At Hiroshima, Obama honors war dead, renews call for world without nuclear weapons

In a solemn address at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, President Obama honored the memory of those who perished in the 1945 atomic bombing and “all the innocents” killed in wars. He pledged again to pursue a world without nuclear weapons.

On that cloudless morning 71 years ago, Obama said, “death fell from the sky and the world was changed. The flash of light and a wall of fire destroyed a city and demonstrated that mankind possessed the means to destroy itself.”

Obama, the first sitting U.S. president to visit the memorial, said he came to Hiroshima “to mourn the dead, including over 100,000 Japanese men, women and children, thousands of Koreans, a dozen Americans held prisoner. Their souls speak to us.”

President Obama laying wreath (© AP Images)
President Obama laid a wreath at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park on May 27 to pay respects to those killed in the August 1945 atomic bombing. He called anew for a world without nuclear weapons. (© AP Images)

But he remembered also “all the innocents killed across the arc of that terrible war, and the wars that came before, and the wars that would follow.”

“We have a shared responsibility to look directly into the eye of history and ask what we must do differently to curb such suffering again,” the president said.

“Since that fateful day, we have made choices that give us hope,” including the strong alliance between the U.S. and Japan and “international institutions and treaties that worked to avoid war and aspired to restrict and roll back and ultimately eliminate the existence of nuclear weapons.”

“Still, every act of aggression between nations, every act of terror and corruption and cruelty and oppression that we see around the world, shows our work is never done,” he said.

Nations with nuclear stockpiles “must have the courage to escape the logic of fear and pursue a world without them,” said the president, who afterward embraced a survivor of the August 6, 1945, attack.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who stood beside the president during the speech, lauded “the decision and courage shown by Mr. Obama in coming here.”

“The fact the U.S. president witnessed the reality of the atomic bomb and renewed his pledge for a world without nuclear weapons has given much hope to people around the world who believe in a nuclear-free world,” Abe said.

In a 2009 speech in Prague early in his presidency, Obama stated “clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” He won the Nobel Peace Prize later that year.

Obama flew to Hiroshima after the Group of Seven summit at Ise-Shima. It was his fourth trip to Japan as president.