The Atomic Heritage Foundation, the nonprofit organization that worked for 15 years to create a Manhattan Project national park, met with the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki this month to discuss how the story of the atomic bomb will be interpreted.
The meeting, which was held at the Institute of International Education at the United Nations Plaza in New York City, marked a “positive first step in opening a dialogue with the Japanese, whose input will be important to the interpretation of the new park,” a press release said. In addition to the two mayors, the Atomic Heritage Foundation also met with Japanese local government officials.
The Manhattan Project was a top-secret federal program to build the world’s first nuclear weapons during World War II. The Manhattan Project National Historical Park will include Oak Ridge; Los Alamos, New Mexico; and Hanford, Washington.
The meeting in New York City on Friday, May 1, began with opening remarks from Nagasaki Mayor Tomahisa Taue and Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui, who described the suffering of those affected by the atomic bombing, a press release said. They expressed hope that interpretation of the new Manhattan Project Park would not end with the dropping of the bomb but also “focus on what happened under the mushroom cloud.”
The United States dropped one bomb over Hiroshima, Japan, on August 6, 1945, and a second over Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. Japan surrendered a few days later. Uranium for the first weapon, code-named “Little Boy,” was enriched at federal sites in Oak Ridge.
Representatives from the Japan Confederation of A- and H- bomb Sufferers, the Nagasaki Global Citizens’ Assembly for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, and the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation also attended the meeting and raised questions about what would be included in the new park, the press release said.
The Atomic Heritage Foundation heard from several hibakusha, a Japanese term used for surviving victims of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
“I was five years old when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima,” said Sueichi Kido, assistant secretary of the Japan Confederation of A- and H- bomb Sufferers. “In that moment I thought, ‘This is how the world will end.’”
He continued, “We hope that hibakusha are never created again.”
AHF President Cynthia Kelly reassured the mayors and the Japanese delegation that the National Park Service will not “cover up” the facts or glorify the bomb, as some critics of the park have feared.
“The creation of the atomic bomb changed the history of the United States and the world in many ways for good and bad,” Kelly said in the press release. “We must consider this history from both an American and international perspective.”
She also expressed confidence in the National Park Service’s interpretation of other contentious moments in American history, such as Civil War battles at Gettysburg and Antietam and the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.
“I am confident the National Park Service will tell the complete and multifaceted history of the Manhattan Project and provide an open-ended interpretation, just like they have done at other sites across the country,” Kelly said.
With these assurances, members of the Japanese delegation seemed relieved, the press release said. Nagasaki Mayor Taue offered to provide AHF and the National Park Service with the necessary materials and support for an inclusive and multifaceted approach to interpreting the Manhattan Project and its legacy for today.
After exchanging gifts, including a Nagasaki Peace Bell, Taue and Kido said they felt “reassured” by the positive discussion and encouraged further dialogue between Japan and the United States. Taue also invited the Atomic Heritage Foundation to visit Japan to tour the memorials in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The Atomic Heritage Foundation said it will continue to work with the Japanese on interpreting the Manhattan Project and its legacy for the world today.
“We are grateful to the Institute of International Education’s Peggy Blumenthal, vice president, and Jessica Gleason, deputy chief of staff, for hosting the conference,” the AHF press release said. “Thanks also to David Janes of the United States-Japan Foundation and Alex Wellerstein of the Stevens Institute of Technology for their valuable support.”
The Atomic Heritage Foundation is a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., that is 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. Officials and volunteers from Oak Ridge or representing Oak Ridge also lobbied for the park.
“In partnership with local historical societies and others, we plan to continue to preserve and interpret historic sites and develop educational programming and materials for park visitors, students, teachers, and the general public,” the AHF press release said. For more information about the Atomic Heritage Foundation, visit the organization’s website.
The Manhattan Project National Historical Park will be officially established when the U.S. 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 on the Manhattan Project will depend upon Congressional funding and could take several years.
The National Park Service and U.S. Department of Energy had an open house and site visit for the park in Oak Ridge in March. The open house was hosted by the City of Oak Ridge.
Buildings in Oak Ridge that could be included in the national park include the former K-25 Building in west Oak Ridge, the Graphite Reactor at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and buildings 9731 and 9204-3 at the Y-12 National Security Complex. The Alexander Inn, a non-U.S. Department of Energy site, is also eligible to be included.
The legislation that created the Manhattan Project National Historical Park was passed by Congress last year, and it establishes the park no later than one year after enactment.
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.”
“We have also begun a series of interpretive tours available on our ‘Ranger in Your Pocket’ website,” the press release said. 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.
To commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Manhattan Project and provide a preview of the new Manhattan Project National Historical Park, the Atomic Heritage Foundation is hosting events on Tuesday, June 2, and Wednesday, June 3. A reunion and reception for Manhattan Project veterans and their families will be held on Tuesday, June 2. On Wednesday, June 3, a symposium will feature a discussion of the new park by officials from the departments of Energy and Interior and sessions with veterans and experts talking about the Manhattan Project and its legacy for today. Both events will be open to the public and the press and will be held at the Carnegie Institution for Science, 1530 P Street, Northwest, Washington, D.C. For more information and to register, please click here.