AFA Policy Forum
"Revisiting Enola Gay"
John T. Correll
Former Editor In Chief, AIR FORCE Magazine
Air & Space Conference 2004—Washington, DC
September 14, 2004
[Click here for printer-friendly version].
Mr. Correll: The subject for this workshop is “Revisiting Enola Gay.” That covers about 60 years of
history and an awful lot of different issues, so let's establish several points to serve as boundaries for the
I seriously doubt that this subject is new to any of you. But just in case, let us note that the Enola Gay
is a B-29 bomber, one of the most famous aircraft of all time. On August 6, 1945, the Enola Gay dropped the
first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. A second bomb fell on Nagasaki on August 9th, and Japan surrendered on August
The Hiroshima bomb killed 80,000 people; the Nagasaki bomb killed 40,000 people. However, these missions
brought to an end a war in which 17 million people had died at the hands of the Japanese Empire between 1931
and 1945. Until the atomic bombs fell, Japan was not ready to end the war. By eliminating the need for an
invasion of Japan, the atomic bombs prevented casualties, both American and Japanese, that absolutely would
have exceeded the death tolls at Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined.
The bombing of Hiroshima was a famous event, one of the defining events of the 20th century. And as has
been discussed in print, the issue never went away, but the airplane disappeared. It was in storage, in pieces.
We have a docent here from the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center who can tell us more about that. But 50 years later,
the airplane itself again flew into controversy.
In the 1990s, the National Air and Space Museum, which is an arm of the Smithsonian Institution, decided to
use the Enola Gay as a prop in a political horror show that would have depicted Japan as the victim of World War
II rather than as the aggressor. The museum's plans were revealed first in an article in AIR FORCE Magazine in
April 1994. It became a major scandal for the museum, with continuing coverage by the national news media and
rising interest from the public and Congress. Eventually, the exhibition was canceled and the director of the
museum was fired.
The museum replaced that show with a straightforward program on the museum on the Mall downtown. It had the
forward fuselage of the Enola Gay up on its nose wheel. It had a propeller on one wall. It was kind of amazing,
I remember when I saw it. The first idea I had of how large a B-29 is was standing there looking at how big the
propeller was, and there were four of them on the Enola Gay.
That program ran from 1995 to 1998 and drew four million visitors—more than any other special exhibit in the
history of the museum up to now, including Udvar-Hazy, which I think has drawn 1.3 million.
In December 2003 the Enola Gay, fully assembled for the first time, went on permanent exhibit at the Steven F.
Udvar-Hazy Annex at Dulles Airport. That's the general setting for this workshop.
I'm going to talk for about 20 minutes and then I'll give you an opportunity to ask questions or to talk or
to give, if somebody wishes, to give an alternate version of what happened. I don't recognize any of the other
participants from the 1990s, but it's possible somebody is. Depending on how that goes, then, afterwards we will
return to looking at some of the subjects in more detail, such as casualties and the decision that launched the
Before you leave, we do have some copies of The Smithsonian and The Enola Gay study that I authored for the
Air Force Association available. Pick up one of these on your way out. In a short program, there's just so much
I can pack in, but this is so far the most comprehensive thing that we or I have done on the controversy. I hope
you'll read it. I hope you'll also visit the AFA website because we have a lot of things posted on the AFA
website, including a lot of the documents that the museum wished we didn't have.
After an article appeared in the magazine earlier this year, we got a letter from two fellows who said we
ought to stop beating up on the museum and recognize that they're doing a good job. My God, I thought we had.
I personally have written at least three articles saying how great the museum is and so, in case anybody does
not understand, I think the Air and Space Museum today and the Udvar-Hazy Annex at Dulles are just about the
greatest things in the world. I regard the people in charge as friends. It's a great place again.
I should say on my expertise in this … what I know about the events in 1945, I know from reading and from
research and from talking to people like Paul Tibbits. However, what I know about the controversy, I know from
For better or worse, in the aftermath of the controversy, the Air Force Association was assigned chief credit
or chief blame for what happened and within the Air Force Association, the revisionists generally regard me in
print as the worst fellow they ever heard of. I was there for all of that, so when we talk about that, I'm
talking from personal experience.
Why are we talking about all this anyway? The people, the two lieutenant colonels who wrote me the letter
saying we shouldn't be taking a “victory lap” because the controversy was over. No, the controversy is not over.
