Spirit of the "Houses for Hiroshima" Project
Yasuyoshi Komizo, Chairperson
Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation
Floyd Schmoe and his humanitarian act should be known widely.  The more I have learned about him and what he has done, the more he has grown in my heart as somebody I treasure dearly.  His honesty and open mind as well as his indomitable spirit for action are sources of lasting inspiration that resonate deeply in my heart, particularly because I have realized that they are rooted in his genuine respect and appreciation for human life.  At the same time, that could have been the reason why each one of the many people who has worked closely with him shines bright as an indispensable figure with distinctively colorful personality.  You can see it clearly in many pages of this book.

All together, Floyd Schmoe built 21 houses for the Hiroshima A-bomb survivors, in cooperation with his devoted friends.  Only one house still remains.  It had long been used as a community house and a meeting place by local people.  And it has recently started to serve as the "Schmoe House Museum".  Considering what he has intended, it is not a coincidence.

He was born into a Quaker family who believed in non-violence and social services.  The family ran a small farm.  It is said that he, as a boy, hated the slaughter of the domestic animals, which was done as an everyday affair of their farm business.  He seemed to like being out in nature rather than doing his chores.  He especially loved the giant white pine tree his pioneer grandfather had planted.  It is probably a natural course of development that he eventually majored in forestry science and started his way to becoming a natural scientist.  Throughout his entire life, he hated violence, cherished nature and human life, and put what should be done into concrete actions.  During World War I, as a conscientious objector, he supported war refugees in Europe.  In various parts in France, he built shelters for refugees.  During World War II, he opposed the relocation of people of Japanese ancestry and supported them in spite of his own danger.

The news of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima shocked him with deep sorrow and indignation.  He immediately sent a protest telegram to the president and committed himself to help remedy this evil.  He started a project to build houses for those who lost their houses from the atomic bombing.  He carried out this project first in Hiroshima and later in Nagasaki as well.  After the cease-fire of the Korean War, he launched the "Houses for Korea" project at the request of the United Nations.  He also supported thousands of refugees when Britain and France bombed Egypt in 1956, following the declaration by Egypt to nationalize the Suez Canal.  He built a small park, named "Peace Park" in Seattle, where he lived in his later years, and he placed a life-sized bronze statue of Sadako Sasaki there, with a paper crane in her hand, as a symbol of hope for world peace.

In December, 2003, a sad incident was reported.  The Sadako statue's right arm, holding up a paper crane, was cut off by a vandal.  Upon learning of this incident with deep sorrow, Michiko Pumpian, a musician in Seattle, set up a fundraising campaign for the restoration of the statue.  That shed light anew on Floyd Schmoe and the Houses for Hiroshima Project he and his friends devoted with zeal.  The news of Michiko Pumpian's campaign eventually reached Hiroshima.  It inspired Yoko Imada and her friends in Hiroshima.  In order to remember and honor the humanitarian act of Floyd Schmoe, Yoko Imada started a group with her friends, the "Conveying Houses for Hiroshima," its present name being, "Learning from Floyd Schmoe."  Their zest led to a larger circle and finally moved Hiroshima City administration to preserve the only House still remained.  It had been used as a community center in the neighborhood but was about to be demolished due to road construction.  In response to the group's appeal, the City relocated the building 40m to the northwest and opened the Schmoe House Museum.  It thus has become the sole affiliated facility of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.  Now, it serves a new role to display what he and his friends did for Hiroshima as well as the various other support Hiroshima received from abroad after the atomic bombing.

There, the spirit of Floyd Schmoe and his friends is surely alive.

In the website of the Washington State University, you can hear Floyd Schmoe's voice recorded in an interview later in his life  (Translation Note: This link is no longer available at WSU site. However, his interview video is available on-line for non-commercial use at Densho Digital Repository: Floyd Schmoe interview II Segment 4.).  In the interview, he said, "I was shocked at the bomb. I thought to see it an atrocity even in a warfare, ---mass destruction, 30,000 children with no guilt---.  Then I thought if I went back to Hiroshima and said 'So sorry,' 'So sorry', they would likely have, likely show, --- likely mob me.  ---But I thought if I went with my own money, in my own hands and built a house for a surviving family, they understand."

He couldn't regard this horrible event as someone else's affair.  He thought of what he should do to remedy for this "war crime" as an American, and carried it out.  It took him three years to research the situation in Hiroshima and prepare for his first visit there.  In 1949, after raising the necessary funds and doing the groundwork for building houses, he finally came to Hiroshima together with three close friends.  He completed the cumbersome paperwork and started his project in cooperation with Japanese volunteers from Tokyo and Hiroshima.  He made a lot of friends in that process.  There were some young people who were inspired by his personality and his devotion to set their own goals in life.

Hiroshima's restoration involved a lot of efforts and support from people in Japan and abroad.  People tend to forget the support extended by others, once a crisis is over.  We should remember those people who extended their hands from abroad.  These were people exerting themselves as members of humanity.  There are people who learn from those people's nobility and warmth and try to respond to them, beyond the boundary of time and national borders.  That is precious.  That gives us hope.  These are people who respect each other, understand each other and help each other beyond ethnic and national distinctions.  That is the most powerful source of hope.  And I would like to convey this especially to young people, in my sincere expectation that they will find out an important key in life here.

Hibakusha (survivors of atomic bomb) in Hiroshima and Nagasaki have suffered days and days of indescribably harsh moments that still continue today.  Living through unbearable sorrow, Hibakusha have arrived at an unshakable humanitarian conviction that "no one else shall ever again suffer as we have".  And they have continued to appeal for the realization of peaceful world without nuclear weapons.  Floyd Schmoe's thoughts resonate with those survivors' humanitarian call with dignity.  There are sources of conflict everywhere in today's world.  Japan could also be involved in any of them unless we have our eyes wide open.  For this reason, we have to wake up and strengthen our human capacity for compassion and dignity, which definitely exists in us, human beings.  We are not destined to be swept away by the power of destruction.  Let's believe that we can strengthen our power of dialogue and human capacity to develop unity in diversity.  Such human capacities can be strengthened to overcome destructive powers.  Let's nurture, with hope and compassion, this steady stream of friendship and mutual understanding, enhancing ourselves into better persons, and let us together lead this increasing flow of friendship into a sustainable world peace.  Let's believe that we can do it!  And let us try whatever we can in our own individual capacities.

This is the spirit of the "House for Hiroshima" project.
Welcome to the Schmoe House Museum!
Now, you are an indispensable friend of ours.
Let's sing a song of hope and build a bright future together!
〔Original article in Japanese by Yasuyoshi Komizo : English translation made by the author in cooperation with translators of HIROSHIMA SPEAKS OUT〕
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