Obama offers tribute but no apology at Hiroshima

U.S. President’s visit laden with symbolisms, comforting gestures made to survivors.

May 27, 2016 01:49 pm | Updated November 29, 2021 01:25 pm IST

Barack Obama paid moving tribute to victims of the first atomic bomb on Friday, offering a comforting embrace to a tearful man who survived the devastating attack on Hiroshima.

In a ceremony loaded with symbolism, the first sitting U.S. President to visit the city clasped hands with one survivor and hugged another after speaking about the day that marked one of the most terrifying chapters of World War-II.

“71 years ago, death fell from the sky and the world was changed,” Mr. Obama said of a bomb that “demonstrated that mankind possessed the means to destroy itself”.

Mourning the dead

“Why did we come to this place, to Hiroshima? We come to ponder a terrible force unleashed in the not-so-distant past. We come to mourn the dead,” he said.

As crows called through the hush of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, Mr. Obama offered a floral wreath at the cenotaph, pausing in momentary contemplation with his eyes closed and his head lowered.

The site lies in the shadow of a domed building, whose skeleton stands in silent testament to those who perished.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe followed by offering his own wreath and a brief, silent bow.

After both men had spoken, Mr. Obama greeted ageing survivors, embracing Shigeaki Mori (79), who appeared overcome with emotion.

“The President gestured as if he was going to give me a hug, so we hugged,” Mr. Mori told reporters afterwards.

Mr. Obama also chatted with a smiling Sunao Tsuboi (91), who had earlier said he wanted to tell the U.S. President how grateful he was for his visit.

The trip comes more than seven decades after the Enola Gay bomber dropped its deadly atomic payload, dubbed “Little Boy”, over the western Japanese city.

The bombing claimed the lives of 140,000 people.

As expected, Mr. Obama offered no apology for the bombings, having insisted that he would not revisit decisions made by Truman at the close of a brutal war.

As an eternal flame flickered behind him, however, he said leaders had an obligation to “pursue a world without” nuclear weapons.

Shinzo Abe praised the “courage” of the visit, which he said offered hope for a nuclear free future.

Top News Today

Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.