Remembering Hiroshima and Nagasaki
August 6, 2013
Rachel Kent / Friends Committee on National Legislation
August 6 marks the 68th anniversary of the first use of a nuclear weapon. Tens of thousands of people in Japan and around the world will commemorate this attack with prayers, vigils and other events. In Hiroshima, people will remember those who died and pray for peace at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony. In the US, Americans are invited to join vigils and remembrances while contacting representatives to call for peace and nuclear disarmament.
Sixty-Eight Years Since Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Friends Committee on National Legislation
(August 5, 2013) – August 6 marks the 68th anniversary of the first use of a nuclear weapon. Tens of thousands of people in Japan and around the world will commemorate this attack with prayers, vigils and other events.
In Hiroshima, people will remember those who died and pray for peace at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony. Program assistant Rachel Kent was profoundly moved when she attended this ceremony. (See story below.)
We hope that you will remember on August 6 and also take action to work for peace. It’s important that your members of Congress hear—now—that you want to keep this kind of destruction from happening again. As our lobbyist David Culp notes, August could be a critical time for nuclear disarmament.
Act to Support Nuclear Disarmament
Urge your representatives to support the administration’s proposal to reduce the number of nuclear weapons that the US has ready to launch.
Write a letter to the editor in response to news coverage of the Hiroshima anniversary. If you mention your senators by name in your letter, they and their staff will see it.
Why I Believe in a World Free of Nuclear Weapons
Rachel Kent / FCNL
(August 2, 2013) -- Growing up, I never thought about nuclear weapons. I never paid very much attention that one day in school that we talked about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I never considered that these weapons might one day be used, and I never expected to spend a year working in the nuclear disarmament field.
All of this changed in August 2010. During that month, I spent two weeks in Japan, participating in a Peace Ambassador Cultural Exchange Program. This program was run by the World Friendship Center, which is located in the city of Hiroshima.
Founded in 1965 by Barbara Reynolds, it was created to be a space where people could come together to reflect upon and work towards peace. It’s run by volunteers -- Directors who serve two-year terms, and local volunteers who come in every day.
Every other year, the WFC hosts four Americans to travel to Japan to be Peace Ambassadors. The two weeks are filled with experiencing the culture of Japan, along with learning about the atomic bombs, and the effects on the cities and people who suffered their devastation.
During our trip, we visited the Peace Memorial Museums in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, did a homestay with a Japanese family, visited the Radiation Effects Research Foundation, and met with A-bomb survivors who remember August 6 and August 9 as though they were yesterday.
But for me, the most powerful days were when we attended the Peace Memorial Ceremonies on August 6 and 9 in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Those two days were filled with such a wide range of emotions that it’s difficult to articulate. There was incredible sadness and grief. People whose family members died, or those who were there those days but lived to tell the tale remembered their lost loved ones. Mothers lamented their children, brothers and sisters recalled their siblings and parents, widowed husbands and wives pondered the life that could’ve been theirs.
There was the children’s portion of the ceremonies, when all the little ones who died were remembered. A little known fact here in the United States, one that I didn’t know until I traveled to Japan, was that a majority of the people immediately killed by the A-bombs were children. It is estimated that around 30,000 children died. This was because many kids were part of the war effort.
The Japanese armies were so overrun, and the need for adult bodies on the front lines was so extreme, that children were then recruited to build firewalls or to work for the war. As a result, many children were out working the mornings of August 6 and 9 when the bombs were dropped and paid the ultimate price.
We attended the lantern ceremony in the evening, where we put lighted lanterns that had messages of peace written on them onto the Motoyasu River. This ceremony is partially to send off the spirits of those who died, but also to remember the people who died in the river, where many jumped in to avoid the incredible heat from the blast, only to be boiled alive. The heat from the bomb, which reached degrees up to 7,200°, was so hot that the river was boiling.
Surrounding that sadness, however, was a sense of pride and honor in how the cities had recovered. Streetcars were running again in Hiroshima three days after the bomb was dropped. Incredible stories of bravery and courage were told. Today, both Hiroshima and Nagasaki are world leaders in the movement towards peace and nuclear disarmament, determined never to allow any other people or city to suffer as they did.
