Secret City and Its Song Part 3(Final)

I apologize for being so late with this post. Pain, starting PT, and a conference took a lot out of me. But if you have been waiting for Part 3(Part 1, Part 2) of Secret City and Its Song,(please tell me you were 🙂 ) here it is….

On my last day in Oak Ridge, I had the honor to meet the key person who brought the International Friendship Bell to Oak Ridge- Shigeko Uppuluri. In 1987 Shigeko (Japanese American citizen) and her late husband, Dr. Ram Uppuluri initiated the idea of bringing a bell to Oak Ridge after visiting one at the Atomic Energy Institute in Japan. The Uppuluri’s had been residents of Oak Ridge since Ram took a job with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in 1968. I also met Jerry Luckmann, an Oak Ridge resident on the International Friendship Bell public relations subcommittee*. Initially, the bell caused controversy with some town citizens. In addition to some anti-Japanese sentiment, some residents had a concern that the bell would look like an apology for Oak Ridge’s role in WWII (which was/is not the intent). However, the bell also had the support of many residents like Jerry and Shigeko, who wanted to continue strengthening the relationship between Oak Ridge and Japan.

source:2008 Historically Speaking International Friendship Bell by Ray Smith

In 1993, renowned Kyoto bell maker, Sotetsu Iwasawa cast the 8,000 lb. bonsho (unique style with long and low sound) bell at a discount.  Private funds were raised by Oak Ridge citizens and Japan. Oak Ridge artist, Savannah Harris, designed two panels on the bell. One panel represents Tennessee: Iris flower, Smoky Mountains, a mockingbird, and dogwoods. The second panel represents Japan: cherry blossoms, Mount Fuji, crane, temple buildings. Both panels have rainbows and atomic energy symbol as a sign that events will never be repeated. A company donated shipping supplies and Honda shipped the bell on its automobile barge to Savannah (at no charge) where a truck that happened to be empty and returning to ORNL brought it to Oak Ridge. The dedication and hanging of the International Friendship Bell in the newly built pavilion at Bissell Park took place, May 1996. The International Friendship Bell commemorates peace, Oak Ridge, and the Manhattan Project workers*.

friendshipbell.com

Panel representing Japan

atomicheritage.com

Tennessee Panel

 

Jerry and Shigeko both reminded the students of the good will, friendship, and hope that can exist after horrible acts of war by both sides. So, each time the International Friendship Bell tolls, its song of peace fills the air. Similarly, in my novel, The Last Cherry Blossom, as the temple bell rings in the new year, Yuriko says, “… with each bong I sat wishing, peace, peace, peace…”

My daughter ringing peace bell in Hiroshima Peace Park Copyright K.Burkinshaw

My mother’s story and the story of Oak Ridge’s (and Hanford’s) contribution to the end of WWII can co-exist as a bridge to understanding each other’s stories with harmony, peace, and the elimination of nuclear weapons on the other side.

The children in Japan loved their family, loved their friends, worried what might happen to them, and wished for peace. The Allied children felt the same. If we don’t stop dehumanizing our “enemies” of  74 years ago and start realizing that they were not so different from ourselves and focus on the emotional connection we have as human beings, then we are at risk of repeating the same deadly mistakes, and silencing the bell’s song of peace forever.

At Friendship Bell with Shigeko Uppuluri

with Shigeko Uppuluri, Jerry Luckmann,Emily Haverkamp, Kat Hall, Scot Smith**

My Mom & her Papa

“It would be the sound of peace and contentment, as sound that transcends political opinion or nationality.” Shikego Uppuluri 

 

*There are so many wonderful people responsible and instrumental in purchasing/celebrating the Friendship Bell in Oak Ridge than I could mention in my blog post. For more info about Friendship Bell https://www.atomicheritage.org/history/oak-ridge-international-friendship-bell 

*A lovely book given to me by Shigeko Uppuluri – 2008 Historically Speaking International Friendship Bell by Ray Smith was a great resource for me.

**Emily Haverkamp-Jefferson Middle School, Kat Hall-Norris Middle School, Scot Smith-Robertsville Middle School

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Secret City and Its Song (Part 2 of 3)

If you’ve wondered about the connection between my mother and Oak Ridge, TN mentioned in Part 1 ( and I hope you did 🙂 ) here is Part 2…

I’m embarrassed to admit, I didn’t know that the U.S. Government (USG) founded Oak Ridge as a Manhattan Project site to enrich uranium for the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. I knew about the Manhattan Project of course, but always associated it with New York City, Washington(state), and New Mexico. Yup, Oak Ridge lived up to its Secret City code name! 😊 In case I’m not alone, here’s a brief summary of the Secret City:

  •  1939 U.S. learned Germany might be developing a new “extremely powerful bomb” AND President Roosevelt set the Advisory Committee on Uranium in motion
  •  June 1940 Hitler invaded Paris AND the United States National Defense Research Committee (NDRC) formed

  •  July 1941, Hitler invaded the Soviet Union AND the NDRC, became the Office of Scientific Research &Development (OSRD) & began studying uranium enrichment with Columbia University.

  •  December 1941, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, U.S. formally entered WWII, & President Roosevelt authorized OSRD for atomic weapon production.

wheat fields and construction (Copyright K-25 Virtual Museum)

The USG wanted inexpensive land tucked away in a relatively unpopulated, unknown area to build their 2 million square foot facility (known as K-25). The small Wheat Community (pop. 1,000) fit the bill with its 60,000 acres of farmland nestled in a valley surrounded by mountains. USG hired employees, built dormitories for the workers, and eventually brought in prefab homes for them. Many of the initial workers were women (most men away fighting in WWII) who operated calutrons (device enriching uranium by separating isotopes). It wasn’t called Secret City just for the location. People who worked and lived in this gated community were explicitly told not to discuss their occupation and they only knew information pertaining to their specific job. No one (except some of the scientists) knew the final product/purpose of the facility. Sadly, many of the workers also died as a result of radiation they were exposed to at K-25*.

Copyright K-25 Museum

Okay, so once I knew all that, I can honestly admit that I initially had a pit in my stomach. Would they accept me or my mother’s story? How would I feel being there? But the more I thought about it, my message has always been not only to show why nuclear weapons should never be used again, but to also tell the human side of the story. I do not discuss TLCB and my mother’s experience for the sake of blaming anyone. My mother said that “war is hellish for both sides”.  My hope is that readers/students will see the connection we have with other human beings, that leaders and the fanatics of other countries do not define all the citizens of that country. In addition to writing about my mother surviving the atomic bombing, I wanted to make an emotional connection while correcting some misinformation about Japanese citizens during WWII. That’s why I wrote about the culture, family life, and mindset during WWII through my mother’s 12-year-old eyes.

Mom & family’s back yard in Hiroshima. (Copyright K.Burkinshaw)

I have great respect for the people who did their patriotic duty by working at K-25 and Hanford. Telling my mother’s story about her family (and mine) in Hiroshima, does not in any way vilify the K-25 or Hanford workers nor does it diminish the important work they did for the U.S. war effort. Both stories can co-exist without dishonoring the other and each deserves to be heard.

Oak Ridge workers, Copyright K-25 Virtual Museum

Hanford Washington copyright atomicheritage.org

 

 

 

The kindness and compassion from the Oak Ridge/Knoxville students, teachers, and the librarians I met touched my heart. Find out how a song of peace connects Oak Ridge, TN to Japan in my 3rd and final blog post of this series tomorrow….

Peace Dove,a gift from Episcopal School of Knoxville, TN

 

*Again, this is only a very brief summary. Please visit http://k-25virtualmuseum.org/index.html for more details about the Secret City.

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