Friday, August 6, 2010


This is Your Life-Title

On this the 65th anniversary of the first combat use of an atomic weapon, CONELRAD thought it might be interesting to revisit one of the strangest surprises ever sprung on live television. On May 11, 1955, before an audience of millions of viewers, a survivor of the Hiroshima bombing was shocked to receive a handshake from the co-pilot who flew the mission to destroy his city. This Is Your Life, the show that engineered this stunt, was an enormously popular “testimonial” program, but one that was frequently criticized for its tendency to go overboard in exploiting the emotional responses of its usually unwitting subjects. The Hiroshima episode is so far off the charts in this regard that—even today—it is unsettling to watch the one clip that is available online.

The gimmick of the long-running This Is Your Life was that the host, Ralph Edwards, would flabbergast an ordinary citizen or a celebrity by telling him or her that they were on live, national TV. From the stage of the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, the genial emcee would then proceed to reveal the subject’s biography with the help of the This Is Your Life scrapbook. The most emotionally resonant component of the show was when Edwards would dramatically unveil the identity of a mystery guest who had some deep sentimental connection to the subject. It was during these segments of the show where tears would usually start flowing—in the studio and at home. The Saturday Evening Post once called the program “the weepiest show on television.”


The Hiroshima episode of This Is Your Life focused on Reverend Kiyoshi Tanimoto, a Japanese-born, American-educated Methodist minister who had a parish in the doomed target city. Fate spared Tanimoto on that August 6, 1945 morning because he happened to be helping a friend move some family belongings to a house in Koi, a western suburb outside of the the direct blast zone. After seeing the flash of the Bomb, Tanimoto instinctively dove between two large rocks. Debris from the collapsed house fell near the minister, but he emerged uninjured and was able to bear witness to the hideous aftermath. John Hersey’s landmark 1946 book, Hiroshima, documents how Tanimoto, without regard to his personal safety, aided his wounded and dying countrymen in the hours and days following the bombing. In 1985 Knopf published an expanded version of Hiroshima in which the author provided a narrative of what became of his subjects in the decades since the bombing. A large portion of the updated version of Hersey’s book concerns Tanimoto’s life-long mission to promote peace and help the hibakusha (the Japanese term for survivors of the atomic bomb).

In 1948, the English-speaking Tanimoto embarked upon a lengthy speaking tour of the United States to raise funds for his church that was destroyed by the “Little Boy” atomic weapon. The minister gave 582 lectures on what he had learned from the tragedy of the Bomb. The title of his speech was “The Faith That Grew Out of the Ashes” and it was delivered at churches coast-to-coast; a collection would be taken up after each talk. Tanimoto’s U.S. host and de facto tour promoter was his old college classmate from Emory University, Reverend Marvin Green. It was Green, the pastor of the Weehawken, New Jersey Park Church, who arranged for the Methodist Board of Missions to extend the invitation to Tanimoto to come to America. During the minister’s time in the U.S. he began a long association with Norman Cousins, the editor of the Saturday Review of Literature. In the March 5, 1949 edition of his magazine, the influential Cousins published and endorsed Tanimoto’s letter calling for a World Peace Center in Hiroshima.

The editor invited the minister back to America in 1950 for another tour to raise funds for the Peace Center and other related causes. In an amazing act of reconciliation, on February 5, 1951, Tanimoto gave the opening prayer for the afternoon session of the U.S. Senate. The humble—some might call it submissive—prayer was a spectacle so strange that it caused Virginia Senator A. Willis Robertson to state for the record that he was “dumbfounded yet inspired” that a man “whom we tried to kill with an atomic bomb came to the Senate floor and, offering up thanks to the same God we worship, thanked Him for America’s great spiritual heritage, and then asked God to bless every member of the Senate.”


Minister-Sewing machine

After his return to Hiroshima following the second U.S. tour, Tanimoto began working with a group of women disfigured by the Bomb—a humanitarian effort that would eventually lead to his appearance on This Is Your Life. On August 6, 1945, and the period immediately proceeding that horrific day, these women, who were school girls at the time of the bombing, had been ordered to help tear down houses and clear fire lanes. They were among a larger contingent of girls directed to partake in this task because Hiroshima was on alert for conventional firebombing raids. Most of these school girls were, of course, killed in the blast. Those who survived had horrible burns and soon developed keloids (scar tissue) on their faces and other parts of their bodies. Tanimoto gave some of the women—whom he called the Society of the Keloid Girls—sewing jobs and initiated a bible class for them. When he asked the American-established Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission to provide the women with plastic surgery, the minister’s request fell on deaf ears. The A.B.C.C.’s function was studying the aftereffects of the Bomb, not providing treatment. Indeed, for the most part, the survivors were little more than laboratory rats to the A.B.C.C. staff.

