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Old 12-13-2003, 07:23 PM   #1
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Air And Space Museum Exibit Sparks Protest

Posted on Sat, Dec. 13, 2003

Enola Gay display provokes debate
By Frank Davies
Knight Ridder Newspapers


WASHINGTON - The Enola Gay, the simple plaque tells us, was the most sophisticated bomber of World War II. The two paragraphs of text compress its momentous impact on the world to one spare sentence:


"On Aug. 6, 1945, this Martin-built B-29-45-MO dropped the first atomic weapon used in combat on Hiroshima, Japan."


The unmistakable icon of the nuclear age, the fully restored Enola Gay goes on public display for the first time Monday in the Smithsonian's new, cavernous Air and Space Museum in suburban Virginia.


But there is no mention of the 140,000 people killed by that bombing. Nor is there mention of the claims that the bombing was necessary to force Japan's surrender or of the wider controversy about using weapons that could destroy humanity.


The unveiling of the Enola Gay and its presentation are touching off a debate about how a museum deals with the pride and pain surrounding one of history's great turning points: President Truman's decision to drop two atomic bombs on Japan.


John Dailey, the director of the museum, recently described the B-29 Superfortress as a "magnificent technological achievement," one of the crown jewels in a vast space that contains some of aviation's most notable craft.


Terumi Tanaka, who was 13 when the atomic bomb fell on his city, killing five of his family members, sees the plane differently: "To the survivors, it is a symbol of evil in the world. I am surprised, angry and sad that it is on display."


Tanaka and four other Hiroshima survivors, called hibakusha in Japan, came to Washington this weekend with petitions and plans for a protest Monday when the museum opens. They seek recognition of the human cost of the atomic bomb attack.


About 400 historians, scientists and activists signed a petition urging the Smithsonian to "rethink its exhibit to include a balanced discussion of the atomic bombings and of current U.S. nuclear policy."


"This plane began the era of ultimate destruction," said Peter Kuznick, who heads the Nuclear Studies Institute at American University. "It's just unconscionable for this country to display the Enola Gay in the national museum while whitewashing its role in history."


Smithsonian officials rejected the petition, saying the simple plaque identifying the plane "does not glorify or vilify" its role in history. The labeling is "precisely the same kind used" for the other 81 military and civilian craft in the museum.


Dailey, a retired Marine general, said the bombing helped prevent later use of nuclear weapons during the Cold War because "it showed what can happen."


"But we don't tell people what to think about it," he added.


That did not satisfy the mayor of Hiroshima, Tadatoshi Akiba, who wrote recently to Dailey that the plane is not "simply another exciting step in the technology of flight. I urge you to convey the horrifying tragedy of nuclear weapons."






Summarizing the controversy over dropping the bomb isn't easy, many historians concede. Some of Truman's advisers, research shows, wanted to use the bomb quickly to intimidate the Soviets, who had just entered the war against Japan.


Military leaders were divided over whether the atomic bomb was necessary. Gen. Dwight Eisenhower and Gen. Douglas MacArthur doubted it was needed, believing Japan was on the verge of collapse.


But the specter of high U.S. casualties in an invasion of Japan haunted many leaders and soldiers. More than 12,000 Americans died on Okinawa, as Japanese soldiers fought to the last man.


"It's very important to understand the context of wartime attitudes in 1945," Boyer said.


Some of the Hiroshima survivors agreed that the debate over dropping the atomic bomb should not obscure Japan's aggression and atrocities over many years, from Asia to Pearl Harbor.


"It's only fair that all sides of the story be told, and especially important for the younger generations," said Tanaka, 71. Some survivors have lobbied to make sure Japanese textbooks include information about Japanese atrocities.


Many American veterans see the atomic bomb as a godsend that may have saved their lives. Pulwers, whose new book "Press of Battle" recounts the work of GI reporters during the war, said that was the sentiment in his unit.


Truman expressed that certitude many times. Pulwers, who worked for WABC News in New York, once interviewed Truman and told him how his infantry battalion was about to ship out for the Pacific when they heard about the atomic bomb.


Pulwers said: "I'll always remember what Truman told me: `I saved your ass, son.' "


---


For more information about the new museum, the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, and the Enola Gay, check this Smithsonian Web site: www.nasm.si.edu


(Here is the complete text of the plaque in the exhibit of the Enola Gay:


Boeing's B-29 Superfortress was the most sophisticated propeller-driven bomber of World War II, and the first bomber to house its crew in pressurized compartments. Although designed to fight in the European theater, the B-29 found its niche on the other side of the globe. In the Pacific, B-29s delivered a variety of aerial weapons: conventional bombs, incendiary bombs, mines and two nuclear weapons.


