The Atomic Heritage Foundation will meet Friday with the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to discuss the interpretation of the Manhattan Project, the top-secret effort in World War II to create an atomic bomb, and its legacy for the world today, a press release said.
The meeting will be at the Institute of International Education at the United Nations Plaza in New York.
The Atomic Heritage Foundation led efforts to establish a Manhattan Project National Historical Park for more than a decade. (The City of Oak Ridge also supported the park and lobbied for it.) The park was approved in legislation that passed Congress in December, and it includes Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Hanford, Washington; and Los Alamos, New Mexico.
“Now AHF is working on the interpretation of the park and welcomes a dialogue with the Japanese to consider this world-changing history from both an American and an international perspective,” the press release said. “The meeting with the mayors is a first step in the process.”
The release said Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui and Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue invited AHF to meet with them while they are attending the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. The invitation came in response to an article in Nishinippon Shinbun in December 2014 that quoted Cynthia C. Kelly, president of the Atomic Heritage Foundation, as saying: “I would like to invite the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to the United States in order to listen to their opinions, so that we may consider all points of view.”
Members of the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation, the Japan Confederation of A- and H- bomb Sufferers Organization, and Hiroshima and Nagasaki city staff will also attend the meeting, the press release said.
On December 12, 2014, Congress passed the Manhattan Project National Historical Park Act that creates a Manhattan Project park with units at Los Alamos, Hanford, and Oak Ridge. Matsui and Taue sent letters to U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy expressing their concern that the Manhattan Project National Historical Park would “glorify” the atomic bomb and the devastation of their cities at the end of World War II.
Kennedy responded in a letter sent to the mayors in January 2015: “Our shared history is important to both of our nations, and we care deeply that we treat it with respect and honesty. I will share your concerns with the National Park Service.”
In a video produced by the National Park Service and U.S. Department of Energy on the new park, NPS Director Jon Jarvis explained, “We looked at the sites of Hanford, Oak Ridge, and Los Alamos as the place that we can tell the American story about the development and use of the atomic bomb.”
The National Park Service serves as America’s storyteller and already interprets many contentious chapters in America’s history such as the Civil War and the Civil Rights movement. The national park system has more than 400 different sites and commemorates the full range of American history, including events that people view very critically or condemn as “wrong” or immoral, the AHF said in the press release.
It said Gettysburg and Antietam battlefields and the Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, National Historic Trail represent aspects of America’s violent and troubled past.
“At these sites, the National Park Service presents multiple perspectives on what happened and invites people to examine the decisions and events of the past in the context of the time,” the release said. “Rather than presenting an authoritative ‘museum voice,’ the National Park Service engages visitors through first-hand accounts and presents more open-ended interpretations to prompt reflection by visitors.”
Clarence Moriwaki, the president of the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial Association and the grandson of a victim of the bombing of Hiroshima, published a powerful op-ed in The Seattle Times in December 2012 urging that Congress establish the Manhattan Project National Historical Park. “Some believe a Manhattan Project National Historic Park would glorify nuclear warfare. As someone who lost family because of the atomic bomb, I agree that there is no glory in the first and only use of atomic weapons.
“However, the Manhattan Project is an important chapter of American history, and I believe we should recount all parts of our heritage, even the painful moments…The Park Service has done an extraordinary job to share the sad American chapter of Japanese American incarceration. If authorized by Congress, I believe it would do the same to tell the complex history of the Manhattan Project that created the world’s first two atomic bombs.”
The Atomic Heritage Foundation is a nonprofit in Washington, D.C., dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of the Manhattan Project and its legacy. AHF has been working to create and interpret a Manhattan Project National Historical Park for nearly 15 years. In partnership with local historical societies and others, the organization plans to continue to preserve and interpret historic sites and develop educational programming and materials for park visitors, students, teachers, and the general public. For more information about the Atomic Heritage Foundation, visit their website.
The Manhattan Project National Historical Park will be established officially when the Departments of Interior and Energy reach an agreement over their respective roles and responsibilities. The deadline for the agreement is December 2015. Work on restoration projects and interpretative exhibits for the Manhattan Project will depend upon congressional funding and could take several years.
There was an open house for the park in Oak Ridge in March.
In anticipation of the park, the Atomic Heritage Foundation has been collecting oral histories from Manhattan Project veterans for its website “Voices of the Manhattan Project.” The organization has also begun a series of interpretive tours available on its “Ranger in Your Pocket” website. These short audio/visual programs include recordings of Manhattan Project veterans and illuminate aspects of the work and life in the “secret cities.” The “Ranger in Your Pocket” series is accessible to visitors on smartphones and tablets as well as on computers.