John T. Correll
Air Force Magazine
June 28, 1994
The Smithsonian Plan for the
A Report on the Revisions
Enola Gay, the B-29 that dropped the atomic bomb
on Hiroshima in August 1945, has never been displayed to
the public. Next year will be the fiftieth anniversary
of its famous mission. The National Air and Space Museum
of the Smithsonian Institution is completing
preparations to show the Enola Gay in an exhibit
that will open in May 1995. The plan, however, is to
present the aircraft as part of an emotionally-charged
program about the atomic bomb.
broad outlines of the exhibit plan have been known for
some time. World War II veterans have been expressing
their objections to the museum for years, but the issue
did not receive wide notice until April 1994, when
Air Force Magazine published an article entitled
"War Stories at Air and Space.1"
Since then, veterans have bombarded Congress with
complaints. Extensive news media coverage2
soon added pressure to the controversy.
primary focus of Air Force Magazine's report was a
559-page exhibition script, completed by the museum in
January. We drew as well on a series of previous
planning documents for the exhibition, an interview with
the museum director, and a body of statements and
letters from museum officials over the years.
position of the Air Force Association and Air Force
Magazine has been that the planned exhibit was
fundamentally lacking in balance and context. The
curators picked up the story of the war in 1945 as the
end approached. Their script depicted the Japanese as
defenders of homeland and emperor but provided little
background on Japan's earlier aggression, which had made
such a defense necessary. In this telling of it, the
Americans were cast as ruthless invaders, driven by
Smithsonian officials have consistently disparaged -- in
public, at least -- Air Force Magazine's report
as inaccurate, unfair, and misleading. Privately,
however, museum officials had re-examined their plans
and came to a much different conclusion. Dr. Martin
Harwit, Director of the National Air and Space Museum,
told the museum staff3 that
he had "evidently paid greater attention to accuracy
than to balance" in his initial reading of the script.
"A second reading shows that we do have a lack of
balance and that much of the criticism that has been
levied against us is understandable," he said.
The New Script
revised script was completed May 31. Honoring a
commitment made during a radio debate June 24,
the museum provided a copy of the new script to Air
Force Magazine on June 23. The exhibition has been
retitled and is now called "The Last Act: The Atomic
Bomb and the End of World War II." This report is
based on my study of the new script and a line-by-line
comparison of it with the previous script.5
revised script contains a number of commendable
changes, but the extent of the revision is far less
than we had expected.
changes consist of point additions and deletions that
do not, in the aggregate, shift the mass of the
exhibit appreciably. The plan is still unbalanced. It
does not provide adequate historical context for
understanding the events of August 1945.
is still a partisan interpretation that I believe many
Americans -- and most veterans -- will find
reasons behind these conclusions will be illustrated
rather emphatically by three parts of the analysis:
Casualties in the Pacific War.
criticism of the previous script said that the emphasis
on Japanese suffering was so strong that visitors to the
exhibit might well perceive Japan as the victim --
rather than as the aggressor -- in the Pacific war. In
his April commentary, Dr. Harwit stated a similar
conclusion. He said that "We talk of the heavy bombing
of Tokyo (100-32, 33)6, show
great empathy for Japanese mothers (100-34), but are
strangely quiet about similar losses to Americans. . . "
He suggested that the curators "put in an equal number
of pictures of death and suffering in section 200 for
soldiers on both sides."
adjustments were made to the script, but the effect of
the revisions was to reduce this particular imbalance
from 94 percent to 82 percent -- a definite improvement,
but still a long way from balance:
Japan: 100 14, 35;
400 1(4), 12, 13(2), 21, 22(5), 25(3), 27(2),
29(4), 31, 33, 34, 35, 37, 38(2), 41(3), 42(3), 43,
44, 45, 52(2), 56(3), 59, 65(2). US: 100 10,
24; 200 55. REFERENCES (Rev). Japan:
100 17; 400 13(4), 14, 15(2), 20, 23(3),
24, 25, 30, 31, 32, 36(2), 37(4), 38, 39, 48(2), 50,
53(2), 55, 59. US: 100 9, 14, 17, 24, 42;
"Ground Zero" Visual Images.