On Aug. 6, 1945, this Martin-built B-29-45-MO dropped the first atomic weapon used in combat on Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later, Bockscar (on display at the U.S. Air Force Museum near Dayton, Ohio) dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan. Enola Gay flew as the advance weather reconnaissance aircraft that day. A third B-29, The Great Artiste, flew as an observation aircraft on both missions.)


---
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Old 12-13-2003, 09:50 PM   #2
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The B-29 is a marvellous piece of aviation technolgy and should be on display in a museum of science and technology.

A specific B-29 such as the Enola Gay is a different matter. It's a symbol and it caries a lot of emotions. It's not just another B-29 and this should have been accounted for. It was inevitable that this would bring up the A-bomb debate. As such some counterpoints from both sides of the issue should have been included in the display. Or they could have chosen another B-29 if they wanted to just focus on the B-29 as an aircraft (though no Japanese person of that generation is going to have good feelings about a B-29, but neither will Poles have good feelings about Stukas, for that matter).
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Old 12-14-2003, 01:35 AM   #3
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Should we "celebrate" the technology of weaponry in any form?

I have no problem focusing on the technology of the aircraft but don't use this specific plane. Bad judgement.
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Old 12-14-2003, 07:33 AM   #4
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It's interesting...Great points Guys you swayed me a bit. I think people would have come to this exhibit either way. It did not need a name attached to this plane, and there could have been a footnote attached to it rather than naming it as the plane.....
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Old 12-14-2003, 08:41 AM   #5
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I think it's fine to display it, but there should be more to the display than just a plaque with one line of text. They have a display about the interment of Japanese Americans during WWII in the American History Museum, so something similar should be done with this display if they intend to portray it as a piece of history. If it's meant to be just an example of aviation technology, then they should use a different aircraft. Which I think is what everyone else has said....so yeah .
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Old 12-14-2003, 05:58 PM   #6
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Must every museum display have all possible alternative viewpoints represented?? I get tired of this apparent need for self-flagellation over US history.
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Old 12-14-2003, 06:14 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally posted by nbcrusader
Must every museum display have all possible alternative viewpoints represented?? I get tired of this apparent need for self-flagellation over US history.
Maybe not all NB, but this is a rather significant event. I think it warrants some debate.

I like BonoVox's question...I am still pondering it, but my instinct says no.
One thing is to glorify the technology, but another is weapons. On the other hand, can they be separated?
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Old 12-14-2003, 07:31 PM   #8
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Does a museum display constitute the glorification of the item displayed?
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Old 12-14-2003, 08:27 PM   #9
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I agree wholeheartedly nb. This appear to be nothing more than the whinings of revisionist historians. I mean seriously, should we just go ahead and attach a footnote to every historical artifact? Also, the author of the article made some mistakes. The Hiroshima bombing killed at the most 90,000 people. SOme would argue that any death of innocents simply nullifies any good deed but that moral relativism is extremely dangerous and leads down some dark paths. Also, the whole bit about the Soviets. There was some discussion among the few men who knew of the bomb about the Soviets in Eastern Europe. It was the hope of some (is it alleged) that the use of the bomb might make them more pliable, but this argument when fully investigated does not hold that much water. The Administration asked for casualty estimates of a possible invasion of Japan and the numbers that came back ranged from 500,000 to 1,000,000 American lives, not to mention the countless Japanese deaths. These men had no earthly idea that there was an atomic bomb, much less the Manhattan Project. When in the state of war, one must first consider the lives of fellow countrymen and admittedly, the bomb saved many American lives. It is argued that the U.S. could have simply continued the stranglehold on Japan, but more civilian lives could have been lost this way, especially with the state of Japanese politics at the time.
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Old 12-15-2003, 12:09 AM   #10
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I think a random B-29 should have been used, not the Enola Gay.

But I agree with Fort Worth Horned Frog that the BCS should be destroyed as we know it.

