November 26, 2020

Students visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Webster University history professor John Chappell visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki during this past summer with a collection of international students.  Chappell took part in the trip to highlight the historical importance of the use of atomic weapons in Japan during WWII.

His experience was documented for Webster students on Tuesday, Sept 13 in the Sunnen Lounge. Chappell brought photos and lectured to an audience of more than 100 on the importance of traveling to Japan.

“It was a profound experience for me,” Chappell said, “and I saw the impact it had on our students.”

Chappell and a number of students from Japan traveled to the Hiroshima Museum for Peace and attended the annual peace ceremonies on August 6, the anniversary of the dropping of the bomb.

The group visited the Atomic Bomb Dome, a severely damaged structure preserved to highlight the devastation of the bomb.

One of the most emotional portions of the trip involved testimony from “Hibakusha,” the Japanese word commonly used to describe victims of the atomic bomb. Many of the victims told chilling stories of their experiences through a translator.

On the night of August 6, people in Hiroshima wrote their wishes for world peace on paper lanterns and placed them in the Motoyasu river close to the hypocenter, the spot where the bomb detonated. Victims jumped into the river to drink water.

Chappell wrote his own message of peace on a paper lantern and floated it down the river, an experience he called “overwhelming.”

Hiroshima’s annual event for eternal peace, on the ceremony marking dropping of the atomic bomb, hopes to bring light to the tragedy and educate future generations.

Participants in the Peace Study trip then traveled to Nagasaki, where the second Atomic Bomb was dropped on August 9.  A similar annual ceremony a takes place, and prayers for peace are given.  But Chappell emphasized there was a different atmosphere in Nagasaki.

Chappell describes a sense of “anger” among some citizens of Nagasaki, much different than from Hiroshima.  Masaharu Oka, a Japanese professor that spoke to Chappell’s group who specializes in history, cast doubts about the dropping of the Atomic Bombs.

Images were shown of the Urakami Cathedral in Nagasaki, which stands near the epicenter and was destroyed by the Atomic Bomb. Chappell said that Nagasaki was the Christian center for Japan when the bomb was dropped, destroying the cathedral.

The dropping of Atomic Bomb is still a delicate and controversial issue. In 1995, the Smithsonian Museum planned to exhibit displays about the Atomic Bomb, but it was discontinued because of the strong opposition.

Professor Chappell joined a Peace Study Tour to Kyoto, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which was organized by Peter Kuznick. Kuznick is a historian and directs the Nuclear Study Institute at American University. Chappell said his visit to Japan helped him to know more about the meaning of the use of the Atomic Bombs.

He feels Webster Students should participate in such a study abroad program to gain knowledge on the Atomic Age, especially since Webster wants their students to be globally accepted and informed.

Students interested in traveling to Japan next summer with Chappell should contact him at chappejo@webster.edu.

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