Accessible Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter April 2, 2014

Humanitarian Aid or Private Diplomacy? Norman Cousins and the Treatment of Atomic Bomb Victims

Allen Pietrobon
From the journal New Global Studies

Abstract

Individual citizens can often wield considerable influence in international affairs. In 1955, prominent American journalist Norman Cousins launched an initiative to bring 25 Japanese victims of the atomic bomb to the United States to receive treatment. The U.S. State Department made concerted efforts to stop the project, fearing that it would generate negative publicity and conflict with government policy to de-emphasize the dangers of nuclear weapons. Refusing to accept official policies that he believed to be wrong, while at the same time working to “shame” the United States into providing treatment for atomic bomb victims, Cousins used his international contacts, prestige, and the reputation he had built in Japan as a humanitarian, to overcome the U.S. State Department’s attempts to stop the project.

The overwhelming success of Cousins’ private diplomacy initiative resulted in greatly improved U.S.-Japanese relations and eventually garnered Cousins a letter of commendation from the White House and an honorary citizenship in the city of Hiroshima.

This article highlights an early instance of citizen diplomacy during the atomic age. It shows how an individual civilian balancing the delicate issues of humanitarian aid, sensitive international relations, and protest against official government policy, managed to have a major impact and achieve both a positive political outcome in the United States as well as improved relations with a foreign nation.

References

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  1. 1

    The idea of Private Diplomacy builds on the foundation of Track-II Diplomacy. See: Davidson and Montville (1981–1982).

  2. 2

    The program was conceived of in 1953 and took place 1955–1956.

  3. 3

    For the public opinion angle see Jacobs (2010); For the medical science angle see Serlin (1999); for the Maidens effect on public opinion see Shibusawa (2006); for anti-nuclear activism see: Wittner (1997); for a good general overview of the Hiroshima Maidens project see Barker (1985).

  4. 4

    “Memo from Raymond Farrell, INS to J. Edgar Hoover, FBI. Subject: Norman Cousins.” 8 April 1954, Records of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, (Obtained through a FOIA request by the author.)

  5. 5

    “Norman Cousins Oral History”, Norman Cousins papers (Collection 1385). Department of Special Collections, Charles E. Young Library, University of California, Los Angeles. (hereafter: UCLA), 111.

  6. 6

    “Letter from Norman Cousins to Shinzo Hamai”, 11 October 1949, Norman Cousins Papers, UCLA, Box 96, Folder: Japanese Matters – 1950.

  7. 7

    “Letter from Ninoshima Gakuen Island Orphanage to Norman Cousins”, 15 July 1950, UCLA, Box 96, Folder: Japanese Matters – 1950.

  8. 8

    “Letter from Hiroshima Peace Center to Norman Cousins”, 23 June 1950, Norman Cousins Papers, UCLA, Box 96, Folder: Japanese Matters – 1950.

  9. 9

    “Letter from Tanimoto to Cousins”, 1 August 1950, Norman Cousins Papers, UCLA, Box 96, Folder: Japanese Matters – 1950.

  10. 10

    “Letter from Richard Humphrey (acting chief of USIA) to NC”, 2 December 1953, Norman Cousins Papers, UCLA, Box 264, Folder: (NC Special) Report on Japanese Trip, 1953.

  11. 11

    “Letter from Ninoshima Gakuen Island Orphanage to Norman Cousins”, 15 July 1950, Norman Cousins Papers, UCLA, Box 96, Folder: Japanese Matters – 1950.

  12. 12

    Authors’ visit to and discussions with personnel at the Radiation Effects Research Foundation. (Formerly ABCC), Hiroshima, Japan. 8 August 2009. Their non-treatment policy is also discussed in many State Department documents. See: “Letter from Em.Tokyo to State Department” 1 May 1956, RG 59 Department of State Records, NACP, 711.5611/5-156.

  13. 13

    “Letter from Shizue Masugi (forwarded by) Mrs. Richard Walsh to Norman Cousins”, 29 July 1952, Norman Cousins Papers, UCLA, Box 1386, Folder: [unmarked].

