Tuesday, January 25, 2011

THE Bomb and Telling the Truth

"Speak Truth to Power" -Quaker Phrase

In 1994 the Smithsonian was working on restoring and displaying the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the Hiroshima Bomb incinerating 130,000 people instantly and an unknown number of people later from radiation poisoning. They planned to include a plaque explaining why it was necessary to drop the bomb. The plaque described how the bomb had saved tens of thousands of US lives and ended the war, despite evidence to the contrary.

According to the Wikipedia article J. Samuel Walker, chief historian of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has stated: "The consensus among scholars is that the bomb was not needed to avoid an invasion of Japan and to end the war within a relatively short time. It is clear that alternatives to the bomb existed and that Truman and his advisers knew it."

Furthermore, some leading historians such as Gar Alperovitz and Kai Bird claim they can prove that the war was about to end and that the U.S. planned to use the bomb in order to show the U.S., not the soviet union would be recognized as the world's new superpower.

Catholic Priest and peace activist John Dear (not like the tractor), recounts his attempts at persuading the Smithsonian to tell the truth about these events and to have a more accurate historical account that carries a tone of deep remorse and repentance - something akin to the Holocaust Museum.

Dear entered the Air and Space Museum and spoke to the curator asking to see the manuscript for the proposed exhibit. He suggested that representatives from national peace organiztions also examine the exhibit. The Smithsonian agreed. They all met and the peace activists suggested including faces of some of the victims and a rewriting of the historical account. A few weeks later they met with a delgation of historians and scholars from around the country. They confirmed that the US new that Japan was about to surrender because they had intercepted  and decoded Japanese messages sent to the Soviets.

Over fifty historians and scholars released and signed a letter calling for a new exhibit. "It is most unfortunate that the Smithsonian is becoming associated with a transparent attempt at historical cleansing... the archival documents and artifacts have been removed from the exhibit under political pressure and intellectual corruption..."

In the end the Enola Gay was displayed with a brief plaque that simply read, "dropped the atomic bomb that ended the war and saved lives." The pentagon, senate, and veterans groups were all relieved. Rush Limbaugh publicly denounced the peace activists.

To this day the U.S. maintains well over 20,000 nuclear weapons. The U.S. is the only nation to have ever dropped an atomic bomb as a weapon of destruction. In the world there are approximately 5,000 nuclear weapons on a hair-trigger alert, ready to fire at a moments notice.

Sometimes the truth is really difficult to hear - the truth about our country's history, the truth about the church's history, the truth about suffering, injustice, and poverty in the world. The truth challenges us, confronts us, shakes us out of our comfort levels and convenient beliefs. The truth, as Jesus said, sets us free. The truth sets us free from having to keep propping up the myths, from having to fear that what we have propped up will come crashing down around us like a house of cards. As we pursue truth wherever it leads us and plunge into the depths of that truth, we will begin to be freed and to find the way of peace.

*Story taken from John Dear's book Living Peace


  1. I really appreciate this post as well! I've been thinking a lot about this subject recently and I just have to wonder how many lies we've been told and still believe today. Thanks for the insight!

  2. I wonder about that too. I also wonder if/when people feel like they are telling the truth, but it's more of an editing of history than an out-and-out lie. Thanks for the interactions. Good too connect in these small ways. Shalom.