The Enola Gay and
Chronology of the Controversy
Including Key Documents
Early 1993. National Air & Space Museum,
planning for the exhibition in 1995 of the Enola Gay,
the B-29 that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, has
two concept documents in circulation.
July 1993. Curators produce longer and more
definitive concept document, "The Crossroads: The End of
World War II, the Atomic Bomb, and the Onset of the Cold
Aug 1, 1993. Air Force Magazine,
journal of the Air Force Association, publishes "In
Aviation's Attic," a pictorial feature on aircraft
restoration by the Air & Space Museum. The Enola Gay
is pictured on the cover.
Aug. 6, 1993. Air Force Magazine
receives appeal from B-29 veterans concerned about
Smithsonian's planned exhibition of Enola Gay and
who have collected 5,000 signatures petitioning the
museum to display the airplane proudly.
Aug. 20, 1993. Director of the Air & Space
Museum, Martin Harwit, calls the Executive Director of
Air Force Association, Monroe Hatch, seeking support for
Sept. 12, 1993. Executive Director Hatch
expresses AFA's disagreement with the museum's concept
Nov. 19, 1993. At request of Director of Air &
Space Museum, AFA Executive Director Hatch and Air Force
Magazine Editor John T. Correll meet with Harwit and
Jan. 12, 1994. Air & Space museum completes
Draft Exhibition Script No. 1, "The Crossroads: The End
of World War II, the Atomic Bomb, and the Origins of the
Mid-January 1994. Air Force Magazine
receives a copy of Exhibition Script No. 1 from
Jan. 31, 1994. The Director of the Air & Space
Museum forwards a copy of Draft Exhibition Script No. 1
to Air Force Association.
Feb. 8, 1994. The Editor of Air Force
Magazine interviews the Director of the Air & Space
Museum for an article on the exhibit.
March 15, 1994. Air Force Association releases
special report, "The Smithsonian and the Enola Gay,"
a longer version of two Air Force Magazine
articles forthcoming in the April issue.
March 31, 1994. Washington Times quotes
Air & Space Director Harwit, who says AFA's
characterization of the exhibition script is "not true."
April 2, 1994. Air Force Magazine
publishes the articles that brought the museum's plans
to public attention, "War Stories at Air & Space" and a
historical companion piece, "The Decision That Launched
the Enola Gay."
April 4, 1994. AFA provides copy of Exhibition
Script No. 1 to Washington Times "so that you may
judge for yourself." (See March 31 item.)
April 7, 1994. At request of Congressional
staffers, Air Force Association produces content
analysis of the museum's script.
April 16, 1994. In an internal memo, the
Director of the Air & Space Museum agrees with critics
that the exhibit lacks balance, says "much of the
criticism that has been levied against us is
understandable." Publicly, museum officials disparage
criticism as unfair and inaccurate.
April 22, 1994. Air & Space Director appoints
an internal "Tiger Team," which subsequently finds
numerous problems and imbalances in the exhibition,
including "depictions of Japanese as victims" of a
United States motivated by vengeance."
May 5, 1994. American Legion executive
committee adopts resolution condemning the exhibition
May 20, 1994. In a bizarre maneuver,
Smithsonian and Air & Space officials appeal to the
American Legion for support in the inexplicable belief
that the Air Force Association "would have to defer to
such giants as the American Legion."
May 31, 1994. Curators produce Draft
Exhibition Script No. 2, "The Last Act: The Atomic Bomb
and the End of World War II." Air Force Association
begins efforts to obtain a copy.
June 21, 1994. Publicly, Air & Space officials
say that review of the exhibition plan is ongoing.
Privately, Curator Michael J. Neufeld tells the museum's
advisory board that the exhibition script "must be
considered a finished product, minor wording changes
June 23, 1994. After repeated requests, the
Air Force Association finally obtains a copy of Draft
Exhibition Script No. 2.
July 5, 1994. Minutes of senior staff meeting
at Air & Space (publicly disclosed months later) show
that the exhibition script was translated into Japanese
and sent by overnight mail to officials in Hiroshima and
Nagasaki "asking for a quick response."
