The White House announced Tuesday that Barack Obama will become the first sitting American president to visit Hiroshima, where the United States dropped an atomic bomb on August 6, 1945, to force Japan’s surrender in World War II.
Obama will follow two of his predecessors to Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park, but neither was in office at the time of their visits: Jimmy Carter visited on May 5, 1984, long after he’d left the White House, and Richard Nixon went on April 11, 1964, four years before he won the presidential election.
Carter, who visited the memorial with his wife, Rosalyn, and their daughter, Amy, pledged at the time to “eliminate nuclear weapons from the face of this Earth.” He and Takeshi Araki, Hiroshima’s mayor at the time, placed a wreath at the monument bearing the names of the victims of the bombing. An Associated Press account of the visit noted that the Carters “moved silently through the museum. They paused at the final display—the shadow of a man, whose body was disintegrated in the blast and was burned into a set of stone steps.”
There are fewer details on Nixon’s visit. It came after he had been Dwight Eisenhower’s vice president, and was the last part of a 24-day tour of Asia. A report at the time from United Press International noted that the would-be president “laid the wreath and stood for two minutes of silent prayer as about 60 persons, mostly high-school students and a few American personnel, looked on.” Hiroshima, he said, “has made the world promise to strive for peace.”