UPDATE: 5:36 a.m. EDT — After laying a wreath at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park Friday, U.S. President Barack Obama said in a brief speech, “The memory of the morning of Aug. 6, 1945, must never fade.”
“Death fell from the sky and the world was changed,” Obama said.
During his historic visit to Hiroshima over 70 years after the Japanese city became the target of an American atomic bomb, Obama reiterated his call for a “world without nuclear weapons.”
“Why did we come to this place, to Hiroshima? We come to ponder a terrible force unleashed in the not-so-distant past. We come to mourn the dead,” Obama, who is the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima, said. “Their souls speak to us, they ask us to look inward, take stock of who we are.”
An estimated 140,000 people, including about 20,000 Koreans, were killed in Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, and its aftermath. Three days later, another 80,000 were killed when the second atomic bomb was dropped in Nagasaki.
“Technological progress without equivalent progress in human institutions can doom us. The scientific revolution that led to the splitting of the atom requires a moral revolution as well,” Obama, with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe standing by his side, said. “The world was forever changed here but, today, the children of this city will go through their day in peace. What a precious thing that is.”
Although the American president met and exchanged words with two victims of the bombing, he did not apologize for former president Harry Truman’s decision to authorize the bombings.
President Barack Obama’s arrival in Hiroshima on Friday marks the first visit by a sitting American leader to the site where the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on Aug. 6, 1945, in the final days of World War II.
Video of Obama’s visit is available here. The American leader is to be accompanied by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Abe said Wednesday he has no immediate plans to reciprocate Obama’s visit with a trip to Pearl Harbor where the Japanese conducted a surprise military attack on Dec. 7, 1941, pushing the U.S. into World War II.
“Seventy-one years ago, back in 1945, two atomic bombs were dropped. And in Hiroshima, numerous citizens sacrificed their lives and even now there are those of us suffering because of the atomic bombing,” Abe said.
Obama said he would use his visit to “honor all those who were lost in World War II and reaffirm our shared vision of a world without nuclear weapons.” The White House has stressed Obama will not apologize for the decision made by President Harry Truman to drop the atomic bombs.
“Of course everyone wants to hear an apology. Our families were killed,” Hiroshi Shimizu, the general secretary of the Hiroshima Confederation of A-Bomb Sufferers Organizations, told the Associated Press.
Approximately 140,000 people died in Hiroshima and thousands more were affected by the aftermath of the bombing. Three days after the atomic bomb was dropped in Hiroshima, a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki.
“It’s important to recognize that in the midst of war, leaders make all kinds of decisions,” Obama told Japanese broadcaster NHK, NPR reported. “It’s a job of historians to ask questions and examine them. But I know as somebody who has now sat in this position for the last 7 1/2 years that every leader makes very difficult decisions, particularly during wartime.”
Obama will tour Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial and is expected to lay a wreath with Abe.