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VETERANS FEAR `CORRECTNESS’ WILL SKEW ENOLA GAY EXHIBIT

SHARE VETERANS FEAR `CORRECTNESS’ WILL SKEW ENOLA GAY EXHIBIT

Some World War II veterans fear political correctness will govern the Smithsonian Institution's plans for the first public display of Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the first atomic bomb on Japan.

They want the exhibit to focus more on Enola Gay's role in ending the war and less on the devastating effects of the bombing.But Smithsonian officials say they have no plans to minimize graphic photographic depictions of the destruction of more than half of Hiroshima and the deaths of some 130,000 Japanese in August 1945.

"They're trying to evaluate everything in the context of today's beliefs and whatnot," said retired Brig. Gen. Paul W. Tibbets, who flew Enola Gay during the bombing. He called the proposed exhibit a big insult and asked the Smith-sonian to reconsider.

"It will leave you with the impression that you have to feel sorry for those poor Japanese because they were only defending their way of life," said Tibbets, 79, of Columbus, Ohio.

Not so, says Tom Crouch, chairman of the aeronautics department of Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, which has been restoring the cockpit and the first 60 feet of the bomber's 99-foot fuselage.

"We've worked really hard to ensure that this exhibition is just as honest and balanced as it possibly can be," he said.

The Enola Gay, which has been sitting outside a hangar at Andrews Air Force Base in suburban Maryland, has never been displayed publicly because the Smithsonian never had enough room for the Boeing Superfortress.

The Smithsonian is spending $1 million to refurbish the aircraft and plans to move it to a new museum annex at Dulles International Airport outside Washington when it opens after the turn of the century.

The exhibit is scheduled to open next year at the National Air and Space Museum, with the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the end of the war.

But Hugh Bagley, national director of internal affairs for the American Legion, said, "We would not like to see it go forward."