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Hiroshima memorial visit: unspoken apology or commitment to disarmament?

While some Japanese still want an apology for the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Obama Administration called the first official US visit to the annual Hiroshima commemoration a demonstration of its commitment to nuclear disarmament.

By Contributor / August 6, 2010

Children arrange origami cranes into a symbol for peace at a public square in Valparaiso city, about 121 km (75 miles) northwest of Santiago, Friday. The cranes were made by children from different schools as part of a campaign to promote world peace in remembrance of the victims of the atomic bomb on the 65th anniversary of the US atomic bombing of Hiroshima in Japan.

Eliseo Fernandez/Reuters



For the first time since the A-bomb was dropped on Japan, ending World War II and killing more than 100,000 people, the United States sent a representative to the annual memorial at Hiroshima.

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While some Japanese still want an apology for the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and on Nagasaki three days later, President Barack Obama's administration is calling it a demonstration of its commitment to nuclear disarmament.

Opinion is also divided in the US, where many believe the nuclear attacks hastened Japan’s surrender on Aug. 15, 1945 without the need for a potentially catastrophic land invasion.

IN PICTURES: Hiroshima bombing 65th anniversary

Gene Tibbets, whose deceased father, Brig. Gen. Paul Tibbets, piloted the Enola Gay, said that the decision to attend the ceremony amounted to an “unspoken apology” for the attack.

“It's making the Japanese look like they're the poor people, like they didn't do anything,” he told Fox News this week. “They hit Pearl Harbor, they struck us. We didn't slaughter the Japanese. We stopped the war.”

Indeed, retired Army Air Corps Captain Theodore "Dutch" Van Kirk, the navigator of the Enola Gay and only still-surviving crew member, told the English Russian news channel RT, "The Japanese you know today are not the Japanese we fought during World War II." He said, "We had been in a long war, had been attacked by the Japanese, and the policy of the US government at that time was to subdue the nation of Japan."

High profile attendees, but no Obama

The US ambassador to Japan, John Roos, was among more than 70 foreign envoys attending the ceremony, held 65 years to the day since an American B-29 bomber dropped an atomic bomb on the city. An estimated 140,000 people were killed instantly or died later from the effects of radiation.