HIROSHIMA — Clifton Truman Daniel, the eldest grandson of former U.S. President Harry Truman, visited the Hiroshima on Aug. 4 and met with survivors of the wartime atomic bombing ordered by his grandfather.
The 55-year-old former journalist listened to an 83-year-old survivor who said he had to leave his mother behind as he ran from the fire approaching their home after the blast.
Daniel told the meeting with Mikizo Iwasa, a leader of the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations, that even though it is hard to hear such stories “we have to hear” them.
“If we do not pay attention and if we do not look to you as our teachers, we are going to make the same mistake again,” Daniel said.
Earlier in the day Daniel visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. He told reporters the exhibit was “devastating,” but added he was struck most by the “message of the peace the entire city is devoted to.”
Asked how he sees his grandfather’s decision when opinions are still divided about its legitimacy, Daniel said, “I do not think we will ever finish talking about that,” adding “(the) important thing is keep talking about it.”
Daniel is visiting Japan to attend annual ceremonies in Hiroshima on Aug. 6 and in Nagasaki three days later, at the invitation of a nonprofit peace organization.
Ari Beser, the 24-year-old grandson of Jacob Beser, a radar specialist who was the only military officer to take part in both atomic bombing missions on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, also is in Hiroshima.
Beser toured the memorial park and the museum with Daniel. He will also attend the annual memorials in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
On Aug. 3 in Tokyo, Daniel and Beser met with seven atomic-bomb survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as Japanese students at a forum, where they listened to the experiences of survivors who lost family members and have faced various health problems for decades.
Daniel’s first visit to Japan came after his meeting in New York in 2010 with Masahiro Sasaki, head of the nonprofit Sadako Legacy and older brother of Sadako Sasaki, a girl who succumbed to leukemia at age 12 a decade after the bombing.
Daniel has said it was about 14 years ago when his son brought home a book about the girl’s story, “Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes.”
Moved by her story of folding more than 1,000 cranes to make her wish of living come true, he said it is important for his family to “understand what happened” and the “full consequence” of decisions made by his grandfather.
In May 2010, Sasaki and Daniel met at the Tribute WTC Visitor Center, a New York museum commemorating the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. There, Sasaki’s son Yuji handed Daniel the last paper crane folded by his aunt’s hand.