The Enola Gay ControversyHistory on trial Main Page

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2/1/1995. Sample reaction continued.
"Bombing History," Philadelphia Inquirer, 02/01/95. “The nation has flunked a history test.” With editorial cartoon: "It's all they can handle." [SFX]
"The Smithsonian Changes Course," Washington Post, 02/01/95, A18. "Over the longer term, this confidence-undermining episode constitutes a threat to the Smithsonian's stature and independence. But the museum brought this danger on itself by the fecklessness with which it left itself open to legitimate attack on a fiercely contested topic whose delicacy and complexity it ought to have appreciated without all the fuss." [SFX]
"Exhibit A: The Pablum Museum," Washington Post, 02/01/95, D1. "This is the new mood in revolutionized Washington: When in doubt, bail out. Hit the eject button, Cave." [SFX]
"A History Lesson," by Yoshihide Soeya, Look Japan, February 1995, 17. Written before the decision: "The attempt by many in the US to justify the bombings . . . has prevented them from seeing the bombings as a human tragedy of immense proportions and as a lesson concerning the nuclear age in which we now live." [SFX]
"Japan Upset over Decision on Enola Gay," by Paul Blustein, Washington Post, 02/01/95. "Japanese tend to regard the bombings as having inflicted such horrorific misery on civilization as to be unjustifiable." [SFX]
"It's All They Can Handle," Philadelphia Inquirer, 02/01/95, A14. With editorial cartoon. [SFX]
"Whew! Sure Am Glad to See That Gone!" Mobile Register, 02/01/95. Editorial cartoon. [SFX]
"The Smithsonian Retreat," The Ledger, 02/01/95, 8A. Choosing the 50th anniversary for a time of "inflammatory debate" was an "enormously dumb decision." [SFX]
"Enola Gay's Bumpy Landing," by Philip Terzian, Washington Times, 02/01/95, A16. Includes editorial cartoon: "Smithsonian in sight, Captain." "It must have been some comfort to those 46,000 soldiers to know that their lives were so easily expended, especially (in the view of the Smithsonian Institution) in so loathsome a cause as the American victory in the Pacific, and the liberation of Asia from Japanese oppression." [SFX]
"Ordinary Americans, History Win as Enola Gay Exhibit Is Changed," Omaha World-Herald, 02/01/95, 22. "[Smithsonian] judgment was poor. The judgment of ordinary people was much better. The outrage of ordinary people has been justified." [SFX]
"Pouting at the Smithsonian," Plain Dealer, 02/01/95, 10B. "Veterans who protested the original plan for the display are glad that visitors will not be subjected to more than 500 pages of revisionism vilifying a racist, imperialist U.S. policy." [SFX]
"Enola Gay: Smithsonian Exhibit Not Ready to Fly," Star Tribune, 02/01/95, 14A. "Current public interest may have been served by Heyman's politically necessary decision. But only if the principle of scholarship over politics stands can veterans justly celebrate this victory without presaging a deeper defeat of the principles for which they fought." [SFX]
"Smithsonian Botches Case of Enola Gay," Morning Call, 02/01/95, A10. "To view the Enola Gay only as the vehicle that brought about the end of one war is one-sided and fails to recognize its full significance in another. . . . The Enola Gay is a story of heroes and horrors which needs to be completely understood if we're ever to make sure it never happens again." [SFX]
"Suffering Never Ends," by Murray Kempton, Newsday, 02/01/95, A15. "The comfort of thinking that the past was all that different in its callousness is our shield against the recognition that we ourselves are just as bad." [SFX]
"Smithsonian Throws in Towel," Denver Rocky Mountain News, 02/01/95, 33A. "Ignorance, we suppose, is slightly preferable to error, the propagation of which seemed the museum's original goal." [SFX]
"Smithsonian Beats a Prudent Retreat," News Tribune, 02/01/95, A8. "This will go down as one of the last battles of a fast-fading generation of veterans. They've earned the right to savor another victory." [SFX]
"Wrong Place for Anti-Nuclear Message," Los Angeles Times, 02/01/95, B.: "the victim of its own excesses." [SFX]
"Re: WWII Revisionists," by Otto Whittington, Houston Chronicle, 02/01/95, A21 Letter: "Let the U.S. 'sob sisters' chew on that truism [the Japanese would have used women and children as shields]." [SFX]
2/1/1995. Professional historians speak of "historical cleansing": "Such a precedent is likely to invite subsequent attempts to cancel other exhibitions at the Smithsonian."