Aug. 10, 1994. Twenty-four members of Congress
send letter to Smithsonian expressing "concern and
dismay" that the planned exhibit portrays Japan "more as
an innocent victim than a ruthless aggressor" in World
Aug. 16, 1994. In meeting with senior Air
Force officials, military historians, and AFA, the
Director of the Air & Space Museum says that, contrary
to curator's statement on June 21, the exhibition script
will be revised substantially.
Aug. 17, 1994. Director of National Air &
Space Museum tells veterans' groups of numerous changes
made or planned for the exhibition script.
Aug. 17, 1994. National Commander of American
Legion says Legion "remains unequivocally opposed" to
the museum's plan for exhibition of the Enola Gay.
Aug. 23, 1994. Air & Space Director Harwit
tells Air Force senior historian that he has taken
another look at latest script and concluded that while
there were "some word changes here and there," he had
been "taken aback at how little had been done."
Aug. 24, 1994. AFA Executive Director Hatch
declines invitation to participate in a review at the
"line-in, line-out" level, telling Air & Space Museum
Director Harwit that the problems with the exhibition
are structural and fundamental, not minor and technical.
Aug. 31, 1994. Draft Exhibition Script No. 3.
Sept. 1, 1994. At American Legion national
convention, Smithsonian and Air & Space Museum officials
propose Legion participation in a line-by-line review
process of the exhibition script.
Sept. 9, 1994. AFA Analysis of Exhibition
Script No. 3
Sept. 22, 1994. Smithsonian and American
Legion announce a joint effort, including line-by-line
evaluation of the script, to resolve the rift over the
Sept. 23, 1994. A "Sense of the Senate"
resolution, passed unanimously, characterizes the
exhibition script as "revisionist and offensive to many
World War II veterans."
Sept. 27, 1994. AFA Executive Director tells
Director of Air & Space that the problems have not been
corrected and that "time is running out to obtain a
consensus in favor of this exhibit."
Oct. 3, 1994. Draft Exhibition Script No. 4.
Oct. 19, 1994. Air Force Association, The
Retired Officers Association, and the Veterans of
Foreign Wars meet with Smithsonian and Air & Space
leadership in an attempt to resolve differences.
Oct. 26, 1994. Draft Exhibition Script No. 5.
Nov. 16, 1994. Forty-eight "historians and
scholars" ask Smithsonian Secretary Michael Heyman not
to yield to pressure from the Air Force Association, the
American Legion, and others that would lead to
Nov. 23, 1994. Air Force Association meets
with the Under Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution
to discuss ways to resolve problems with the exhibition.
Dec. 6, 1994. Museum drafts script for
"Section 000" segment, "The War in the Pacific," to be
added to the beginning of the exhibit.
Dec. 13, 1994. Seven members of Congress write
to the Smithsonian, expressing "deep displeasure" with
handling of the exhibition plans to date.
Dec. 15, 1994. Air Force Association, The
Retired Officers Association, and the Veterans of
Foreign Wars meet again with Smithsonian and Air & Space
leadership in another attempt to resolve differences.
Jan. 9, 1995. Despite assurances from
Smithsonian that the museum would make no more
uncoordinated changes to the script, Air & Space
Director Harwit--on academic advice--unilaterally
changes the script, reducing by 75 percent the estimate
of American casualties that would have resulted from an
invasion of Japan.
Jan. 18, 1995. American Legion calls for
cancellation of exhibit and a Congressional
investigation of the controversy.
Jan. 20, 1995. Air Force Association calls for
cancellation of the exhibit.
Jan. 24, 1995. Eighty-one members of Congress
call for Martin Harwit to resign as Director of the Air
& Space Museum.
Jan. 30, 1995. Smithson cancels the exhibit,
begins work on a completely different plan for display
of the Enola Gay.
April 6, 1995. Smithsonian abruptly cancels a
reception--planned by Air & Space Museum Director Harwit
without informing Smithsonian leaders--to honor the
curators of the original, failed exhibit.
May 2, 1995. At the request of the Secretary
of the Smithsonian, Martin Harwit resigns as director of
the Air & Space Museum.
June 28, 1995. Air & Space Museum puts the
forward fuselage of the Enola Gay and other items
on display as part of a straightforward historical
exhibition. Within a year, it draws more than a million
visitors--making it, by far, the most popular special
exhibition in the history of the Air & Space Museum.
(When the exhibition finally closed in May 1998, it had
drawn almost four million visitors.)
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