NO RECENT PUBLIC CONTROVERSY generated more heat than the disputed planning for the exhibition of the Enola Gay in the summer of 1995. The Air and Space Museum's display of the fuselage of the B-29 bomber that dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima was to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the war with Japan.
Many interesting historical questions about the first use of the atomic weapon were quickly submerged by political, martial, nationalistic and moralistic debate--mainly the latter. The discussion became an occasion for the ventilation of prejudices--ready-made views applied to new issues. Few belligerents in this historiographical warfare approached the anniversary in an inquiring frame of mind--neither the American Legion and its allies among the veterans and military organizations nor the historian Gar Alperovitz and his followers, whose argument is that the bomb was used unnecessarily and as a kind of overture to the cold war with the Soviet Union.