News Column

New USS Arizona Exhibit Will Reflect Upon Peace

Aug. 7, 2012

William Cole, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

The USS Arizona Memorial, a grave for most of the battleship's 1,177 sailors killed in the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese attack, continues to evolve, and its museum will include a new exhibit on the Hiroshima atom bomb attack and reconciliation after the war, officials said.

"The meaning of the memorial now goes beyond (Pearl Harbor) remembrance. It has become an opportunity for reflection on life and death, war and peace," Brad Wallis, president and chief executive officer of Pacific Historic Parks, a nonprofit group that supports the Arizona Memorial, said Monday.

The new exhibit will expand upon a photo of the Hiroshima aftermath already in the museum with a small paper crane that was one of 1,000 that a 12-year-old A-bomb survivor, Sadako Sasaki, attempted to fold after she got sick.

Wall displays will tell her story and discuss the reconciliation by the U.S. and Japan after the war, Wallis said.

Adding Japan's perspective at the memorial, dedicated in 1962 to "Remember Pearl Harbor," continues to be a raw issue for some who stared death in the face on Dec. 7 and see it as a shrine to the war dead from that day.

"I think that if they do something like that (adding Hiroshima information), it probably should be in a back corner somewhere," said Louis Conter, 90, who as a sailor on the Arizona saw an armor-piercing bomb and fireball consume his ship and its men.

Conter said the Arizona Memorial museum should show the devastation in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as "tell the story that we had a million and a half men in training to land in Japan, and we'd probably have 700,000 casualties if we'd had to."

Wallis announced the new exhibit Monday at the Hiroshima commemoration and peace service at Izumo Taishakyo Mission on Kukui Street marking the 67th anniversary of the bombing.

"Our younger generation is beginning to forget about this tragedy (of) the 20th century," the Rev. Takamasa Yamamura, from Honolulu Myohoji Temple, told about 75 people gathered for the remembrance. "We must not forget about Hiroshima, and we must build a peaceful century."

Offerings of fruit, vegetables, sake and salt were made, and the "peace bell" -- a gift to Honolulu from sister city Hiroshima -- was repeatedly rung.

Estimates are that the Aug. 6, 1945, bomb drop on Hiroshima immediately killed more than 80,000, with tens of thousands more dying of radiation exposure.

More than 74,000 were killed in the second use of an atomic bomb on Nagasaki on Aug. 9. Japan announced its surrender six days later.

The plight of Sadako after the war became a poignant example of the suffering caused by nuclear fallout. She survived the nearby Hiroshima blast but later developed leukemia.

Through her illness, Sadako folded paper cranes in the hope of reaching 1,000 and having her wish granted to get well. She reached 644 cranes when she died. Her friends finished the rest and buried most of them with her.

WALLIS, with Pacific Historic Parks, said Sadako's family has agreed to give one of the cranes to the National Park Service, which oversees the Arizona Memorial.

"The cranes are tiny," Wallis said, adding that the crane that Sadako's family has offered is made from paper that contained medicine while she was in the hospital.

Wallis said he doesn't think the new exhibit would include Hiroshima devastation photos.

"I don't think so. I don't know that, but that's not necessarily the goal," he said. "Again, I think the goal is to look at the peace and reconciliation that occurred after the war was over."

The Arizona Memorial has incorporated more of a Japanese perspective since the opening of a new $56 million visitor center and museum in 2010, including a 12-foot photo of President Franklin D. Roosevelt backed by an equally large Emperor Hirohito astride a white horse.

The two nations remain inextricably tied -- in war then and as staunch allies now.

"Without Pearl Harbor there would have been no Nagasaki or Hiroshima -- so they should make those statements in (the exhibit)," said Conter, the Arizona survivor.

"There are people who have strong feelings still, and we want to respect those, but we also want to look at what the long-term message is, which is that war -- and I think every Pearl Harbor veteran would agree -- is hell," Wallis said. "It means death and suffering, and so ultimately I hope that the (Arizona) memorial will evolve into a memorial representing the human cost of war and the hope that we can overcome that."



Source: (c)2012 The Honolulu Star-Advertiser Distributed by MCT Information Services


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