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The Phoenix of Hiroshima: A Family's Voyage Into Peace Activism

courtesy of Antiochiana
Earle Reynolds designed and built the Phoenix of Hiroshima, which he and his family sailed to the Bikini Atoll nuclear testing grounds.

August 6, 2015 marks the 70th anniversary of the Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. When the bombs were dropped, the world was both awestruck and horrified by their destructive power.  And while some worked to further develop them and harness their immense nuclear energy, others dedicated themselves to preventing more tragedies from happening. Earle and Barbara Reynolds were two of these people. The former Yellow Springs residents and their family protested nuclear development in a unique - and dangerous way.

Earle and Barbara, along with their daughter Jessica and two sons, Tim and Ted, moved to Yellow Springs in the early 1940’s so Earle could begin work at Antioch College.

"He was an anthropologist by trade, and that’s what he came here to do; to study the human condition at something called the Fels Study for Longitudinal Human Development," says Antioch College archivist Scott Sanders. "It was for studying humans birth to death. Everything we can study about humans from birth to death, they studied."

In 1951, Earle joined the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission and was sent to Hiroshima to study the effects of nuclear radiation on developing children.

"He was horrified by what he found but he completed his research. It was that experience that made him a peace activist," says Sanders.

During his stay in Japan, Earle designed and built a 50-foot long yacht which he and his family named The Phoenix of Hiroshima.

"He built the boat and put the family on it and they started to sail around the world," says Sanders. "They made it to Hawaii where they had a chance meeting with the crew of a boat who were all Quakers, who had just been arrested for trying to do what they ended up doing; sailing into an atomic testing area. The family decided that they would complete these guys’ mission."

Credit courtesy of Antiochiana
A newspaper clipping about the Reynolds family voyage

Inspired by the crew of The Golden Rule, the Reynolds family joined the Quaker community and decided to sail on into the Bikini Atoll nuclear testing grounds.

"It was illegal for them to do what they did, so they were forcibly removed from the area so that the bomb could be detonated."
After a 4 year wait in Honolulu, Earle’s sentence was overturned on appeal. While Earle was awaiting trial, Barbara Reynolds, Earle’s wife at the time helped their 16 year old son Ted and crew member Mikami sail the boat back to Hawaii. A few years before Earle and Barbara divorced, the family made one last protest together during the Cold War. They sailed from Japan into Nakhodka in the Soviet Union. They were stopped just miles from a Soviet nuclear testing facility. They had brought with them hundreds of letters from survivors of the bombing in Hiroshima years earlier. The Soviet Union, however, refused the letters and sent the Reynolds back to Japan where they lived. Even after Earle and Barbara divorced, they each went on to continue their work in peace activism.
"[Barbara] established the World Friendship Center and it’s a peace education retreat in Hiroshima. Earle sailed the boat into Haiphong harbor during the war in Vietnam, which had been illegally mined by the United States Military, so it was to protest the mining of this harbor. There were some Yellow Springs residents on that voyage," says Scott Sanders.