A Look at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial
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A Look at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial

Friday August 6, 2010 marks the 65th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan. It also marks the first time an official representative of the United States (Ambassador John Roos) will attend the annual ceremonies, along with representatives of 75 other countries and the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon.

Friday August 6, 2010 marks the 65th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan. It also marks the first time an official representative of the United States (Ambassador John Roos) will attend the annual ceremonies, along with representatives of 75 other countries and the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon.

The official presence of the U.S. at this year’s ceremonies has generated both support and controversy, and has highlighted one of the world’s most poignant and haunting landmarks. A brief look back over this site’s 95-year history should help put this momentous occasion in perspective.

Hiroshima (???)

This southern city, founded in 1589, was the capital of its region/prefecture, and developed over the centuries into an important urban center, culminating with the construction of Ujina Harbor, which established Hiroshima as a major port city in the 1880s.

Over the next 35 years Hiroshima expanded, adding railroad and industrial capacity, allowing it to play key roles in both the Sino-Japanese War (1894-95) and Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905). A result of this increased trade and industrialization was the construction in 1915 of the Hiroshima Prefectural Commercial Exhibition (HMI).

World War II

The Second Army and Chugoku Regional Army made their headquarters in Hiroshima during the War, and the Marine Headquarters was based nearby at the port of Ujina, but Hiroshima had avoided the devastating raids that had largely destroyed other major urban centers like Tokyo and Toyama.

This false peace ended at 8:15AM on August 6, 1945 when a B-29 bomber (Enola Gay), piloted by Col. Paul Tibbets released a 13-kiloton, uranium-based bomb over the city, almost directly over the dome of the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall (as it had been renamed in 1933).

The resulting blast killed or injured roughly 150,000 people and destroyed nearly 70% of the city’s buildings, including a large portion of the Promotional Hall. All that remained of the building was some structural concrete and the shell of its dome.

Genbaku Dome (?????)

After the war the ruins of the Promotional Hall were initially slated for demolition, but the intactness of the remaining structure led to delays and some controversial calls for preservation as Hiroshima struggled to rebuild. In 1966 the city decided to formally preserve the site (now dubbed the “A-Bomb Dome”). International donations were added to locally-raised funds, and the Dome has undergone two preservation projects, ultimately expanding its grounds into a memorial park, including a museum, Children’s Peace Monument and cenotaph, among other structures.

Thirty years after Hiroshima decided to protect the site, UNESCO registered the A-Bomb Dome on its World Heritage List in the hope that it would stand as a symbol for the need to eliminate nuclear weapons.

This decision was not without its own controversy, however, as both China and the United States lodged objections over the site’s placement on such an influential and symbolic list. China’s delegate expressed concern that the monument might downplay Japan’s aggression during the war and the suffering of its victims, while the U.S. representative claimed that the war’s “historical context” was not being taken into account.

Peace Memorial Ceremony

Since the 1960s the citizens of Hiroshima have held a ceremony at the Peace Memorial Park each August 6 to commemorate the bombing and its victims. This ceremony includes:

  • Dedication and offering of water
  • Opening
  • Dedication of the register of the names of the Fallen Atomic Bomb Victims
  • Dedication of flowers
  • Silent prayer and Peace Bell, which is rung for one minute from 8:15am
  • Peace Declaration by the Mayor of Hiroshima
  • Release of doves
  • Commitment to peace (given by children's representatives)
  • Various Addresses by Prime Minister of Japan and other dignitaries
  • Hiroshima Peace Song
  • Closing

It is this ceremony that the U.S. Ambassador, as well as representatives of the nuclear-armed nations of France and Britain, will attend for the first time, giving hope that 65 years in, one chapter of the Atomic Age may be closing, and a final reconciliation may soon be at hand.

Further Reading

http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/775

http://www.pcf.city.hiroshima.jp/top_e.html

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Comments (1)

Mark, thank you for this article on the eve of this important anniversary. What a dark day in history that was. You know what they say . . . those who forget history tend to repeat it. God help us.

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