Monroe W. Hatch, Jr.
August 24, 1994
National Air and Space Museum
Washington, D.C. 20560
I received your letter of August 23 and was somewhat
surprised. While you rightly point out that the Air Force Association has not
provided you with a list containing “line-in, line-out” points of criticism
on your last two scripts, I believe we have, from the start, provided
substantive comments on what is wrong with your current plans – both in
private and in public.
The problems associated with this exhibit are not simply minor problems
of language or technical issues – they are structural and more fundamental in
nature, and, to date, they have not been addressed by the museum.
While we are pleased that you have received the kind
of “line-in, line-out” comments provided by the service historians and
others who have undertaken a “technical” review of the script, the issues of
context and balance need to be addressed on the “broad” structural and
conceptual levels. For instance, you yourself wrote in an April 16 memorandum to
your curators that two-thirds of the photos of death and suffering should be
removed from section 400. You also said that pictures of American prisoners of
war should be included in that section, but the curators apparently ignored your
direction in preparing the May 31 script.
We have pointed out the overall imbalance in terms of
the number of photos in different sections, and have pointed out issues related
to context by citing some of the most egregious examples of the underlying theme
that the Japanese were victims and the Americans aggressors in World War II.
Much of this criticism, included in the advance copy of our September AIR FORCE
Magazine article I sent to you, is very specific.
Going back almost a year, on September 12, 1993, I
sent you a letter that addressed your July 1993 concept paper on this exhibit.
Even at that stage, I pointed out the problems in treating the United States and
Japan as if they were morally equivalent in World War II; I mentioned the lack
of attention paid to Pearl Harbor; I noted the emotional approach to Hiroshima;
I also brought up the issue of the Japanese refusal to surrender, and the
implications for casualties in a land invasion. I urged you to provide greater
context and balance in your overall approach. We noted th4 need to discuss
Japan’s aggression in East Asia and subsequent attack on Pearl Harbor; the
issue of allied casualties as the war progressed; the rationale for the decision
to drop the atomic bomb; the missions against Hiroshima and Nagasaki; and the
role of the atomic bomb in ending the war.
You may also recall our November 19, 1993, meeting
when we further elaborated on these points in person. There again, your curators
resisted these comments. As they prepared two massive scripts, one dated January
12, 1994, and one dated May 31, 1994, these points were largely ignored. Ignored
as well in the May script were many of the comments of your own Tiger Team and
many of the criticisms in AFA’s published report of March 15, 1994.
The notion of balance and context is not simply a
slogan. In a thematic and structural way, the museum’s treatment of the end of
World War II continues to portray the Japanese as victims and the Americans as
the aggressors. This tilt has been aptly described by critics as historical
revisionism. In fact, I understand that one of your curators does not even
believe that Truman’s decision to drop the bomb can be justified. No matter
how many sentences are modified in the current script, such a bias is sure to
come through -–and it does.
While it was good to hear that you plan a photo
gallery that will set up aspects of Japanese aggression in the Pacific and the
attack on Pearl Harbor, this alone will not satisfy the growing number of
critics. This is like applying a band-aid patch when clearly more radical
surgery is required.
I believe you would be better served if you expanded
the charter you have given to Col. Tom Alison, Col. Don Lopez, and Capt. Tim
Wooldridge, to include all sections of the exhibit, allowing them to make
modifications throughout. This team should consider the following broad points
as they undertake to restructure the exhibit.
1) Section 100, “A Fight to
the Finish,” should be renamed “War in the Pacific” and broadened to
include 1931-1945 Japanese casualties that were being sustained in the Pacific,
American hardships on the Home Front, and aspects of Japanese resistance to
include the code of Bushido (without glorifying the Kamikaze).
2) Section 200, “The Decision
to Drop the Bomb,” should be renamed “The Decision that Ended the War” and
revised to reflect widely accepted scholarship – that President Truman
analyzed the numbers of mounting American casualties, especially on Okinawa
(48,000), and the estimates of potential casualties, and made the decision to
use an awesome military weapon in order to save lives on both sides and to end
the war. All revisionist speculation should be eliminated.
3) Section 300, “Delivering
the Bomb,” should be renamed “The Mission of the Enola Gay” and revised to
ensure that an adequate discussion of strategic bombing tactics is included. It
should also explain the military nature of the targets selected, and more
emphasis should be placed on the training and nature of the mission. The bizarre
treatment of the 509th’s leisure activities should be eliminated.
4) Section 400, “Ground
Zero,” should be renamed “Japan: Defiance and Devastation” and
dramatically restructured and cut down in size. As you suggested, two-thirds of
photographs should be eliminated and more information should be added on the
military casualties and the military facilities that were destroyed. Lighting
and other dramatic effects should be eliminated or made consistent with the
lighting in other sections that deal with American casualties and Japanese
aggression. Another subject that should be treated in section 400 is the
extensive preparations made by Japan to defend itself against a land invasion.
The perspectives of American soldiers waiting to invade Japan and prisoners of
war who survived should be included in the personal recollections here alongside
those of the survivors of the atomic bomb.
Section 500, the current
discussion and presentation of “The Legacy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” is so
out-of-place and out-of-context that it should be entirely eliminated. The
speculative and limited treatment of nuclear deterrence has no place in this
exhibit; a more scholarly treatment of this issue can be included in the
museum’s later “Cold War” exhibit.
In place of “The Legacy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” a new section should be included: “VJ Day and the Legacy of the Last Act.” It should be a section about the tense deliberations at the highest level of the Japanese government over the issue of surrender, the ultimate surrender on J-J Day, along with a discussion about the invasion that did not have to take place, with a focus on the celebration on the U.S. Home Front. It would also be appropriate to discuss the American role in helping rebuild Japan (Constitution, infrastructure, etc.), a benevolent role that led to Japan becoming one of the leading economic powers in the world.
These are the structural issues that should be addressed. While we will certainly continue to look at tone and language, it is the overall structure that must be altered to address context and balance. I do not know any other way to get this point across – it is a point that many critics understand and agree with.
Finally let me say that the Air Force Association has made a good-faith effort over a number of months to work with the museum before it became clear that your curators were not interested in taking our suggestions seriously or those from other veterans. Once it became clear that these concerns were going to be largely ignored, we felt it necessary to make interested parties aware of your plans. Our approach to the media and Congress has been to tell them to “judge for themselves.” This controversy is one that AFA would prefer had not occurred. The real issue, though, is how scholars and high-level curators at one of the finest museums in the world could ever produce concept papers and drafts of scripts so out of tune with historical scholarship, the published memoirs of the leaders who made these awesome decisions, and with the firsthand reports from veterans who fought the war.
We are looking forward to seeing the next revised script. You have an incredible amount of expertise at your disposal. Please use it to seriously restructure the exhibit. I urge you to go beyond the limited approach to changes that your curators have taken to date.
Monroe W. Hatch, Jr.
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