Americans’ Influence on Hiroshima’s Urban Identity of Peace (1946)

The city suffered from massive destruction and casualties after America dropped an atomic bomb in Hiroshima in 1945.  In order to recover itself from the wreckage of nuclear blast and to seek financial support from the government, Hiroshima recognized the connection between peace and tourism, which could potentially help to settle the financial difficulties that the city was facing at the time.  Although Hiroshima was eventually transformed into a city of peace, much of the city’s identity and reconstruction plans were indeed shaped by the American-imposed censorship that prevented open talk of the atomic bomb.

In a letter to the president of Carroll College in Wisconsin, the Mayor of Hiroshima wrote that “On August 6th 1945 our city of Hiroshima was born anew”.  The narrative of Hiroshima as a born-again city of peace was encouraged by local American commanders, who supported the idea of “making Hiroshima a symbol of international peace”.  While it was Hiroshima’s sacrifice that brought peace, the Americans were credited for bringing peace and ending World War II with the bomb.  John D. Montgomery, an American reconstruction adviser, initiated the proposal of constructing a museum on ground zero where a memorial tower was built. However, instead of commemorating peace, Montgomery claimed that the museum and the memorial tower should be built to celebrate the baptism of the America’s first dropping of the atomic bomb and termination of World War II which resulted in the creation of eternal peace.  Moreover, with the intent to respond to the world’s hope for the reconstruction of Hiroshima, the Supreme Commander of Allied Powers’ head of political division, Justin Williams, supported the endorsement of the “Hiroshima Peace City Law”, which paved the way for funds allocation from the Japanese government for the reconstruction of Hiroshima.  As Hiroshima underwent reconstruction, it brought a sense of hope and optimism to the city which eventually merged with the Americans’ new benign attitude towards Japan, who sought to transform Japan from an enemy to a democratic Cold War Ally.

Newspaper crediting America’s atomic bomb for ending World War II


Zwigenberg, R. (2016). The Atomic City: Military Tourism and Urban Identity in Postwar Hiroshima. P.617-638.

2 Comments on “Americans’ Influence on Hiroshima’s Urban Identity of Peace (1946)

  1. This is quite an interesting topic that analyzed the different ideologies behind the reestablishment and urban planning of Hiroshima, especially the different interpretation of peacefulness between American government and the local Hiroshima public. The conflict and consensus of peacefulness were well presented by the peace movement and related urban park planning.

    However, could you please place other two narratives, bibliography items and historical documents in separated posts before the due date?

  2. I think the topic points out an interesting fact that people in Hiroshima did not have the right to make any decisions for their urban development after World War II. It is quite ironic that American destroyed Hiroshima but at the same time dominated the role of the urban designer later on. This situation was mainly caused by the weak national power of Japan and the strong national power of US at that time.

    The idea of making Hiroshima as “City of peace” is a strategy for America to build up their national power in Asia. They need a symbol in Asia to showcase their power and Hiroshima sadly became the most suitable location. Before World War II, America did not have strong power in Asia area. After the drop of the atomic bomb, they became one of the super nations in the world. For me, I do not think the censorship imposed by the American is to prevent open talk of the atomic bomb. I think American was trying to make use of the censorship to keep reminding people in the world that they got the military power to stop World War II. Hiroshima is still a place to glorify the national power of America at that time even after the re-establishment.

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