Monday, May 9, 2016

After we sailed "to Russia with Love"

                            Press Statement 

      On October 21, 1961, the yacht Phoenix of Hiroshima, with five Americans aboard, was stopped 10 miles outside of Nakhodka, Siberia, boarded by Soviet military authorities and, while under surveillance by three Soviet vessels, was refused permission under any circumstances to enter the port.
     We were carrying messages and petitions from thousands of Japanese and Americans, protesting the resumption of nuclear testing and appealing for a positive approach to world peace through understanding.
     The Soviet authorities put food and supplies aboard our yacht, but refused to accept any of the petitions or to permit any communication whatever with the Russian people.
     Therefore, after 16 days at sea, under very severe weather conditions, the Phoenix then put about without making port and started her return voyage. For over one day she was followed by a Soviet vessel.
     On October 28, almost exactly 5 weeks after sailing from Hiroshima on our mission, we dropped anchor in the harbor of Fukuoka, under stress of weather.
     The entire voyage was the most difficult passage the Phoenix has encountered in over 60,000 miles of sailing around the world, during the past seven years.
     We, the crew of the yacht Phoenix, are deeply disappointed at the refusal of the Soviet authorities to accept the messages and petitions. We continue to strongly protest the testing of nuclear weapons by any nations.
     Fukuoka, Japan, October 29, 1961
                                                                  Earle Reynolds (Captain)
                                                                  Barbara Reynolds
                                                                  Ted Reynolds
                                                                  Jessica Reynolds
                                                                  Tom Yoneda

   Mum (Barbara) wrote our friends, "Our reception has been heartwarming. Taxi drivers, shop-keepers, even strangers who pass us on the street, bow and said: "O-kaeri" (Welcome home!). To meet with such affection in Hiroshima touches us deeply and makes us very humble. More than ever, we are determined not to let these people down, these people who have suffered so much and are still falling ill and dying from the effects of a bomb dropped 16 years before."
     She wrote to the Peace Action Center in Washington, D.C. on December 6, 1961 (By the way, we had  no organization sponsoring or underwriting either of our protest trips): "As you may know, the Russian authorities refused to accept our letters and petitions. (They suggested that we take them to the Soviet Embassy in Tokyo--which is coming full circle and promises no opportunity of getting our concern to the Russian people.) We are now trying to consider what we ought to do with this responsibility and trust, as we still feel obligated to get the feelings of the Japanese people to the world.
     "It has been suggested that we raise money to send one or two representatives from Hiroshima to the UN, to deliver the messages in person to Zorin or to U Thant.
                                                                            "Barbara Reynolds
                                                                            "Yacht Phoenix
                                                                            "Hiroshima, Japan"

      Our family had become, by default, a voice for the hibakusha.  They had entrusted us with their written and spoken petitions—really, their joint, united petition for peace.  Their appeal for “No More Hiroshimas” and “No More Nagasakis” was uniquely important and urgent because it came from actual survivors of nuclear war.
     Although Soviet authorities had refused to receive their petitions--because Soviet authorities had refused their petitions--they were looking to us to take their appeal to the next level.  They saw us as leaders of the peace movement in Japan.  Their own leaders, a new generation who had not learned the lesson of the atomic bombs, were pushing for national re-armament, including the possession and right to use nuclear weapons.
     All of us took this un-sought mandate seriously.  Dad had announced publicly before we left Japan that “The Reynolds family does not believe in blind loyalty to an organization.  Our loyalty is to our fellow man, all over the world.  Our loyalty is to peace."
     Yet we came back from Siberia increasingly divided among ourselves.  In seeking peace, my father and mother headed in very different directions.  My mother wanted to go directly to the people.  We still had the letters, the physical messages we had failed to deliver to the Russians by the back door, on board our boat.  Mum thought we should try going to the front door but she didn’t know how.
     Skipper wanted to bring about peace through political change.  The next year (1962), he and Professor Tatsuo Morito of the University of Hiroshima would co-found the Hiroshima Institute of Peace Science (HIPS) which would not last long.
     I tried to tell a few Japanese friends privately that our family was not qualified to lead the peace movement in Japan, much less in the world.  I said we didn’t have peace within our family and that I did not have peace within myself.  They would not listen. 

Documents quoted in Friends of the Hibakusha, Virginia Naeve, Editor. Denver: Swallow Paperbooks, 1964.

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