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History Wars: The Enola Gay and Other Battles for the American Past Paperback – August 15, 1996

ISBN-13: 978-0805043877 ISBN-10: 080504387X Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 295 pages
  • Publisher: Holt Paperbacks; 1st edition (August 15, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080504387X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805043877
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #509,349 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

Linenthal (Preserving Memory: The Struggle to Create America's Holocaust Museum, 1995, etc.), Engelhardt, and six other historians use a bitter controversy to consider America's attitudes toward its past. The curators of the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum planned an ambitious exhibit centered on the Enola Gay, the airplane used to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945. The exhibit, marking the event's 50th anniversary, would have described the intense desire to end the war that led to the bombing, but also the way the bombing's nightmarish effects infected the world with fear of nuclear annihilation. Conservatives claimed the exhibit would be anti-nuclear and anti-war, throwing into question the decision to drop the bomb, and would transform the Enola Gay's crew from heroes to terrorists. Under relentless attack, the museum backed down and its director resigned. The Enola Gay is now displayed virtually out of context. These essays take the controversy as the starting point for ruminations on American attitudes toward war, the nuclear age, and, with exceptional insight, history itself. The writers are not uniformly supportive of the planned exhibit: Former air force chief historian Richard H. Kohn concludes, for instance, that it wasn't a balanced presentation; New York University history professor Marilyn B. Young says that it was. But there is unanimous regret among the essayists that an opportunity was lost, as Kohn writes, ``to inform the American people . . . about warfare, airpower, World War II and a turning point in world history.'' The Enola Gay conflict, writes University of Wisconsin history professor Paul Boyer, was about ``the disparity between the mythic past inscribed in popular memory and the past that is the raw material of historical scholarship.'' This round of history wars, conclude the writers in this excellent collection, was won by the myth-makers. -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"In their illuminating explorations of contemporary American struggles with Hiroshima and Nagasaki, these essays contribute to much-needed nuclear-age wisdom. "-Robert Jay Lifton

"Informative and compelling. "-Eric Foner

"A stimulating and revelatory work. "-Studs Terkel

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Colin Babb on July 20, 2009
Format: Paperback
It's true, as one of the other reviewers points out, that this book if full of largely liberal-slanted arguments--and mostly criticisms--of the effort to change or cancel the Enola Gay exhibit at the Smithsonian in 1995. You will not find a "balanced" set of viewpoints here--they are all clearly critical of the largely conservative movement that prevented the original exhibit from going forward. This slanted viewpoint, however, is not a failing. Indeed, a book such as this was--and is--necessary, since the views of academic historians were largely drowned out during the cacophony of negative attention given to the exhibit during the 90s. Although some of the observations are dated (e.g., that conservatives have no strong interest in increasing U.S. power overseas in the aftermath of the Cold War) nearly every point they make about the dichotomy between professional historians and scholars and the general public--especially political and cultural conservaties--remain very relevent today. This is a worthwhile read if you want to see a test case for how real scholarship gets treated in the public sphere in today's political climate.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By hsirrapyesdnil on November 16, 2008
Format: Paperback
First of all, this book isn't really about the Enola Gay, or honestly about any of the events that happen within the chapters. This book is about pubic ownership of common histories. When the Enola Gay bombed, for instance, the dominant culture was behind act. Still today, many people are in favor of the act, but in our public spaces, there are of course those who see it differently. This book is about how museums display public history; and, this book is about several problems with perspective that have arisen from narrow minded portrayals of a history lived by many more than the dominant culture. It is a good book worthy of a fair reading. History can both unite and divide our country. It is important that we at least consider the two sides. If you are considering any type of museum career, this book is a very important read.
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26 of 34 people found the following review helpful By shawn5@iname.com on April 19, 1999
Format: Paperback
A revealing analysis of the political and historical conflicts revolving around the 1995 Smithsonian Air and Space exhibit on the Enola Gay and Post-War America. Through insightful disection of both sides of the Enola Gay exhibit and of post-war America, Linenthal and Engelhardt make an interesting modern dilemma into a more interesting read. Recommended to anyone who has an interest in the Cold War and of the effects of the atomic bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima on American and Japanese civilizations.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Tiger CK on August 17, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Although it has now been fifteen years since "History Wars" was published and some of the content is a bit dated, it is still an important book for the critical issues that it raises. During the early 1990s, the National Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian planned to hold an exhibit about the Enola Gay, the aircraft that dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The planned exhibit would examine both the mission to drop the bombs and the impact that the bombs had on Japan. But with the support of the then newly elected Republican Congress, conservatives derailed the exhibition before it could even be opened, charging that it reflected the biases of leftist, "revisionist" historians and failed to sufficiently honor the patriotism of American military servicemen. The essays in this book provide, for the most part, the perspectives of historians who supported the exhibit. They attempt to demonstrate that honestly inquiring into the historical facts does not necessarily make one unpatriotic. Although there is a definite ideological slant to the essays, given the fact that the exhibition was cancelled and the director of the National Air and Space Museum was forced to resign over the issue, it seems fair that the schoilars who supported the government should be given a chance to make their case to the public. It is truly a case of history being told by the losers. Today, the book is still used in History graduate classes and justifiably so. It provides a compelling example of how certain historical myths and narratives are difficult to challenge and or question. And it shows how politicians and other groups who have a stake in preserving these myths can suppress legitimate debate. Although some of the political urgency that surrounded the book's publication has faded, the enduring issues that it raises persist.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By T. G. Cline on April 21, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is required reading in many Public History courses, and for good reason. Many students of history remain painfully ignorant of the political battles which have shaped education about US History and public memory in general, and Linnenthal does a fantastic job of bringing this shadowy conflict into the light. For anyone interested in public history, the nature of museums and memorials, or a desire for a more in-depth look at this subset of the Culture Wars of the 1990s, this book is a must-read.
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