As we had reported, the curators planned
for "the emotional center" of the exhibition to be
Exhibition Unit 4, "Ground Zero: Hiroshima, 8:15 a.m.,
August 6, 1945; Nagasaki, 11:02 a.m., August 9, 1945."
Because of the images in this section, the first line on
the first page of the previous script warned that "This
exhibit contains graphic photographs of the horrors of
war. Parental discretion is advised."
(That warning has been eliminated in the
revised script -- even though most of the graphic images
In his April 16 commentary,
Dr. Harwit appeared to share some of our concerns about
this part of the program. "Section 400 has far too many
explicit, horrible pictures," he said, and suggested the
staff "take out all but about one third of the explicit
pictures of death and suffering in section 400." As the
following chart shows, that did not happen.
"Ground Zero" Visual
"Human Suffering" Photos
Photos featuring women, children, religious objects.
Artifacts related to women, children, religious
Seventy-five percent of the "human suffering" photos are
still included. Ninety-two percent of the artifacts
remain. The graphic emphasis on women, children, and
mutilated religious objects -- cited in our April report
-- is almost the same as before.
rev). Women and Children: 400 14(2), 15(3), 20,
23 (2), 30(2), 31(2), 33, 38, 39, 50, 53(2), 55, 57(2).
Religious objects: 400 10(2), 19, 27(2), 28, 34,
previous report cited as an example of emotional loading
the intention to display a Hiroshima schoolgirl's
lunchbox with remains of peas and rice reduced to
carbon. This artifact was specifically described in 10
lines of text in the previous script. (400 32)
Specific reference to this item is deleted in the new
script, although there is an entry at the corresponding
point (400 31) for a "Hiroshima lunchbox -- label
copy to be provided." This is almost surely the same
artifact, without the descriptive detail that drew
criticism last time.
Emphasis on Japanese
emphasis on Japanese suffering is further seen in the
number of text pages and photos devoted to that theme.
(The revised script has a total of 295 text pages,
compared to 302 text pages in the January version.)
Hiroshima/Nagasaki "Ground Zero."
Previous bombing of Japan.
Hardship/deprivation on Japanese home front.
"Ground Zero": 400 1-58; Previous bombing: 100
30, 34-39, 53-54, 200 45, 300 10-16, 23,
25-27, 48; Hardship: 100 48-51, 56.
contrast -- and demonstrating our point about the lack
of context -- the new script devotes less than one page
(100 5) and only eight visual images (100
7-9) to Japanese military activity prior to 1945. The
script lays virtually no groundwork about Japan's drive
for conquest in the 1930s or popular support for the
"Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere" that was on the
verge of making the Pacific a Japanese lake by the
The cover page of the new script adds a copyright
notice and specifically forbids photocopying the
document without written permission from the
Smithsonian Institution. It is unknown whether this
restriction was applied because the Air Force
Association did photocopy the previous script and made
it available to veterans, news media, and Congress.
AFA believes that plans for a controversial exhibit in
a public museum, funded mostly by public money, should
be open for public review. AFA will, however, abide by
the restriction applied and regrets that it cannot
furnish copies of the script to interested parties.
2. Changes of Specific Note
in Asia and the Pacific: 1937-1945," (100
7-9) adds eight graphic elements: photos of a
Chinese baby in the ruins of a Japanese air raid on
Shanghai, the carnage from the 1937 "Rape of Nanking,"
the US fleet under attack at Pearl Harbor (2 photos,
ships burning, exploding), an "Avenge December 7"
poster, and photos of the Bataan Death March,
Marines after the fighting on Eniwetok, and a burial
Added (100 42) to the section on "Home Front
USA" are three photos -- a Gold Star mother who lost
her sons, a death notice telegram, and a letter of
consolation -- and a flag used in the burial of a
strongest single element that has been added is a
photo (300 21) of an kneeling Australian
flyer, about to be beheaded in August 1945 after
Japan had surrendered.
"War of Vengeance."
