|A. Powell Davies||
He prodded our consciences during the twentieth century.
His wisdom can guide us during the twenty-first.
For years their countries had been enemies, fighting each other, in a devastating, destructive, horrible war. And yet the children of Japan and the children of America through positive action showed their love and compassion for one another and a deep commitment to peace. That is the message of the Hiroshima Drawings.
The story began on November 10, 1946, when A. Powell Davies, the Minister of All Souls Church, Unitarian, of Washington, D. C., denounced the obscenity of featuring an angel-food cake in the shape of an atomic-bomb explosion at a celebration honoring the atom-bomb task force. The day before, the newspapers had carried "an utterly loathsome" photograph of two smiling admirals in full regalia and a fancily-dressed wife cutting a three-foot mushroom-shaped cake made of angel-food puffs.
The sermon received publicity around the world and was seen in a Japanese newspaper by Dr. Howard Bell, an official with General Douglas MacArthuršs provisional government. Bell wrote Davies that his invective was not quite forceful enough but he understood that Davies "had to make some concessions to the proprieties of pulpit utterance."
And he described the plight of the Japanese children, like those of the Honkawa Elementary School of Hiroshima. On August 6, 1945, although most of its children had earlier been evacuated to the country, 400 remaining students had come to school at eight ošclock in the morning, clutching their little tins of rice. "They had just got down to work when the blast baked them to sleep."
The writer went on to say that, in spite of the horror of the devastation, a year later the children of the Honkawa School were eagerly trying "to learn democracy" in the skeleton of a reinforced concrete building, six of them huddled to each 10-foot bench, with no heat to warm their blue cheeks and purple hands, and most with no school supplies, not even pencil stubs. He had used all the money he had available to get them benches and a table, but his efforts to persuade the American authorities to provide school supplies and athletic equipment had been fruitless. He wished that the children of America would clean out their desks and send pencils and spare notebooks to the Japanese children.
So it was that on February 13, 1947, Dr. Davies presented the request in his sermon, "In Reply to a Letter from Japan." In the weeks following, the children of the church collected over half a ton of pencils, crayons, paper, erasers, paste, paper clips -- and shipped them off to Japan. They arrived shortly before Christmas of 1947 and were distributed to the children of two schools and an orphanage.
In appreciation, the Japanese children sent gifts of their own artwork -- watercolors, crayon drawings, rag dolls, and colored comic song books from the children of the Honkawa Elementary School; 75 letters of appreciation written by the children of the Fukuromachi School of Hiroshima; and a letter from the Ninoshima Orphanage. Every letter was answered by an All Souls child and the gifts were displayed not only at the church but throughout the country by the U. S. Government.
Each of the 48 watercolor paintings and crayon drawings from the Honkawa school carried the name and age of the youthful artist; many were 7 or 8, a few as old as 12. The artwork covered a wide range of subjects: a bus loaded with children, kimona-clad girls, a boat at sea, a baseball cap, flying pennants, a city street. Several expressed their thoughts in Kanji: "Japan, Country of Cherry Blossoms," "Green Mountains of Hiroshima," "World of Sky and Water," "Friends of America" and "Peace - Japan."
In 1949, the American children raised money to buy recreational equipment for a new school being built in Hiroshima: coveted baseball bats and mitts and balls as well as ping-pong and tennis equipment. This gift was featured on August 8 that year, in a ceremony attended by the Emperor at the "Children's Cultural Hall of Hiroshima," one of the first major buildings to be constructed among the ruins. In a letter of September 15, 1949, Mayor Shinzo Hamai of Hiroshima expressed "the heartfelt gratitude of the citizens and their children to all the generous donators."
When the Hiroshima Drawings were returned to All Souls Church after their government-sponsored tour throughout the United States, they were stored for safekeeping in the vault of the church along with other treasured artifacts. They were brought out on occasion for viewing by visitors from Japan and elsewhere, as well as by church officials and other church groups. It was in 2005 that the Church Administrator and other church leaders created a committee to explore means of preserving and sharing this church treasure and publicizing far more broadly the beautiful story of the Hiroshima Drawings.