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