The January script included the following assertion,
which the Air Force Association and others found to
be especially offensive:
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." (100 5)
Asked about this by a reporter, Dr. Tom D. Crouch,
Chairman of the museum's Aeronautics Department,
acknowledged, "That's not a good sentence." The reporter
understood that the lines were likely to be changed or
eliminated in the revision, although Dr. Crouch believed
the initial assertion was valid. "By then [the summer of
1945], the spirit of vengeance was pretty strong in the
United States. And the Japanese had reached the point
where they knew they were not going to win the war, and
all they wanted to do was preserve national
of Vengeance" assertion was modified and reads as
follows in the revised script:
most Americans, this war was different from the one
waged against Germany and Italy: it was a war to
defeat a vicious aggressor, but also a war to punish
Japan for Pearl Harbor and for the brutal treatment of
Allied prisoners. For most Japanese, what had begun as
a war of imperial conquest had become a battle to save
their nation from destruction." (100 5-6)
Tilt That Persists
characteristics of the museum's plan include the
unilateral emphasis on Japanese suffering in the war,
the excessive use of provocative "ground zero" pictures
and artifacts, and the slight attention paid to events
prior to 1945. Other elements, however, add to the
distinctive ideological tilt of the plan.
The final section of the script, "The Legacy of
Hiroshima and Nagasaki," adds a wall label (500
11) quoting a former soldier who says he and his
colleagues heard the news of the atomic bomb with
"relief and joy" because their lives would not be at
risk in an invasion of Japan. (No photo is indicated.)
We welcome the inclusion, of course, but this
eight-line wall label is all the exhibit says about
the invasion that no longer needed to happen. In
the same section of the script, greater attention goes
to the postwar antinuclear movement (e.g., 500
19), complete with "Ban the Bomb" buttons, other
artifacts, and peace demonstration photos.
The script is interspersed with a series of
"Historical Controversies": Would the Bomb Have Been
Dropped on the Germans? Did the Demand for
Unconditional Surrender Prolong the War? How Important
Was the Soviet Factor in the "Decision to Drop the
Bomb"?8 Was a Warning or
Demonstration Possible? Was an Invasion Inevitable
Without the Bomb? Was the Decision to Drop the Bomb
Attitude of Imbalance.
A recurring undertone in the plans and scripts for
this exhibit has been suspicion about why the United
States used the atomic bomb. Museum officials have
seemed reluctant to accept the explanation that it was
a military action, taken to end the war and save
lives. Some of the speculation on this point has been
removed in the latest revision, but the script lingers
respectfully on such individuals as nuclear scientist
Leo Szilard, who protested the use of the bomb.
As the "Historical Controversies" listed above
indicate, nearly all of the doubts and suspicions are
directed at the United States. The Japanese are shown
repeatedly in a quest for peace, and aggressiveness on
their side is depicted as the province of a few
military fanatics. The revised script eliminates a
statement in the previous version (200 27)
saying that prior to 1945, Emperor Hirohito "showed
much enthusiasm for the armed forces and their
The new script, like the last one, avoids showing
warlike images of the Japanese armed forces. One of
the few exceptions is the section on the Kamikaze
(100 19-23), who are treated with near-mystical
reverence. They are seen facing certain death bravely
as their comrades and school children cheer their
selflessness. Indeed, they are the only military
members on either side who appear in heroic roles in
Controversies: 200 16, 31, 39, 50, 57, 67;
Szilard: 200 5, 46-47); Japanese Quest:
200 25, 26, 27, 28, 30, 31.
Our April 7 analysis reported that the exhibit script
allotted two text pages to the internment of
Japanese-Americans in the United States compared to
one paragraph on Japanese treatment of American
prisoners of war. In his April 16 commentary, Dr.
Harwit added that "We do not note that conditions in
the American internment camps were far more favorable
than in Japanese internment camps, where slave labor
conditions prevailed." The balance is adjusted in the
new script, although the comparison of conditions is
not explicitly drawn. There is no coverage at all of
Japanese "internment" of American civilians,
such as occurred at the notorious Santo Tomás prison
compound in Manila.
