Aug. 9, 1945, marked a day of triumph and tragedy; the triumph of the war’s ending that ushered in the tragedy that would become the nuclear age. 

The United States dropped a second atomic bomb on Japan, devastating the city of Nagasaki. The Soviet Union, following through with an agreement made earlier in the war, declared war on Japan.

Aug. 8, in Washington, D.C., President Truman took a step that many Americans hoped would mean continued peace in the post-World War II world. The president signed the United Nations Charter, thus completing American ratification of the document. In so doing, the United States became the first nation to complete the ratification process.

At the moments of the atomic bomb attacks, the populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were approximately 420,000 and 270,000, of which 160,000 and 74,000 died, respectively, according to the best estimates. That includes many Korean people who had been drafted into the Japanese military and forced to work as Japanese during the war.

A cloud rises over Nagasaki, Japan, in the moments after the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Aug. 9, 1945.

Via Wikimedia Commons

A mayor of Nagasaki once wrote, “Decades have passed since that day. Now the atomic bomb survivors are advancing into old age and their memories are fading into the mist of history. The question of how to inform young people about the horror of war, the threat of nuclear weapons and the importance of peace is therefore a matter of pressing concern.”

He continued: “The citizens of Nagasaki pray that this miserable experience will never be repeated on Earth. We also consider it our duty to ensure that the experience is not forgotten but passed on intact to future generations.”

We must tell this story to everyone in every generation.

We must tell this story to everyone in every generation. Not winning or losing, but the catastrophe of conflict, the devastation of death and destruction, the inescapable sufferings of war as well as the people who died that day. Some were just at the beginning of their lives, like some of our young people.

The Nagasaki Peace Bell is a gift to the people of the City and County of Honolulu from the survivors of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki and their supporters.

Recognizing that true steps to peace must begin with acknowledgment of harmful actions in the past, the survivors in Nagasaki wished to make a gesture of reconciliation to the people of the city of Honolulu, which sustained a military attack by Japan on December 7, 1941.

Valdo and Francis Viglielmo, working with the organizing efforts of the Congress Against Atomic- and Hydrogen-Bomb Committee of Nagasaki and the Nagasaki Prefecture Hibakusha Membership Association, began a lengthy process of raising funds and negotiating with the mayor and the City Council for acceptance and placement of the peace bell monument at a location acceptable and appropriate for the general public.

Through mutual efforts, the groups in both cities saw the success of the project in the dedication ceremony which took place on Dec. 7, 1990, on the grounds near the Honolulu Hale, when the peace bell was rung for the first time to the great satisfaction of the delegation of 60 or more of the Nagasaki Hibakusha in attendance.

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