In my observation over the years, the only coverage the atomic bombing gets each year is a Buddhist service or services in Little Tokyo in which those who perished are memorialized, which of course, is proper and necessary.
“Shadows of Peace, For the Sake of the Children — The Hiroshima/Nagasaki Experience” was a thought-provoking forum held in March that I attended. It provided a more in-depth reporting of the details leading up to the bombing, as well as its aftermath. This forum, produced by Robert Horsting and 2015 Nisei Week awardee Richard Fukuhara, included an art exhibit, hibakusha (A-bomb survivors), and well-qualified speakers.
I discovered I had feelings of anger and shame that I had, for various reasons, suppressed over the years. I came to realize that being in camp and having to show my loyalty to the U.S. was the major reason for this penting of my emotions.
Right after my column appeared, I got in the mail a well-documented letter from a community center friend, Roy Imazu. It had in it all the rationale I had heard and accepted over the years: President Truman had to make the momentous decision after a war that had gone on for 3 ½ years. The country needed relief from reading about the Bataan Death March, kamikaze attacks and the huge casualties incurred in taking Iwo Jima and Okinawa. A planned invasion would imperil 650,000 troops. And this would not be counting the Japanese civilian casualties resulting from an invasion of Japan.
The bombing brought the war to an end, saving the lives of thousands of servicemen.
We JAs who had been released from camp were in no position to counter any of the above. If we did, wouldn’t it reflect on our loyalty to this country?
A couple of panelists at the JANM program I attended caused me to search the Internet and read a couple of books on the subject written in the past year that were enlightening.
Secretary of War Henry Stimson asked then-Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, who was in command of our forces in Europe, whether he thought the bomb should be dropped. Eisenhower, knowing we had decimated over 60 Japanese cities with firebombs, killing hundreds of thousands of civilians, said he did not think the A-bomb was necessary.
Shortly after the bombings, President Truman said the bombing saved the lives of 500,000 American servicemen. Later, a more thorough investigation revealed we could have lost no more than 30,000 military personnel if, indeed, an invasion was necessary.
Someone I met recently, who lives in Watsonville, tells me each year his elderly Japanese woman friend from Japan observes the bombing at her temple. At the end of the service she acknowledges the bombing and apologizes for Pearl Harbor. It is surprising that this non-sequitur exists among the people from Japan: The attack on Pearl Harbor had military objectives. The civilian casualties were unintended. Our military struck Hiroshima/Nagasaki knowing full well that a large number of innocent civilians would die.
The dehumanizing process towards the Japanese enemy had taken its toll in desensitizing the American public. We JAs need to ask ourselves to what extent we were affected in this process insofar as how we saw ourselves.
The forum in March, mentioned above, inspired another forum to be held on Aug. 2, at the San Fernando Valley JA Community Center, sponsored by the San Fernando Valley JACL Chapter, the Council of Pacific Asian Theology, and the sponsors of the March forum, Robert Horsting and Richard Fukuhara. We will be honored to have as speaker Dr. John Cobb, a world-renowned theologian and ethicist. I think he might point out how the ends do not justify the means; the argument has been that because the bombs brought about the end of the war, any means to bring this about was justifiable.
In addition to Dr. Cobb, we will be showing a short DVD interview of Dr. James Yamasaki, who, in 1949, was assigned physician-in-charge of the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission in Nagasaki.
Hiroshima hibakusha Wataru Namba will share his experience, and we will hear additional recorded accounts from Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
“Shadows of Peace, For the Sake of the Children — The Hiroshima Nagasaki Experience” is again the title for our forum. Indeed, for the sake of our children let us seriously probe the facts of this pivotal event in our history, and at the same time come to grips with how our status as Japanese Americans in this country has colored our perceptions. You are invited to come to this free forum at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 2, to explore these matters together:
San Fernando Valley JA Community Center, 12953 Branford St., Pacoima 91331, (818) 899-1989. For more information, my email address: [email protected]
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.