I was thrilled by a pair of events addressing the historic Japan-United States enmity of the 1940s.

In May 2016, then-President Barack Obama visited Hiroshima, the first American commander-in-chief to do so since the US dropped an atomic bomb on the city over 70 years earlier.

While criticized by those on the left and the right, I thought it was an important gesture. “As he promised, the president did not apologize for the U.S. bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, which killed an estimated 215,000 people. He laid a wreath at Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima and embraced a 91-year-old survivor of the nuclear attack.”

During his 20-minute remarks, “Obama said, ‘Why do we come to this place, to Hiroshima? We come to ponder the terrible forces unleashed in the not so distant past. We come to mourn the dead … their souls speak to us and ask us to look inward. To take stock of who we are and what we might become.’

“In the Hiroshima museum’s guest book before his speech, the President wrote that he hoped the world will ‘find the courage, together, to spread peace, and pursue a world without nuclear weapons.’‎” Most of the elderly survivors, I imagine, did not foresee an American President in their midst, in that place.

Then, in December 2016, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe offered his condolences for his country’s attack on Pearl Harbor. “‘We must never repeat the horrors of war again, this is the solemn vow the people of Japan have taken,” he said. The Prime Minister was accompanied by President Obama, making the visit the first by the leaders of both countries.

“Mr. Abe paid tribute to the [2,400] men who lost their lives in 1941 at the naval base, many of whom remain entombed in the wreckage of the USS Arizona, sunk by the Japanese that day, and vowed reconciliation and peace.

How did this come about?

“Just as was the case when Obama visited Hiroshima earlier in the year—as the first sitting U.S. President to go to the site of the atomic bombing—the visit by Abe comes after many years of debate in the U.S., Japan and elsewhere about how the two nations should come to terms with the legacy of World War II.”

Mr. Abe never actually apologized, but as one elderly Pearl Harbor survivor noted, the Prime Minister’s presence was even more important.

15 Responses to “J is for Japan, the US and World War II”

  • zongrik says:

    Well put, as usual, I especially like the last line.

  • History tells both… the good and the bad… to bad men still does not learn that much from it, isn’t it?

    Very informative peace Roger, things I did not (ofcourse) know

  • The horrors of Hiroshima must never be forgotten,
    it is something I don’t condone, all those poor
    people…unbearable but then…Pearl Harbour..
    Good interesting writing yet again Roger.
    Best wishes,
    ABCW team.

  • leslie says:

    Currently, I’m reviewing WW2 with a student. We are looking at the overall aspects of it with emphasis, of course, on Canada’s role. These two men took a huge step in forgiveness and reconciliation and I hope both countries will always look to history before acting in the future. I appreciated their words and don’t feel any “sorry” was appropriate at that time. War is war and they must simply learn from the past and move on.

    abcw team

  • Roger a very well done post for J ~ so inspiring ~ yet the USA President right now, I doubt, would ever have the sense or courage to do such a major goodwill act ~ thanks for inspiring hope in me for humanity ~

    Wishing you a Happy Week ~ ^_^

  • Rajesh says:

    Interesting analysis.

  • There are many horrors that happen during wars. Rather they were justified or not, they need to be recognized, so I’m glad our former President and Japan’s Prime Minister did so. Resentments can develop into hate, where as acknowledgements can develop into peace. Thanks for this poignant post, my friend. Blessings!

  • Klara S says:

    Thank you, Roger. A lot of information. Always worth to visit your page.

  • Joy says:

    Pres Obama always finds the right words.

  • Thanks for a great post, Roger. It’s kind and generous gestures by leaders such as these that can make a whole lot of peace in the world happen.

  • LindyLouMac says:

    A very interesting J, for ABC Wednesday thanks.

  • Gattina says:

    At least something positive came out of these disasters ! Now everybody fears the other because he thinks they have the same weapons.

  • Dina says:

    Thanks for this, Roger. I dream of a time when something like this will happen in my own country.
    It takes more courage on the part of national leaders to make peace and reconciliation than to make war.

  • S.H. says:

    Thank you for the insightful article.

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