Message to Hiroshima Summit: Shigeaki Mori, historian, A-bomb survivor, calls for summit to serve as venue for pledge of “No War”

by Miho Kuwajima, Senior Staff Writer

Shigeaki Mori, 85, is a historian and A-bomb survivor who lives in Hiroshima’s Nishi Ward. When Barack Obama visited Hiroshima in May 2016, as the first sitting U.S. president to do so, he took Mr. Mori in his embrace, an image that was reported around the world. With the summit meeting of the G7 (Group of Seven industrialized nations) to be held in Hiroshima, the city will once again draw the world’s attention. Mr. Mori hopes that current U.S. President Joe Biden and the other leaders will take to heart the importance of peace and pledge to “Never wage war.”


When I was eight and a third-year student at Koi National School (in Hiroshima’s present-day Nishi Ward), I experienced the atomic bombing in the area of Koi-machi, about 2.5 kilometers from the hypocenter. I was on my way at the time to a temporary room for a class. In 1975, while looking back at the devastation caused by the bombing in that area based on my recollections, I began to investigate U.S. soldiers killed in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. That was after I had read a personal account written by the principal of Seibi National School indicating that he had seen the bodies of American soldiers in the schoolyard. The national school was located at the time in what is now Hiroshima’s centrally located Naka Ward, but it has since closed its doors.

I attended Seibi National School until the second grade. If I had not changed schools, I would also certainly have been killed. With determination based on the idea that if I don’t do anything no one else will, I discovered that 12 U.S. soldiers had been killed in the atomic bombing. I tracked down their families and registered the soldiers’ photographic portraits with the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims, in the city’s Naka Ward.

After meeting President Obama when he visited Peace Memorial Park, in Naka Ward, the story of Mr. Mori’s persistent efforts on behalf of U.S. soldiers killed in the atomic bombing became widely known both in Japan and overseas.

Three days before Mr. Obama’s visit to Hiroshima, I was contacted suddenly by someone on the U.S. side. On the day of the president’s visit, I again was surprised to be guided to a front-row seat. The moment President Obama put his long arms around me, I felt as if I was being rewarded for my long years of effort. I was overcome with emotion, and tears flooded my eyes. The president, standing in front of me, looked like a bodhisattva, and I felt in my soul his sincere desire to eliminate nuclear weapons. In reality, however, the U.S. Congress would never allow that to happen. I assume he was facing a terrible dilemma.

Mr. Obama stayed at Peace Memorial Park for 52 minutes. In his address, he described how “death fell from the sky,” making it unclear where the responsibility for the atomic bombings lay. Neither did he make an apology to A-bomb survivors. Ever since, the U.S. government has been modernizing and making more compact its nuclear weapons arsenal. Some people are warning that the Hiroshima Summit must not be turned into another empty political performance.

I truly hope the leaders spend sufficient time touring the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and listening directly to the accounts from A-bomb survivors about what happened in Hiroshima 78 years ago. Modern nuclear weapons are several magnitudes more powerful than those we experienced. The problem, however, is not just nuclear weapons. The tragic circumstances in Ukraine have shown that newly developed conventional weapons are also capable of killing people ever more efficiently, a reality that frightens me to my core.

The Hiroshima Summit will draw the attention of the world’s media. I hope that President Biden and other leaders take to heart the importance of peace and vow to never wage war and to eliminate nuclear weapons, sending out such messages in their own words.

Shigeaki Mori
Born in the area of Koi-machi (now part of Nishi Ward) in Hiroshima in 1937, Shigeaki Mori graduated from the Faculty of Economics at Chuo University. After joining Yamaichi Securities, he started work at Nippon Gakki (present-day Yamaha Corporation) in 1967. Apart from his career, he has continued to conduct investigations into U.S. soldiers that were killed in the atomic bombing. He published Genbaku de Shinda Beihei Hishi (in English, ‘Secret History of the American Soldiers Killed by the Atomic Bomb’) in 2008. Mr. Mori won the Kikuchi Kan Prize in 2016, as well as the Japan National Press Club Prize and the Distinguished Service Award from the United States-Japan Foundation, in 2017.

(Originally published on January 11, 2023)