If the A.B.C.C. would not help Tanimoto, a Tokyo-based journalist named Shizue Masugi would. Through her newspaper column, Masugi wrote about the Keloid Girls and solicited donations for their medical treatment. Eventually, two small groups of the survivors were taken to Tokyo and Osaka for plastic surgery. The local newspapers dubbed them Genbaku Otome, or, as translated into English, A-bomb Maidens. When, in 1953, Norman Cousins was presented with the idea of taking other Keloid Girls to the United States—where plastic surgery techniques were more advanced—he embraced the notion and even got his personal physician onboard to help.


Hiroshima Maidens Arrive-2

Months later, in Hiroshima, U.S. doctors Arthur Barsky and William Hitzig (Cousins’s friend) selected twenty-five women who were deemed the most likely to benefit from the surgery. The Maidens left for New York, along with Reverend Tanimoto, on May 5, 1955. The American press reported on their trip with an editorial tone akin to that of a freak show advertisement. Headlines such as “Atom-Scarred Jap Girls Pray Before U.S. Trip” and “…A-Bomb Jap Girls To Get Plastic Surgery” were typical.

Hiroshima Girls-Japs
On May 9, 1955, after a couple of re-fueling stops, the Maidens arrived in New York and proceeded to settle in with their Quaker host families. The extensive medical procedures that awaited them would soon begin at Mount Sinai Hospital—a definite step-up in care from the A.B.C.C.


This is Your Life-Edwards Close-Up

Meanwhile, Tanimoto was told by Norman Cousins to come to the West Coast to start another speaking and fundraising tour. On May 11th the minister arrived, as scheduled, at the NBC Studios in Hollywood for what he was told would be a local news interview. Minutes after meeting Ralph Edwards for the first time, Tanimoto was surprised to find himself at the center of something that was quite obviously more than just a local news program. At 7 p.m. local time, Edwards began the show seated on a divan smiling at the camera. There was a sound effect of a ticking clock that grew louder as his opening remarks progressed. “Good evening ladies and gentlemen,” the host began, “and welcome to This Is Your Life. The ticking you hear in the background is a clock counting off the seconds to 8:15 a.m., August 6, 1945. And seated here with me is a gentleman whose life was changed by the last tick of that clock as it reached 8:15.”

At this point Tanimoto, who was seated next to Edwards, was introduced. The minister was wearing a baggy suit and a stunned expression. The audience laughed when he confessed to Edwards that he had never heard of his program.

This is Your Life-Confused Reverend

The host then held up a large tome with Tanitmoto’s name inscribed on the cover and told him:
“We have been working for weeks with your friends Norman Cousins, editor of the Saturday Review, John Hersey, author of the best-selling book Hiroshima, and many others to bring you to our stage tonight so we could retell the story of your life. The facts are between the covers of this book. You will meet many people who have helped shape your destiny, and we hope that at the end of this half-hour you will have had some pleasant moments…And that you, ladies and gentlemen, will have a better understanding of what it is to look into the face of atomic power—to survive and die. Now we will pick up the threads of your life in a moment, Reverend Tanimoto, after this word from Bob Warren, our announcer, who has something very special to tell the girls in our audience. Bob?”
At this point, the announcer—with the aid of an attractive blonde model—demonstrated the ability of the sponsor’s (Helen Bishop Cosmetics) nail polish to withstand industrial strength scrubbing. When the live Metal Scouring Pad Test commercial was completed, Edwards resumed guiding Tanimoto through the events leading up to the destruction of Hiroshima.

After the minister recounted how he and his friend had disregarded the commonplace air raid signals as they made their way to Koi with their pushcart, a loud, disembodied Brooklyn-accented voice was heard from offstage:
“At zero six hundred on the morning of August 6, 1945, I was in a B-29 flying over the Pacific. Destination, Hiroshima.”

