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The story of the Enola Gay that they won't put on exhibit
Sanitized history of an atrocity

January 9, 2004 | Page 8

ASHLEY SMITH explains the controversy over the Smithsonian Institution's attempt to display the Enola Gay, the plane used by the U.S. government to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

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"This is the second time I have seen the Enola Gay. The first time was on August 6, 1945, when I saw it flying high in the sky. When I saw the Enola Gay today, I was overcome with anger."

THAT WAS how Hiroshima survivor Minoru Nishino described his experience of the Smithsonian exhibit of the Enola Gay in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. In 1945, Nishino was two miles from the epicenter of the atomic blast, and bears scars all over his body from it.

He joined five other survivors and 50 demonstrators to protest the display for excluding any mention of the death and destruction that the first atom bomb wrought on Hiroshima and its people. They held pictures of the mushroom cloud, the destroyed city and the scorched and irradiated bodies of the survivors.

The Smithsonian display makes a mockery of history and comes close to celebrating the bomb. Air and Space Museum Director General John Dailey announced that the exhibit would show the Enola Gay "in all of its glory as a magnificent technological achievement. Our primary focus is that it was the most advanced aircraft in the world at the time."

The minimal historical information that does accompany the plane describes it as the "most sophisticated propeller-driven bomber of World War II." After further description of its advanced engineering, the text does mention that the bomber found "its niche on the other side of the globe. On August 6, 1945, this Martin-built B 29 45 MO dropped the first atomic weapon used in combat on Hiroshima." If the question of Hiroshima weren't so deadly serious, this account would be laughable.

The protesters' petition, signed by 25,000 people, states, "To exalt the Enola Gay--which caused an unprecedented atrocity that violated all norms of morality and international law--as a testimony to 'technological achievement' is completely unacceptable to the atomic bomb victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki."

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THE ENOLA Gay dropped the first atomic bomb, nicknamed "Little Boy," incinerating the city of Hiroshima. It killed 150,000 people instantly and tens of thousands more in the aftermath as a result of radiation poisoning. Over 95 percent of those killed were civilians, and 65 percent were women, children and elderly. Three days later, on August 9, the Enola Gay flew alongside another plane that dropped the second bomb, "Fat Man," which destroyed Nagasaki and killed 70,000 people.

The Smithsonian rushed to defend the exhibit and the Enola Gay's infamous mission. "The Enola Gay played a decisive role in World War II," it claimed. "It helped bring the war to an end in that after the bombing of Nagasaki, shortly after the bombing of Hiroshima, Japan surrendered unconditionally."

Just as Smithsonian did in 1995 when it censored another exhibit, the museum joins the chorus of establishment sources that claim President Harry Truman used the bomb to force a reluctant Japan to surrender, thereby saving U.S. soldiers who would have died in an invasion of Japan. But the truth could not be more different.

In reality, Truman knew that Japan was thoroughly defeated and had been petitioning for surrender. The president and his advisors opted to use the bomb to intimidate Russia and impose their designs on Europe and Asia. In other words, Truman murdered close to 300,000 civilians to start his Cold War struggle for power with Russia.

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EVEN THOUGH most Americans continue to accept the myths about the bomb, most historians--including conservatives--no longer do. "The consensus among scholars is that the bomb was not needed to avoid an invasion of Japan and to end the war within a relatively short time," J. Samuel Walker, chief historian of the conservative and pro-nuke U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, wrote in 1990. "It is clear that alternatives to the bomb existed, and Truman and his advisers knew it."

The evidence of this has always been overwhelming and continues to mount with each new release of classified documents. Soon after the bombing, Admiral William Leahy stated, "It is my opinion that 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...

"My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children."

The U.S. had thoroughly beaten Japan by June 1945. It had imposed an effective naval and air blockade, depriving the country of vital resources like oil needed to fuel the war effort. Much of Japan's industry and most of its cities had been destroyed. In fact, Truman's secretary of war admitted, "I was a little fearful that before we could get ready, the Air Force might have Japan so thoroughly bombed out that the new weapon would not have a fair background to show its strength."

