A cross taken from a Nagasaki cathedral after the atomic bombing gets returned 74 years later via Bulletin of Atomic Scientists

By Matt Field, August 7, 2019

Short on time and fuel, the crew members of the B-29 bomber Bockscar flew over Nagasaki, Japan, scanning for an opening in the clouds. They had already abandoned their initial target, the city of Kokura, due to low visibility. Over Nagasaki, in the vicinity of a massive Mitsubishi arms plant, the crew found the clear patch of sky they needed to complete the mission: to drop the world’s most powerful weapon, a 4.5-ton plutonium bomb dubbed Fat Man. The detonation killed tens of thousands and decimated the city, all in an instant. Amid the ruins, just 500 meters from ground zero, were the collapsed roof, damaged pillars, and charred sculptures of the Urakami Cathedral, the locus of a vibrant Catholic community spawned during Nagasaki’s history as a trading port.

[…]Tanya Maus, the director of Wilmington College’s Peace Resource Center, gave the cross that had hung in the rural southwest Ohio college for decades to the archbishop of Nagasaki on Tuesday.

After seeing visitors from Nagasaki react to the cross—some moved, others perplexed as to how Hooke got a hold of it—Maus reached out to church officials in Nagasaki in April. “I started to think about the idea of ‘should it really be here? Maybe it needs to be in Nagasaki, where people can sort of explore that history more and the meaning of the cross more.’”

At the Peace Resource Center, the cross had been a starting point to engage local Christians in conversations about the atomic bombs and nuclear issues. “For me, it shouldn’t matter. It doesn’t matter whether you’re Catholic, or whether you’re religious; it’s an issue of humanity–the use of nuclear weapons,” Maus said. “But for some people, that was an entry point to understand the atomic bombings and have a sense of their destructiveness.” […]

“The fact that the United States, a country that in some sense based itself in Christian ethics, was dropping an atomic bomb on a Christian community–I think for me, I hoped that would make a strong impact on people,” Maus said.

“For me the cross represents human depravity. The utter stripping away of values, in this case Christian values, but it could be any values, that keep human beings from killing each other and destroying each other,” Maus said. “Part of giving it back was letting go of that and making it accessible to people who want to find their own meaning in it.”


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