The internment of Japanese Americans still commands a
prominent place (100 44-45) in the section on
"Home Front USA." This entry has been edited down in
the revision, but a new label directs visitors to
another exhibition, "A More Perfect Union" in the
Museum of American history, for more information on
the wartime treatment of Japanese-Americans.9
The final "Legacy" section of the exhibit gives a
single line -- preceded with a dismissive "on the
other hand" -- to the proposition that "nuclear
deterrence may have ensured for the first time that
wars between the great powers were no longer
possible." (500 21) This concept is worth far
more than a throwaway line. This is one of many
instances where the curators seem either to not
understand or to have light regard for military
perspectives in an exhibition on a military subject.10
The attention of this final section of the
exhibit is on other things. It concentrates on the
nuclear arms race, radiation effects of nuclear
weapons, the rise of the anti-nuclear movement,
nuclear waste and contamination, and the curators'
perspective on Mutual Assured Destruction, or MAD.
Another theme of this "postwar" section is to show the
American victors celebrating merrily in contrast to
the anguish and suffering of the defeated Japanese.
the Military Historians Really Said.
again, museum officials have left the impression that
any imbalance is in the eye of Air Force Magazine
and that the exhibition is supported by the historians
of the armed forces. A standard element in such remarks
is to prominently identify Dr. Richard Hallion,
Historian of the Air Force, as a member of the museum's
advisory committee, followed by a statement that the
committee is supportive of the museum's plan.
Dr. Harwit wrote in April, for example, that "I believe
I am not putting words into the committee members'
mouths in saying that the unanimous response was that
our exhibition plans were well informed, accurate, and
Secretary Adams, writing to Rep. G. V. "Sonny"
Montgomery to dispel "misinformation and unfounded
rumor," said that "The script has been carefully
scrutinized for accuracy and balance by a committee of
some of the nation's leading scholars, including Dr.
Richard Hallion, Chief of the U.S.A.F. Center for Air
Force History."12 In the
course of a radio debate, Dr. Crouch said that some of
the service historians -- specifically the historian of
the Air Force -- had endorsed the exhibit.13
Dr. Hallion, speaking for himself, gives a different
assessment: "The exhibit as currently structured is not
one we would have done. We feel that though the museum
has made considerable progress over its original
concepts, it still needs to show that the central issue
behind dropping the bomb was shortening the war and
possibly saving upwards of 500,000 Allied troops."14
Writing to a veteran who inquired, Dr. Hallion said that
"The bottom line is that Harwit and his two curators,
Crouch and Neufeld, came under heavy pressures (as you
know) because the Enola Gay exhibit script was
not in balance nor context. As a result, Harwit has
formed a new committee to revise the script so that it
doesn't seem that America was the aggressor in the
Pacific!"15 Referring to
the January version of the script, Dr. Hallion reported
that the professional historians of the armed forces
"unanimously consider it a poor script, lacking balance
Museum Director Harwit was well aware of this reaction
from the services. Writing to a special group he had
appointed to work on revisions, he said that "a team of
historians from different branches of the military" had
"expressed dissatisfaction with the script's overall
balance. In their opinion, it was flawed in its
portrayal of Japanese and American history, activities,
has been some suggestion also that objections to the
Smithsonian's plans for the Enola Gay are limited
to Air Force Magazine and a small number of
individual veterans. That is hardly the case.
the national executive committee of the American Legion
adopted a resolution strongly objecting "to the use of
the Enola Gay and the heroic men who flew her in
an exhibit which questions the moral and political
wisdom involved in the dropping of the atomic bomb and
which infers that America was somehow in the wrong and
her loyal airmen somehow criminal in carrying out this
last act of the war which, in fact, hastened the war's
end and preserved the lives of countless Americans and
Japanese alike."18 In June,
the Air Force Sergeants Association presented its
first-ever "Freedom Award" to Brig. Gen. Paul Tibbets,
USAF, Ret., pilot of the Enola Gay, and special
awards to surviving members of the crew. W. Burr Bennett
of Northbrook, Ill., unofficial coordinator for a group
of World War II veterans concerned about the Enola
Gay, said that through June 27, 1994, he and his
colleagues had collected 9,870 signatures on petitions
of protest to the Smithsonian.
