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Tom Smart, Deseret News
Dick Sherwood, left, of Salt Lake City, meets with Takashi Hiraoka, former mayor of Hiroshima, Japan.

Two World War II survivors, one American, one Japanese, met Monday in Salt Lake City.

Dick Sherwood, a pilot in World War II, and Takashi Hiraoka, a former mayor of Hiroshima, met at Sherwood's home to commemorate the 63rd anniversary of the dropping of an atomic bomb over Hiroshima, Japan.

When Sherwood was 21 years old in 1945, he flew a photography reconnaissance mission over the recently bombed city. What he saw devastated him: a thriving, noisy city silenced by "Little Boy," the bomb that ushered in the nuclear age. As he flew, his plane met no resistance from enemies or structure.

"It (the city) was laid flat," Sherwood said, his piercing blue eyes filled with pain.

The politician-turned-peace-activist Hiraoka was a junior high school student with his family in Korea when the bomb fell. He said the protrusions in the landscape — houses and buildings — were gone, burned.

"When he got off the train, he could see all the way to the ocean," Hiraoka said through an interpreter, something that was not possible before because of all the buildings obstructing the view.

All that was left of the dwellings were the safes people used to store their valuables.

Sherwood wouldn't describe what he saw, only that the photos were too graphic to be seen by the American public. Hiraoka said he didn't see any bodies — they were all removed in the six weeks it took for him to get home.

They both agree the city was leveled.

Consequently, they despise nuclear weapons.

Hiraoka said he thinks dropping nuclear bombs on civilians was inhumane. Because of his experiences, he thinks all nuclear weapons should be banned. Sherwood agrees with the former mayor. He wants to convince governments to outlaw nuclear weapons.

One person affected by Sherwood's experiences is his son, Kim Sherwood. His booming voice is a contrast to his father's soft-spoken one.

"One of the things that's bothered my father for years was the way the negotiations were handled," Kim Sherwood said, particularly about whether the emperor would continue running the country.

Kim Sherwood said he believes the U.S. demand for total surrender created confusion over the emperor's status. He said the Japanese people were used to a totalitarian government and worried they would have no one to lead the country. Without the emperor, there was a fear among the people that the country would be plunged into chaos. And, because the Japanese people did not want the emperor to be tried for war crimes, they were slow to accept a total surrender, he added.

Kim Sherwood said he believes the Allies used this point to keep the Japanese in war status, not surrender status, so they could drop the bomb.

"We maintained the situation of war long enough for us to test bombs on civilians targets," Kim Sherwood said.

Hiraoka said he also believes there was no need for the bomb. He believes the civilian population and most government officials had reached a point where they wanted the war to end. Also, most of the military was devastated by the war. He believes if the U.S. had guaranteed the safety of the emperor, surrender would have been swift.

Earlier on Monday, Hiraoka spoke to a group at Utah Valley University. He told the audience that when nuclear weapons are abolished, Hiroshima will be fully healed of its wounds.

He will speak again on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at the Salt Lake Main Library auditorium.


E-mail: lwilde@desnews.com