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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 376

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.

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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.

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: 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...

(The entire section contains 376 words.)

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