Decades after the war’s end, Obama steps into Asia’s history debates in Hiroshima.
Though the end of World War II may seem part of the distant past (Japan formally surrendered seventy-one years ago today) the cultural and political legacy of that conflict still looms large over the international stage, particularly in Asia. President Barack Obama’s visit this past May to Hiroshima did more than pay homage to the victims of the atomic bombing carried out by the United States more than seven decades ago. The President also stepped into the complex and often treacherous realm of wartime historical memory.
Memories of wartime events among the combatants of the war are fractured and contested.
Memories of wartime events among the combatants of the war are fractured and contested—Chinese, Koreans, Japanese and Americans have formed almost distinct narratives of the war and its meaning. And even within those societies, there are rivaling accounts and understandings of the past. These divergent memories explain why wartime history issues remain a catalyst for conflict in the region, where political leaders use this history to mobilize nationalist feelings.