The United States and the Second World War: New Perspectives on Diplomacy, War, and the Home Front

By G. Kurt Piehler; Sidney Pash | Go to book overview

chapter eleven
HIROSHIMA AND THE U.S.
PEACE MOVEMENT:
COMMEMORATION OF
AUGUST 6, 1948–1960

Rieko Asai

For more than 60 years, Americans have showed remarkable ambiguity concerning the use of the atomic bomb during World War II. In the immediate postwar years, there emerged triumphal narratives, which maintained that the atomic attack on Japan ended the ferocious war and saved numerous American lives that would have been lost in the event of a U.S. invasion. Although a majority of Americans accepted this discourse, concerned minorities expressed grave antagonism and publicly criticized the use of atomic weapons as a moral wrong and a strategic mistake. Later, during the 1960s, diplomatic historians challenged the mainstream narrative through their analysis of historical circumstances surrounding the decision to use the bomb in 1945. Although many disapproved of the socalled leftist historians, the debate between the orthodox and revisionist camps is one of the few scholarly debates that the general public pays attention to.1 The Enola Gay controversy in 1995 highlighted the fierce rivalry between the competing narratives.2

This chapter attempts to examine the role that the U.S. peace movement played in shaping the public memory of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Peace protestors led the dissent against U.S. nuclear weapons policies, and these protestors clearly used the memory of Hiroshima to strengthen their position. Although there are many studies on the public memory of Hiroshima, the views of antinuclear activists have not been fully explored by scholars. Researchers such as Lifton, Mitchell, and Boyer argue that while activists strongly challenged the nuclear arms race and

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