Legion Urges Canceling of Enola Gay Exhibit : Commemoration: Veterans say Smithsonian depicts dropping of A-bomb as immoral, paints U.S. as aggressor.
The American Legion demanded Thursday that the Smithsonian Institution cancel an exhibit of the plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Japan, charging that despite five revisions it still portrayed the United States as the aggressor.
The Smithsonian had no immediate comment. A spokesman declined to say if the first public exhibit of the B-29, the Enola Gay, might be canceled.
Legion Commander William M. Detweiler wrote President Clinton that officials of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum insisted on including “highly debatable information which calls into question the morality and motives of President Truman’s decision to end World War II quickly and decisively by using the atomic bomb.”
“The hundreds of thousands of American boys whose lives were thus spared and who lived to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their historic achievement are, by this exhibit, now to be told their lives were purchased at the price of treachery and revenge,” Detweiler wrote. He asked Clinton to do what he could to call off the exhibit.
The exhibit would commemorate the 50th anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, which claimed 210,000 lives.
It was to have opened in May at the Air and Space Museum. The Smithsonian has been caught in a dispute between the 3.1-million-member veterans group on one side and historians and religious and peace groups on the other.
At issue was whether the exhibit suggested, as the Legion contended, that the bombing was an immoral act, not crucial to bringing about Japan’s surrender without an enormous loss of American lives.
Over a period of months, the Legion negotiated line-by-line changes in the 500-page script.
Then this week the Smithsonian decided to lower the exhibit’s estimate of the number of Americans who would have perished in an invasion of Japan.