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Seeking peace beyond sob story of Hiroshima’s ‘paper crane girl’ via The Asahi Shimbun

[…]

‘BLACK TEARS’

The USS Arizona lies at the bottom of Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, 75 years after Japan’s surprise attack on Dec. 7, 1941. Fuel still leaks from the wreckage, blotting the clear water with oil slicks called “black tears.”

In autumn 2013, an unveiling ceremony of one of Sadako’s paper cranes presented by Sasaki was held at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center.

It was the crane made from the caramel wrapper. The display is designed to let viewers see the crane, about 1 centimeter across, through a magnifying glass.

Sasaki and Lauren F. Bruner, a former crewman of the USS Arizona, hugged each other in front of a wall showing the names of those who died in the raid at the USS Arizona Memorial, which was built on water right above the sunken battleship.

“Although both of us experienced the horrors of war, (Sadako and I) share the same dream of peace,” Bruner, 95, said in his speech at the ceremony.

It was a quiet Sunday morning when the Japanese squadron flew low over the harbor. “Man your battle stations. This is not a drill,” the call rang out in the battleship.

The ship exploded and sank.

Bruner, who now lives in La Miranda in the greater Los Angeles area, managed to escape the ship, but he suffered burns over his body.

“I don’t blame Japanese people for this,” Bruner said in an interview in July. He blamed the Japanese government of the time.

[…]

Clifton Truman Daniel, 59, a grandson of President Truman, who was behind the unexpected acquisition of Sadako’s paper crane now on display in Honolulu, does not recall his grandfather talking in detail about the atomic bombings of the Japanese cities.

The grandson had accepted the common view that the atomic bombs shortened the war and saved the lives of many American soldiers.

But his thinking changed 17 years ago, when his son, now 27, brought home a book about Sadako from his elementary school.

“Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes” by Eleanor Coerr was first published in 1977. It is popular reading material at U.S. elementary schools, and students often learn Sadako’s story before gaining information about the Pacific War.

Moved by the story, Truman Daniel met with Sasaki and other family members in 2010. Since then, he has visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki and listened to the stories of atomic bomb survivors.

“Yes, the bombings ended the war, shortened the war and saved lives. But that doesn’t take away the suffering at Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” Truman Daniel said. “I’m not an official representative of my country. I can’t apologize for my country.”

But he believed he could do something as a private citizen.

He contacted the USS Arizona Memorial and proposed a public display of Sadako’s paper crane there.

He also worked on projects to display Sadako’s paper cranes at the 9.11 Tribute Center in New York and the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles designed to provide education about the Holocaust.

Text in a display panel for Sadako’s paper crane in Hawaii explains that it “inspires contemplation of healing, peace and reconciliation.”

But it does not describe how Sadako’s face swelled up, her hair fell out and her weight dropped by 12 kilograms before her death. There is also no mention of how just one weapon destroyed a city and killed thousands in an instant, nor the emotional and physical trauma the survivors carried throughout their lives.

Even the popular children’s book about Sadako falls short of describing the realities of the atomic bombing.

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