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Judgment at the Smithsonian: The Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki Paperback – 1995
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After reading the script, it seems reasonable to declare that the criticism was unfair, and the media were guilty of what Nobile labels "biased reporting." But none of the critics can approach Mr. Nobile himself for one-sided journalism in his introduction.
To Mr. Nobile, anyone who does not consider the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as war crimes is either ignorant or contemptible, including those veterans who were assigned to the postulated invasion of Japan. At one point they are dismissed as "white American male intellectuals", and veterans who defend the bombing "wear their trunks too high."
For one of the more outrageous examples, Nobile labels an eminent historian and combat veteran, Paul Fussell, "the Robert Faurisson of Hiroshima denial." Faurisson is a notorious Holocaust denier, but this is not Nobile's slimiest comparison.
Any observer who does tag the bombings as an atrocity is automatically praiseworthy. A. J. Muste is not only a pacifist, he is referred to as "sainted." Linus Pauling is not just "late", meaning deceased, but also "great", because he felt that we should apologize to Japan.
Nobile ascribes no merit whatsoever to the "deniers." Martin Peretz of The New Republic asked, "who could be certain when (or that) Japan would have actually surrendered?" For that rather obvious question, he is described as "obdurate." Barney Frank said he was opposed to an apology to Japan, and "snapped" his response to Nobile's daughter, who, for some reason, was questioning him about it. Newt Gingrich criticized the exhibit, but his comments were "lowbrow."
Nobile disputes the often quoted estimate of 250,000 to one million casualties in an invasion of Japan, and the exhibit itself would have quoted much lower figures. But there is no estimate of Japanese killed in a conventional attack, or how many others would have died if the war had continued until November 1, or December 31, or well into 1946. And there is no mention at all of the fate of Allied POW's held by the Japanese.
Almost laughably, Nobile states that President Truman "deserves to be tried posthumously for war crimes." He then proceeds to do just that, demonstrating how easy it is to convict a defendant who cannot speak in his own defense, and also why a prosecutor should not be allowed to serve as the sole juror.
If Japan had offered to surrender in June or July, requiring only that a figurehead Emperor be retained as the sole condition, then the use of nuclear weapons was wholly unjustified, and, unquestionably, an atrocious war crime. Although Nobile plainly says that the Japanese would have surrendered with that sole proviso, "something that Truman admittedly knew", this is a blatant lie.
But the slandering of Paul Fussell and drawing a Hitler moustache on Harry Truman are far from the most scurrilous of Nobile's calumnies. At one point he quotes two men who both claim that they did what they did during the war because they were following orders - a sentiment that could also be expressed by Audie Murphy, Alvin York, John Bradley, MacArthur, Patton, Eisenhower, and every winner of the Medal of Honor.
The two men Nobile quotes, though, are Paul Tibbets, pilot of the Enola Gay, and Rudolf Hoess, Commandant of Auschwitz. This is the worst kind of demagoguery, equal to declaring that all vegetarians and non-smokers are morally no different from Adolph Hitler.
It is regrettable that the exhibit at the Smithsonian was cancelled, but not a tragedy. And I certainly sympathize with those World War II veterans who are sick of being told that they should have been willing to die in 1945 to avoid use of the Bomb.
the original script of the censored Smithsonian Enola Gay
exhibit, a forward by Philip Nobile, the editor of the
volume, concerning the controversy over the exhibit and the
morality of the bombings, and an afterword by Barton
Bernstein, which summarizes the evolution, current state,
and relation to the script of historical writings on the atomic
bombings of Japan.
I was interested in this book because I wanted to know why
the opponents of the exhibit objected to it. The script treats a
number of controversial points, such as possible anti-Soviet
motivations for dropping the bomb, or the projected number
of American casulties in an invasion of Japan, by presenting
the various viewpoints expressed in the historical literature
without drawing any definite conclusions of its own. I did
not see what could be objectionable in summarizing what
others had written, nor what purpose would be served by
suppressing a text that was based on well known historical
scholarship, although the treatment of these controversies
was cited by some critics as a reason for their objections.
The fourth section of the script, Ground Zero, which
describes the effects of the bombs, seems to have been the
most objectionable section of the exhibit. Critics charged that
photographs and other evidence of these effects gave the
impression that the bombings were immoral, and that the
exhibit neglected to supply evidence showing that the
bombings were morally justified. Since the book contains
only the text, no photographs, it does not completely portray
how the exhibit would have appeared.
The first half of Bernstein's Afterword is an interesting and
informative overview of Hiroshima scholarship. The second
half compares the exhibit to the scholarly record, and
includes his recollections about the advisory board for the
exhibit, of which he was a member. Bernstein's opinion is
that script is generally accurate in its presentation of both the
events leading up to and following the atomic bombing, and
in its presentation of the main schools of thought about the
history of the bombings. Of particular note are his remarks
that this was the dominant conclusion of the advisory board
at its first meeting about the script, also held by Air Force
historians Hallion and Wolk, who later changed their
opinions after the main critics began their campaign against
the exhibit. Bernstein observes that opinion concerning the
necessity and morality of using the bombing was mixed
from the time the bombs were dropped. He also observes
that the view the critics wished presented in the exhibit
required ignoring many important sources. Bernstein says
that the critics may have been concerned that viewers of the
exhibit may have gotten the impression that the bombings
were morally wrong, though he believes that the script does
not attempt to present this point of view.
Philip Nobile's forward chronicles the events in the
controversy over the exhibit, lists the evidence that the
bombings were war crimes, and discusses the possibility
that the US apologize to Japan for Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Despite the depressing subject matter, this forward is
written in a lively style. It does what the exhibit script was
accused of doing, but did not do: challenges the morality of
the decision to drop the bomb.
The publication of JUDGEMENT suggests that the success
of the critics at suppressing the exhibit was not complete.
Since JUDGEMENT contains only the text, not the
photographs and artifacts from Ground Zero, it does not
have the emotional impact that part of the exhibit would have
had, and in my view the publication of the script does not
does significantly reduce the critics success.