The Japanese counterpart of President Barack Obama is paying his respects at Hiroshima, the city where World War II all but ended and where the inhumane conflict started, seven months after President Obama visited this city. 75 years after the Japanese surprise attack that brought America into history’s bloodiest war, Prime Minster Shinzo Abe is on the road to Pearl Harbor, where he and Obama aspire to give emphasis to the alliance between their two nations.
This Tuesday in Hawaiian state capital Honolulu, on the archipelago’s Oahu island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the two leaders are going to meet. Obama who was born in Hawaii and spent most of his childhood and adolescence in Honolulu, has special reminiscence for this visit. Abe and Obama plan on going to the wreck of the USS Arizona, the place where 1,177 sailors and Marines died. The corroding remnants of the ship are still noticeable and are a monument now.
Japan’s General Isoroku Yamamoto set free a ravaging attack on Pearl Harbor’s “Battleship Row” on December 7, 1941, “a date which will live in infamy,” as then president Franklin D. Roosevelt stated. This attack caught the Americans by surprise, and the Japanese sunk or deeply harmed eight US battleships. 2,403 Americans were killed in total and more than 1,100 others were injured within two hours. The doom of that ship was sealed after an explosion in the Arizona’s ammunition stocks.
The intention of Abe’s visit right when Obama visited Hiroshima is not to inquire decisions that were made three-quarters of a century ago, or to propose an apology, instead to pay tribute to the victims and support historical reflection. Sheila Smith, Japan expert from the Council on Foreign Relations said in a statement:
“It puts a bookend in some ways to this open US-Japan conversation about the past and the war. It puts us on a very different pedestal on the reconciliation side of things which I think is important for the region to see.”
In Hiroshima, Obama instigated a passionate appeal for a world without nuclear arms during a speech being delivered to an utterly quiet crowd in May. And he wrote a message in the visitor book at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park which says,
“We have known the agony of war. Let us now find the courage, together, to spread peace, and pursue a world without nuclear weapons.”
From 1941 to 1945, more than 16 million Americans served in uniform from which more than 400,000 were killed. The commencement and end of the conflict between Japan and America were marked by Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima, although it is intolerable to associate the two as one among them was an attack on the heart of US naval power in the Pacific, while the other was an atomic bomb over a city. Nevertheless, both the events have reinforced themselves in the hearts and collective memories of the people, and both places are still hallowed sites of pilgrimage to this date.