The Hiroshima Appeal

Linus Pauling in Hiroshima, Japan, August 6, 1959.

Linus Pauling in Hiroshima, Japan, August 6, 1959.

“The principal action of the Fifth World Conference was to prepare and approve this statement, which is called The Hiroshima Appeal. I enclose a copy of this Appeal, which seems to me to be a good document.”

-Linus Pauling, letter to Gunnar Jahn, September 4, 1959.

Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Hiroshima Appeal, written by a group of delegates, headed by Linus Pauling, in attendance at the Fifth World Conference Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs, held in Hiroshima, Japan.

Linus and Ava Helen Pauling maintained a long and sympathetic relationship with the Japan Council Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs, the sponsoring organization of the World Conferences (dozens have been held), and their participation in the Fifth World Conference came at a time when their peace activism was at its greatest intensity.

The Paulings arrived in Japan in the midst of an incredibly-heavy travel schedule. They had started their summer with a two-week scientific trip to England and a nine-lecture No More War! tour through West Germany. Following that came their visit with Albert Schweitzer in Lambaréné, French Equatorial Africa (present-day Gabon), after which they returned to Europe for the Triennial World Congress of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. In early August they jetted to Japan, then returned home for a couple months – long enough for Pauling to deliver the 1959 Messenger Lectures series at Cornell University – before heading down under to participate in the two-week Australia and New Zealand Congress for International Cooperation and Disarmament.

Albert Schweitzer and Linus Pauling at the Schweitzer compound, Lambéréne, Gabon. 1959.

Albert Schweitzer and Linus Pauling at the Schweitzer compound, Lambéréne, Gabon. 1959.

The Hiroshima conference came about at an interesting time for the peace movement. Though millions had been spurred toward an anti-war stance by the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, by the fourteenth-anniversary of those attacks attitudes were beginning to sway, even in Japan. In writing to the Austrian philosopher Günther Anders, Pauling noted that the biggest change between the Fifth World Congress and those that had preceded it was the attitude of the Japanese government which,

“under [Prime Minister Nobusuke] Kishi, has now changed its policy from that of the new Japanese constitution, which is opposed to military armaments. The government is attempting to revise the security pact with the United States (and the United States government is also in favor of this revision) in such a way as to lead to the rapid remilitarization of Japan. In consequence of this change in the Japanese government, the government withheld its subsidy of the Hiroshima Conference this year.”

Unsurprisingly, the text of the finalized Hiroshima Appeal reacts in direct opposition to the posture that the Kishi government was assuming.  Specifically, the document calls for “An international agreement that would result in the permanent neutralization of West and East Germany and adjacent countries and also of Japan….No revisions of present treaties, no new military alliances should be made that would permit arming nations with nuclear weapons or prevent this eventual demilitarization.”

This emphasis on international agreements to control the development of nuclear weapons programs, as well as specific support for the three-nations nuclear testing treaty being hammered out in Geneva, form the heart of the Appeal.

The Hiroshima Appeal, adopted August 6, 1959.

The Hiroshima Appeal, adopted August 6, 1959.

Given that the conference took place in 1959, it should come as no surprise that the gathering was plagued by suspicions of communist activity. Indeed, four delegates to the event – Wayland Young and Arthur Goss of Britain, Rolf Schroers and Carola Stern of West Germany – walked out in protest of what they felt was heavy communist infiltration. In particular, the boycotters felt that the conference was failing to condemn any nuclear ambitions that may have been emerging in China, a charge that Pauling (who did favor the admission of China to the United Nations) flatly denied.

In his letter to Anders, Pauling detailed his perspective on the conflict:

“The appeal was written after Schroers walked out of the conference. There seemed to be a general feeling that he and Wayland Young, from England, were determined to make trouble. I was not present at the preliminary meeting, with which Schroers was dissatisfied. I was present, however, at all of the following meetings, and I participated vigorously in the discussions. I think that the arguments that I presented were effective. It seems pretty clear, from the Hiroshima Appeal, that the conference did not suffer much from the walkout by Schroers and his associates. On the other hand, if there had been a really serious difference of opinion, with real domination by communists, then it might not have been possible to get a good appeal accepted, and the walkout by Schroers and his associates might have been a very serious matter.”

The Hiroshima Appeal is just one of hundreds that Linus and Ava Helen Pauling contributed to in some way. In hindsight, it is difficult to judge the real-world impact of these types of documents.  For example, what became of the issues specific to the Hiroshima Appeal?  On the one hand, the Geneva talks, propelled somewhat by the Paulings’ famous bomb-test petition, did lead to a limited test ban treaty in 1963.  On the other hand, re-unified Germany shares nuclear weapons within the NATO alliance and Japan, though still officially non-nuclear, is considered by many to be a de facto nuclear state, owing to its well-developed material and technological infrastructure.

That noted, one might not argue with Pauling’s feeling that “conferences of this sort do a valuable service, in aiding in the presentation of information about the present world situation to the people of the world.” Indeed, in discussing the China flap with Gunther Anders, Pauling summed up his basic perspective nicely: “There are many other points of this sort that need to be discussed. The way to solve these great problems is not, however, just to walk out of the discussion, as was done by Schroers.”

Learn more about the Hiroshima Appeal and the Paulings’ legacy of peace work at the website Linus Pauling and the International Peace Movement: A Documentary History, available on the Linus Pauling Online portal.

3 Responses

  1. […] by Schweitzer and fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner Linus Pauling. Yesterday, the Pauling Blog detailed the chemist’s peace work – including a visit with Schweitzer in Gabon. An earlier post […]

  2. […] Thank you Peter for bringing the Pauling blog to light.  Linus Pauling remains one of those fascinating, monumental characters.  His contribution to chemistry one of the most significant and fundamental of the modern era.  Yet it is not just his chemistry that raises him above the crowd, as highlighted in the blog.  The day I tripped across the Pauling blog had an article about his involvement in disarmament and his peace activism, in this case, the Hiroshima Appeal. […]

  3. […] the 5th World Conference, Pauling also edited and approved “The Hiroshima Appeal” which demanded that all nations cease the testing and stockpiling of nuclear weapons. A note […]

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