What is true is that the Air and Space Museum is in great hands. After Morton Horde was fired, Admiral Don
Engun was named director. Engun was a wonderful fellow. He died in a glider accident and we all miss him. The
tower out at Dulles is named for Don. He was finally replaced by General Jack Dailey, the present director, and
he's also a fine fellow.
However, the controversy has been taken up by the revisionist historians and nuclear disarmament groups and
over the past ten years they have produced just an amazing number of journal articles and books perpetuating all
of the arguments of the failed exhibit.
Now, I went recently to the Fairfax County Library. In the Fairfax County Library system, almost all of the
branches have at least two and as many as four of the books by the revisionist historians giving their view of
the controversy. There are a lot of revisionist historians also active in academia, so they are pushing this
view daily with students.
We hear from students and faculty all the time. One of the things that's encouraging about it is that we
rarely make much in-roads with faculty, but when the students call up to get information and talk, the students
have a much more open mind about this than the faculty does. I think probably they have less of a vested
interest in a particular view of history.
On the surface, this continuing protest is about World War II, but it is not really about World War II. If
you look closer you will find it's driven by two issues. One is the anti-nuclear politics of today, and the
other one is the question of how history should be remembered and told, and who should be authorized to remember
and tell it.
In many ways, the museum controversy began with the revisionist history movement. Terminology. Revisionist
History. We call them “revisionists,” they call themselves “revisionists.” It was not revisionism that was the
problem, it was distortion. However, the term “revisionist historian” did not begin with this. It had been
around since the 1960s. It identified a group that, shall we say, told the story of the post-war world in a way
to cast the United States in the least favorable light possible.
In the 1980s, there were new political winds blowing at the Smithsonian Institution and as part of the
cultural change at the Smithsonian, the Air and Space Museum veered away from its traditional role of collecting,
preserving and displaying historic aircraft and spacecraft.
The Secretary of the Smithsonian in those days sneered at the idea that the Smithsonian should be the nation's
attic. He felt that the Smithsonian should be something else, and he and they had a pretty good idea of what
that something else would be.
The original plan for exhibiting the Enola Gay was a showcase for the views of the revisionist historians.
We became involved in August 1983. We became reluctantly involved. A B-29 veteran from Illinois named Burb
Bennett wrote a letter to me asking me if we had any idea of what was going on at the Air and Space Museum with
regard to the Enola Gay. We had done a piece on the Enola Gay, which was under restoration at that time. It was
just a pictorial and said, “here's the airplane.” It was kind of a picture story.
I wrote a memo saying, “I don't know what's wrong with this guy. I sincerely doubt there's anything bad going
on at the Air and Space Museum, but we will look into it.” So we did, fully expecting to write him back and say
there's nothing going on. Well, lo and behold, what we found was he didn't know the half of it, because he had
not seen a lot of the documents that we subsequently got.
Please understand that AIR FORCE Magazine and the Air Force Association were open to controversy on the
subject of the Enola Gay. We had reported many times that Hap Arnold, the wartime leader of the Army Air Forces,
believed that it was not necessary to drop the atomic bomb to end the war. So we had no problem talking about
things like that. What the museum had in mind, however, was not a critical analysis, it was an anti-nuclear
Let me give you a couple of samples of what was in the plan. There were two lines of the script that were
destined to become infamous. They said, "For most Americans this war was fundamentally different than the one
waged against Germany and Italy. It was a war of vengeance. For most Japanese, it was a war to defend their
unique culture against Western imperialism."
Martin Harwit and the revisionist historians and everybody else will tell you those two lines are taken out
of context. The problem is, we got a copy of the script and released it. So if you think those two lines are
taken out of context, you look at the context and show me what the context is. They are perfectly in context.
Even the Washington Post agreed that that's the context of the exhibit.
The Japanese kamikaze suicide bombers were portrayed as "valiant defenders of the homeland." There was no
comparable recognition of American bravery or sacrifice. In fact, the script minimized the impact of the war on
the American home front. It said, "For many Americans, combat in the Pacific remained a distant series of events."
First you would have a picture of devastation in Japan. Then you would have teenagers screaming at Frank
The exhibit concentrated on the last year of the war, when Japan's victims were finally closing in after 15
years of Japanese aggression. Well, yeah, things did look kind of bad for Japan at that point. The museum also
deliberately chose examples of women, children and religious objects.