  14. 14

    See “Telegram from Tokyo to Secretary of State,” 9 April 1954, RG 59, Department of State Records, NACP, 711.5611/4-954. Also: “Telegram from Tokyo to Secretary of State,” 21 April 1954, RG 59, Department of State Records, NACP, 711-5611/4-2154.

  15. 15

    Shigeko Sasamori, interview with the author, Washington D.C., 21 November 2013. Sasamori was a bomb survivor involved with Tanimoto’s efforts and participant in the Hiroshima Maidens project. She is also the adopted daughter of Norman Cousins.

  16. 16

    “Letter from Tanimoto to Norman Cousins”, 1 October 1952, Norman Cousins Papers, UCLA, Box 1386, Folder: [unmarked].

  17. 17

    Shigeko Sasamori, interview with the author.

  18. 18

    “Medical Treatment for A-Bomb Victims 1953” [undated memo], Norman Cousins Papers, UCLA, Box 330, Folder: Japan – 1953.

  19. 19

    “Letter from Civil Aeronautics Board,” 8 April 1954, RG 59, Department of State Records, NACP 711.5611/4-1154.

  20. 20

    “Memo from Finn to Bishop,” 4 August 1955, RG 59, Department of State Records, NACP 711.5611/8-455. See also Cousins (1955a).

  21. 21

    See General Hull’s memoir: Hull (1978).

  22. 22

    “Contract from Pan American Airlines to Norman Cousins”, 24 March 1955, Norman Cousins Papers, UCLA, Box 330, Folder: Japan – 1593.

  23. 23

    “Memo from Ambassador John Allison Em. Tokyo to Secretary of State”, 1 May 1956, RG 59, Department of State Records, NACP, 711.5611/5.156.

  24. 24

    “Memo from Undersecretary of State Bishop”, 9 August 1955, RG 59, Department of State Records, NACP, 711.5611/8-455.

  25. 25

    The Eisenhower administration, in the midst of its Atoms for Peace program, meant to down play the effects of nuclear weapons and normalize their use.

  26. 26

    “Memo from Trent to Mosman,” 12 February 1954, RG 59, Department of State Records, NACP, 711.5611/2.1254.

  27. 27

    “Letter from Friends Committee to NC”, 5 April 1955, Norman Cousins Papers, UCLA, Box 330, Folder: Japan – 1953.

  28. 28

    See: Divine (1978, 31).

  29. 29

    “Telegram from Em. Tokyo to Secretary of State,” 21 March 1954, RG 59, Department of State Records, NACP, 711.5611/3-2254.

  30. 30

    “Telegram from Em. Tokyo to Secretary of State,” 21 April 1954, RG 59, Department of State Records, NACP, 711-5611/4-2154

  31. 31

    “Telegram from Em. Tokyo to Secretary of State,” 23 April 1954, RG 59, Department of State Records, NACP, 711.5611/4-2354

  32. 32

    “Letter from Friends Committee to Norman Cousins”, 5 April 1955, Norman Cousins Papers, UCLA, Box 330, Folder: Japan – 1953.

  33. 33

    A version of this account appears in Barker’s (1985, 82). The story is also corroborated by Norman Cousins via the author’s personal interview with Shegeiko Sasumori. Unfortunately, at this time it cannot be confirmed with official evidence because the communications of the Far East Command remain classified. (A FOIA request for these files has been submitted by the author.)

  34. 34

    “Memo from State Department to Em. Tokyo,” 6 May 1955, R 59, State Department Records, NACP, 811.558/1-755.

  35. 35

    “Internal Memo,” 2 June 1955, RG 59, State Department Records, NACP, 811.558/1-755.

  36. 36

    “State Department office memo,” 13 May 1955, RG 59, Department of State Records, NACP, 811.588/1-755.

