In the context of Barack Obama's 2016 visit to Japan, this image was made.

Facebook meme

Obama apologizes to Japan for this

[Nuclear mushroom cloud]

which was retaliation for this...

[Pearl harbor pictures]

when he should be sorry for the 2,403 dead and 1,178 wounded of [sic] attacking our country!

"Like" if you agree

Did he apologize for the bombing? If not, did he do something that might be reasonably interpreted as apologizing?

  • 29
    Related: Why won't President Obama apologize for the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
    – user22213
    Commented May 30, 2016 at 13:30
  • 36
    Despite being based on a false premise, also of important note is the fact that we're talking about entirely different order of magnitudes of civilians deaths (60 at pearl harbor). Doesn't change anything about the fact that the attack on pearl harbor was a surprise military attack outside of declared war, but apologizing for far over 100 000 civilian deaths wouldn't have been so crazy. Commented May 30, 2016 at 15:13
  • 19
    If these bombs were dropped as retaliation then Obama and every other US president before him should better apologise. As it is, it wasn't retaliation, and there was no apology, because nobody asked for an apology and none was needed.
    – gnasher729
    Commented May 30, 2016 at 16:53
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    "...this image was made." How wonderfully passive voice. Who made it, where have you seen it? Commented May 30, 2016 at 17:37
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    @CarstenS: You could say that whoever wrote the text wrongly claims that the USA committed a war crime, is proud of it, and strongly dislikes Obama for apologising. When in fact there was no war crime, any decent people would be ashamed and not proud if it had happened as claimed, and Obama didn't apologise.
    – gnasher729
    Commented May 31, 2016 at 9:47

2 Answers 2



He laid a wreath, mourned the dead, spoke about a moral duty to prevent the horrors of war, but didn't apologise, didn't separate the nuclear attacks from the other horrors of war, and didn't express any view on whether the use of nuclear weapons at that moment in history was right or wrong.

From the BBC:

Mr Obama said the memory of 6 August 1945 must never fade, but did not apologise for the US attack

In an interview before the speech, he made it clear he wasn't going to apologise:

Barack Obama said on Sunday his visit to Hiroshima, the first city to suffer an atomic bombing, would emphasize friendly ties between former enemies. But the US president reiterated he would not apologize for the devastating attack.

...“It’s important to recognize that in the midst of war, leaders make all kinds of decisions, it’s a job of historians to ask questions and examine them,” Obama said.

Snopes have looked into the claim that he apologised, and found it to be false.

The Atlantic have published an analysis piece around why it is common in diplomacy to stop short of an apology like this, and why the line is drawn where it is.

When Barack Obama goes to Hiroshima.., he will not apologize on behalf of his country for carrying out that strike 71 years ago. He will neither question the decision to drop bombs on two Japanese cities, nor dwell on its results: the deaths of more than 200,000 people and the dawn of the atomic age. But he will affirm America’s “moral responsibility,” as the only nation to have used nuclear weapons, to prevent their future use. He will recognize the painful past, but he won’t revisit it. When it’s all over, we still won’t know whether or not he thinks there’s something about the atomic bombings to be sorry for.

But why is expressing remorse such a big deal in the first place? ...When I put this question to Jennifer Lind, a professor of government at Dartmouth College who has studied these issues extensively, she gave me a one-word answer: “politics.” [analysis continues]

Here's the official transcript, and the NY Times also published the full transcript of Obama's speech. It doesn't contain an apology, but is reconciliatory. For example, he does:

  • Mourn the dead:

    We come to ponder a terrible force unleashed in a not-so-distant past. We come to mourn the dead, including over 100,000 Japanese men, women and children, thousands of Koreans, a dozen Americans held prisoner.

  • Express a duty to "curb such suffering" in future:

    That is why we come to this place. ... We listen to a silent cry. We remember all the innocents killed across the arc of that terrible war and the wars that came before and the wars that would follow... we have a shared responsibility to look directly into the eye of history and ask what we must do differently to curb such suffering again. Some day, the voices of the hibakusha [nuclear attack survivors] will no longer be with us to bear witness. But the memory of the morning of Aug. 6, 1945, must never fade.

  • Express a desire to work towards ending wars and eventually aim for a world with no nuclear weapons:

    And since that fateful day, we have made choices that give us hope... An international community established institutions and treaties that work to avoid war and aspire to restrict and roll back and ultimately eliminate the existence of nuclear weapons... among those nations like my own that hold nuclear stockpiles, we must have the courage to escape the logic of fear and pursue a world without them.

  • Unlike what the image implies, Obama didn't single out the nuclear attacks and separate them from the other horrors of the war, he treats them as a symbol of all the horrors of war:

    In the span of a few years, some 60 million people would die. Men, women, children, no different than us. Shot, beaten, marched, bombed, jailed, starved, gassed to death... Yet in the image of a mushroom cloud that rose into these skies, we are most starkly reminded of humanity’s core contradiction.