If you read the original script, you'll find that there were no men living in Hiroshima, apparently, and it
was the most peaceful city on earth. You would not know that it was a military center, the center of the
Japanese military industrial complex, an army base there, a navy base. The “emotional” center of the
exhibit—that's their word, not ours—was to be ground zero, and it was to feature artifacts that the museum was
going to borrow from the museum at Hiroshima. One display was a school girls' lunchbox with remains of peas and
rice reduced to carbon. Well, that's not enough. We had to have theatrical lighting. Again, quoting from the
Please note, in the stuff in here, the evidence against the Smithsonian comes from the Smithsonian. I
encourage people to read Martin Harwit's book. It's as close as I've ever seen anybody come to a signed
It said that visitors would go from "well lit and gloomy to oppressive." It's not enough just to do the
facts. You've got to have trick lighting.
The script was loaded with speculations, accusations, loaded questions, all about the United States. Now we
tried talking with the curators, but to no avail. We discovered that they had constituencies that were important
to them. Veterans and military people were not a constituency that was important. In fact, they were
mystified—you can see this in Martin Harwit's book—that we actually expected them to pay attention to what we
We decided to alert the public to the museum's plans and we did so in an article in War Stories in Air and
Space in AIR FORCE Magazine in 1994.
Now, it has been one of the standard accusations against AIR FORCE Magazine, the Air Force Association, and
me that Martin Harwit sent us a copy of the script and we released it. He did send us a copy of the script.
That wasn't the one I released. We got the copy of the script from somebody else before Martin Harwit sent it
to us. As the subsequent director of the Smithsonian Institution told him, “your museum leaks like a sieve.”
We often got as many as three copies of museum documents from different people. I have never revealed where we
got the original script. If the individual who gave it to me ever comes forward and lays claim to having done
it, I will confirm it, but otherwise, just know that we didn't release Martin Harwit's script. We didn't have
The news media picked the story up and Martin Harwit said it wasn't so, whereupon we gave the news media a
copy of the script and invited people to see for themselves. What happened then was that on subsequent revisions
of the script, the museum decided to put a copyright notice on to keep us from copying it and distributing it.
The people who later identified themselves as the Committee for Open Debate on the Enola Gay got their copy
of the script from us. They lambasted us. Of course, now who are the people who are in favor of open debate?
The people who passed the material out or the people who put copyright notices on it?
Incredibly, the museum knew better. One of the most astounding documents, I cannot believe what these people
put on paper, was a letter from Martin Harwit to his staff. You can read it on the internet. It says, "Though
I carefully read the exhibition script a month ago, I evidently paid greater attention to accuracy than to
balance. A second reading shows that we do have a lack of balance and much of the criticism that has been levied
against us is understandable. We talk of heavy bombing of Tokyo and showed great empathy for Japanese mothers,
but we were strangely quiet about similar losses to Americans and our own allies in Europe and Asia." Yeah,
that's kind of what we said. That was what he said in private. In public, they kept insisting that we were
wrong and resisting changes.
Pressure on the museum increased. Then they did one of the—when you say “one of the dumbest things,” it loses
meaning after awhile. But anyway, they decided that they would approach the American Legion with the idea that
they would sign up the American Legion to their point of view and that the Air Force Association, which had fewer
members, would have to defer to the American Legion.
Now, I don't know how many things there are wrong in that. Anybody who thought the American Legion was going
to agree with them instead of us doesn't know very much about the American Legion. And anybody who thought we'd
have to defer to the American Legion doesn't know very much about the Air Force Association.
As things went on, the U.S. Senate passed unanimously a voice vote a resolution declaring the exhibition plan
to be revisionist and offensive. At which point the revisionists began to claim that we were essentially
brainwashing Congress and the news media, including the Washington Post.
At this point, nobody except a handful of professors and a couple of guys at the museum are believing any of
this stuff. Look, if we could hornswoggle the Washington Post and Congress, there would have been a lot more
than 20 B-2s, I'll tell you that. [Laughter]
Reacting to the rising heat, the museum revised the script several times, and they changed a few of the
things, but basically, deep down, they really didn't change things.
Then they started getting flack from the revisionists for changing it. The revisionists showed up with
Martin Harwit who, according to one report which he confirmed, said, "Where have you been?" Which kind of shows
you where his heart was.