This is Your Life-Siloutter of Co-pilot
Robert Lewis’s portly silhouette was then shown from behind a sliding door, but he was not yet cued to emerge. Edwards explained to his confused guest, who was unfamiliar with the concept of “sound effects,” that what he had just heard was “A voice of a man whose life is destined to be woven up in the threads of your own, Reverend Tanimoto. We’ll meet him later in your story.” Tanimoto still looked confused and…worried.

Before the show’s “big reveal” of Lewis, other figures from the minister’s past, like Bertha Sparkey, the Methodist missionary who introduced him to Christianity as a boy, were trotted out through the This Is Your Life Archway.

The big moment came shortly after Tantimoto had finished describing the flash and the explosion. Edwards had interjected the preposterous question: “Did you know Hiroshima had been the first city to feel the force of atomic power?” The minister, of course, replied, “I didn’t know what happened.” He then added that he had asked for God’s help which prompted another vocal interruption from Lewis from behind the door: “And looking down from thousands of feet over Hiroshima, all I could think of was, ‘My God, what have we done?’”

The velvety-voiced host eagerly moved in to unveil the surprise of the night:
“The voice again of a man whose second of eternity was woven up with yours, Reverend Tanimoto. Now you have never met him, you’ve never seen him, but he’s here tonight to clasp your hand in friendship. Ladies and gentlemen, Captain Robert Lewis, United States Air Force, who along with Paul Tibbets piloted the plane from which the first atomic power was dropped over Hiroshima.”[1]
With a harp flourish, the co-pilot of the Enola Gay walked out from behind the sliding door and shared history’s most awkward handshake with Tanimoto. The audience applauded this unprecedented meeting.

This is Your Life-First Handshake

When Edwards asked Lewis to describe his “experience” on the fateful day, the former airman hesitated for a moment and then began “As I said before, Mr. Edwards...I wrote down later…” Choking up on these last words, Lewis put his hand to his forehead to steady himself, and then repeated his earlier line, “My God, what have we done?”

This is Your Life-Captain Distraught

In a maneuver typical of the middle America-catering show, Edwards took special care to point out to his millions of viewers the dual invocation of the almighty by the bomber and victim:
“And so, Reverend Tanimoto, you on the ground, and you on your military mission, Captain Lewis, in the air, both appeal to a power greater than your own. Almost at the same moment you both utter the same words: My God. Thank you, Robert Lewis, now personnel manager at Henry Heide Incorporated in New York City.”
Lewis received another round of applause as he shook Tanimoto’s hand once again and took his place on the side of the stage with the other guests who had already been revealed. The next guests included Tanimoto’s kimono-clad wife (another sop to the viewers who assumed that this is what all women wore in Japan) and two Hiroshima Maidens—Toyoko Minowa and Tadako Emori—shown only in silhouette “to avoid causing them any embarrassment.” The two women spoke in Japanese and their words were translated by Tanitmoto’s friend, Reverend Marvin Green. Their message was that they were happy to be in America and were grateful for the medical help that they would be receiving. Earlier, Edwards had felt compelled to tell his audience, that the treatment that the Maidens were receiving came at “absolutely no cost” to them personally.

This is Your Life-Maidens Silohette  “To avoid causing them any embarrassment” – Ralph Edwards

The emotion-packed episode concluded after another live advertisement for Helen Bishop cosmetics in which the announcer, Bob Warren, spoke to a Missouri housewife who marveled at how dishwashing didn’t diminish the luster of her fingernail polish.

After the cosmetics testimonial, Edwards took back command of the show and made a pitch for donations for the continued medical care of Hiroshima and Nagasaki victims. When he finished by giving out the address for contributions “large or small,” Robert Lewis stepped forward brandishing a check. He presented it to the host saying: “Mr. Edwards, on behalf of the entire crew that participated in that mission, my company and my lovely family, I’d like to make the first contribution.” Edwards thanked Lewis as the audience applauded the gift. Tanimoto, who was seated, turned around and offered Lewis another handshake. This is Your Life-Check-1 The host then added that sponsors Prell and Hazel Bishop would be donating checks of $500 each. He urged the audience, again, to contribute “for this is the American way.” The thirty-minute show was over. The following week things got back to normal—Edwards welcomed opera star and polio victim Marjorie Lawrence.


