Committee for a National Discussion of
Nuclear History and Current Policy


The following petition is circulating world-wide and will be delivered to the White House before the opening of the exhibit. Please send completed petitions to:

US-Japan Environmental Action Center
P.O. BOX 305
Washington, DC 20044-305 USA

Click here, then print the petition.

Colonel Paul W. Tibbets, Jr., pilot of the ENOLA GAY (Source: National Archives)
Colonel Paul W. Tibbets, Jr., pilot of the ENOLA GAY waves from his cockpit before the takeoff, 6 August 1945.
(Source: National Archives)
  Hiroshima, Japan: August 6th, 1945 8:15 am
Hiroshima, Japan: August 6th, 1945 8:15 am
(Source: Peacewire)

October 23, 2003
U.S soldiers marching into the ground zero area immediately after a nuclear explosion.
U.S soldiers marching into the ground zero area immediately after a nuclear explosion.
(Source: Peacewire)
Dear Friend,

A committee of scholars, veterans, clergy, activists, students, and other interested individuals is now forming to challenge the Smithsonian's plans to exhibit the Enola Gay solely as a "magnificent technological achievement." The planned exhibit is devoid not only of historical context and discussion of the ongoing controversy surrounding the bombings, but even of basic information regarding the number of casualties. We have formulated the following statement of principles, which we plan to circulate widely. The statement makes clear that we are not opposed to exhibiting the plane in a fair and responsible manner, but that we fear that such a celebratory exhibit both legitimizes what happened in 1945 and helps build support for the Bush administration's dangerous new nuclear policies. We, in fact, welcome and intend to initiate a national discussion of both the 1945 bombings and of current nuclear issues. But before we launch a public campaign and officially contact the Smithsonian, we seek endorsements of the statement from a small number of prominent individuals who can help the effort gain credibility and attract media attention. More active participation is, of course, welcome and desirable. Most immediately, though, please let us know if we can add your name to our list and how you would like to be identified.

Peter Kuznick,
Professor of History and Director, Nuclear Studies Institute, American University

Kevin Martin
Executive Director, Peace Action

Daniel Ellsberg
Author, Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and The Pentagon Papers

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Trinity site explosion at 0.006 seconds (Source: History Channel)
Trinity site explosion at 0.006 seconds after detonation
(Source: History Channel)

Statement of Principles

Gen. John "Jack" Dailey, director of the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, the most widely visited museum in the world, has announced plans to display the Enola Gay--the B-29 Superfortress that dropped the atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima--as the centerpiece of the museum's new Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Washington Dulles International Airport. That August 6, 1945 attack, according to recent estimates, resulted in over 140,000 deaths. A second atomic bomb dropped three days later on the city of Nagasaki caused an estimated 70,000 deaths. And as many scientists warned in advance would happen, and as President Truman clearly understood, the incineration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki initiated a nuclear arms race that threatened to bring about the annihilation of the human species, a danger that persists today.

Recognizing the momentous implications of the onset of the nuclear age, in 1999 a national panel of distinguished journalists and scholars voted the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki the most significant news event of the 20th century. Yet, in a statement reflecting extraordinary callousness toward the victims, indifference to the deep divisions among American citizens about the propriety of these actions, and disregard for the feelings of most of the world's peoples, museum director Dailey declared, "We are displaying it [the Enola Gay] in all of its glory as a magnificent technological achievement." The plane, in fact, differs little from other B-29s and gains its notoriety only from the deadly and history-altering nature of its mission.

Dailey's remarks are particularly shocking in light of the criticism of the bombing by General Dwight Eisenhower and the questions raised by so many other WWII military leaders, sentiments best reflected in the haunting comments of Admiral William Leahy, Truman's wartime chief of staff who chaired the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who poignantly observed, "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 being the first to use it, we adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages."

