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Atomic Bomb Exhibit at the American University

Updated on September 2, 2016

Artifacts

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Rosary Beads from the Nagasaki bombing.  Burnt clothing of an atomic bomb victim.Shigeru’s lunchbox with the carbonized food.Items distorted by atomic bombing.Clothing and other items from an atomic bombing.Glass bottles distorted by the heat from an atomic bombing.
Rosary Beads from the Nagasaki bombing.
Rosary Beads from the Nagasaki bombing. | Source
Burnt clothing of an atomic bomb victim.
Burnt clothing of an atomic bomb victim. | Source
Shigeru’s lunchbox with the carbonized food.
Shigeru’s lunchbox with the carbonized food. | Source
Items distorted by atomic bombing.
Items distorted by atomic bombing. | Source
Clothing and other items from an atomic bombing.
Clothing and other items from an atomic bombing. | Source
Glass bottles distorted by the heat from an atomic bombing.
Glass bottles distorted by the heat from an atomic bombing. | Source

The Atomic Bomb Exhibit at the American University, 1995

In August 1995, after the National Air & Space Museum decided against displaying artifacts from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki museums, the American University opened a special exhibit about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This exhibit included most of the artifacts The National Air & Space Museum originally planned to put on display. Prior to opening its exhibit the American University had atomic bomb survivors tell of their experience. One of the survivors called on France to stop its atomic bomb testing.

Later there was a symposium consisting of a panel of historians. One of the themes of the panel was Japan had to be more open to discussions about the behavior of its military in World War II and the U.S. had to be more open to discussion about the atomic bombings and their aftermath.

The exhibit itself had numerous poster boards that contained information about the effects of the atomic bombings, pictures of the destruction and of the victims, and survivor stories. There was also a message from the Mayors of Hiroshima (Takashi Hiraoka) and Nagasaki (Iccho Ito). The message was:

We deeply appreciate the efforts of Dr. Benjamin Ladner, President of the American University, and the university’s staff for presenting the opportunity for the American people to understand the necessity to abolition of nuclear weapons and lasting world peace by holding this exhibition on the 50th anniversary year of the end of World War II.

In addition to military personnel , the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki 50 years ago indiscriminately killed and wounded non-combatants including elderly, women and children. Even today, in this time of peace, 300,000 hibakusha continue to suffer from the aftereffects of exposure to radiation and consequently anxiety regarding their health.

We are not criticizing or blaming the United States.

We are, however, making an appeal to the people of the world to understand the horror of nuclear weapons and not turn away from what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

At the same time, we want to reflect on and face the enormous suffering and deep sorrow caused by Japan’s colonial rule and the atrocities it perpetrated in the past war.

We would be very pleased if this exhibition provided the opportunity for everyone together to consider the tragedies that took place in Hiroshima and Nagasaki not just for the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, nor for any particular nation, but for the history of humanity, and to contemplate the lessons to be learned from the tragedies for the future of humanity.

The Artifacts

The most striking part of the exhibit was the artifacts from Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The artifacts included Shigeru’s lunchbox with the carbonized food. Shigeru was a first year student at Second Hiroshima Prefectural Junior High School. He was 600 meters from the hypocenter and was killed in the blast. There was a pair of rosaries from the Catholic Church in Nagasaki. There were articles of burnt clothing of the victims. There were ordinary items, such as a bottle, that were deformed by the blast and heat. There was also the watch of Akito Kawagoe, a soldier in the Japanese Second Army. He was in his barracks 1,500 meters from the hypocenter. He crawled out of the wreckage and survived. His broken watch marked the time of the blast, 8:15.

The Story of Sadako Sasaki

The exhibit also contained an animated video that told the story of Sadako Sasaki. Sadako Sasaki was 2 years old when the atomic bomb exploded over Hiroshima. She was a mile from the hypocenter. Ten years later she was diagnosed with leukemia. She spent the last months of her life attempting to make 1,000 paper cranes. She had completed 964 when she died in October 1955. Her classmates at Noborimachi Primary School completed her task.