"Enola Gay Controversy Continues," Organization of American Historians' Newsletter, Feb 1995. [SFX]
2/2/1995. Sample reactions to the cancellation during the week after.
"Enola Gay Exhibit," San Jose Mercury News, 02/02/95. Editorial cartoon. [SFX]
"Museum Peace," by Nigel Holloway, Far Eastern Economic Review, 02/02/95, 32-33. Written before the cancellation: "The bombers may finally rest in peace, but they will forever be shrouded in roiling debate." [SFX]
"The Enola Gay Saved Hundreds of Thousands of American Lives," by Kathleen Krog, Buffalo News, 02/02/95, 3. "But at least we have had the chance to know [her father], to love and learn from this special man for a whole lifetime. We might not have if the Enola Gay hadn't taken off on the portentous mission whose beginning he witnessed on that steamy, deceptively peaceful, tropical dawn nearly 50 years ago." [SFX]
"It's Military History, Not Propaganda," by Jeffrey Ethell, Newsday, 02/02/95, A35. "In the end, the National Air and Space Museum would be wise to display these aircraft without surrounding them with the personal political ideology of their curators. Following that course of action will allow history to remain in the hands of those who created it." [SFX]
"Plane Truth?" Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 02/02/95, B2. "When history is distorted to reflect nothing more than narrow ideological and political interests, it doesn't even rise to the level of bunk." [SFX]
"The Enola Gay: Don't Second-Guess 'Tell It Like It Was'" Post and Courier, 02/02/95, A9. "Most of us old enough to remember gold stars in the windows of American homes tend to be exasperated at folks who would paint the United States as an aggressor just because we got the atom bomb before Hitler or Tojo." [SFX]
"A More Inclusive History Brings More Truth to Light," by Wiley A. Hall, Baltimore Sun, 02/02/95, 2A. "The controversy illustrates the interplay between history and popular opinion; the way society manipulates its collective memory in order to feel good about itself." [SFX]
"Smithsonian Bombs Again," The Times-Picayune, 02/02/95, B6. "It seems to us that the treatment could have been done in a way that enlightened rather than inflamed." [SFX]
"Enola Gay Makes War Again," by James Heavey,San Francisco Examiner, 02/02/95, A20. "Heyman had no choice. He would have been on shaky ground had he allowed the exhibit to resemble an Oliver Stone movie." [SFX]
"The Power of the Enola Gay," by Cal Thomas, Denver Post, 02/02/95, B9. "The basic error was in allowing those who think the word 'hero' refers only to a sandwich to rewrite history." [SFX]
"Not the Way I Remember It," Daily Times, 02/03/95. Editorial cartoon. [SFX]
"Fire the Smithsonian Revisionists," by J. T. Chapin, San Antonio Express-News, 02/04/95. “The exhibit script sanitized Japan’s extremely violent involvement in WWII.” [SFX]
"Or Hiroshima 'Cult'?" Washington Post, 02/04/95, A17. "In any quest for historical understanding -- surely the primary function of a museum -- neither celebration nor assault is appropriate, though having neither is better than having either." [SFX]
"Enola Gay Exhibit Canceled after Heated Controversy," by Jeanne Meserve, [CNN] News, 02/04/95, Transcript #256-3. [SFX]
"50th Anniversary of Atomic Bomb Causes Controversy," by Julie McCarthy, [NPR] Weekend Edition, 02/04/95, Transcript #1109-17. "If this week is any indication of how the 50th anniversary will unfold in Japan, it's going to be a year of pain and pride." [SFX]
"Smithsonian Institution: Fall Out," The Economist, 02/04/95, 78. "[The Smithsonian] may have to reckon with a new form of American political correctness, this time not from the left but from the resurgent right." [SFX]