There are six major themes to the revisionist spiel. They are: Japan was on the verge of surrender; the war
would have been over soon without the bomb; the United States prolonged the war by insisting on unconditional
surrender; the United States dropped the bomb mainly to impress the Russians; the decision to use the bomb was
driven by domestic political considerations; and even if the invasion of the Japanese home islands had been
necessary, the casualties would not have been that severe.
You can see in material that has been produced in the last six months those themes again. Those themes are
very popular in the academic world.
Now, of these, the last point, the low estimate of casualties was critical to the revisionist position because
they were arguing that Truman dropped the bomb for some reason other than massive U.S. casualties. And if it
should work out that casualties were going to be high or somebody believed they were going to be high, it kind
of kicked the pins out from under their argument.
You can slice it and dice it any way you want to, but the facts are these. Japan, yes, had taken a lot of
casualties, but there was a force waiting in the Japanese home islands of 2.3 million regular military troops.
Four million army and navy civilians were called up for combat duty. You can even forget the four million if
you want to. You can also forget if you wish 7,700 combat aircraft that were still available, quite a few of
them kamikaze. Women, old men, boys, strapped explosives to their bodies and would throw themselves under
advancing tanks. They did this kind of thing. You can draw your own conclusions.
I made this point with revisionist historians and with Martin Harwit at the time. From what military
experience I have got, I can tell you if you were going to do an invasion against 2.3 million regular troops
plus augmentation, you're going to have a lot of casualties. I don't know how many, but you're going to have
a lot of casualties. They said, “yeah, but you know, if you look at this footnote over here it says this.”
That's what these guys were doing.
As the controversy approached its climax, Martin Harwit got a fateful piece of advice from one of his
academic advisors. I believe it was Martin Burnstein at Stanford—I may as well just say that—who had just
reinterpreted a note in the diary of Admiral William Leahy. Admiral Leahy was President Truman's personal
Chief of Staff and his advice was not always the best, especially about the atomic bomb. According to Truman's
memoirs, Leahy told him about the bomb, "This is the biggest fool thing we have ever done. The bomb will never
go off and I speak as an expert." Some expert, some advice.
Nevertheless, to the surprise of the Congress, to the surprise of the Secretary of the Smithsonian
Institution, Martin Harwit—on the basis of advice of a fellow who reinterpreted Leahy's diary—marked the U.S.
casualty estimate for the invasion of the Japanese home islands down from 250,000 to 63,000.
Well, essentially you can say Washington went nuts. Congress had a fit. Eighty-one members of Congress
called for Martin Harwit's head. Bad press that they were already getting got worse. Within a month, the
exhibition was canceled. Within five months, Dr. Harwit was gone.
Let me point out at this point what the Washington Post was saying. I think it's kind of important because
people always say, “look, the kind of stuff that you hear from John Correll, this is what you're hearing from
the right wing.” I should also point out if you think what you're hearing from me is the right wing, that's a
relative position, depending on how far to the left you are. From where these guys are, everybody is to the
Anyway, the first editorial from the Washington Post said that the early drafts of the script had been
"incredibly propagandistic and intellectually shabby and had a tangentiously anti-nuclear and anti-American
tone." I didn't say that, the Washington Post did.
Later it said, "It is important to be clear about what happened at the Smithsonian. It is not, as some would
have it, that benighted advocates of special interest or a right wing point of view brought political power to
bear to crush and distort the historical truth. Quite the contrary, narrow-minded representatives of special
interest and revisionist point of view attempted to use their inside track to appropriate and hollow out an
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 very authentic way." From the Washington Post.
The museum severed ties with the revisionists who went on to bigger and better things, but they were picked
up then by the Coalition of Academicians, peace groups and such. They began putting on programs. I attended a
program at the Washington Press Club subsequent to this, and the lead speaker pointed out that accounts from
World War II veterans could not be trusted. "After 50 years, veterans' recollections have been affected by time
Well, I know a lot more World War II veterans than he does and they're a lot smarter than he thinks. However,
taking your breath away, they brought on the next speaker and welcomed her with great reverence. She was a woman
who had survived the bombing at Hiroshima and was there to tell her story. There was not one word said about how
time and emotion might have affected her recollections.
It's been incredible to see faculty members from name brand universities pick up this kind of stuff and pass
it on. The only explanation that I have been able to come up with over the years is that these people feel they
are doing what they must do in aid of a truth that is so great that lesser truths such as the facts of history
cannot be allowed to interfere. So strong is their desire to discredit nuclear weapons, especially the nuclear
weapons of today, that the mission of the Enola Gay in 1945 must be cast in the most dishonorable and questionable
way possible. If that means a selective retelling of history, so be it.
