Wish for peace drives contact with American families

Jiji Press

Shigeaki Mori

Jiji Press HIROSHIMA (Jiji Press) — For Shigeaki Mori, a hope to contribute to peace was a driving force behind his 40-year effort to seek out the families of American servicemen who died in the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945.

When he was 8, Mori was exposed to radiation from the nuclear attack on the city on Aug. 6, 1945, at a location about 2.5 kilometers from the center of explosion.

At the building of an elementary school he had previously attended, all students were left dead, but Mori survived as he had switched schools.

After World War II ended, he read notes left by the principal of the devastated school and learned that the bodies of captured American servicemen had been discovered in the grounds of the school, which prompted him to begin research on the issue.

After collecting documents and conducting interviews, Mori identified 12 servicemen. In his search for their families, he made many international calls to people with the same surnames as the captives, using clumsy English.

After repeated failures, Mori located the families of the deceased servicemen. They had been merely told by the U.S. government that their loved ones went missing in action.

When Mori informed them about where they died and how, the families thanked him for finding out the details despite being from the then enemy country.

Some families suspected that he might be seeking money, but exchanges of letters earned him the trust of such families. Mori later started research on atomic-bombing victims from other countries.

“There is no difference between Japanese and Americans. Families want to learn about their loved ones who died,” Mori, 81, said. “I devoted all my life [to the research] wishing to make my share of contribution to peace.”

When then U.S. President Barack Obama made a historic visit to Hiroshima in May 2016 as the first sitting U.S. leader ever to set foot in the city, Mori was invited by the U.S. government to the ceremony. A touching scene of Obama hugging a tearful Mori was communicated worldwide.

Last May, Mori visited the United States for the first time. He attended the screening of a documentary movie about him at U.N. headquarters in New York and San Francisco.

“The whole audience gave me a standing ovation. I was moved by the reaction, which was stronger than in Japan,” he said.

During his stay in the United States, Mori toured the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston. Referring to areas free of nuclear weapons that were created mainly in Latin America after the 1962 Crisis in Cuba, Mori said, “Nations concerned should conclude a treaty to rid the whole of East Asia of nuclear weapons forever.”

Mori highly evaluates the first-ever U.S.-North Korea summit in June. “An opportunity of surprisingly good progress [on denuclearization] may arrive,” he said.Speech

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