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Old 12-15-2003, 07:38 AM   #11
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I think obviously yes, for the sake of history, the plane should be kept somewhere safe and in good condition - looked after for the future, good or evil it is an important piece of history. And I don't think we should put a footnote on every historical artefact.
However I don't think it's the right time to display it yet. It's still so recent, and still has so many emotional attachments. In terms of the things we have on display from 'history' and the timeline they span, it is only (nearly) 60 years old. Thats incredibly young in historical terms. I think keep it locked away for another 50+ years. The world is still in a sense right in the aftermath of that event. It was the first atomic bomb, followed immediately by a cold war based solely around that threat, which lasted nearly 45 yrs. It was the first true WMD and only this year we are still fighting wars on the threat or fear of WMD's (I resisted the temptation...) Japan is very few generations removed from the event, probably the single most traumatic of that century - left any other single attack or natural event way behind, and everyone has a strong opinion one way or another about it.
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Old 12-15-2003, 02:33 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally posted by nbcrusader
Must every museum display have all possible alternative viewpoints represented?? I get tired of this apparent need for self-flagellation over US history.
Not every museum display, certainly, but I think the Enola Gay should have a more detailed exhibit. It's not just any plane.

This is the only plane in history to have dropped an atomic bomb on a city. It does warrant more than a footnote. I think an objective, but detailed exhibit is warranted.

I don't agree with self-flagellation either, but I think that some respect and sensitivity should be shown with this particular plane. It is important that people understand the implications of nuclear weapons.

I seem to remember another thread on this over the summer, or maybe it came up in reference to the anniversary. I believe it *was* supposed to have a more detailed exhibit, but WWII veterans protested because they believed it cast a bad light on them. Maybe someone has the energy to dig it back up and see if I'm right.
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Old 12-15-2003, 02:50 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally posted by Ft. Worth Frog
I agree wholeheartedly nb. This appear to be nothing more than the whinings of revisionist historians. I mean seriously, should we just go ahead and attach a footnote to every historical artifact? Also, the author of the article made some mistakes. The Hiroshima bombing killed at the most 90,000 people. SOme would argue that any death of innocents simply nullifies any good deed but that moral relativism is extremely dangerous and leads down some dark paths. Also, the whole bit about the Soviets. There was some discussion among the few men who knew of the bomb about the Soviets in Eastern Europe. It was the hope of some (is it alleged) that the use of the bomb might make them more pliable, but this argument when fully investigated does not hold that much water. The Administration asked for casualty estimates of a possible invasion of Japan and the numbers that came back ranged from 500,000 to 1,000,000 American lives, not to mention the countless Japanese deaths. These men had no earthly idea that there was an atomic bomb, much less the Manhattan Project. When in the state of war, one must first consider the lives of fellow countrymen and admittedly, the bomb saved many American lives. It is argued that the U.S. could have simply continued the stranglehold on Japan, but more civilian lives could have been lost this way, especially with the state of Japanese politics at the time.
Actually, the author didn't make any mistakes. The 140,000 casualties includes the later deaths from radiation poisoning. That was my guess and the websites I checked out confirm it. There isn't an exact number, but estimates are over 100,000.

Truman was more aggressive at Potsdam with the knowledge of the first successful atomic bomb having been detonated at Los Alamos--so the argument is pretty valid. I don't believe that was their sole (or even a strong) reason behind dropping the bomb, but I do think they thought it would be an added bonus. I don't think it's a weak argument--if you had been in Washington during 1945, why *wouldn't* you think Stalin would back off Eastern Europe after seeing what you did to Japan?

Anyway, bottom line--this isn't "revisionist historical whining." I don't see any whining in the article at all. I do think that all significant artifacts deserve a good "footnote" in the interests of educating the public. The Enola Gay is an important artifact--and whichever side you want to take on the atomic bomb, I think you have to agree that it deserves more than a plaque. I think more detail should be given to this exhibit--and I think it should be objective, but sensitive. The Peace Museum in Hiroshima has devoted space to Japan's atrocities in WWII, so why can't we talk more about what the Enola Gay did? I'm not going to argue the decision, but if it was the right one, why be ashamed?

Again, I don't see a revisionist agenda here, just an argument over the lack of facts and detail.
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Old 12-15-2003, 04:55 PM   #14
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The thread this summer was a great one.....

I found some really good quotes from Japanese historians upset that their guilt was being erased from the historical picture. Hiroshima was part of the military/industrial complex. It was not just a random city, and the imperial nature of Japan brought some of the reponsibility for the trajedy of the Atomic Bomb onto Japan as well. It was a very interesting read.

the thread was started by Scarletwine I believe.....if my memory serves me correct.
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Old 12-15-2003, 06:43 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally posted by BonoVoxSupastar
Should we "celebrate" the technology of weaponry in any form?

I have no problem focusing on the technology of the aircraft but don't use this specific plane. Bad judgement.
Regardless on your thoughts on nuclear weapons this plane changed the course of history.
So why shouldn't the U.S. display one of it's great achievements?
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