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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Repost: A Thousand Cranes

Originally posted 1/6/11:

There is a legend in Japan that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish by a crane.  A young girl decided to try this in her efforts to save herself.  She was in the Hiroshima Red Cross Hospital dying from the effects of the atomic bomb that was dropped by the U.S. on August 6, 1945 by the Boeing B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay.  The bomb was called "Little Boy".  Ironically it killed this "little girl", among many, many others.

First photo of "Little Boy" to be released by the U.S. Government.

The weapon was developed by the Manhattan Project during WWII.  The U.S., the U.K., and the Republic of China had called for the surrender of Japan in the Potsdam Declaration, which was ignored by the Japanese.  President Harry S. Truman ordered the "Little Boy" dropped on Hiroshima, then three days later "Fat Man", a second nuclear weapon, dropped on Nagasaki.  Hiroshima was never bombed prior to this in order to serve as a "pristine" target.  The damage was to be studied later, but the energy yield could only be studied at the moment of dentonation, so instruments were dropped by parachute from a plane flying in formation with the Enola Gay.

Atomic Cloud over Hiroshima after "Little Boy" was dropped.

Because "Little Boy" detonated 5 miles aboveground, there was no crater and no local radioactive fallout.  People close enough to receive lethal doses of direct radiation died immediately.  Others on the edge of the lethal area and beyond it suffered from radiation, some dying soon afterward.  The body count will never be accurate.  The number of those who died from the fire will never be known, and all incidents of illnesses cannot be precisely attributed to the fallout.  However, there were increases in the number of people exposed who suffered from cancer, leukemia, and other diseases, including children exposed in utero.  So far, there is no evidence of inherited disease.

U.S. Army official poster, 1944, U.S. Government Printing Office.

Hiroshima was an area of military and industrial significance.  The Japanese government had evacuated about 40,000-50,000 people prior to the bombing, but population figures are indeterminate.  The casualties included unintended victims - 3,200 Japanese-American citizens, Allied POWS, scholarship students from Malaya, and Korean and Chinese laborers, to name some.  There are those who claim that medical treatment for survivors was refused in some cases in order to get better research results.  Although unconfirmed, it is entirely plausible since planning for the bomb drop and recording everything about it was done in such a calculated manner.

Statue of Sadako Sasaki
Hiroshima Peace Memorial

Sadako Sasaki (January 7, 1943 - October 25, 1955) was a mile away on August 6, 1945.  By November of 1954, she developed chicken pox on her neck and ears, and two months later purple spots appeared on her legs.  Almost ten years after the atomic bomb was dropped, on February 18, 1955, she was diagnosed with leukemia, and told she had a year to live.  The people of Nagoya send a gift of a thousand origami cranes to the hospital.  She, along with many of the patients in the hospital, were inspired to create their own.  Because of a shortage of paper, they used anything they could find to make the cranes.  She was twelve when she finally succumbed.

Children's Memorial with structures to protect cranes.

Her friends and schoolmates began to raise funds to build a memorial to her and all the other children who died from effects of the atomic bomb.  In 1958, a statue of her holding a crane was unveiled in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial.  There is a plaque at the foot of the monument inscribed in Japanese:

This is our cry.  This is our prayer.  Peace on Earth.

Sadako has become a symbol of the consequences of nuclear war.  Her story is told to school children in Japan, and she is a heroine of Japanese girls.  Over 9 metric tons of origami cranes are sent to Hiroshima each year from locations worldwide.  August 6 is celebrated in Japan as annual peace day.  Her story is now familiar to children all over, thanks to the numerous books, songs, and films produced.

Some of the cranes dedicated to Sadako's memory by
Japanese school children at the Memorial at Hiroshima.

Sister memorial sites have sprung up, most notably in the Seattle Peace Park.  A sister statue in Santa Fe, New Mexico was erected, dedicated in 1995, the 50th anniversary of the bombings.  Santa Fe is where "Little Boy" was built.  The monument was funded by youths.

Statue of Sadako in Seattle Peace Park, Washington.
Photo by Lisa Norwood

Sadako was not of the military.  She had no power, and probably no knowledge of what was demanded of Japan.  She paid the price of the decision of men.  May she rest in peace.  And in her name may future young girls, among others, experience peace.

How to make an origami crane, browse here for more instructions,
including a video.
Unless otherwise noted, images from Wikipedia.

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