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5 years on: Grassroots efforts growing in U.S. after Obama’s Hiroshima visit

Washington, May 26 (Jiji Press)–Five years after former U.S. President Barack Obama made a historic visit to the atom-bombed western Japan city of Hiroshima, his ideal of realizing a world without nuclear weapons remains a distant goal.


With world politics in turmoil, his historic visit is no longer a popular topic of conversation.


Still, grassroots efforts have emerged in the United States to deepen mutual understanding with people in areas hit by the August 1945 U.S. atomic bombings, offering small but unshakable signs of change in the attitudes of Americans.


Obama visited Hiroshima on May 27, 2016, becoming the first sitting U.S. president to set foot in either Hiroshima or Nagasaki, southwestern Japan, which were devastated by the U.S. atomic bombings on Aug. 6 and 9, 1945, respectively.

Need for Whole Story

In Los Alamos, New Mexico, which became the base of the Manhattan Project for U.S. atomic bomb development, Judith Stauber was surprised at the lack of information on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the Los Alamos History Museum when she became its director in 2011.


“We need the whole story about the atomic bomb so that we can teach the next generation how to think critically,” she said.


With this aim, Stauber visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 2016, hoping to introduce new ideas to her museum.


But the project did not go smoothly.


The Hiroshima Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Exhibition, which was planned to be held in 2019 with the cooperation of the city governments of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, had to be canceled after the content of the exhibition drew opposition from the museum’s management, according to Stauber.


“It was really a missed opportunity,” she recalls. “A lot of people in Los Alamos were looking forward to it.”

Grandson of Truman Weighs in

After resigning as director of the museum following the incident, Stauber founded the Los Alamos Japan Association with like-minded people.


“If we keep avoiding or are fearful of bringing new information that might make people uncomfortable, then we’re not going to really make any progress that we need to make as people,” she said.


Her efforts to link the city where the atomic bomb was developed and the cities that were hit by the bomb have been joined by Clifton Truman Daniel, the grandson of U.S. President Harry Truman, who decided to drop the atomic bombs on the Japanese cities.


After learning about Sadako Sasaki, a hibakusha atomic bomb survivor who continued to make paper cranes until she died of leukemia, Daniel started exchanges with Masahiro Sasaki, an older brother of Sadako.


“I think that there’s a feeling of empathy and understanding that wasn’t there, a growing amount of openness and willingness to talk about that,” Daniel, 63, said.


Along with Masahiro Sasaki, Daniel is calling on the U.S. government to introduce the perspectives of A-bomb victims for the 80th anniversary of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s attack on Pearl Harbor in December this year.

Stalled Nuclear Disarmament

In the United States, public opinion about the atomic bombings has been changing significantly as time passes.


A survey conducted by U.S. polling service Gallup Inc. in August 1945 showed that 85 pct of respondents supported the use of the nuclear weapons by the United States.


But the proportion of such people came to 43 pct in a survey by the CBS Television Network in May 2016, when Obama visited Hiroshima, similar to the 44 pct of people opposed.


Still, progress has not been made on U.S. nuclear disarmament.


In 2019, the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia.


In January this year, the U.N. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which makes the manufacture and possession of nuclear weapons illegal, came into effect, but both Japan and the United States have yet to join it.


Kai Bird, a writer familiar with the history of the atomic bombs, said it was “a big irony” that Obama approved the budget for the modernization of nuclear weapons while appealing for the abolition of nuclear weapons.


“The world’s nuclear weapons could be used again in a meaningless way,” he warned.

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