This is Your Life-Poor Taste
The immediate reaction to the episode was a mixed bag. The Maidens fund eventually raised $55,000 thanks to Ralph Edwards’s plea for contributions (considerably less than the $1 million that the group had hoped for). The telephone calls that jammed the studio’s switchboard following the broadcast were exclusively from members of the military and they were all outraged by Robert Lewis’s appearance. These callers believed that the co-pilot had disgraced himself and the armed forces by questioning—ever so slightly—the morality of the Enola Gay mission.

Under the headline “This Is Your Life’ Hits New Low In Poor Taste,” critic John Crosby of the New York Herald Triune mocked Edwards’s ritual of giving his guests sentimental parting gifts: “…And Tanimoto’s wife was there and was given a charm bracelet.[2] (Probably with an adorable little gold bomb attached).” In the next paragraph he vented his anger about the episode in general: “I don’t know how this sort of thing strikes the rest of you folks but I call it plain ordinary commercialized sadism.”

The Associated Press’s Wayne Oliver wrote: “There are times it [This Is Your Life] borders on the morbid and maudlin as guests under deep emotional strain are exposed to nationwide view by TV camera closeup. But on other occasions, Edwards comes up with human drama as warm and as exciting as anything likely to be seen in fiction. Such an occasion was the presentation of the life of Rev. Kiyoshi Tanimoto…”

Time magazine called Robert Lewis’s appearance on the episode “easily the most dramatic and affecting of the TV week, and much too powerful for even the most imaginative screenwriter to compete with.”


Marvin GreenRev. Marvin Green, the man who saved the show 

The Time critic could not have known the backstory of how Lewis came to appear on the show, but if he had been aware of the chain of events that happened just hours before the broadcast, he would have been even more impressed with what he saw on his TV set.

Kiyoshi Tanimoto’s friend, Marvin Green, was more than just a participant on This Is Your Life that evening—he was also called upon to help wrangle Robert Lewis when he went missing on the afternoon of the broadcast. According to Green, who was interviewed for the 1985 book Hiroshima Maidens, Lewis had made the trip to Los Angeles because he anticipated a tidy sum for his appearance. The Enola Gay co-pilot was no stranger to trying to profit off of his role in the first atomic bombing mission. Indeed, shortly before that August 6, 1945 flight, the official Manhattan Project journalist, William L. Laurence (then on leave from the New York Times), asked Lewis to keep a log of the historic mission. Laurence made no offer of money, but Lewis is quoted in a 1977 book about the Enola Gay as saying that he thought he might someday earn “a few dollars” off his mid-air scribbling.

Green recounted the backstage drama that unfolded before Lewis’s “star turn” on the show to author Rodney Barker:
“Lewis claimed that Edwards’s office had worked out a deal with him ahead of time and he thought they were going to pay him a big fee for appearing on the show. When he got there he found they weren’t going to pay anything but expenses and he hit the ceiling. Around noon the day of the show he started hitting the grog shops. He didn’t show up for the afternoon rehearsal and the producers were going crazy. They sent me to find him and by the time I tracked him down he had already hit four taverns. And he was drunk. I got him back to the studio in time for the show and we tried to sober him up, but, you know coffee only makes a drunk wide awake instead of sleepy.”
Despite Lewis’s inebriated state, Green said in his interview that he had no doubt that the emotions he displayed on the air were real. Indeed, the minister recalled for Barker that he was with the co-pilot when he looked into a room where the two Hiroshima Maidens were waiting before the program. Stunned and pale white, Lewis turned to Green, and said “And there are a hundred thousand more who look like that?”

If Lewis’s feelings were genuine that night, it is a safe bet that the check he presented to Ralph Edwards for the Maidens fund was anything but. Even though the check was almost certainly a sentimental gimmick dreamed up by the show’s producers to goose viewer contributions, the fact that Lewis made the “donation” on behalf of the Enola Gay crew still angers the last surviving member of the mission. Theodore “Dutch” van Kirk, the navigator of the famous B-29 Superfortress, told CONELRAD in no uncertain terms that he thought “Bob Lewis made a damned fool out of himself” on This Is Your Life.


Lewis Sculpting-300-dpi Robert Lewis finalizes “God’s Wind at Hiroshima?”

