The Lives of Two A-bomb Scientists, Part 4

by Hiromi Morita, Staff Writer

The significance of sharing the A-bomb experience

Shoji Sawada, who was involved in campaigns against atomic and hydrogen bombs as a university student, began to relate his own A-bomb experience to people around him when he reached his late 30s. He first shared his A-bomb account with others in 1968 by contributing an article about his experience at the request of a magazine. The Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, composed of fellow scientists, made him realize the significance of conveying his A-bomb experience.

Principles of Pugwash Conferences waver due to Cold War

The Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs have their origin in “The Russell-Einstein Manifesto,” which, in 1955, warned of the annihilation of the human race by nuclear war and called on the cooperation of scientists to avert this danger. But the principles of the conferences immediately wavered in the face of the Cold War between the East and West.

As far as Dr. Sawada remembers, the idea of “coexisting with atomic bombs” already appeared in the second Pugwash Conference in 1958, while, in the 1960s, many researchers supported the theory of nuclear deterrence.

Dr. Sawada attended the Graduate School of Hiroshima University and joined the laboratory of Kiyoshi Sakuma, a leader in campaigns against atomic and hydrogen bombs. In 1966, he became an associate professor in the laboratory of Shoichi Sakata at Nagoya University. Four years before Dr. Sawada assumed this post, in 1962, Professor Sakata held “The Kyoto Conference of Scientists,” known as Japan’s version of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, with Hideki Yukawa, a professor at Kyoto University and a Nobel Prize laureate in physics.

Influenced by Professor Sakuma and Professor Sakata, Dr. Sawada became increasingly involved in these conferences. At the Kyoto Conference of Scientists in 1975, he was a member of the administrative office that planned to collect signatures in support of the manifesto that was named after Dr. Yukawa and Shinichiro Tomonaga, “The Yukawa-Tomonaga Manifesto.”

The Yukawa-Tomonaga Manifesto, which criticized the nuclear deterrence theory and appealed for moving beyond it, did not at first receive favorable reaction from international participants. But once a five-hour documentary film on the atomic bombings was screened, the tense divide at the venue was bridged. It was Dr. Tomonaga’s idea to show the film.

In the end, 28 participants, including scientists from the nuclear weapon states of the U.S. and the U.K.--but not those from the former Soviet Union--signed the Yukawa-Tomonaga Manifesto. Dr. Sawada keenly realized: “Even scientists familiar with the mechanism of nuclear weapons don’t understand the consequences of using such weapons.”

Returning to principles of Russell-Einstein Manifesto

Regarding the Pugwash Conference held in the A-bombed city of Hiroshima in 1995, half a century after the atomic bombings, Dr. Sawada joined its administrative office and provided support to stage the event. He and his colleagues were also able to persuade the conference participants to visit Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. These efforts are said to have contributed to the process of the Pugwash Conferences unfettering itself of the nuclear deterrence theory and returning to the principles of the Russell-Einstein Manifesto.

Dr. Sawada, who witnessed the importance of scientists learning directly about the horrific reality wrought by the atomic bombings, stood on a podium himself to address the Pugwash Conference at Lillehammer, Norway in 1997. His voice choking, he vividly recounted leaving his mother in the fire of the atomic bombing, a twist of fate that had tortured him. Despite the difficulty of confronting his past, when those overseeing the conference asked him to share his A-bomb account, Dr. Sawada was pleased to accept their request.

“Individual accounts by A-bomb survivors help fire the imagination of listeners and enable them to grasp the whole picture of devastation wrought by the atomic bombings,” Dr. Sawada said. Science, in developing nuclear weapons, strayed down a destructive path, he added. His relationships with others in the field have fueled his antinuclear convictions.

Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs
Following the release of the Russell-Einstein Manifesto in 1955, signed by 11 world-renowned scientists, the first Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs was held in the village of Pugwash, Canada in 1957. The proposals they have presented are believed to have influenced the enactment of the Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT) and the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). The Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995.

(Originally published on July 5, 2009)