People throughout the world have already raised powerful objections to the exhibit. Hidankyo, the main survivors' organization in Japan, and Gensuikyo, the Japan Council Against A and H Bombs, have written to Dailey, insisting, "The display rationalizes the bombing and as such it is absolutely unforgiveable....Atomic bombs massacre civilians indiscriminately and are weapons that cannot be justified in humanitarian terms. Even now, many victims continue to suffer the after-effects." Nor can Americans acquiesce to an exhibit that implicitly celebrates the atomic bombings while avoiding all of the crucial questions. By its mishandling of these issues in 1995, the Smithsonian cast international doubt upon the integrity, decency, and fairmindedness of American institutions. We hope to avert a similar outcome this time. We have therefore formed an ad-hoc coalition of religious leaders, veterans, scientists, historians and other scholars, citizen activists, and students united by our conviction that such an exhibit must not go forward as planned.

We are not, however, opposed to exhibiting the Enola Gay. Much to the contrary, we welcome any exhibition that will spur an honest and balanced discussion of the atomic bombings of 1945 and of current U.S. nuclear policy. Our greatest concern is that the disturbing issues raised by the atomic bombings in 1945 will not be addressed in the planned exhibit and that President Truman's use of atomic weapons will legitimize the Bush administration's current effort to lower the threshold for future use of nuclear weapons. Whatever the National Air and Space Museum's conscious intention, any effort to treat the atomic bombings of 1945 in a celebratory fashion or to display the plane that dropped the first atomic bomb solely as a "magnificent technological achievement" can only dishonor the museum and the nation and serve the purposes of those who seek to normalize nuclear weapons and facilitate their future use.

We intend to use this exhibit, the presidential elections, and the upcoming 60th anniversary of the atomic bombings to stimulate a national discussion of U.S. nuclear history and current policy and to work with like-minded groups in other nations. Most Americans remain unaware of the policy changes adopted in the 2001 U.S. Nuclear Posture Review, which prompted the New York Times to editorially condemn the U.S. as a "nuclear rogue" nation, and of the measures taken by the Bush administration to produce a new generation of "more usable" nuclear weapons. The significance has not been lost on international leaders. In his stirring Peace Declaration on August 6 of this year, Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba warned, "The nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the central international agreement guiding the elimination of nuclear weapons, is on the verge of collapse. The chief cause is U.S. nuclear policy that, by openly declaring the possibility of a pre-emptive nuclear first strike and calling for resumed research into mini-nukes and other so-called 'useable nuclear weapons,' appears to worship nuclear weapons...." Or as Joseph Cirincione, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's nuclear expert, noted, the Bush administration is now "saying that nuclear weapons are no longer the weapon of last resort..."

To initiate this desperately needed national conversation on nuclear arms policy, past and present, the Committee for a National Discussion of Nuclear History and Current Policy calls upon Smithsonian Institution Secretary Lawrence Small, John Dailey, and other leaders of the Smithsonian to sit down with our representatives and those of other interested organizations and to jointly plan a balanced exhibit that places the bombings in their historical context, educates viewers about the consequences of past nuclear weapons use, and explains the controversy surrounding the use of the atomic bombs that antedates the deployment of the Enola Gay itself.

We also call on the Smithsonian to co-sponsor a joint conference or a series of conferences that explore the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the place of nuclear weapons in the modern world. Given the seriousness of the current nuclear crisis, should the Smithsonian not accede to this request for a fair and balanced presentation and a reasoned discussion of the many profound issues involved, we will join with others in this country and around the world to protest the exhibit in its present form and to catalyze a national discussion of critical nuclear issues.

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Partial List of Signers*

* Institutional affiliations added for purposes of identification only.

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Damaged pocketwatch stopped at 8:15 AM, August  6, 1945
Watch owned by Kengo Futagawa (59 at the time) who was crossing the Kannon Bridge (1,600 meters from the hypocenter) by bicycle on his way to do fire prevention work. He jumped into the river, terribly burned. He returned home, but died on August 22, 1945.
(Source: "HIROSHIMA" by Hiromi Tsuchida)

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Resources and Further Reading

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For further information

Questions? For further information, use the feedback form. If you'd like to sign our Statement of Principles, please provide us with your name and title. We encourage all comments.

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Committee for a National Discussion
of Nuclear History and Current Policy

P.O. Box 21827
Washington, D.C. 20009-1827

Last Modified: December 04, 2003 13:39