mark the 50th anniversary of the end of World War
II in 1995, The Smithsonian Air & Space Museum
attempted to mount an exhibit featuring the Enola
Gay--the bomber that dropped the atomic bomb on
Hiroshima; however, this attempt eventually broke
down in a firestorm of controversy.
major event in 1945 carries with it a double-edged
sword: on one hand it successfully ended World War
II, and it provided a blessing for many US soldiers
in fear of being sent overseas to fight in the ongoing
war; on the other hand, it inflicted horrible carnage
on the civilian population of Japan, and it can
be argued that it caused the beginning of the Cold
War. Therefore, in 1995 the controversy of how to
present history ensued.
decision for the exhibit involved many stakeholders:
Smithsonian officials, military organizations, members
of the United States Congress, academic historians,
military historians, the news media, officials of
other museums, and even the Japanese.
questions arose as to how should it come across
to the visitors in the National Air and Space Museum:
- Should the function of a museum be to celebrate the past or examine it? To memorialize or to educate?
- Should history record the past or mold the future? Inform or "heroify"?
- Should the exhibit be politically correct or historically accurate?
"history" of this attempt to represent
history can tell us much about the function of history
in our culture and why history matters.
the website link that follows enables users to experience
the evolution of the Enola Gay controversy -- in
some sense to relive it -- by reading through a
chronological list of documents divided into five
"rounds." It was originally intended for
a Lehigh University course, but it is now open to
the general public.
Enola Gay Controversy
project of Campus Conflict Resolution
Supported by a FIPSE grant from the US Department of Education
and seed money from the Hewlett Foundation-funded CRInfo
to CMHE Report
(Attn: Bill Warters)
Campus Conflict Resolution Resources Project
Department of Communication
585 Manoogian Hall
Wayne State University
Detroit, MI 48201.
send comments, bug reports, etc. to the Editor.
© 2000-2005 William C. Warters & WSU,
All rights reserved.