History Wars

by Edward Linenthal, Tom Engelhardt

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History Wars Characters

The main characters in History Wars include Martin Harwit, Michael Neufeld, Ira Michael Heyman, John T. Correll, and Colonel Paul W. Tibbets Jr.

  • Martin Harwit was the director of the National Air and Space Museum, who eventually resigned amid the controversy over the Enola Gay exhibit.
  • Michael Neufeld was the museum’s exhibit curator.
  • Ira Michael Heyman was the secretary of the Smithsonian Institution.
  • John T. Correll was the editor of Air Force Magazine, who gathered opposition to the exhibit.
  • Colonel Paul W. Tibbets Jr. was the pilot of the Enola Gay.


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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

There are many influential characters in History Wars: The Enola Gay and Other Battles for the American Past, an illuminating exploration of the controversies involved in the telling of American history, edited by Tom Engelhardt and Edward Linenthal.

Perhaps the main characters in this book are the historians and museum officials, who are unused to the public spotlight but are thrust into it by the swirl of public emotion around the Enola Gay exhibit at the National Air and Space Museum.

Also important are the people at the source of much of the history: veterans of World War II and survivors of Hiroshima, whose personal recollections, opinions, and moral beliefs became key weapons in the battle over public memory.

Perhaps even more important than the people who lived through the event are the prominent personas who interpreted the exhibit and its biases for the broader public, the familiar characters of public life in the 1990s. They were cultural commentators, politicians, and media figures, especially those involved in the so-called “culture wars” that characterized so much of politics in that era.

In the first category, the most important character is Martin Harwit, director of the National Air and Space Museum, whose embattled public position and eventual resignation encapsulates the central drama of the controversy. Exhibit curator Michael Neufeld and the historians on the advisory committee also played important roles in the formation of the exhibition and the response to public outcry. Ira Michael Heyman, the new secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, personified the institutional and political pivot toward capitulation to the exhibit’s critics.

In the second category, John T. Correll, editor of Air Force Magazine, played an important role in consolidating veteran opposition to the exhibit’s reading of history. Colonel Paul W. Tibbets Jr., the Enola Gay’s former pilot, eventually added his voice to this group.

In the third category were the well-known characters of the culture wars, including Republican senator and 1996 presidential candidate Bob Dole and conservative talk radio host and firebrand Rush Limbaugh, who both used the controversy to advance their attacks against liberal elites and “left-wing” bias in America. Many other politicians and columnists weighed in on both sides of the issue, as did antinuclear and antiwar activists who wanted to question the morality of the bomb.

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