The Manhattan Project National Historical Park will ring the International Friendship Bell 76 times on Friday morning, August 6, to commemorate the effects of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima 76 years ago.
The bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, at 8:15 a.m. on August 6, 1945. It was the first atomic bomb used in war and the first of two dropped on Japan near the end of World War II. Uranium for the first bomb, which was code-named “Little Boy,” was enriched in Oak Ridge. The bomb had about 140 pounds of uranium fuel and had an explosive force equivalent to 15,000 tons of TNT, according to Atomic Heritage. Between 90,000 and 166,000 people are believed to have died from the 10-foot, 9,700-pound bomb in the four-month period following the explosion, Atomic Heritage said.
The National Park Service is calling the August 6 ceremony “Days of Peace and Remembrance.”
“During this silent event, we will be requesting visitors to come up and ring the bell,” a press release said. “Visitors will be able to write down their own hopes and messages of peace.”
The United States dropped a second atomic bomb, a plutonium-fueled weapon, on Nagasaki, Japan, on August 9, 1945, three days after the Hiroshima bombing. It had about 13.6 pounds of plutonium fuel and an explosive force equivalent to 21,000 tons of TNT. About 80,000 Japanese died by the end of 1945 because of that bomb, which was called “Fat Man,” Atomic Heritage said.
Japan announced its surrender August 15 and formally surrendered September 2, 1945. Atomic Heritage said historians continue to debate the role of the atomic bombs in ending World War II.
There continues to be debate in Oak Ridge about whether the use of the bomb was justified, especially around August 6. That’s when the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, which opposes the manufacture and use of nuclear weapons, marks the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing with a names and remembrance ceremony across from the Y-12 National Security Complex, where the uranium was enriched for “Little Boy.” The OREPA ceremonies include first-hand accounts and graphic photos of injuries from the bomb. They also include a reading of the names of victims, followed by the tolling of a bell and the tying of a peace crane on string for each one. Contemporaneous reflections, including poetry and official statements, are also included, as well as chanting and drumming by the monks of Nipponzan Myohoji. OREPA says it wants its solemn, non-confrontational remembrance to help ensure that nuclear weapons are never used again.
While OREPA questions the use of the bomb near the end of the war, many people in and around Oak Ridge support its use. They point out that Japan attacked the United States first, at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and they cite the number of Americans who could have died if the United States had invaded Japan. (Learn more about the end of the war here.)
The National Park Service said the International Friendship Bell is a symbol of unity, and it “will carry the message of peace and international friendship into the future.” At nearly seven feet tall and five feet wide, the 8,300-pound bronze bell hangs at Alvin K. Bissell Park in Oak Ridge.
“Designed in Oak Ridge and cast in Kyoto, Japan, the relief panels on the bell show peaceful imagery inspired by Tennessee, Japan, and the tragedies of war between the two nations,” the NPS said.
The August 6 ringing of the bell will be at 6:49 a.m. at the Peace Pavilion in Alvin K. Bissel Park at 1401 Oak Ridge Turnpike in Oak Ridge. For directions and information, call (865) 482-1942.
The Manhattan Project National Historical Park commemorates the Manhattan Project. That was a top-secret federal program to build the world’s first atomic weapons during World War II. Oak Ridge is one of three sites that are part of the park. The other two are Hanford, Washington, and Los Alamos, New Mexico.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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