Enola Gay Exhibit Incites Protest

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A coalition of activists is circulating a petition to protest (again) the exhibit of the Enola Gay bomber, on display at the Smithsonian's new Udvar-Hazy Center, which will open Dec. 15 at Washington Dulles International Airport. The petition protests the "celebratory exhibit," saying it "both legitimizes what happened in 1945 and helps build support for the Bush administration's dangerous new nuclear policies." Although a New York Times report widely published in the media this week said the exhibit text glorifies the airplane "without mentioning that it dropped the bomb on Hiroshima," the text in fact states: "On August 6, 1945, this Martin-built B-29-45-MO dropped the first atomic weapon used in combat on Hiroshima, Japan." The petition, online at the Web site of Peace Action, does not in fact claim that Hiroshima is not mentioned, but says the exhibit emphasizes the airplane's technological achievement and is "devoid of historical context." The Smithsonian's explanatory placard text reads in full:

"Boeing B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay -- Boeing's B-29 Superfortress was the most sophisticated propeller-driven bomber of World War II, and the first bomber to house its crew in pressurized compartments. Although designed to fight in the European theater, the B-29 found its niche on the other side of the globe. In the Pacific, B-29s delivered a variety of aerial weapons: conventional bombs, incendiary bombs, mines, and two nuclear weapons. -- On August 6, 1945, this Martin-built B-29-45-MO dropped the first atomic weapon used in combat on Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later, Bockscar (on display at the U.S. Air Force Museum near Dayton, Ohio) dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan. Enola Gay flew as the advance weather reconnaissance aircraft that day. A third B-29, The Great Artiste, flew as an observation aircraft on both missions."

An exhibit at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum from 1995 to 1998 included parts of the Enola Gay fuselage, and drew widespread protest from several quarters. The exhibit was revised several times before finally going on display. The new exhibit will be the first time the airplane has been on display fully restored and completely assembled.