Over the years, the controversy was dogged by several pieces of nonsense and one of them is that, in making a
choice on how to exhibit the Enola Gay, they had to make a choice between history and commemoration. That notion
originated with the Secretary of the Smithsonian named Michael Hayman who came in in the middle, in 1995, when he
was trying to extricate the museum from its problems. On the one hand, he was taking a lot of heat because of a
colossally bad exhibit they had put on and he had decided to cancel it. On the other hand, he was taking heat
from the revisionist historians. So he came up with this idea that you cannot do both history and commemoration.
Of course you can do both history and commemoration. I said at the time, including at his press conference,
he's going around with a bucket on his head if he thinks that's the problem. The problem was not history versus
commemoration. The problem all along was distortion. But that has become an article of faith, that you can't
tell it both ways.
Actually, most military people I know are big believers in critical analysis in military history. There's
nothing wrong with analysis and criticism of World War II, the Enola Gay, nuclear deterrence in the Cold War or
anything else. The problem is that when the revisionist historians are dealing the hand, they are missing cards
and there are too many jokers in the deck.
I've left a lot out and there's much here which we can talk about. But I wanted to stop now, give you a turn
to comment, ask questions. If you don't have questions or want me to elaborate on some of this, we'll go on to
certain other kinds of things.
Q: Sir, I've got a comment and a question. The comment first ... I want to thank you for what you're
doing. My father was a B-17 pilot in World War II. I was a victim of having a revisionist history teacher in
college who tried to push her own perception that the bombings that occurred in Germany were nothing more than
terror tactics against these individuals and overlooked the fact that we were striking, in many cases, legitimate
military targets. I want to thank you very much for taking on this battle to try to put down verbal errors which
is what I see them as being.
I wanted to ask you what you see in today's world with the American press. I don't quite understand the
Washington Post, I think they've changed quite significantly. Ever since this controversy began, we now have
news organizations creating stories in order to try to tear down…
Correll: Well we had news organizations doing the same thing before. This was kind of the amazing
thing with the Washington Post. There were several exceptions—network television news and the New York Times
largely, and then the left wing media, but I’ll tell you the amazing thing…
We collected—and maybe some of you have seen it, they're widely available—something like 600 newspaper
clippings. But the news media, including the Washington Post, once they were given the information and read the
information, reported it accurately.
What I see now, and yes, I've had dealings with the Washington Post since. There was a very biased article in
the Washington Post Magazine on Sunday, but it was written by a person who first came to the Washington Post
after 1995 and who had never seen any of the material. The material that we provided in 1994 to the Washington
Post, the people read it there and then they probably pitched it out. What they are seeing now, what the news
media who deal with this subject are seeing now, is coming from the revisionists and from others.
Look, I want to tell you, I think even the Voice of America did this. They picked up, "the Enola Gay dropped
an atomic bomb on Hiroshima and killed 140 million people." No, it did not. They got that number from the
demonstrators out at Udvar-Hazy and from the peace museum at Hiroshima. It killed 80,000 individuals.
I've been asked by the Japanese press why won't you acknowledge the number of Japanese that were killed?
Well, obviously you're not reading because it's in the second bloody paragraph of the thing that I wrote here.
What your problem is, is I don't use your number.
Now, what they like to do is count the number not only who were killed, but the number who subsequently died
from radiation. And that number has number creep in it.
I have generally found there's a lot of ignorance with the news media on this. I'm dealing strictly on this
issue at the moment. With very few exceptions, if we could get a reporter to sit down and look at the
information, especially when I said, “look, this comes from the Smithsonian. This says ‘signed by Martin
Harwit.’” “I'll be damned. Well, the Smithsonian didn't do well.”
Q: In mid-1945, did the Japanese people still believe they could win the war?
Correll: They were not convinced that they had lost it. I recommend in here a book I really suggest
you get and read. It's called Japan's Longest Day and it gives you the story from Japan's point of view.
First, the Japanese military was not ready to give up. In terms of Japanese popular opinion, I don't think
they were quite ready to give up, either. They thought that they were suffering, and they were pretty badly,
but they weren't quite ready to give up.
Japanese popular opinion early in the war was very much in favor of the war. You had several suicides near
Ku. This was after the first bomb fell. The Japanese believed that it was dishonorable to surrender, so they
weren't going to do it. Would the children, women and old men have thrown themselves under tanks? You bet.
