Fact Check

Did Obama Apologize for Dropping the Atomic Bomb on Japan?

While President Obama offered his sympathies during a visit to Hiroshima, he did not apologize for the United States' 1945 actions.

Published May 29, 2016

 (White House Instagram)
Image courtesy of White House Instagram
President Obama apologized for dropping bombs on Japan at the end of World War II.

On 27 May 2016, President Obama became the first sitting president to visit Hiroshima, Japan since the end of World War II. While some media outlets painted the historic visit as another stop on Obama's "apology tour," the president did not actually apologize.

Still, social media users were outraged at the President's supposed apology:


On 26 May 2016, the New York Post published an article criticizing the president for his "shameful" apology tour. While the author assumed that Obama would apologize (despite the White House saying that an apology would not be forthcoming), the article came out a day before Obama's speech and therefore did not serve as evidence:

An American president’s highest moral, constitutional and political duty is protecting his fellow citizens from foreign threats. Presidents should adhere to our values and the Constitution, and not treat America’s enemies as morally equivalent to us.

If they do, they need not apologize to anyone.

The White House says that President Obama won’t apologize as he visits Hiroshima Friday. But who believes his press flacks?

The president did make an apology while he was in Japan, but it wasn't for the atomic bomb. On 25 May 2016, the President offered his "deepest regrets" for the death of a Japanese woman who reportedly had been murdered by a former U.S. Marine:

"The U.S. will continue to cooperate fully" and will continue to ensure "justice is done under the Japanese legal system," Obama said.

While critics of President Obama preemptively condemned him for apologizing for the United States' 1945 actions (which collectively killed more than 100,000 people), and while the President did apologize for an unrelated incident, he did not actually offer an apology during his speech. Obama did offer condolences for the loss of those who died at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but nowhere in the full text of his remarks did he offer an apology:

Seventy-one years ago, on a bright cloudless morning, death fell from the sky and the world was changed. A flash of light and a wall of fire destroyed a city and demonstrated that mankind possessed the means to destroy itself.

Why do we come to this place, to Hiroshima? 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.

Their souls speak to us. They ask us to look inward, to take stock of who we are and what we might become.


NY Times.   "Text of President Obama’s Speech in Hiroshima, Japan."     27 May 2016  .

Spitzer, Kirk.   "Sympathy for victims but no apology as Obama makes historic Hiroshima visit."     USA Today.   27 May 2016.

Bolton, John.   "Obama's Apology Tour Lands In Hiroshima."     NY Post.   26 May 2016.

Dan Evon is a former writer for Snopes.