Enola Gay

Should the Enola Gay exhibit present the success or destruction of the bomb?

What the United States wrought on Japan on August 6, 1945 when the Enola Gay dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was the instant incineration of some 100,000 human beings, followed by the deaths of 140,000 Japanese within one year (65% of whom were women, children and elderly who had no connection to the war), and subsequently tens of thousands of persons who have died over the succeeding years from radiation poisoning. For millions of people around the world this tragedy evokes the deepest sorrow, contrition and determination to oppose the future use of all nuclear weapons.

Therefore, to exalt the Enola Gay, as the Smithsonian Museum is doing, as a testimony to its "technological genius” without mentioning the suffering it caused reveals an abominable indifference, a deliberate cover-up of the human horror, something totally unacceptable to the atomic victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As Dr. Joseph Gerson, Director of Programs, American Friends Service Committee said only "With Hiroshima Eyes," can we appreciate the disaster and threat which still hangs over humanity.

There can be no “glory” in something that helped kill 140,000 people, and injured tens of thousands of others. The development of this weapon was not a technological achievement; it was a humanitarian travesty. And there can be no “glory” in something that helped contribute to the start of a worldwide nuclear arms race – an arms race that has, in many countries, destroyed ecological systems, and taken billions of dollars away from social spending.

This brings me to my next point. Presenting the Enola gay exhibit in a "celebratory" exhibit both legitimizes what happened in 1945 and helps build support for the Bush administration's dangerous new multi-billion dollar nuclear policies, which calls for more “usable” nuclear weapons such as mini-nukes and earth penetrating atomic warheads, and provides a clear linkage between past history and current policy. I am not alone in making this horrible connection either, many filmmakers and intellectual authors have spoke out including Oliver Stone, Martin Sheen, Howard Zinn, and World War II veteran and German prison camp survivor Kurt Vonnegut.

Another reason the Enola Gay should not be presented in a glorified fashion is that there is still a large debate over weather the Atomic bomb was even necessary to end the war. The museum notes, "In the end, the Enola Gay played a decisive role in World War II. It helped bring the war to an end in that after the bombing of Nagasaki, shortly after the bombing of Hiroshima, Japan, surrendered unconditionally.” When in fact there are many academic opponents who are driven to dispel this deep-seated controversy. In fact, military historians point to thousands of historical manuscripts, among them the memoirs of Admiral William D. Leahy, who was Truman's Chief of Staff. Leahy wrote, "The use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender." Even the famed war hawk Major General Curtis Lemay said flatly that the atomic bomb "had nothing to do with the end of the war." Many historical figures, including Eisenhower and MacArthur, were opposed to using the bomb and dispel its contribution toward ending the war.

We must not forget, as people of faith and as citizens of this world, that the Enola Gay and the nuclear weapons it carried wrought an atrocity that broke all norms of morality and international relations. As pope Paul IV said it is “a butchery of untold magnitude.” Instead of glorifying this tragedy, we should be taking this opportunity to address the suffering unleashed by the Enola Gay, and have an honest presentation about the role of past and present U.S. nuclear policy.