"The World: The History That Tripped over Memory; War of Words: What the Museum Couldn't Say," New York Times, 02/05/95, 4.5. Excerpts from the original script that the public won't see now that there will be a "minimalist exhibition." [SFX]
"The Bomb Is Dropped on History," by Joanne Jacobs, San Jose Mercury News, 02/06/95. "The best thing one can say about this whole thing is that a lot of people are now talking about the meaning of history. The worst is that the Enola Gay flight has thrown more fuel on the burning resentment against academics and intellectuals." [SFX]
"Enola Gay: Handling of Exhibit Is Decried," by Julia M. Klein, Philadelphia Inquirer, 02/06/95, D1. "Where exactly the [NASM] plunged off the track -- and whether the whole controversy could have been avoided -- was a matter of debate." [SFX]
"A Fitting End to Enola Gay Revisionism," by Cal Thomas, Post and Courier, 02/06/95, 9A. "The next time, perhaps the Smithsonian ought to consult historians who tell the truth.” [SFX]
"Why Veterans Were So Enraged," by Patrick Buchanan, World Today, 02/06/95, 17. "Perhaps the Smithsonian could produce a 600-page script for an exhibit on Hirohito's Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere." [SFX]
2/1995. Japanese perspective:
Rinjiro, Sodei. "Genbaku toka no rekishi to seiji" [Dropping an atomic bomb on history and politics]. Sekai no. 605 (Feb 1995): 13-41. [SFX]
2/1995. Reactions specifically by historians.
"Hiroshima, Rewritten," by Barton J. Bernstein, New York Times, 01/31/95, A21. If military leaders could express doubts then "without having their patriotism challenged, it is dismaying that their judgments have now been deemed too harsh for American eyes and ears." [SFX]
"Enola Gay: A New Consensus," by Gar Alperovitz, Washington Post, 02/04/95, A17. "at issue is the nature of the consensus of modern studies on the use of the atomic bomb." [SFX]
"Can Museums Achieve a Balance Between Memory and History?" by Edward Linenthal, Chronicle of Higher Education, Feb 10, 1995, B1. Sees tension between the commemorative voice and the historical voice. [SFX]
"Silencing History," by Kai Bird, Nation, Feb 20, 1995, 224-25. "the cave-in is a . . . sad commentary on our collective inability as a nation to face our history." [SFX]
2/3/1995. Japanese Nagasaki A-Bomb Testimony Committee protests: "the negative reaction to this exhibit . . . made us consider that some of U.S. politicians and veterans have given up their efforts to watch the truth of history sincerely."
[PDF]
2/10/1995. The American Legion pushes for congressional hearings even though the exhibit has been canceled, giving an extensive list of questions to which only Congress "can elicit the needed answers from Institution principals."
[PDF]
2/13/1995. Secretary Heyman still trying to explain why the exhibit was canceled: "the Smithsonian needs to examine what it has done well and what it has done poorly and then get a policy in place to recognize and fulfill our obligations to the American people."
"[Correspondence] Mission of the Smithsonian Is to Teach and Celebrate," by Michael Heyman, Insight, Feb 13, 1995. (response to Goode above) [SFX]
2/13/1995. Indianapolis registers its formal disapproval of the exhibit: "The Indianapolis City-County Council commends all those who worked so hard to have the exhibit discontinued," and Harwit "owes a public apology to the veterans of our beloved country."
[PDF]
2/14/1995. Used as the "vehicle" for an extended spoof: "Suppose the Enola Gay's displayed intact: What's to stop Bob Dornan from scrambling into the cockpit, and howling, 'Fire 'er up'? . . . ."