  • And unlike what the image implies, he didn't focus solely on Japanese losses and neglect American losses - the speech treated all losses from war as being the same, as products of war itself. For example:

    We see these stories in the hibakusha. The woman who forgave a pilot who flew the plane that dropped the atomic bomb because she recognized that what she really hated was war itself. The man who sought out families of Americans killed here because he believed their loss was equal to his own.

  • The BBC article only dedicates two sentences to whether or not Obama apologised. The Guardian article was written before the speech was given. Snopes cites an article with a URL containing "obama-visit-hiroshima-bomb-site-pledges-no-apology". The original version of that article may have been "Obama to visit Hiroshima bomb site, pledges no apology". Compare twitter.com/WCSH6/status/736106199133741056 with wcsh6.com/news/nation-now/… . The Atlantic piece was also written beforehand.
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 11:00
  • Then there are two links that are merely quoting Obama's speech verbatim, with no analysis, and a convenience link as to what a hibakusha is.
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 11:03

If not, did he do something that might be reasonably interpreted as apologizing?

From Obama’s origami cranes he left behind touches many hearts, the brother of Sadako Sasaki, who died of leukemia most likely caused by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, interpreted Obama's hand-crafted origami cranes given to the Hiroshima Peace Museum as an apology.

Sasaki’s 74-year-old brother, Masahiro, said on May 28 he was deeply moved by the president taking an interest in his sister’s origami cranes.

“I took his gesture as his apology, strong determination to restore peace and warm, generous heart,” he said.

Hiroshima survivors: Obama speech moving, 'more than enough' surveys ordinary Hiroshima residents who lived through or were born soon after the atomic bombing. One of them said that it was an apology, while another implicitly said it was not an apology by saying that a US apology can't happen until Japan apologises for Pearl Harbor:


"I think (Obama's speech) was an apology."

Hattori's parents and grandparents, who sold rice near where the bomb fell, all either died that day or in the years that followed. Hattori, who now has three types of cancer, earlier said that an Obama apology would ease his suffering.

"I feel different now. I didn't think he'd go that far and say so much. I feel I've been saved somewhat. For me, it was more than enough."



"A sitting U.S. president visiting Hiroshima is just the first step. We're still 10 years from the possibility of a president issuing an apology."

Born two years after the bomb was dropped, Ishida remembers growing up with bomb survivors whose skin was scarred.

"Japan has to apologize for Pearl Harbor, too, if we're going to say the U.S. must apologize ... That's not possible, given the countries' current situations. In America, people say the war ended early because they dropped the atomic bomb. If a president apologized for this, it would raise hell in the U.S.

"We can't tell North Korea not to have nukes when the U.S. has them, but the U.S. developed them first ... It's not possible to get rid of nuclear weapons when they're being used as deterrence."

The blog post Obama’s visit to Hiroshima is viewed as “a sort of” apology by the people of Japan. surveyed Japanese people, and concluded that it a large proportion regard the visit as some sort of apology:

To study this, we performed a series of surveys on a nation-wide Japanese sample of about 1,000 people, and on a similar number of people currently living in Hiroshima. We asked if they support the visit itself, if they see sincerity in the visit, and if they see the visit as a sort of apology (even though the White House denies it).


On the question which asks whether they consider the visit to be “a sort of apology,” their answer is “Yes”. We believe this is the most important finding of the survey: that the visit is considered as a “non-apology apology” in both Hiroshima and national samples even though the White House states that President Obama will not revisit the decision to use the atomic bomb and there is no intention to make an apology. For the national sample, 77.3 per cent see Obama’s visit as a sort of apology, and for Hiroshima, the number is 85.6 percent. As Figure 1 shows, the national and Hiroshima samples are statistically different – more people in Hiroshima see it as an implicit apology than the national average.

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    I'm not sure if that can be reasonably interpreted as apologizing (though "reasonably" is not well-defined here). Commented May 31, 2016 at 14:45
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    @iamnotmaynard In such gray areas, I think it's best to provide information that is pretty clearly relevant, even if it's left up to the reader to decide how to interpret it. This seems to fit, as it shows some people closely involved did perceive it as an apology. It's left to us, the readers, to determine whether this is a reasonable interpretation given the facts. Personally, I don't think this is what the OP had in mind, but it is relevant information worth mentioning.
    – jpmc26
    Commented May 31, 2016 at 21:35
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    @iamnotmaynard I added another example of someone interpreting it as an apology.
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented May 31, 2016 at 23:02
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    World leaders either apologise or do not apologise. There's no "interpretation"
    – Jon Story
    Commented Jun 3, 2016 at 14:38
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    Of course you can. They either say 'I/we apologise' or say 'I'm/we are sorry'.
    – Jon Story
    Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 20:46

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