President Obama, Please Hear the Voices of Hiroshima

Special feature article: U.S. President Barack Obama Visits Hiroshima

by Osamu Kido, Staff Writer

On May 27, prior to the 71st anniversary of the atomic bombing this summer, the city of Hiroshima will be visited for the first time by a sitting president of the nation that dropped the atomic bombs. In a special four-page feature article on the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, the Chugoku Shimbun will convey the thoughts and feelings of the A-bomb survivors and the voiceless appeals of the A-bomb dead to U.S. President Barack Obama.

Since the end of World War II, the Chugoku Shimbun, based in the city that was devastated by the atomic bomb, has made it our mission to provide coverage of issues involving the atomic bombings and peace. Toshihiro Kanai (1914-1974), a former chief editorial writer for the newspaper and a journalist who built the foundation for reporting on the bombings, often asked, “Have the atomic bombs come to be known for their power, or for their human tragedy?” His outlook has long been alive in the minds of Chugoku Shimbun staff.

This special feature article includes articles that have previously run in the Chugoku Shimbun: an English translation of an editorial in the morning edition of May 25; articles from the series “From A-bomb Survivors to President Obama, carried in the morning edition from May 13 to 26; and a special edition of “Photographs of the Dead Speak” from the morning edition of June 29, 2000. The series and the special edition have been published in both Japanese and English. Also included is the article “Restored map of the townscape of the neighborhood which lay near the hypocenter” from the morning edition of June 29, 2000.

We hope, sincerely, that President Obama will truly grasp the “human tragedy” brought about by the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and take further steps toward advancing “a world without nuclear weapons.”

Record of Hiroshima: Photographs of the Dead Speak

by Masami Nishimoto, Senior Staff Writer

The atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 took the lives of some 140,000 people by the end of 1945. Those who managed to survive the attack have suffered from the aftereffects of the bomb’s radiation.

These photographs reveal people who perished in the hypocenter area, now the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Naka Ward. They number 1,882 individuals, including a baby boy of nine months and a woman who was 87 years old. Their images are lasting proof of the human beings “whose bodies were charred beyond recognition,” as stated by the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey in its 1946 report.

The locations include Saiku-machi and the Hiroshima Post Office, lying directly beneath the exploding bomb; Sarugaku-cho, which left behind only the building now known as the Atomic Bomb Dome; Nakajima Honmachi, a bustling district on the delta; Zaimoku-cho with its six temples; Tenjin-machi and its many shops and clinics; and Motoyanagi-machi, an area of wholesalers. Lives were also claimed on the banks of the Motoyasu River, where first- and second-year students from Hiroshima Municipal Girls’ High School were mobilized to tear down homes on the right bank while first-year students from Hiroshima Second Middle School were mobilized to undertake this work on the left bank.

From 1997 to June 2000, the Chugoku Shimbun pursued an investigation to trace the lives and the deaths of those who were present in the hypocenter area at the time of the atomic bombing, then published these findings as “Photographs of the Dead Speak.”

With the cooperation of bereaved family members and others, the Chugoku Shimbun was able to confirm the circumstances of 2,342 people who died by the end of 1945 and 27 others who died between 1945 and 1962. Of this total, 85% lost their lives on the day of the bombing. Most of the photographs of 1,882 people, including 21 who died between 1946 and 1959, are held in the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims, established in the Peace Memorial Park in 2002.

Today, there are some 15,000 nuclear warheads still in the world, extending the “negative legacy” of the 20th century. And today, May 27, U.S. President Barack Obama, the leader of the nuclear superpower that began its reign with the dropping of the atomic bombs, will stand on the hypocenter ground. What will the president say about the “world without nuclear weapons” that he has advocated? The people of the A-bombed city are closely watching whether he responds to the silent voices of the photographs of the dead.