A Lindenwood-Belleville history instructor hopes her trip to Japan in observance of the atomic bombings that ended World War II will help spread peace around the world.
Jennifer Welsh went to Japan last summer for the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. She plans to create a display in the university’s halls to help bring people together over what remains a divisive event nearly three-quarters of a century later.
“What I’ve found is that the perspective on whether the bombings were justified varies greatly from country to country,” Welsh said. “Even in the neighboring countries of Asia.”
The display is made of large photographs of the aftermath of the bombing, statistics about the devastation and information about the people who were hit by a super weapon they couldn’t understand or anticipate. It is designed to bring the different perspectives together and show people that it’s less important to determine who was right and who was wrong than it is to work for peace.
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Lindenwood-Belleville President Brett Barger said he believes the display will be valuable to every student that sees it.
“As a liberal arts institution, Lindenwood University attempts to expose students to topics and issues that will inspire them to think critically and deeply,” Barger said. “This Hiroshima-Nagasaki display is the first in a series of displays by our academic divisions to help accomplish that objective. These photos are as powerful today as they were when they were taken.”
Welsh said her trip was organized by the Japanese Studies Association. It was a two-week tour that was split between the two cities.
What I’ve found is that the perspective on whether the bombings were justified varies greatly from country to country.
Lindenwood University-Belleville instructor Jennifer Welsh
Japanese citizens have spent a long time trying to get over the horror and shock of the bombings as well as the medical after affects caused by radiation exposure, she said. Welsh said Americans never doubted the justification of the bombing after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and Americans later fought costly battles across the Pacific at places like Guadalcanal, the Phillipines, Okinawa and Iwo Jima. But, she said, average Japanese citizens didn’t know much about what was going on with the war on a day-to-day basis.
Citizens of surrounding Asian countries found their opinions to be affected by which side of the war they fell on with the Chinese, who were attacked by Japan. Most understood of the use of extreme force, Welsh said.
“It’s a very complicated issue,” Welsh said of the perception of the Japanese as to whether the bombing was justified. But over time the divide has been pushed back and we have been able to move forward in peace.”
The important thing, as the wounds of war heal, is learning to avoid the situations that lead to conflict in the first place, Welsh said.