Crane Origami
"I will write peace on your wings
and you will fly all over the world"
"Suppose Germany had developed two bombs before we had any bombs. And suppose Germany had dropped one bomb, say, on Rochester and the other on Buffalo, and then having run out of bombs it would have lost the war. Can anyone doubt that we would then have defined the dropping of atomic bombs on cities as a war crime, and that we would have sentenced the Germans who were guilty of this crime to death at Nuremberg and hanged them? "
Leo Szilard,
father of the US atomic bomb.

I was chatting the other day with a US friend about the trip I had in New-York a few months ago. As it happens often when you chat, our conversation turned, from , the movie by Woody Allen at the time, to the and atomic bombs. I was very surprised when he genuinely said that the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were "good things" because they actually "saved lives".

ImageAlthough I know it is the way the whole story is usually told and taught in the USA, I wondered how a smart and articulate guy could seriously think that killing more than 200,000 civilians "actually saved lives". The whole bloody fighting in the Pacific killed about 40,000 US soldiers 'only'... When the US President Harry S. Truman ordered to drop Little Boy on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, then Fat Man over Nagasaki three days later, the point was certainly not about saving lives then, but saving lives of US soldiers, at the expense of much more lives of foreign civilians.

Little Boy and Fat Man had killed about 140,000 people in Hiroshima and 80,000 in Nagasaki by the end of 1945, of which about half within the first days after the bombings. Several ten thousands more people died from radiation-induced diseases in the following years. In both cities, the overwhelming majority of casualties were civilians. These are to date the only nuclear bombings in history. Yet, as the historian and Pulitzer prize winner Gary Wills wrote once: "Only the winners decide what were war crimes".

Sadako Sasaki lived in Hiroshima. She was two year-old when the first nuclear bomb was dropped on her city. Although she lived close to ground zero, she was not harmed. Nine years later, she was a healthy 11 year-old girl practicing running. After the end of a race, she fainted, was hospitalised and diagnosed radiation-induced leukaemia.

ImageThere's a legend in Japan, the country of origami. It says that if you can fold a thousand , the Gods will make your first wish become true. Sadako decided she would fold one thousand origami and wish to be cured. She folded 654 cranes before she died, in October, 1955. Yet, she was buried with one thousand paper cranes, because her classmates had finished her uncompleted vow.

After her death, her friends and schoolmates raised funds to build a memorial to her and all of the children who had died from the effects of the atomic bomb. In 1958, a statue of Sadako holding a golden crane was unveiled in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial. At its base a plaque reads: "This is our cry. This is our prayer. Peace in the world." Every year, on August 6, the statue is decorated with thousands of paper cranes sent by children from all over the world.

3 comment(s):

    I agree with you, my friend, that the dropping of the atomic bomb was horrific and yes, most certainly a war crime. What was more unconscionable than the dropping of the first bomb was the dropping of the second bomb. How could anyone order the second bombing after witnessing the devastation of the first? It is very American to paint the actions of our country in the best of light--only to later admit that the actions were wrong and/or evil. Current example is our involvement in Iraq. We should not have been there.

    Sadako Sasaki's story is a heart-wrenching reminder of the wrong this country did.


    See, Mariposa, one can perhaps understand how this was decided at the time: several years of war against the Japanese. As in many wars, there was also a detestation of the ennemy that was not truly considered a human being any more, and so on. I was a war crime of course, one cannot excuse it, but you can understand how it happened.
    Yet the persisting lack of apologies by the USA, more than 60 years later, the "it actually saved lives" BS, and so on, appear unforgivable.
    I had a very similar feeling when the French still officially denied any responsibility of France in the deportation of Jews during the WWII. President Jacques Chirac, at last, expressed regret and apologized in 1995. It changed things a lot, because a country that does not face up its faults and flaws cannot be an advanced, civilized country.


    This post gave me goosepimples, my friend. Both for the very human story of the Japanese girl as for the very scary notion of your US friend about the horrendous crime being justified, because they... saved lives.
    There is no arguing with such blatant idiocy.


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