I think it is fair to say that when we see a historical memorial, we expect a fairly simple, direct statement about the past. The idea is that by putting something in stone or casting it in bronze, the artist or a community seeks to convey a clear message to future generations. But not all monuments are so transparent. Here in Santa Cruz we have a monument that has hidden meanings. The clues are there to uncover them, if you know how to look.
Next to the clock tower, at the intersections of Front, Pacific and Water streets, there is a monument called Collateral Damage. It looks Picasso-esque, and if you look for awhile you can make out human figures clutching each other closely and looking up to the sky. The plaque mounted on the base reads,
“Collateral Damage: A Reality of War, by E.A. Chase.
In memory of civilians who have died in all wars.”
The plaque also tells us the statue was dedicated on August 5, 1995 by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Bill Motto Post, the Resource Center for Non-Violence, the City of Santa Cruz, and E.A. Chase.
So what’s the hidden meaning? The statue may be the only monument in the United States to commemorate the victims of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima. E.A. Chase, the sculptor, was born in 1932 and served in the armed forces during the Korean War. After the war he became increasingly alarmed at the nuclear arms race, so in 1959 he created a statue meant to viscerally convey the meaning of nuclear war in the form of the civilian deaths it would incur. In fact, this statue was meant not just to warn of the abstract possibility of civilian deaths, but to convey a message of warning by commemorating the actual civilian victims of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.
Chase then tried to donate the statue to the United Nations, but was told that the organization that was dedicated to maintaining peace found it “inappropriate.” For the next 30 years, Chase just kept the statue in his garage until a friend of his, James Wainscot, a member of the local Santa Cruz Veterans of Foreign War (VFW) post found the statue and urged him to find a new site for the statue in Santa Cruz. Wainscot convinced his fellow members of the VFW to support a movement to place the statue in Santa Cruz and they were joined in this effort by members of the Resource Center for Non-Violence. With help from a fundraising concert in town, featuring Crosby, Stills and Nash and Bonnie Raitt amongst others, and with support of the City Council the statue was adopted by the City.
There was a brief controversy as some supporters argued for replacing the WWI monument in the triangle between Front and Pacific with this new monument. Tensions flared up and these tensions, which coincided with the brouhaha that exploded at the Smithsonian Museum in 1994 over a planned exhibition on the Atomic Bombings at the end of WWII, put the plans for the monument at risk. By the time of emplacement, E.A. Chase’s original motivation—concern about nuclear war—had become generalized to a mourning for all civilian victims of war. But the Hiroshima connection is still there to be read in the monument.
Go back to the date of commemoration: August 5, 1995. Exactly 50 years since the dropping of Little Boy on the city of Hiroshima. On a plaque on the back side, we also see that the dedication of the statue took place during a “No Nukes Rally” which was timed to commemorate the anniversary of the Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And amongst the names of dignitaries listed as attending the rally is the name of one of Hiroshima’s most famous survivors: Shigeko Sasamori, one of the six Hiroshima Maidens who came to the United States in the 1950s for plastic surgery to heal her scars.