"Enola Gay: The Final Flight," by Tom Carson, Village Voice, 02/14/95, 18-19. [SFX]
2/1995. Sampling of later coverage in February by major media.
"Readers Object to Cartoon about Enola Gay Exhibit," Anchorage Daily News, 02/08/95. Letters: "WWII vets deserve apology," "Forgive but don't forget," "Time to face truth," Bomb saved more lives," "Many owe Truman thanks," etc. [SFX]
"It May Be Too Soon to Tell Enola Gay Story," National Catholic Reporter, 02/10/95, 24. Includes the editorial cartoon: "It's All They Can Handle." "Perhaps our children or theirs will have the perspective to begin to explain, to offer meaning to this particular war madness. . . . And only then can we beg forgiveness." [SFX]
"Smithsonian Exhibit on 'Enola Gay' Generates Varying Opinions," Knoxville News-Sentinel, 02/12/95, F4. Letters: "The Smithsonian staff responsible . . . should resign or be terminated." "Is it only American lives that count?" "I couldn't thank President Truman enough for his moral courage. . . . I'm alive!" Includes editorial cartoon: "Listen up imperialst lackeys. I'm from the Smithsonian" [SFX]
"History Hijacked," by Charles Krauthammer, Time, Feb 13, 1995, 90. "The Enola Gay affair has given the American people a rare glimpse into the corruption of our institutions of national culture. Perhaps our timid revolutionaries will use the upcoming hearings on this fiasco to show some courage: call cultural corruption by its name and cut off the subsidy. Not cut -- cut off. Zero out. Let heads, and agencies, roll.” [SFX]
"A Museum in Crisis," by Stephen Budiansky, U. S. News & World Report, 02/13/95, 73. "Whatever the outcome, the days of the Smithsonian as a genteel, scholarly place soaring above the political fray are clearly gone forever." [SFX]
"The Right Decision," Air Force Times, 02/13/95, 27. Includes editorial cartoon: "Forget the Smithsonian rewrite for its Enola Gay exhibit." "Virtually no American is unsympathetic to the fate of the innocent Japanese civilians killed. . . . But the fact remains that the United States responded to acts of aggression." [SFX]
"'This Is What We Wanted,'" by Vago Muradian, Air Force Times, 02/13/95, 17. The story of W. Burr Bennett, Jr., a veteran who led the opposition to the exhibit [SFX]
"So the Smithsonian attempted to display revisionist history. What's the big deal?" Chicago Tribune, 02/18/95, 22. Editorial cartoon. [SFX]
"Thank you, General Tibbets," by Robert Rowland, Dallas Morning News, 02/19/95, 31. Letter: "My opinion of the Smithsonian Institution has been irreparably damaged." [SFX]
"The Full Story of the Enola Gay Has to Wait," by Mike Feinsilber, Plain Dealer, 02/21/95, 2A. "If a high school history book can offer a noncontroversial account of Hiroshima, why couldn't the Smithsonian?" [SFX]
"Enola Gay -- No Apology Needed," by Susan Boyer, The Observer, 02/22/95, 11. "My generation of folks don't need revisionists and elitist peaceniks to preach or patronize or pyschoanalyze us." [SFX]
"Smithsonian Chief to Alter Another Exhibit," by Rowan Scarborough, Washington Times, 02/24/95, A1. Changes in "Science in American Life" exhibit linked to the "scuttling" of the Enola Gay. [SFX]
"War and Remembrance," by David C. Morrison, National Journal, 02/25/95, vol 27.8. "This take on the war buys wholesale into the view enshrined at Hiroshima's Peace Park: Forget the brutal expansionism of imperial Japan. . . . Hiroshimans were peaceably minding their own affairs when Uncle Sam wiped out 140,000 civilians in a war crime of unequaled savagery." [SFX]
"Historians: You've Got Us All Wrong," Wall Street Journal, 02/28/95, 21. Letters: "Why hire professional historians and curators to do an honest thoughtful job when you really want propaganda?" [SFX]