Obama prepares historic visit to Hiroshima - but insists there will be no apology for atomic bomb

The Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima is well done.

There’s a calmness and serenity that contrasts completely with the earth-shattering violence of the explosion that happened 2,000 feet or so above it on August 6, 1945.

An airburst would deliver the most devastation and so the bomb Little Boy was fitted with an altimeter that ensured detonation at just the right height. Ironically that type of altimeter was a pre-war Japanese invention.

Today Hiroshima’s city centre is dominated by the A-dome, the remnants of what was a riverside exhibition hall. It was well-built and a skeleton of the structure was left standing after the bomb was dropped.

By the end of 1945 injuries and radiation had killed another 70,000. The city had 350,000 inhabitants.

The attack on Nagasaki three days later wasn’t as deadly because the bomb was off-target and the hilly landscape there wasn’t as conducive to death and destruction.

An atomic cloud billows following the explosion of the first atomic bomb in Hiroshima Credit: Reuters/US Army
The Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall pictured in 1945 and 2016. Credit: Reuters/ITV News/YO Nagaya
Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Japan. Credit: Reuters

President Obama has decided to visit Hiroshima tomorrow. It’s a trip his 10 predecessors since Truman have avoided.

Most of the Japanese we’ve spoken to here think the presence of a sitting US president is long overdue.

The White House says there will be no apology and most Japanese aren’t looking for one.

They want him to see the effect nuclear bombs have and to help rid the world of such weapons.

The Mayor of Hiroshima says it’s high time to set aside the issue of an apology.

The mushroom cloud from the blast over Nagasaki Credit: Reuters
John Irvine (L) pictured with Mayor of Hiroshima Matsui Kazumi Credit: ITV News/YO Nagaya
A school choir singing along side a piano that was damaged during the atomic blast. Credit: ITV News/YO Nagaya

Mr Matsui Kazumi told ITV News: “If we insist on apologies we will never move forward. It’s been seventy years already. Let’s set the issue aside and work together for a better world."

Addressing nuclear proliferation has been a cornerstone of the Obama presidency.

His pledges in that regard helped him win the Nobel Peace Prize back in 2009.

Mr Obama will regard last year’s deal to limit Iran’s nuclear programme as one of his signature achievements.

In Hiroshima we’ve found no rage or resentment towards the Americans.

They think the bombing was a mistake and want to make sure the attacks here are not repeated.

Visitor numbers at the Peace Memorial Park are going up every year. The average age of survivors is now over eighty. Their children are now telling the stories of that dreadful day and its aftermath.

Japan has learned a lesson it hopes the world will never forget.