WASHINGTON – Japanese survivors of the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki handed letters and a petition to the Smithsonian Institution on Friday urging it to mention the human casualties caused by the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima and the subject of an upcoming exhibition.
Sunao Tsuboi, secretary general of the Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-Bomb Sufferers Organizations, and Terumi Tanaka, secretary general of the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organization, submitted the letters and the petition to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.
The letters, including one from Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba, and a petition signed by more than 25,000 people call on the museum to change its plan to exhibit the reassembled Enola Gay from Monday in a celebration of U.S. technology.
The museum should also show images of the casualties and damage caused by the bomb dropped by the B-29 Superfortress, they said.
Tsuboi and Tanaka tried to hand the letters and the petition to the museum’s director, retired Gen. Jack Dailey, but the museum said he was out of town and not available.
Tsuboi, who survived the Aug. 6, 1945, attack on Hiroshima, and Tanaka, who was in Nagasaki when the bomb detonated above the city three days later, submitted the letters and the petition to the museum’s associate director, John Benton.
The museum will display the reassembled Enola Gay from Monday, when its new facility opens near Washington Dulles International Airport.
The information panel for the Enola Gay will state that the plane dropped the first atomic weapons used in combat on Hiroshima and that another B-29 dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, according to the museum.
The panel will not mention the people who died in Hiroshima or the thousands of others who suffered from radiation sickness after the bombing.
The death toll in Hiroshima from the Enola Gay bombing rose to around 140,000 by the end of 1945, while some 70,000 had died by then in Nagasaki from a bomb dropped by a B-29 named Boxcar, according to reports to the United Nations by the two cities.
As of August this year, the combined toll of people who have died as a result of the attacks had climbed to roughly 364,000, with around 280,000 people having been recognized as hibakusha, or surviving atomic bombing victims, as of the end of March.
In 1994, the Smithsonian was planning to display part of the fuselage of the Enola Gay in an exhibit that was to focus on the massive human casualties and destruction caused by the U.S. attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and their historical aftermath. But it bowed to protests by U.S. politicians and World War II veterans, scrapping the show in January 1995.
From that year through 1998, the fuselage section was exhibited but without reference to the destruction caused by the bombings.
At a news conference Friday at the National Press Club, Tsuboi said, “If the Enola Gay is going to be displayed, then you should also display what exactly happened when it dropped the bomb. In other words, you should show the historical facts behind the bombing.
“From our point of view, the Enola Gay is not the symbol of technological advancement but the symbol of evil,” he said.