Utah museum showcases small item that brings hope, peace to humanity

Aug 7, 2021, 12:56 AM | Updated: Jul 14, 2023, 11:53 am

WENDOVER, Utah — An airplane based in Wendover, Utah, carried and dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.

That moment, and another bomb later in Nagasaki, essentially ended World War II. Today, Japan and the United States are close friends, and inside a Wendover museum, there’s an example of how things can change over time.

“We’ve had lots of visitors from all over the world,” said James Petersen, president of the Historic Wendover Airfield Museum.

Walk into any museum and you’ll find all sorts of big things and big moments, marking human history. 

“We can’t forget the past,” Petersen said.

At the Historic Wendover Airfield Museum, it’s the smallest thing that gives humanity hope.


“We get quite a few inquiries about the paper crane,” Petersen said.

That crane, folded about as delicately as the paper it’s made from, sits in a special case in the museum. It’s there because the big airplane hangar just down the road is where the Enola Gay was based.

It’s the airplane that dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, during World War II.

The crew on that mission lived and trained in Wendover.

“When we have visitors walk through that door, they walk into this room, and a lot of them just stand there and they feel it,” Petersen said.

In the museum, there are photos, items and even the signatures of the men who flew that mission.

And then, there is that little paper crane.

“That is the very tiniest piece,” said Petersen.

It was folded by Sadako Sasaki, who was only two years old when that bomb fell just a mile from her family’s home in Hiroshima.

She survived, but needed hospital care a few years later, and started folding a thousand little paper cranes as a sign of peace.

Sasaki died when she was just 12 years old.

Doctors believe her leukemia was caused by radiation exposure, but her cranes became legendary in Japan.

“It’s a huge deal,” Petersen said. “It really is.”

A few years ago, her family members donated one of those original cranes to the Wendover museum during a ceremony airfield President James Petersen will never forget.

“People are interested in the story, which is good, because we wanted to, you know, we wanted to be, again, a symbol of peace and reconciliation,” he said.

Today, you can see paper cranes everywhere in Japan — lots of people make them and decorate with them.

And when the KSL Olympic crew arrived at the airport, Alex Cabrero said he saw one of the teams from Germany at baggage claim, collecting all their equipment.

It shows things can always change and there’s always hope for a better tomorrow.

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Utah museum showcases small item that brings hope, peace to humanity