Responding to rising criticism, the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum said Thursday it is overhauling its planned Enola Gay exhibit. The changes came as a result of two marathon meetings with representatives of the nation’s largest veterans’ group, both sides said.
The forward section of the plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima will remain a central feature, but much else will be added and deleted from the exhibit, which some critics believed would portray the Japanese as innocent, even noble victims of Americans hellbent on revenge for the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The changes in the exhibit, titled “The Final Act: The Atomic Bomb and the End of World War II,” include:
* Substituting a picture of American prisoners of war at the time of the Japanese surrender for another photo of Japanese POWS hearing the Emperor’s surrender speech.
* Dropping such emotionally charged items as the dial of a wristwatch from Hiroshima, its face frozen in time to the “precise moment that the atomic bomb exploded,” and the jacket of a dead schoolboy.
* Eliminating much of the last section dealing with the postwar nuclear arms race.
As now agreed to, the exhibit scheduled to open next May, will close with the formal Japanese surrender in September, 1945, thereby omitting a lengthy discussion of the atomic bomb’s “legacy,” which had been a major concluding section in earlier versions of the script.
The latest changes came about as a result of a line-by-line review by a dozen museum officials and two representatives of the American Legion. They met for 12 hours Wednesday, and 10 hours the week before, in a windowless room at the museum on the Mall. Museum curators and staff met all day Thursday to implement the changes.