I read a book about the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum Enola Gay exhibit, a disaster of monumental scale, a nuclear explosion if you will, in which the veterans, the Air Force, the US Congress compelled the Smithsonian to back off from an exhibit which they were far along in creating. The book is called "History Wars" and it presents the historians point of view on the subject and the larger issues of the interpretation of history.
I expected the book to be a balanced discussion of the issues that also showed that the situation had spun out of control and that the Smithsonian certainly was not planning to do an exhibit that would have presented the veterans or this country guilty of all sorts of nasty things. But in fact the book did not do that, the book instead presented the very clear point of view that there was one way to interpret history, it was the historians way, and any other opinion was wrong.
So I wanted to write about this book and the exhibit but to do so I felt I had to explain something about the situation that the book describes and to do that is a Vietnam-like morass of complicated issues. Issues that do not lend themselves to simple sound bites.
And so this post is the attempt to get a basic synopsis of the issues behind the incident. I am sorry. Feel free to ignore it and don't think worse of me because of it. I don't know whether we should have dropped the bomb on Hiroshima or what would have happened if we had invaded the home islands of Japan, or whether the Japanese would have surrendered immediately anyway, or any of dozens of other fascinating and unanswerable questions. I know that the dropping of the bomb was not a casual decision and I know what the veterans thought about what the sudden ending of the war meant to them and their lives because they were very clear about that topic both at the time and now.
So forgive me, here is the background, and then there will be post on what my impression of the historian side of the story.
The book discussed here can be found on Amazon.com at "History Wars"
But it wasn't over yet.
But since we did not actually invade Japan, the number of casualties is of course not known, and many people who have studied the issue (but who were not there) have a different opinion of what would have happened had we not dropped the bomb.