  37. 37

    Cousins claims a man who introduced himself as Robert Lewis telephoned The Saturday Review sometime before the episode aired. “I just wanted to say how personally grateful I am for this project,” he said. “I was the captain of the plane that dropped the bomb.” It is possible that Cousins persuaded him to appear on the show, thus answering the question of how Robert Lewis ended up appearing. (See: Cousins (1955b)).

  38. 38

    “This Is Your Life, Episode: 141,” Original air date: 11 May 1955.

  39. 39

    “Letter from [illegible] to NC”, 11 May 1955, Norman Cousins Papers, UCLA, Box 82, Folder: “T”

  40. 40

    “Memorandum of conversation between Robertson and Cousins,” 2 June 1955, RG 59, State Department Records, NACP, 811.588/1-755.

  41. 41

    “Memorandum of conversation between Robertson and Cousins,” 2 June 1955, RG 59, State Department Records, NACP, 811.588/1-755.

  42. 42

    “Memorandum of conversation between Robertson and Cousins,” 2 June 1955, RG 59, State Department Records, NACP, 811.588/1-755.

  43. 43

    “Letter: Cousins to Sebald,” 20 June 1955, RG 59, State Department Records, NACP, 811.558/1-755.

  44. 44

    Even photographs of atomic bomb victims were censored in the United States until 1952. See Serlin (1999, 139).

  45. 45

    The language from the New York Times coverage includes the following: “Atomic victims to get help here”; “here for injuries incurred in the 1945 atomic bomb explosion”; “… repair some of the human wreckage left by World War II atomic bombs”; “girls scarred in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.” See New York Times, April – June 1955 [various articles].

  46. 46

    “Newspaper clipping from scrapbook”, Norman Cousins Papers, UCLA, Box 1301.

  47. 47

    “Memo: Bishop to Finn,” 9 August 1955, RG 59, State Department Records, NACP, 711.5611/8-455.

  48. 48

    Letter to the Editor, 18 September 1955, New York Times, E10.

  49. 49

    “Japanese Reactions to the Treatment of Hiroshima Maidens,” 20 September 1955, RG 59, State Department Records, NACP, 711.5611/9-2055.

  50. 50

    “Letter from Masunori Hiratsuka to NC”, 23 June 1955, Norman Cousins Papers, UCLA, Box 146, Folder: Japan, Misc. Correspondence.

  51. 51

    “Letter from Toshikazu Kase to NC”, 20 October 1955, Norman Cousins Papers, UCLA, Box 146, Folder: Japan, Misc. Correspondence.

  52. 52

    “Meeting of Committee on Hiroshima Maidens,” 12 October 1955, RG 59, State Department Records, NACP, 711.5611/9-2155.

  53. 53

    “Treatment in United States of Japanese Atomic Bomb Victims,” 6 October 1955, RG 59 State Department Records, NACP, 711.5611/10-655.

  54. 54

    “Memo: Spiegel to Finn,” 21 September 1955, RG 59, State Department Records, NACP, 711.5611/9-2155.

  55. 55

    “Memo from Norman Cousins”, 30 March 1956, Norman Cousins Papers, UCLA, Box 1386, Folder: [unmarked].

  56. 56

    “Letter from Allison to State Department”, 1 May 1956. RG 59, State Department Records, NACP, 711.5611/5.156.

  57. 57

    “Letter from Norman Cousins to Board of Trustees,” 27 May 1955, UCLA, Box 82, Folder: “T”.

  58. 58

    “Letter from Adams to Cousins”, 15 November 1956, Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, Abilene Kansas, White House Central Files, Box 726. Folder: 195 Japan, Government and Embassy of.

  59. 59

    “Letter from Holmes to Em. Tokyo.” 24 April 1956. RG59 State Department Records, NACP. [no file number]

  60. 60

    “Letter from Lawrence R. Freedamn to NC”, n.d. [1964] Norman Cousins Papers, UCLA, Box 330, Folder: Hiroshima – 1964.

Published Online: 2014-4-2
Published in Print: 2014-3-1

©2014 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin / Boston