There was also hope. Hope ran high and loud and long in Hiroshima and Nagasaki that year. 2010 marked the 65th anniversary of the bombings. For the first time ever, the United States sent an ambassador to attend the ceremony.
A little over a year earlier, President Obama had given a speech in Prague, where he called for a world free of nuclear weapons. Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations General-Secretary, also attended the ceremony for the first time. People truly believed that a world free of nuclear weapons was within reach. They had hope that the world would come together and work to get rid of these weapons.
I was so inspired. I couldn’t believe that there was so much information about these two days that I didn’t know. I couldn’t comprehend how our schools had glossed over such horrors. Horrors which were caused by the United States dropping the first ever nuclear weapons.
Seeing the museums, attending the ceremonies, meeting with survivors, looking at the pictures of the devastation caused, I became completely and irrevocably convinced that nuclear weapons had no place in the world.
I still believe this today. My resolve has not changed. I don’t think there is anything more terrifying than the prospect of a nuclear weapon being used. The indiscriminate killing, the long-term health and environmental effects, can never be justified.
Nuclear weapons are immoral, they are mass killing machines, they are inhumane and should never be used. They just should not exist.
I believe in zero nuclear weapons. I understand that achieving this goal will take time. Probably a long time. And while it can sometimes be discouraging and can seem too difficult or too technical, we cannot stop now. We cannot accept the status quo. We cannot allow another mushroom cloud, or another city like Hiroshima or Nagasaki to suffer. We have to keep working towards zero.
President Obama’s recent proposal, taken under the auspices of military leaders, to reduce the number of strategic nuclear weapons by one-third and reducing the stockpile by 50 percent, is a good one. It is a commonsense first step towards fewer nuclear weapons. I think the people I met in Japan would agree that fewer reductions, no matter how small or big, is the right thing to do. It is the necessary thing to do.
After traveling to Japan and seeing the effects of the A-bombs, I believe in a world free of nuclear weapons. I hope that, during the month of August, you will reflect on why you believe in a world free of nuclear weapons, and what you can do to advance that goal.
Whether it’s writing a letter to the editor, emailing your members of Congress, or holding a moment of silence and reflection on August 6 and 9 to remember the victims, I encourage you to take time to do something. The struggle may be long and hard, but it’s a struggle worth striving for.
May we find the world we seek.
What's New: Congress Acts, Then Heads Home for Break
Friends Committee on National Legislation
WASHINGTON, DC (August 2013) -- The House and Senate rushed through a series of votes in late July before heading home for the recess that lasts through the first week of September. Here’s a summary of where members left some of the key issues FCNL has been focusing on.
Energy and Environment: A planned vote on bipartisan legislation to encourage energy efficiency was pushed back until the Senate reconvenes in September. Ask your senators to support this legislation, introduced by Reps. Jeanne Shaheen (NH) and Rob Portman (OH).
Pentagon Spending: August will be a critical month for efforts to cut the Pentagon budget as negotiators from both major political parties begin new negotiations on a comprehensive budget deal.
• A bipartisan majority in the House voted to cut the Pentagon’s fund for overseas military operations by $3.5 billion.
• The Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee voted to cut the administration’s request to fund upgrades to the B-61 nuclear bomb by 92 percent.
A bipartisan group of senators on the appropriations committee voted in favor of a ban on military aid to any forces in Syria in the next fiscal year without congressional approval.
• As Iran’s new president took the oath of office In Tehran with vows to reduce tensions between his country and the rest of the world, 131 representatives and a group of senators urged the president to seize this opportunity to pursue diplomacy. At the same time, other members of Congress pressed for more sanctions and pressure.
• Peaceful prevention of deadly conflict: Both the House and Senate appropriations committees approved legislation to fund diplomacy, development and international cooperation.
The House bill would dramatically reduce funding—by $10 billion— for these key international programs.
The Senate bill is better but would eliminate funding for the Complex Crises Fund, which is the only dedicated source of flexible funding available to proactively prevent violent conflict.
Preventing Poverty: The House voted to cut food assistance out of the Farm Bill and proposed to cut the SNAP program (formerly known as Food Stamps) by $40 billion over the next 10 years. The proposal would also change the shape of the program, limiting the availability of food assistance even when it is sorely needed.