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Hiroshima A-Bomb Military Facility Scheduled for Destruction

SNA (Hiroshima) — Sections of the Hiroshima Army Clothing Depot (ACD), some of the few remaining buildings that bear the marks of the August 6, 1945, atomic bombing of the city, are scheduled to be torn down despite the opposition of concerned citizens’ groups.

The ACD was built in 1913 to manufacture, repair, and store clothing and boots for the Japanese Imperial Army. It was comprised of thirteen large buildings in total, some over 5,500 square meters in size. The sturdy brick and reinforced concrete construction of the ACD buildings, located 2.7 kilometers from the center of the explosion, enabled the site to survive the blast that killed approximately 140,000 of the city’s residents.

Still, the powerful blast warped the steel shutters of the ACD building windows, and mobilized students from the Hiroshima Normal School and its affiliated middle school who were working in the depot were exposed to the burning heat and radiation there. In the hellish aftermath that followed, the ACD buildings were used to treat wounded A-bomb victims; many of them eventually perished from their wounds.

In the postwar era, the ACD buildings were put to a variety of alternative uses, including as a dormitory for Hiroshima University students. Of the original thirteen buildings, eventually only four were left standing, and by 1995 the site was left vacant.

But in 1993, and against the background of a growing interest in Japan in preserving former military facilities and war-damaged buildings (senso iseki in Japanese) to teach future generations about the war, Hiroshima Prefecture earmarked the ACD buildings as having special historical significance. In 1995 and 1996, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Genbaku Dome) was preserved as a national Historical Site and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and original plans called for the preservation of the ACD buildings, too.

Yet in late 2019, citing safety concerns and cost, the Hiroshima Prefectural Assembly, dominated by the conservative Liberal Democratic Party, rejected these plans and instead opted to preserve only Building One while tearing down Buildings Two and Three.

As the local newspaper the Chugoku Shinbun noted, this move sparked consternation from many Hiroshima residents. For instance, state broadcaster NHK quoted Hiroshima University Professor Emeritus Masayuki Miura as saying that, as one of the oldest reinforced concrete buildings in Japan, the ACD should be preserved as an Important Cultural Property. Miura also stated, “the value of the buildings exceeds that of the Genbaku Dome. It would be a real tragedy for future generations if they aren’t preserved.”

Iwao Nakanishi, one of the mobilized students working at the ACD at the time of the bombing, agreed. In 2014, he and others started the Round-Table Conference for the Preservation of the Former Army Clothing Depot (Kyu-Hifuku Shisho no Hozon o Negau Kondankai), and since then has given many tours of the site to visiting schoolchildren during which he recounted how he narrowly survived the bomb blast at the site.

The Round-Table group is currently conducting a signature petition to submit to Hiroshima Prefecture Governor Hidehiko Yuzaki to preserve the ACD buildings as Cultural Properties (bunkazai). The petition calls the ACD buildings, which are the largest remaining structures from the former Japanese Imperial Army, as well as the biggest existing A-bomb-damaged buildings, “silent hibakusha.”

Hibakusha literally means “bomb-exposed person” and is the term typically reserved for human A-bomb victims.

Likewise, Keizo Dehara, president of the Japanese Network to Protect War-Related Sites, an umbrella organization of local civic activists and public policy officials which, since 1997 has worked to preserve former military buildings and war-damaged buildings as Cultural Properties, explained that the ACD buildings are a “symbol of Hiroshima as a military city,” and he urged action to “preserve them for future generations.”

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