You look at what happened on Okinawa. The Japanese just did not surrender. And it had religious overtones
in which they believed they were serving the living god, Emperor Hirohito. So they were not ready to surrender.
Q: John, I'm probably the only one in the room that was in the Pacific theater of war during World War
II. I was in a combat cargo unit. And you could take statistics any way you want to, estimates of casualties,
but if you look at casualties that we suffered in taking the earlier islands—Okinawa, Iwo Jima and so forth—the
casualties were bound to be enormous on both sides if we had invaded Japan. In my opinion, dropping the bomb on
Hiroshima was the right thing to do. The war would have gone on another year possibly, and it saved a lot of
Japanese as well as Americans. I'm very convinced of that.
Correll: There's a strong—I don't know if you'd call it a revisionist movement because it never really
has changed in Japan. There's a lot of popular opinion in Japan that they were victims of the war, going back
to 1931. Too bad 17 million people died as a result of it, but they kind of had to do it because they were being
If you want to see lack of balance, go to the website of The Peace Museum at Hiroshima.
Q: I've been there.
Correll: Would you share your views on the Japanese perception of World War II?
Q: It's amazing the number of Japanese that visit, and when I was there I had a kind of uneasy feeling
because the Japanese were staring at me. I was an American wanting to come see what we did. Well it's kind of
them wanting to throw our version into the trash bin.
I think I heard you say that someone had an issue with what they were putting on display in the Smithsonian,
the food remnants, whatever. If you go in the Peace Museum, there's a piece of concrete in a thing that's got
a shadow of a woman. When the blast went off, many people simply vaporized. It's very eerie. At the museum,
you see a model of “this is the city before and after the bomb.” It's a big history lesson for the Japanese.
Like you said, they do show sympathy, but again, I think their Emperor had brainwashed those people into,
“we're not going to give up, we're going to fight, fight, fight.” Not so much the Emperor, but the military.
Correll: Don't be too quick to excuse the Emperor. Exactly when the Emperor became the great champion
of peace is one of the questions to ask, if you were going to ask questions on both sides. If you were going to
say, “what were Truman's real motives and what was he after?” then I think you could legitimately ask when the
Emperor became a great champion of peace.
Q: Truman didn't even have knowledge of the weapon until after Roosevelt's death. He wasn't brought
into the Manhattan Project.
Correll: Yes, that's true.
Q: He had a hard decision. A million men or a bomb? I think the Emperor would have conceded long
before, but the Japanese military put such pressure on him that he felt compelled to continue the war.
After the surrender, I was probably on the sixth aircraft to land in Japan. We landed and there were
thousands of Japanese soldiers on the tarmac to unload our planes and so forth, but they had been told to do
that. They were fanatics of what the Emperor or those people in power told them to do. So they were peaceable
at that point in time. They had taken the propellers off of all the aircraft and so forth, and it was just
amazing at the turn-around…
Correll: Of course we realize that your memories, you being a military veteran, cannot be trusted.
Q: Thank you. [Laughter]
You have to admit, the way the Japanese raised their children aren't how we raised ours. Kids at eight, nine,
ten years old were putting daggers in their hands and stuff. It was like something was inherently wrong with
that kind of a culture.
Correll: The entire Japanese culture was very warlike. The nation was truly mobilized in the 1930s.
And as long as things were going their way, there was not too much objection to it.
We made the point, too—with Martin Harwit very early—that if you wish to make the point that nuclear war is
horrible, hey, we're with you on that. In fact, we probably believe that more than you do because we know more
about it. But we're also opposed to any kind of war. We're a peace movement. What we believe in is deterrence
and let's avoid war. Too bad not everybody took that same position in the 1930s—then we might have been able to
avoid World War II.
Kind of an interesting point, I thought maybe someone would ask me about this. People are always saying,
“aha, I'll bet you didn't know that Hap Arnold and Curtis LeMay said in 1945 that it wasn't necessary to use the
atomic bomb.” Well, yeah, we did. As a matter of fact, we had reported that from both of them in AIR FORCE
They said that the war could be won by continued conventional bombing, meaning incendiary bombs, against Japan.
The current revisionist homepage, updated within the past six months, makes a big deal of their having said this
and they introduce all of the opponents of the bomb, including Leahy, into evidence.
