An American in Hiroshima


Steve Leeper is an American in an usual position: he is the first foreigner to run the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation, the organization that operates the museums and memorials in the first city attacked by nuclear weapons.

Steve’s been getting a lot of attention in Japan, including this 2007 interview with the Japan Times. It’s a fascinating read, and well worth the time as we contemplate the 64th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

A personal note: Steve is one my family’s oldest friends. We’ve known each other since the early 1950s, when our parents’ were working in postwar Japan as missionaries. An excerpt from his interview:

When it comes to the question of whether the United States was justified in dropping the “Little Boy” atomic bomb on Hiroshima and “Fat Man” on Nagasaki three days later together instantaneously claiming 210,000 lives Leeper agrees with Japanese at both ends of the political spectrum that those attacks were inexcusable.

Nuclear bombs are inhumane, inflicting vast destruction and indiscriminate slaughter in the span of an instant. Their use cannot be justified, regardless of the reasoning applied,” he is on record as declaring (in fluent Japanese)…

“Wherever I go, I am constantly encountering people of all stripes who really understand that we just cannot continue to have wars and we certainly can’t start throwing nuclear weapons around if we intend to solve these other problems that we’re facing. And yet our leaders, the leaders of most countries right now, are people who grew up through the war culture.

“Many of them derive directly from the military-industrial complex, many of them are weapons dealers or weapons manufacturers or get their money from manufacturers and dealers, so there’s this highly competitive, highly aggressive bunch of warriors who are leading the world when most of the people want peace.”

For a photo documentary of the Nagasaki bombing, which occured on August 9, 1945, click here. (This is a repost from 2007)

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