In 1971 Lewis alienated his former crew again when he cashed in his flight log in which he wrote the immortal words “My God, what have we done?” The former airman may have made $37,000 from auctioning off the log, but he was clearly still troubled by the bombing. The year before the sale, Lewis, an amateur artist, had completed a ghastly two-foot high sculpture of a mushroom cloud that was, apparently, his attempt to work through his conflicted emotions.

The history behind this unique piece of art is presented in a book entitled Looking Up, Looking Down: The Psychology of the A-bombers and Survivors of Hiroshima written by Lewis’s one-time psychotherapist, Dr. Glenn Van Warrebey.* Van Warrebey’s description of his own reaction to the work captures its power: “The mushroom statue’s presence hit me with such an emotional impact that I had to censor myself in front of him for a few seconds.” Lewis later explained to the psychotherapist that the downward ripples he had carved into the white Italian marble represented “the blood of human beings flowing from the bomb.”

Even though the piece was nearly ten years old at the time of their sessions, Lewis told his analyst that he was still working on a name for it. It had spent the better part of those preceding years in his garage. As recounted in Van Warrebey’s book, Lewis explained that he was unsure about whether to call the sculpture “God’s Wind” or the “Devil’s Wind at Hiroshima.” The title was suggested to the pilot when he visited Japan shortly after the war. A Japanese dentist had told him that he felt that the detonation of the atomic bomb over Hiroshima was “God’s Wind” because it effectively ended the war. Van Warrebey writes that, in the end, Lewis settled on a more ambiguous composite title: “God’s Wind at Hiroshima?” The question mark in the title of the work, Van Warrebey explains in his book, is three times the size of the other lettering. Perhaps in gratitude or perhaps as a symbolic “letting go” of the angst that he felt over the bombing, Lewis gave his sculpture to Van Warrebey when his therapy concluded.


Robert Alvin Lewis died of a heart attack at the age of 65 on June 18, 1983. The Los Angeles Times obituary noted that Lewis had, in later life, become an advocate for the nuclear freeze. It quoted him from an unidentified interview talking about his feelings on the issue: “If we were forced into a situation where nuclear weapons were used, there wouldn’t be much of a world left…There is no conscience to a bomb like that. It’s overkill, overkill, overkill.”

Robert Lewis-FlyingCaptain Robert Lewis in his glory days 

A year after Lewis’s death, a newspaper article on Van Warrebey mentioned that the “God’s Wind at Hiroshima?” sculpture would be put on display at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum as part of the observation of the 39th anniversary of the first atomic bombing.

Tanimoto-Later Days Rev. Tanimoto in later years

The Reverend Kiyoshi Tanimoto died in a Hiroshima hospital several years after his unlikely TV “co-star,” Robert Lewis. On September 29, 1986, the retired minister expired at the age of 77 from pneumonia complicated by kidney failure. He had continued his anti-nuclear campaign throughout his long life.
Ralph Edwards, the host of This Is Your Life, lived to the age of 92 and remained active in the television business almost until the very end of his life in 2005. In the 1980s, the TV pioneer personally recorded introductions to selected episodes of This Is Your Life for a “best of” videotape collection. Unfortunately, Edwards decided to omit the Hiroshima episode from the set.[3]

Perhaps Edwards refrained from reissuing this particular show because he considered it too depressing. As mentioned before, it is hard to watch the stunned Reverend Tanimoto meet the handshake of Robert Lewis.[4] It is a lot easier to watch the comedian Lou Costello reunite with his old basketball team—a scene from one of the episodes that did make the cut for Edwards’s compilation.

But it is not like this episode will cease to exist simply because it is not publicly available. The very fact that a Hiroshima survivor met a member of the crew of the Enola Gay on live television is just too powerful and weird a notion to ever be forgotten. Moreover, the show has transcended its previous existence and has begun inspiring avant-garde theater…

 In 2004 the performance artist and director Dan Hurlin staged an elaborate reimagining of Hiroshima and its aftermath—including the This Is Your Life event—in his play Hiroshima Maiden. The play’s approach to presenting the history of the period was unique in several ways, but none more so than the choice of using puppets instead of actors. Robert Lewis is represented by a character called “The Pilot” and the character of “Michiko” is loosely based on a surviving Maiden named Michiko Yamaoka whom Hurlin interviewed in preparing his work.[5]

The bizarre summit meeting of Robert Lewis and Kiyoshi Tanimoto on May 11, 1955 will no doubt inspire other works just as creative as Hurlin’s Hiroshima Maiden. CONELRAD is looking forward to the movie version.

