Former scientist of the Manhattan Project pays first visit to Hiroshima

by Hiromi Morita, Staff Writer

Joan Hinton, 86, who worked on the development of the atomic bomb as an American physicist for the Manhattan project and has lived in China since the end of World War II, has paid a visit to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. “My work was purely related to physics and I never really thought about how the bomb might be used,” she said with regret at the site where scores of people perished 63 years ago.

Accompanied by her son, Bill Engst, 53, Ms. Hinton visited the A-bombed city for the first time. She cast flowers in the Motoyasu River running alongside Peace Memorial Park and said, tears in her eyes, “I feel such sorrow.”

In 1944, as a graduate student, Ms. Hinton became involved in the process of refining uranium at a national laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico. She learned of the A-bombing of Hiroshima through an article in the newspaper a few days after the blast. Together with colleagues, she then staged a protest against the U.S. government.

“I thought they were creating the A-bomb to outrace Germany,” Ms. Hinton remarked. “I never really imagined that the bomb would be used to kill people.” In 1948, she left the United States and moved to China as if fleeing from a sense of guilt. Since then, she has been involved in anti-war activities and has run a dairy farm on the outskirts of Beijing. Paying a visit to Hiroshima was her ardent desire, an opportunity for redemption.

It is believed that the main character of “Command the Morning,” a novel written by American Nobel Prize-winner Pearl Buck, which depicts scientists developing the A-bomb, was modeled on Ms. Hinton. The publisher of the Japanese translation of the book, located in Tokyo, invited Ms. Hinton to visit Japan.

(Originally published on August 7, 2008)