SOUNDS OF HOPE: Violin brings Truman’s grandson closer to atomic bomb victims


Editor’s Note: This is the third installment in a five-part series on the “atomic bombed violin.” The stringed instrument, once owned by a Russian, survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. It was restored ten years ago and its sound has since touched the hearts of many people beyond the borders.

* * *

It was a night to come together and reflect for the nearly 600 people who filled a concert hall just across from Central Park in Manhattan.

Masaaki Tanokura, first concertmaster of the Osaka Philharmonic Orchestra, took the stage with an instrument known as the “atom-bombed violin”.

The instrument was pulled from the rubble of Hiroshima after the atomic bombing of the city in 1945. The bereaved family of the violin’s first owner, a Russian music teacher, donated it to the Hiroshima Jogakuin School in 1986.

The instrument was restored in 2012 and has since traveled the world to be played by many artists.

On May 2, 2015, the violin was one of the featured performances at an event called “With Love to Hiroshima and Nagasaki: A Concert for Disarmament”.

The host of the event was Clifton Truman Daniel, a grandson of Harry S. Truman, the 33rd US President, who authorized the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Many hibakusha survivors of the two bombings were present, along with supporters and activists, to mark a review conference of the parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which was underway at the headquarters. UN in New York at the time.

Tanokura, now 45, was concertmaster of the Hiroshima Symphony Orchestra until 2014 and had previously played the instrument.

Every time he picked up the violin, he conjured up an image of when the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, he said.

His thought process was the same on the New York scene.

Tanokura performed “Chaconne in G minor”, a baroque composition for strings by Tomaso Antonio Vitali, an Italian composer.

The way he played, the melody and the tempo changed from time to time, but the chord progression remained the same.

Tanokura said the message he wanted to convey through his performance was, “Whether it’s good or bad, human beings do the same thing. If we forget, we end up repeating our mistakes.

When he finished playing, a thunderous applause broke out and lasted at least 30 seconds.

“I think I let the violin express everything a violin can express,” Tanokura recalled.

Himawari (Sunflower), a well-known Nagasaki-based hibakusha choir, was also a main feature of the concert.

The group performed “Never Again,” a song the members perform at the annual August 9 ceremony in their city to commemorate the victims of the atomic bomb and pray for peace.

Yoshiko Hirahara, one of the choir’s 16 performers that night, said the group’s mission was to “bring together the voices of every unnamed person to form one big circle and connect them for world peace.” .


Daniel, a former journalist, was concerned about the course of the event.

But the sounds of the violin and the voices of the hibakusha singers made him stop performing his duties as emcee.

“I felt the power of the music, the power of the performances,” Daniel, 65, recalled in an interview in July this year.

“But that’s also what’s behind the music. That’s who these people are. It’s the choir. It is the violin itself. It is a musical instrument which was extracted from the rubble of Hiroshima and which is still played today. So that’s what’s behind the music.

Daniel said he first saw the Himawari Choir perform in 2012 when he traveled to Nagasaki to attend the city’s annual memorial ceremony and was touched that the members are hibakusha.

But as Truman’s grandson, he could never have contemplated traveling to Nagasaki, let alone serving as emcee at an anti-nuclear event.

Like most of his fellow Americans, Daniel had long believed what he had been taught about that decision: that the American invasion of the Japanese mainland had been averted by the atomic bombing, which had saved the lives of many Americans. and Japanese.

But in 1999, her son, who was an elementary school student at the time, brought home a book from his school.

The book features a Japanese girl named Sadako. The heroine, real name Sadako Sasaki, was exposed to the atomic bomb in Hiroshima at the age of 2 and developed leukemia.

She spent days making paper cranes, praying for a recovery, but died in 1955 aged 12.

Daniel said in history classes in the United States, what happened to the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is rarely taught, and that this was the first time he learned about the human stories of the cities bombed by the atom through the story of Sadako.

After reading the book, he began to learn more about hibakusha.

In 2010, Daniel met Sadako’s older brother, Masahiro, who visited the United States. The two families remain in contact, he said.


Until the day of his death, Harry S. Truman publicly stated that he had no regrets about the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

According to Daniel, however, when a White House photographer asked the president if he regretted his decision, he replied, “Damn, yes!”

The president’s letter to a US senator who proposed dropping an atomic bomb on Tokyo is housed at the Harry S. Truman Library Museum in his native Missouri.

“I will not do this unless absolutely necessary,” reads part of the letter, dated August 9, 1945. “My goal is to save as many American lives as possible, but I also have a feeling for women and children in Japan.”

With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Vladimir Putin’s threat of possible use of nuclear weapons, Daniel said he was reminded of the importance of the hibakusha message.

“For decades and decades, hibakusha have been telling their stories so that we all understand what it was and hope we don’t do it again,” he said.

If a nuclear weapon is used today, Daniel said: “As horrible as it was in 1945, it would be much worse today. Weapons are bigger and more powerful.

Asked what the United States can do to help achieve a world without nuclear weapons, Daniel replied, “I am a private citizen, not an expert in foreign or domestic policy. If I had anything to give to this process, it was because I am Harry Truman’s grandson, and because it was symbolic for me to go to Japan and work with survivors.

He said the path he has traveled shows the possibility that “not only can you weather the bombardment, but you can work together to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

(This article was written by Shohei Okada and Masato Tainaka.)


About Author

Comments are closed.