Hiroshima-Wave Goodbye


The following resources were relied upon in researching the above post. CONELRAD attempted to locate Robert Lewis’s survivors (Susan Marcotte, Robert Lewis, Jr., John Lewis and Steven Lewis) in time for this post, but we were unable to do so. If, at a later date, we are able to interview Mr. Lewis’s survivors about his life and career, we will update the article.

UPDATE: Shortly after we posted this history, we finally found a lead that allowed us to locate Robert Lewis's widow. After a couple of off-the-record telephone conversations with Mrs. Lewis, it was agreed that a copy of this article would be sent to her for review and comment. On August 21, 2010, Mrs. Lewis was contacted again after she had had a decent period of time to read the material. After confirming to CONELRAD that she had read the article, she stated that she he had no comment. CONELRAD wants our readers to know that we spent a considerable amount time and effort both before and after the posting of this article trying to get in touch with the Lewis family for their side of this remarkable story. We continue to welcome feedback from any member of the family. At the moment, however, Mrs. Lewis's "no comment," is all that we have to offer.

Barker Book Cover


Dawn Over Zero: The Story of the Atomic Bomb [New York: Knopf, 1953, Second Edition] by William L. Laurence

Hiroshima [New York: Knopf, 1985 expanded edition] by John Hersey

Hiroshima Maidens: A Story of Courage, Compassion, and Survival [New York: Viking, 1985] by Rodney Barker
Note: Barker provides a comprehensive, blow-by-blow synopsis of the This Is Your Life episode on pages 3-12.

Looking Up, Looking Down: The Psychology of the A-bombers and Survivors of Hiroshima [Winona, MN: Apollo Books] by Dr. Glenn Van Warrebey

Ruin From the Air: The Enola Gay’s Mission to Hiroshima [Chelsea, MI: Scarborough House Publishers, 1977] by Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan Witts


White Light/Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki [HBO, 2007] Directed by Steven Okazaki


Theodore “Dutch” van Kirk, telephone interview by Bill Geerhart on July 20, 2010.


“Atom-Scarred Jap Girls Pray Before U.S. Trip,” Corpus Christi (Texas) Times via AP, May 4, 1955

“Disfigured by Hiroshima A-Bomb, Jap Girls To Get Plastic Surgery,” Florence (South Carolina) Morning News via AP, May 16, 1955

“This Is Your Life Hits New Low In Poor Taste,” New York Herald Tribune, May 18, 1955 by John Crosby

“This Is Your Life Unveils Great Drama,” The Bee (Danville, Virginia) via AP, May 18, 1955

“Radio: The Week In Review,” Time magazine, May 23, 1955

“Eight Pages of Notes by Co-Pilot of Enola Gay are Sold for $37,000,” Albuquerque (New Mexico) Tribune, via UPI, November 24, 1971

“Co-Pilot on First Atomic Bomb Run Dies,” Los Angeles Times, June 21, 1983 by Burt A. Folkart

“Carving Shows ‘Ambivalence’ on Hiroshima,” Daily Register (New Jersey) via AP, October 17, 1983

“Kiyoshi Tanimoto Dies; Led Hiroshima Victims,” New York Times via AP, September 29, 1986

“Post-War Puppets,” Village Voice, January 6, 2004 by Elizabeth Zimmer

“Hiroshima Bomber and Victims: This Is Your (Puppet’s) Life,” New York Times, January 11, 2004 by David Rakoff

“Ralph Edwards, TV Pioneer, Dies at 92,” New York Times, November 17, 2005 by Richard Severo

“Ralph Edwards, 92; Producer, Genial Host of ‘Truth or Consequences,’ ‘This Is Your Life,” Los Angeles Times, November 17, 2005 by Dennis McLellan


This Is Your Life Episode Guide:

This Is Your Life Hiroshima Episode Clip [Excerpted from White Light / Black Rain documentary]:

