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Round One - Squaring Off: 1981 to April 15, 1994

It is important to be clear about what happened at the Smithsonian. It is not, as some have it, that benighted advocates of a special interest or right-wing point of view brought historical power to bear to crush and distort the historical truth. Quite to the contrary. Narrow-minded representatives of a special-interest and revisionist point of view attempted to use their inside track to appropriate and hollow out a historical event that large numbers of Americans alive at that time and engaged in the war had witnessed and understood in a very different — and authentic — way. -- Washington Post, February 1, 1995.

In Round One, you will find articles by and about Smithsonian Secretary Robert McCormick Adams and Director of the National Air and Space Museum Martin Harwit and the exhibits they mounted going back to 1984. These articles should provide meaningful background on these two important figures in the controversy, as well on the nature of the January 14, 1994, draft of the exhibit entitled "The Crossroads: The End of World War II, the Atomic Bomb and the Cold War."

The text of this "Crossroads" exhibit without the graphic elements can be found in Philip Nobile, Judgment at the Smithsonian ( New York: Marlowe, 1995) . The text with the graphic elements can be found in an edition by the Air Force Association ("The Crossroads," Washington: Air Force Association, 1995).

The documents in Round One give a sense of what Adams and Harwit, as originators of the exhibit, see as the function of the Smithsonian museum in representing history, how their perspective differs from past practice at the Smithsonian, what controversial exhibits they did before the Enola Gay, and what specifically they hope to accomplish with the Enola Gay exhibit.

As a window on the popular mind when Adams took office, see the 1982-1985 cluster of documentaries and feature films on atomic and nuclear disaster themes on our Resources page. For instance, such documentaries as The Atomic Cafe, War Games, and The Day After: Perils of Nuclear War, and such features as The Day After, Special Bulletin, Testament, and Threads.

In addition, Round One introduces the major critics of the draft exhibit. Initial interaction between Harwit and the Air Force Association culminates in the AFA press release on March 16, 1994. According to Harwit, that initial interaction was entered into in good faith by the Smithsonian, since groups like the AFA were vitally interested in such an exhibit. In effect, of course, the exhibit centers on the AFA constituency and is precisely about the role the Air Force played at this crucial moment in the history of our country. That AFA press release is picked up by the Washington Times, and their two short news items bring the controversy out into the open.

John T. Correll, a major player in this controversy, authors a two-part article in the April 1994 Air Force Magazine that will become the point of reference for the entire subsequent controversy. Correll's April 7, 1994, letter to his boss, Monroe Hatch, might even be a little clearer in detailing the specific problems that the AFA had with the exhibit. In the "Missing: Balance, Context, Objectivity" section of that letter, for instance, Correll concisely lists three points about which the AFA will continually balk.