Japan was in fact ready to surrender. A secret report of the Combined Chiefs of Staff meeting at Potsdam concluded: "We believe that a considerable portion of the Japanese population now consider absolute military defeat probable.

"The increasing effects of sea blockade and cumulative devastation wrought by strategic bombing, which has already rendered millions homeless and has destroyed from 25 percent to 50 percent of the built-up areas of Japan's most important cities, should make this realization increasingly general. An entry of the Soviet Union into the war would finally convince the Japanese for the inevitability of complete defeat."

The U.S., which had broken Japanese war codes, had intercepted numerous Japanese peace feelers sent to their diplomats in Russia. Lower-level Japanese officials had discussed possible surrender scenarios with other allied diplomats. Gen. Charles Bonesteel III, chief of the Policy Section in the War Department, later recalled, "The poor damn Japanese were putting feelers out by the ton so to speak through Russia."

Office of Strategic Services representative Allen Dulles reported that a Japanese banker had told a Swedish diplomat that "he was anxious to establish immediate contact with American representatives and implied that the only condition on which Japan would insist with respect to surrender would be some consideration for the Japanese Imperial family."

In an analysis issued in 1946, the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey concluded: "Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts and supported by the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it is the Survey's opinion that certainly prior to 31 December 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated."

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JAPAN WAS prostrate and ready to surrender, but the U.S. dropped the bomb anyway. Why? The U.S. had just defeated Germany and knew that it had little time before it was to defeat Japan.

Truman and the rest of his administration thus turned their attention to squaring off with Russia for the domination of the post-war order. Truman's daughter commented that during 1945, "My father's overriding concern in these first weeks was our policy towards Russia." The U.S. wanted to use the bomb to intimidate Russia and thereby impose its plans for the carve-up of Europe and Asia that would follow the war.

Gen. Leslie Groves, a member of the Interim Committee that oversaw work on the Manhattan Project, which created the bomb, recalled, "There was never, from about two weeks from the time I took charge of this Project, any illusion on my part but that Russia was our enemy, and the project was conducted on that basis." Secretary of War Henry Stimson described the bomb as a "diplomatic weapon" and recalled, "American statesmen were eager for their country to browbeat the Russians with the bomb held rather ostentatiously on our hip."

Manhattan Project scientist Leo Szilard recalled Secretary of State James Byrnes' thinking at the time. "Mr. Byrnes did not argue that it was necessary to use the bomb against the cities of Japan in order to win the war," Szilard wrote. "He knew at that time, as the rest of the government knew, that Japan was essentially defeated and that we could win the war in another six months. At that time, Mr. Byrnes was much concerned about the spreading Russian influence in Europe. [His view was] that our possessing and demonstrating the bomb would make Russia more manageable in Europe."

The U.S. rushed to get the bomb ready before the Potsdam meeting with Joseph Stalin and Winston Churchill--and use it before Russia entered the war against Japan--simply to display American technology, power and the willingness to use them, whatever the human cost.

The use of the atomic bomb was America's first act of its nuclear Cold War with Russia and an act of state terror against innocent civilians.

After Russia's entry into the war against Japan and the bombing of Nagasaki, Japan surrendered on the implicit condition that the emperor and the imperial system would be preserved. The U.S. thus began the battle with Russia for global domination that would repeatedly bring the world to the brink of nuclear annihilation.

The current Smithsonian exhibit is another installment in the sanitizing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But in another sense, it is far more sinister.

The current exhibit can only help George W. Bush legitimize his plan to use tactical nuclear weapons on a first-strike basis in his so-called "war on terrorism." Whitewashing the atrocity of Hiroshima can only prepare the way for yet more crimes by the U.S. against the people of the world.

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