Atomic Bomb Exhibit at the American University
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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 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.