The Cost of the Bomb, The Cost of Slave Labor: Mutual Apology and Compensation as a Way to Address U.S. and Japanese Atrocities from World War II

Thursday, February 18, 2010
4:30 PM - 6:00 PM
Philippines Conference Room
  • David Palmer

Two major unresolved issues from World War II in the Pacific are the use of the atomic bomb by the United States, which destroyed the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the use of foreign slave labor for war-related production by Japan. Koreans and Allied POWs were among those who were victims of both atrocities. While limited compensation for non-Japanese hibakusha have been won in Japanese courts in recent years, no compensation has been forthcoming for their labor under armed confinement. The American government was responsible for the use of these atomic bombs, but company contractors such as Du Pont profited from their development as well. Just as Japanese companies such as Mitsubishi that profited from foreign forced labor should contribute to a trust fund for compensation, so too should American companies that contributed to the Manhattan Project. Only when U.S. and Japanese companies and governments mutually accept responsibility through such compensation will there be an honest acknowledgement of the real costs of the use of the atomic bombs and slave labor.

David Palmer is Senior Lecturer in American Studies at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia. Since 2000, his primary focus has been on the history of Japanese workers, especially those in shipbuilding, who experienced World War II and the atomic bombs.
His most recent publications include "The Straits of Dead Souls: One Man's Investigation into the Disappearance of Mitsubishi Hiroshima's Korean Forced Labourers," Japanese Studies, Dec. 2006, and "Korean Hibakusha, Japan's Supreme Court and the International Community: Can the U.S. and Japan Confront Forced Labor and Atomic Bombing?," Japan Focus, Feb. 20, 2008.