Hiroshima bomb earrings for sale

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EVERYTHING WITHIN a four- kilometre radius was obliterated when a US warplane dropped a bomb nicknamed Little Boy over the Japanese city of Hiroshima in the early hours of 6 August 1945. Now, to a storm of protest in Japan, a museum in the United States is offering visitors the chance to purchase and wear earring replicas of both Little Boy, and Fat Man, the atomic bomb which wiped out Nagasaki three days after Hiroshima.

The National Atomic Museum in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has what it calls an "exclusive" collection of sterling silver earrings replicating both bombs in fine detail. The bombs - first nuclear weapons used in war - killed 185,000 people instantly and released doses of radioactive fallout which caused dreadful injuries and lingering deaths to thousands of others.

In Japan where the 54th anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki will be commemorated in sombre ceremony this week, the idea of selling let alone wearing atomic bomb earrings is deeply offensive.

A statement yesterday from the Japan Council against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs accused the American museum of "trampling the feelings of bomb victims". But the earrings, advertised on the museum's website ($20 [pounds 12.50] for one pair of each, $24 for Fat Man only) are already firm favourites with the American shopping public. "They're a great seller" Mike Romero, the museum storekeeper said yesterday. Hatpins and tieclip replicas of two atomic bombs are also available.

"We don't hold political opinions here," he added. "We only present the facts. If you go to a zoo you can buy a stuffed elephant. We are the only atomic museum in the US so we have to sell related merchandise. I don't think it's tasteless. It was before my time and it doesn't strike at my heart at all."

US wartime leaders defended dropping of the bombs as the only alternative to a land invasion of Japan, which threatened to cost around 200,000 Allied casualties, show estimates by military planners in 1945. Japan surrendered unconditionally six days after Nagasaki.