What they don't tell you is that while yes, LeMay believed he could win the war with continued conventional
bombing, that was not necessarily a good thing for Japan.
The most destructive night in Japan was not Hiroshima or Nagasaki. It was March 9th and 10th, 1945. Fire
bombs killed 83,793 people.
Now what LeMay and Arnold had in mind was to continue this kind of thing and it would have gone on for quite
awhile. I don't know how much longer it would have taken to surpass the 80,000 who were killed.
Also, revisionists don't point out to you that in 1988 LeMay wrote a book on the B-29. He said that, "Even
given that strategic bombing could have ended the war without the atomic bomb, I think it was a wise decision to
drop the bomb."
You also find while Arnold is correctly quoted by the revisionists, he's also selectively quoted. You can
find a variety of things that Arnold said.
They also like to tell you that Eisenhower, a great historical figure from World War II, a future President,
was opposed to dropping the bomb. Well, check Crusade in Europe, Eisenhower's memoir. On the bomb he says, "My
views were mostly personal and immediate reactions. They were not based on any analysis of the subject."
Not only had Truman not been told about the bomb, Eisenhower hadn't been told about the bomb. So he was just
giving kind of an off-the-cuff opinion of, “that's kind of a bad thing to do.”
Q: This is off the subject, two points. First of all, if we had not prevented the Germans from
developing the atomic bomb, they would have used it against the people of Europe. There's no doubt in anybody's
mind. I never saw anything written about that in this controversy.
The other thing, in recent history, here we've seen revisionists show up in two areas you're quite familiar
with. The new World War II monument. Missing from President Roosevelt's quote is "so help us God" when he ended
his speech before Congress in the declaration of war. Is that revisionist or political correctness? To me it's
Also, in light of the sexual scandals at the Air Force Academy, the first thing they did was brought down the
lead-in line of a world famous poem because it had in it, "Bring me men."
And just last night the Air Force chorus sang one version of the Air Force song and they left out "the pretty
girls' eyes" where they changed it.
So this is going on. That's part of our history. That poem was written in the 1800s to encourage people to
develop the western part of the United States. President Roosevelt ended his plea for the declaration of war on
Japan with the words "so help me God," and it is missing in the World War II monument.
Correll: I'm not sure how much influence on students the revisionist historians have. There are a lot
of them on the faculty at major universities. I'm kind of surprised how often the students see through them and
don't pay any attention to it.
One of the people who wrote one of the books that you'll find in the Fairfax County Library system came over
four straight days in a row and sat in my office and talked to me. So he took all of this in. I didn't know
whether he was going to agree with me or not, but when the book came out the last thing I expected was him to
have ignored everything that I told him. It didn't fit.
One of the things that has bothered me about this, in addition to the obvious, is the conclusions that you
begin to draw about the educational system. I made a speech at Georgetown while the controversy was in progress.
A member of the faculty at Georgetown and a Jesuit was teaching a course on the exhibition. The Jesuit had never
spoken to me, he had never requested any information from us that I know of. And I know because the people who
put on the program invited him to attend my speech. I was a principal in the controversy and he knew I was a
principal in the controversy. He didn't come hear me speak.
As I said to the Georgetown students at the time, “I cannot bloody believe these people charge you tuition for
this kind of stuff.” [Laughter]
The only thing I can figure out about what's going on with some academicians .... I was speaking to one person
in particular and I'm not going to identify him because it's probably libelous if I did. But this person has
based his entire career on a set of conclusions, and should these conclusions be wiped away, the person's claim
to fame is gone. So this person is never going to change his mind because otherwise he has to figure out
something honest to do for a living and it's a little bit late in his career for that.
Q: I'm a docent at the new Air and Space Museum and retired Air Force colonel. I'd just like to say
that there was a good house cleaning. The leadership at the Air and Space Museum today is looking very much for
a balanced approach. When we talk about the Enola Gay, the B-29s and everything, there is no revision that's
They have stood up on a couple of other assaults that might hit the museum. Downtown, they wanted to change
things—redo what these airplanes were about, paint jobs, what their missions were and everything else. Between
Jack Dailey and John Engun and others, there's a lot of work to do. And the docents are entirely objective.
We'll make sure we stay that way.
Correll: We've recognized John Engun and Jack Dailey. Let's also say a good word for good ol’ Don
Lopez, the deputy director. He's been a friend a long time.
Return to AFA Air & Space Conference