* Dr. Glenn Van Warrebey, who is now deceased, may have had a cordial, therapeutic relationship with Enola Gay co-pilot, Robert Lewis, but the doctor's dealings with the other members of the 509th Composite Group in the mid-1980s were a completely different matter. In 1985 Van Warrebey sent a letter to the mayor of Nagasaki informing the leader that Bockscar bombardier Kermit Beahan wished to come to his city and apologize for the 1945 bombing. Beahan wanted to do no such thing and subsequent newspaper accounts made this clear. In an August 9, 2010 interview with CONELRAD, the last surviving member of the Enola Gay mission, Theodore "Dutch" van Kirk told CONELRAD that he, Paul Tibbets and Thomas Ferebee all considered Van Warrebey to be a "charlatan." Van Kirk stated that Ferebee told him that his decision to be interviewed by Van Warrebey was a "stupid thing," and that he regretted ever doing it. Van Kirk also told CONELRAD that he knew for a fact that Paul Tibbets had threatened Van Warrebey with legal action if his book was published. There is no evidence that Tibbets ever followed through on this. With the exception of Van Warrebey's book on the "atomic bombers," it appears that the majority of his career was spent lecturing and teaching on the subject of hypnotherapy. He also made a commercial recording on the subject: Hypnosis: For Self-Improvement and Actualizing Your Potential [LP-3079, 1977].   

[1] Lewis, in fact, left the U.S. Air Force with the rank of Major, but for dramatic purposes, apparently, Edwards insisted on referring to him with the rank that he held during the Hiroshima mission.

[2] The Tanimoto family did receive the usual on-air gifts from Ralph Edwards, but according to Rodney Barker’s book Hiroshima Maidens, [New York: Viking, 1985, p. 119] the producers of This Is Your Life reneged on their promise to reimburse the Maidens charitable foundation for the expenses that the family incurred as a result of being on the show. The travel expenses of the family from Japan to Los Angeles were considerable.

[3] The 2005 DVD package, This Is Your Life: The Ultimate Collection does not contain the Hiroshima episode either.

[4] Perhaps the best testimony of the enduring power of the This Is Your Life episode is the filmed interview of surviving Hiroshima Maiden Shigeko Sasamori seen in the HBO documentary Whit Heat / Black Rain. In it, Sasamori becomes emotional as she recounts, in broken English, seeing the interaction between Lewis and Tanimoto: “I saw that—I cried, too, because he feels… I know how much he feel bad about it.”

[5] Ms. Yamaoka attended selected performances of Hiroshima Maiden during its original run at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn, New York in 2004. She also took questions from the audience during her appearances.


Rakewell said...

Phenomenal post. Thank you for taking the time and effort to write about a moment of history I had never heard about before today. Just astonishing.

Rowan said...

I too would like to thank you for your fascinating, well researched and written entry. You have educated me about an encounter I previously knew nothing about. Seriously awesome post!

Unknown said...

I'm amazed by this research. I was 14 years old when my father brought the Hiroshima Maidens to the US. I remember watching the This Is Your Life program -- too young, I guess, or too involved, as my father's daughter, to register the grisly horror of it. I second the appreciations of Rakewell and Rowan.

-Andrea Cousins

Carolyn Burns Bass said...

I lived with my husband, a USMC pilot, in Iwakuni, Japan, a short train ride south of Hiroshima from 1987 to 1980. During this time, I visited Peace Park on several occasions and was moved by it every single time. While we lived in Iwakuni it was fairly well understood that Americans who lived nearby should not visit Hiroshima--especially Peace Park--on August 6th. This suggestion was not given out of bigotry or concern for violence, but as a gesture of respect to the Japanese.

I've read HIROSHIMA MAIDENS and several other books written by Hiroshima survivors. We are still feeling the ripples of those two globe-shattering events and will for decades to come.

Don M said...

We had captured the Japanese defense plans, and were reading Japanese signals. Japan planned to augment defenses with radioactive "dirty bombs" and biological agents. The production site for biological agents was Hiroshima, colocated with an Army Group headquarters. One way to serilize a biological agent is to pass it once through a nuclear fire. The US minted over a million purple hearts in preparation for expected casualties. These are still being issued today. Japanese expected 30 million Japanese casualties. After Hiroshima Japanese refused surrender, because they knew that it was hard to separate fissionable but rare U235 from non-fissionable U238, and bombs of such a design would be few. Nagasaki bomb used Plutonium,and they knew from their nuclear programs that Putonium can be produced from plentiful U238 and easily chemically separated.

Mako said...

There seems to be a lot of evidence the Japanese were trying to surrender but Truman wanted to frighten to Soviets. has a lot well written articles concerning this subject.

Dr. StrangeGun said...

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