On April 11th, John Kerry, the current U.S Secretary of State, visited the Hiroshima Peace Park Memorial, laid down wreaths, and held a moment of silence for Hiroshima’s atomic bomb victims with Japanese officials as well as with foreign ministers from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, and Italy. Kerry and the rest of the G7 foreign ministers also “visited the Bomb Dome, over which the A-bomb exploded, and the nearby Hiroshima museum, which tells the personal stories of people who died.” G7 stands for the Group of Seven countries, which is made up of Japan, Britain, Canada, the United States, France, Germany, and Italy.
Towards the end of World War II on August 6th, 1945, the U.S dropped the world’s first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, sacrificing the lives of around 200,000 Japanese people, the majority of whom were civilians, in the hopes of ending a war that had dragged on for too long and that had caused around 70,000,000 deaths worldwide. Yet no current U.S administration official of cabinet rank or higher has visited Hiroshima since Nancy Pelosi, the former speaker of the House of Representatives, had visited in 2008, or since President Jimmy Carter had visited the Hiroshima Memorial in 1984. So for a U.S official, who belongs to the nation which had once dropped the atomic bomb, to visit this past week was very moving for many Japanese people. For one, the Japanese Foreign Minister, Fumio Kishida, who is from Hiroshima, called the visit by Mr. Kerry and the other G7 officials ‘a historic day.”
To this day, however, many around the world still debate about whether dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were “necessary” sacrifices for the sake of defeating the Axis Powers (Germany, Italy, Japan), of which Japan was a member of.
Critics and advocates have all come up with detailed reasonings for and against the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, especially the Nagasaki bombing, as it was administered after Hiroshima. Some rather eerie conspiracy theories have even emerged. Regardless, the controversy and awkwardness surrounding the atomic bombings are still fresh and on the minds of many. “For decades, American ambassadors to Japan avoided the somber annual ceremonies commemorating the bombings each August.” Even now, American officials are careful about what they say regarding the atomic bombs, as noted in New York Times, “Any hint that the United States was apologizing could prove highly damaging politically.” After all, one of the most embarrassing things in the world is publicly admitting that you did something wrong, and especially, in this situation, admitting that the atomic bombs were the wrong choice.
However, no one can and is blaming America for the atomic bombs since without them, who knows how World War II would have actually turned out (some say the Allied forces would have won anyways, others disagree). What we do know for sure though is the number of civilian casualties the atomic bomb created. Do those people, who were simply living their lives without ever personally killing anyone and who most likely even wanted the war to end (extremely likely, since their homes were being destroyed and food/consumer goods were cut) deserve no apology for being killed in the stead of the then ruling Japanese Prime Minister and other Japanese officials who were the ones who actually declared war? Yet, an anonymous U.S official accompanying Kerry said:
“If you’re asking whether the secretary of state came to Hiroshima to apologize, the answer is no,”
Perhaps, I am misinterpreting what is being apologized for, as the U.S official could mean that he thinks how the world has turned out has been good so far, and thus does not need to apologize for making the right decision in bombing Hiroshima. But another meaning could literally be that he does not give his condolences to those who were killed in the bombings, or else why would he not want to issue an apology. I am sure that the official meant the former, but maybe a better way to have phrased it would have been “If you’re asking whether the Secretary of State came to Hiroshima to apologize for having used an atomic bomb, the answer is no. However, I am deeply saddened as a U.S citizen and human being that my predecessors had thought this to be the only way to end a global war that had already stolen the lives of around 70 million people.”
It is also noble on Japan’s part to have “never demanded that the United States apologize for the bombings.” Perhaps, Japan understands that they too had killed Americans and that the suffering felt had been mutual. Or maybe it is the mentality of, as the saying goes, all is fair in love and war, and as such, there is nothing to apologize for.