enough, in one of the books on Eisenhower, a conversation takes place between him and Secretary of War Henry Stimson. When Stimson informed the general that President Harry Truman was considering using the A-bomb against Japan, Eisenhower said that because of the extensive incendiary bombing already occurring, the Japanese would be looking desperately for a face-saving means to surrender, and the A-bomb would be unnecessary.
Another comment made by Dr. Krieger had to do with the irony of an event that occurred on Aug. 8, two days after the Hiroshima bombing and a day before the Nagasaki bombing.
The U.S., Britain and Russia met in London to discuss how they would go about prosecuting war crimes such as those committed by the Nazis against the Jews. Several categories of crimes were listed, including “crimes against humanity.” How tragically ironic that this treaty was signed on Aug. 8, between these two inhumane events.
Returning again to my repressed feeling about Hiroshima/Nagasaki, let me share with you what I feel today. It is a sense of relief and that I can, at last, express my true feelings about these tragedies. While feeling compassion for those who suffered and lost so much, I am angered and ashamed for my country in committing these crimes against humanity.
For the sake of future generations I believe it is important that we make the effort to search out the truth behind Hiroshima and Nagasaki and recognize that as great as this country is, we have made some terrible mistakes.
Phil Shigekuni writes from San Fernando Valley and can be contacted at [email protected] The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.