the publication of the Air Force Association and Air
Force Magazine reports three months ago, the letters
and telephone calls supporting our position have not
General Tibbets, the pilot of the famous B-29, says that
the "proposed display of the Enola Gay is a
package of insults." How does he believe the National
Air and Space Museum should exhibit it? "Like the
Smithsonian displays any other airplane," he says. "Look
at Lindbergh's airplane. There it sits, or hangs, all by
itself in all its glory. 'Here is the first airplane to
fly the Atlantic [solo].' Okay. 'This airplane was the
first one to drop an atomic bomb.' You don't need any
other explanation. And I think it should be displayed
Adams, Robert McCormick, Secretary of the Smithsonian
Institution, Letter to Rep. G.V. "Sonny" Montgomery,
April 12, 1994.
American Defenders of Bataan & Corregidor, Inc., "To
Whom It May Concern" statement, undated, 1994.
American Legion, Resolution No. 22, "Smithsonian Exhibit
of the Enola Gay," May 5, 1994.
"Background Information: National Air and Space Museum
Exhibition on the Atomic Bomb and the End of WWII,"
National Air and Space Museum news release, April 1994.
Burrell, Cassandra, "World War II Veterans Protest Enola
Gay Exhibit Plans," Associated Press, June 22, 1994.
Correll, John T., "Analysis of 'Crossroads' Script," Air
Force Association paper, April 7, 1994.
_______, "The Decision That Launched the Enola Gay,"
Air Force Magazine, April 1994.
_______, "War Stories at Air and Space," Air Force
Magazine, April 1994.
_______, "The Smithsonian and the Enola Gay," Air
Force Association special report, March 15, 1994.
Crouch, Tom D., Letter to W. Burr Bennett, Jr., April
_______, Letter to John G. Martin, Hump Pilots
Association, May 12, 1994.
_______, Memorandum to Ned Humphreys, Bombardiers, Inc.,
May 26, 1994.
Gugliotta, Guy, "Air and Space Exhibit Gets Flak Even
Before Takeoff," Washington Post, May 31, 1994.
Hallion, Richard P., Historian of the Air Force, Letter
to Tom Crouch, National Air and Space Museum, April 13,
_______, Letter to Ben Nicks, 9th Bomb Group Enola
Gay Committee, April 29, 1994.
_______, Memorandum for Lt. Gen. Claude M. Kicklighter,
April 19, 1994.
Harwit, Martin, "Comments on Crossroads,"
National Air and Space Museum internal memo, April 16,
_______, "Harwit Responds," Letter to the Editor, Air
Force Magazine, May 1994.
_______, Letter to Col. Frank Easley, USAF (Ret.), May
_______, Letter to Ben Nicks, 9th Bomb Group Enola
Gay Committee, April 6, 1994.
_______, Memorandum to "Tiger Team" review group, April
Hirsch, Arthur, "Dismantled, a Deadly Courier Holds On
to Its Place in History," Baltimore Sun, March
Johnson, Mark, "An Indelicate Balance: Atom Bomb Plane
Display Now a Flash Point," Media General News Service,
Tampa Tribune, May 2, 1994.
Kassenbaum, Sen. Nancy L., letter to Robert McCormick
Adams, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, March
Kuznik, Frank, "Bombs Away!" Washington City Paper,
April 8, 1994.
McCaslin, John, "Inside the Beltway" column, Washington
"Rewriting History," March 28, 1994.
"Naked Brutality," March 31, 1994.
Place Like Home," April 7, 1994.
National Air and Space Museum, "The Crossroads: the End
of World War II, the Atomic Bomb, and the Onset of the
Cold War," exhibition concept paper, July 1993.
_______, "The Crossroads: the End of World War II, the
Atomic Bomb, and the Origins of the Cold War,"
exhibition script, January 12, 1994.
_______, Exhibition Plan, scale drawing, Rev. 25, March
28, 1994. Attachment to memo from Tom Crouch to Ned
Humphreys, May 26, 1994.
