William M. Detweiler, National, Commander
I have today conveyed to the Secreatry of the Smithsonian Institution, Michael Heyman, The American Legion's renewed oppositon to the National Air and Space Museum's planned exhibit on the end of World War II. Our position calls for:
1.) The exhibit to be canceled immediately;
2.) Congress to conduct hearings into how the nation's most visited and revered museum could mount such and exhibit;
3.) The historic B-29, the Enola Gay, to be reassembled and loaned, or ownership transferred, to an institution that will display it outside any political or philosophical context.
The American Legion has come to this position both reluctantly and deliberately, and only after several months of intense research and many hours of face-to-face, line-by-line exhibit script reviews with curators of "The Last Act: The Atomic Bomb and the End of World War II." We entered into the agreement with NASM to review and comment on the exhibit in good faith. But recent events have led us to conclude that the fundamental political and philosophical underpinnings that plagued the exhibit from the beginning remain.
This exhibit, in our opinion, so closely parallels the design, content and conclusions of the Nagasaki Peace Museum as to defy coincidence. Moreover, we have been informed by the Director of the National Air and Space Museum that, despite an agreement reached between NASM and the American Legion in September 1994, NASM has decided to return doubtful casualty estimates to the exhibit, therby resurrecting the suggestion that the President of the United States acted from racist and political motives.
Equally important, in the view of our 3.1 million members, is that thie exhibit, if completed, will plunge the National Air and Space Museum even deeper into the waters of controversy that no threaten to engulf it. The exhibit as now constituted pleases no one -- not the historians, not the veterans and, I believe, not the American people.
The American Legion has consistently sought to work for the development of an accurate exhibit to commemorate the end of World War II. We believe that is achievable without destroying the Air and Space Museum; without sullying the reputation and memory of the World War II generation; and without resurrecting old animosities. We intend to do all in our power, working with the Congress, the Administration and our members, to do that.