Monday, August 3, 2015

Floyd Schmoe, Homes for Hiroshima, and Sadako Sakaki: Building Peace Together

Floyd next to the statue of Sadako
 in the Seattle Peace Park

Reflection to be given on "Cranes of August" Hiroshima Day at the Long Beach First Congregational Church. Thursday, August 6, at 7:00 pm.  241 Cedar Avenue - Long Beach, CA. See Long Beach Congregational Church event

  I feel honored to be here in a church with people of diverse faiths reflecting on an event that forever changed history. Seventy years ago, the United States dropped an atomic weapon on Hiroshima that instantly killed over 75,000 people and caused the deaths of 200,000 more through radiation and other after effects. This was the beginning of the Atomic Age and of a fifty-year-long Cold War, a period that has traumatized all of us, not just the victims of that terrible explosion. We are all still living in the shadow of a mushroom cloud that could one day engulf us.
We must not forget the horrors of August 6 and 9, 1945, or try to justify or mitigate it in any way. As people of faith, we must face the abyss, confess our sins (including the sin of not doing enough to oppose the evil of war) and commit ourselves to doing our best to insure that there are no more Nagasakis and Hiroshimas.
One of the powerful symbols of the anti-war movement has been a girl by the name of Sadako Sakaki. She was a toddler when she was exposed to the nuclear radiation of the Hiroshima bomb and she contracted leukemia. She knew of a Japanese legend that said if you fold 1000 paper cranes, you will prolong your life. She began folding cranes and completed 644 before she died. Her friends completed the rest, which were buried with her. Sadako’s death was premature and tragic, but her act of faith was not in vain. Children throughout Japan and the world began folding paper cranes, praying for peace. Today her memory lives on in the hearts and minds of countless people, especially young people, reminding us of the preciousness of life and the need for us to do all we can to abolish nuclear weapons and end the threat of war.
If you go to Seattle, not far from the Quaker meetinghouse, you’ll see a Peace Park with a bronze statue of Sadako Sasaki holding a paper crane. This park was dedicated on August 6, 1990, the 45th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing. It was funded largely through a remarkable Quaker named Floyd Schmoe, whom I had the honor of meeting and interviewing on his 104st birthday in 2000. Even at that ripe old age, Floyd was full of life and curiosity and humor. If I ever reach that age, I want to be like Floyd!
Floyd building a home in Hiroshima

Floyd was trained as a naturalist, taught at various Universities, and wrote beautiful books about Puget Sound and Mt Rainier; however, much of his life was spent promoting peace. During WW I he was a conscientious objector and served on the ambulance corps in France. During WWII, he helped the Japanese who were being sent to detention camps and became close friends with Gordon Hirabayashi, the famous Japanese Quaker who resisted being sent to the camps and later won a landmark Supreme Court case that helped Japanese internees to receive reparations. Having made many close friends who were Japanese, Floyd was horrified by the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He decided he wanted to go to Hiroshima and build homes for the victims of the bombing. He didn’t have any money or institutional backing, but when he mentioned his leading in a Christmas letter, thousands of dollars poured in and he was able to go to Hiroshima in 1948 and build homes.
Floyd in front of an Hiroshima home
His act of compassion won the hearts of the Japanese people, which is why he became the second recipient of the Hiroshima Peace Center's Peace Award in 1988. Floyd used the money he received from this prize to build the Peace Park in Seattle that honors Sadako Sasaki.
I could spend hours describing the amazing life of this dedicated Quaker, and the numerous projects he did for peace. But I don’t think Floyd would want me to do this. I think he’d rather that I tell you that  like Sadako, he was a human being like us  and what he did, we can also do. When the Quaker received the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1947, the Quaker scholar Henry Cadbury spoke words that I have taken to heart:
"Common folk, not statesmen, nor generals, nor great men of affairs, but just simple men and women, if they devote themselves … can do something to build a better peaceful world.”

History shows us the profound truth of these words. Ordinary people like us can make a difference. I believe that if we work together, we can abolish nuclear weapons,  end war, and create a peaceful world. This is what God and what our hearts yearn for, and with God’s help we can do this. Peace begins with us, with small acts done with great faith and love.


  1. Naomi Tabuchi tabuchi.n@saniku.ed.jpAugust 14, 2017 at 12:52 AM

    Hi from Japan.
    My name is Naomi Tabuchi, writing you from Hiroshima.
    I enjoyed reading your artical about Floyd Schomoe.
    Recently, japanese Fuji TV broadcasted the short documetary about Dr. Floyd Schomoe. Even the language is Japanese, you can understand the wonderful story.
    May God bless you!

  2. Thank you, Naomi Tabuchi, for sharing this video with me. I am glad that Floyd Schmoe is still remembered and appreciated in Japan. He was a true friend of the Japanese people and an inspiration to all of us.

  3. Floyd Schmoe: Houses for Nagasaki never gets any publicity; it followed closely on Houses for Hiroshima and I was its director for
    Floyd. NHK Work is now making a documentary about the whole affair.
    James Wilson