BY BRIAN WILLIAMS
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Protests greeted the opening of the scaled down exhibit featuring the Enola Gay - the B-29 bomber that dropped the atomic bomb on Japan in August 1945 - at the Smithsonian Institution's Air and Space Museum June 28.
Demonstrators from the Enola Gay Action Coalition carried pictures of the victims of the first atomic bombing. "We want the exhibit to show more of the -devastation to the innocent women and children that got bombed," stated Tom Siemer, a coalition spokesman and one of 21 protesters arrested under a federal nuisance statute at the entrance to the display. Other protesters went into the exhibit, where they unfurled banners saying, "Never Again."
The Enola Gay exhibit has been at the center of public controversy for more than a year. Originally, the federally funded Smithsonian Institution planned a major exhibit with extensive pictures and documentation that would have raised many questions about the decision of Democratic president Harry Truman to drop the atomic bomb on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This brutal act slaughtered more than 200,000 civilians. However, a reactionary campaign by the American Legion and other such forces supported by Democratic and Republican politicians from Capitol Hill to the White House succeeded in censoring and then scrapping the museum's originally planned exhibit.
The public display consists mostly of sections of the Enola Gay plane and a 16-minute film with comments from its crew. The space that was to have accommodated the original exhibit has been turned into an account of how the Enola Gay was restored.
"The exhibit, as it ended up, is hollow and parrots the established line on the bombing," stated Word War II veteran Robert Vandivier, after viewing the display.
"It's not right to leave out information and be so bland about such a historic event," stated Catherine Long, one of the protesters outside the museum. Other museum attendees were supportive of the display.
Among those covering the exhibit's opening were a number of reporters from the Japanese media. "The Enola Gay is presented here not as a warning against the great horror of nuclear war," declared TV Asahi correspondent Hideaki Saito, "but as a national hero that brought World War II to an end."
Yoichi Funabashi, a correspondent for the national Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun, wrote, "This is an exhibit without any record of the damage the bomb caused. Two aspects of the bomb that cannot be ignored - the birth of the atomic age and the idea of `never again' - have been yanked out completely."
Several miles down the road at the student center at American University, a month-long exhibit entitled "Constructing a Peaceful World: Beyond Hiroshima and Nagasaki" opened to the public July 8. The inaugural ceremony included Hiroshima mayor Takashi Hiraoka and three survivors from the atomic bombing. Many of the photographs and artifacts on display here, which were on loan from museums in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, were censored out of the exhibition at the Smithsonian.
Brian Williams is a member of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 27 in Cheverly, Maryland.
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home