_______, "Fifty Years On," previous concept paper draft,
_______, "Hiroshima and Nagasaki: a Fiftieth Anniversary
Exhibit at the National Air and Space Museum," previous
concept paper draft, 1993.
_______, "The Last Act: The Atomic Bomb and the End of
World War II," exhibition script, May 31, 1994.
Nelson, Brig. Gen. Harold W., Center for Military
History, Memorandum to Executive Director, 50th
Anniversary of World War II Commemoration Committee,
April 19, 1994.
Neufeld, Michael J., Curator of "Crossroads"/Enola
Gay exhibition, Letters to Col. Robert C. Schuh,
USAF (Ret.), May 16, 1994, and April 20, 1994.
_______, "The 'decision to drop the bomb' and
'Crossroads'," Memorandum to Martin Harwit, "Tiger Team'
members, and exhibit team, April 25, 1994.
Newman, Constance B., Under Secretary of the Smithsonian
Institution, Letter to Bruce Thiesen, American Legion
national commander, May 5, 1994.
the Mark" program, WAVA radio, Arlington, Va. (Mark
Gilman moderator, Dr. Tom D. Crouch and John T. Correll,
participants.) June 2, 1994.
Rodgers, Mark W., Director, Office of Government
Relations, Smithsonian Institution, Letter to Thomas
Bigger, May 23, 1994.
Hugh, "War and Remembrance," Time Magazine, May
Tibbets, Brig. Gen. Paul, remarks at Airmen Memorial
Museum, June 8, 1994.
_______, remarks at news conference, June 9, 1994.
Tom, "Enola Gay at Center of Battle Even Today,"
Wichita Eagle, April 24, 1994.
_______, ""Grim Relics to Join Enola Gay,"
Knight-Ridder News Service, San Diego Union Tribune,
May 9, 1994.
A copy of
that article is appended to this report for reference.
A longer, fully-annotated version (published March 15,
1994) is also available, as is a supplementary content
analysis prepared April 7.
Including Time Magazine,
the Associated Press, The Washington Post, The
Washington Times, Knight-Ridder and
Media-General news services, and numerous others.
Japanese, French, and German media have covered the
story as well.
"Harwit, "Comments on
Crossroads," April 16, 1994.
"On the Mark," WAVA,
Arlington, Va. (Mark Gilman, moderator, Dr. Tom D.
Crouch and John T. Correll, participants).
The End of World War II, the Atomic Bomb, and the
Origins of the Cold War," January 12, 1994.
are to sections and page numbers of the script. The
annotation system in Dr. Harwit's April 16 commentary
is similar to the one used in AFA's April 7 analysis,
in which 400 1 (4) indicated script section
400, page 1, four items.
"Bombs Away!," Washington City Paper, April 8,
marks are a telltale (and no doubt inadvertent)
leftover from the previous script, which speculated (200
21, 39) that it was not so much a decision as a
foregone conclusion -- that President Truman and his
advisers ignored alternatives to the bomb and
proceeded with its use for diplomatic reasons.
exhibition, keyed to the 200th anniversary of the US
Constitution, generated great controversy when it
opened. See our previous report, "War Stories at Air
and Space." The curator of "A More Perfect Union" was
Dr. Tom D. Crouch, now head of the Aeronautics
Department at the National Air and Space Museum.
According to Dr.
Crouch in the WAVA radio debate June 2, the script was
written by four persons, none of them veterans of
military service. In his May 26 memorandum to Ned
Humphreys, Dr. Crouch said the individual
incorporating changes into the script was the
exhibition curator, Dr. Michael Neufeld. Dr. Neufeld
is a Canadian whose background is in European economic
Letter to Nicks, April 6, 1994.
April 12, 1994.
"On the Mark,"
WAVA, June 2, 1994.
In editor's note, following "Harwit
Responds," Letters column, Air Force Magazine,
letter to Ben Nicks, April 29, 1994.
Hallion, memorandum to
Kicklighter, April 19
to "Tiger Team" review group, April 26, 1994.
Exhibit of the Enola Gay," American Legion
Resolution No. 22, May 1994.
News conference, June 9, 1994.
to the Chronology of Controversy