Poster Boards

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Message from the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.Constructing a Peaceful World Poster boards were a large part of the exhibit.Cancer statistics.Destruction by distance from Hypocenter.Radiation levels.
Message from the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Message from the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. | Source
Constructing a Peaceful World
Constructing a Peaceful World | Source
Poster boards were a large part of the exhibit.
Poster boards were a large part of the exhibit. | Source
Cancer statistics.
Cancer statistics. | Source
Destruction by distance from Hypocenter.
Destruction by distance from Hypocenter. | Source
Radiation levels.
Radiation levels. | Source
The B-29 Enola Gay at the Udvar-Hazy Center, Centreville, VA, June 4, 2010.  The Enola Gay dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
The B-29 Enola Gay at the Udvar-Hazy Center, Centreville, VA, June 4, 2010. The Enola Gay dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. | Source

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    • Robert Sacchi profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert Sacchi 

      13 months ago

      Thank you for reading and commenting. Kim Jong Un's tactics are the same as his father and grandfather. It is a combination of threats and provocations. Regrettably these tactics have worked. It may be a cultural thing. Kim Jong Un knows the U.S. is not going to start a war with North Korea. Time will tell if Trump's tactics of answering North Korea's threats and provocations with threats will work any better than the ineffective U.S. actions against North Korea over the last 60 years.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 

      13 months ago from North Texas

      And now Trump and Kim Jong Un are bickering and threatening each other like a couple of middle schoolers, as if it were merely a game of my dad can kick your dad's behind harder, etc., or my dad's badder than yours. Really think Dennis the Menace or Kevin McCallister would have made more sensible, much better presidents.

    • Robert Sacchi profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert Sacchi 

      2 years ago

      Yes, historians tend to be very good at piecing together sequences of events. There is a caution though. When a friend and I were doing research for an article about the Enola Gay exhibit we found almost everyone who had an interest also had an ax to grind. So even if someone knows a lot about a historic event don't be shy about digging a little deeper. They may be leaving out significant information.

    • colorfulone profile image

      Susie Lehto 

      2 years ago from Minnesota

      I love how people are able to put the slightest bits of a puzzle together to form a larger picture. This is interesting, exciting and horrific at the same time. Great article, Robert.

    • Robert Sacchi profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert Sacchi 

      2 years ago

      That is one of those historical questions that people will endlessly argue about but rarely convinces those on the other side of the argument.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      2 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Very timely reading this as President Obama recently visited the sites of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Let us pray that never will another bomb of such destruction be dropped by anyone or any country for any reason. There are those who firmly believe that it did shorten the war and apparently that was the reasoning behind that action. That is a question for history to sort out.

    • Robert Sacchi profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert Sacchi 

      4 years ago

      Keep in mind the exhibit at the American University was a temporary exhibit.

    • Robert Sacchi profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert Sacchi 

      4 years ago

      There is the Hiroshima Peace Site: http://www.pcf.city.hiroshima.jp/index_e2.html

      It's probably the closest someone can get to it without actually going to Hiroshima. Shameless self-promotion alert: My Friend and I did some research and writing on the controversy surrounding the Air & Space Museum's Enola Gay exhibit in 1995; http://www.oncamouflagedwings.org/atomic/index.htm...

    • Ann Hinds profile image

      Ann Hinds 

      4 years ago from So Cal

      My dad, a WWII veteran, said the bombs were necessary. I never could agree with him and it was one topic we avoided. I hope one day to visit the museum to maybe gain some insight into both sides. I am the pacifist in the family. Interesting article. Thanks

    • Robert Sacchi profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert Sacchi 

      4 years ago

      Thank you. The Enola Gay is a B-29. It's currently at the Air & Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center in Dulles, VA. The Smithsonian's exhibit was to have many of the artifacts in the American University Exhibit. The Smithsonian's Exhibit was stripped down and none of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki artifacts were displayed there. Shameless self-promotion here: My friend has a web page on the controversy http://www.oncamouflagedwings.org/atomic/index.htm . It includes the article we wrote "Balancing 'The Last Act'".

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 

      4 years ago from Taos, NM

      This is such a sad subject and hard for those of us Americans against the use of nuclear warfare. I have never seen this exhibition, but many years ago the Smithsonian Institute, at least that is how I remember it, did do an exhibit on the bombings of the two Japanese cities. I remember seeing the Enola Gay, the B-12 airplane that made the trip to Japan and dropped the nuclear bombs on Japan. That is such a sad time in our history and I have always felt badly for those that had to experience the effects of these types of bombs. Great article. Voted up+

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