Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 337
History Wars: The Enola Gay and Other Battles for the American Past is a compilation of eight articles by various American historians that received criticism from American veterans who participated in World War II. History Wars was originally part of an exhibit of the Enola Gay. The most prominent theme of the collection—which was compiled into a book—is the historical analysis of the events leading up to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as the actual historical event, its aftermath, and other major battles in American history.
The other major theme—which, it could be argued, is the central thesis of the exhibit and the collection of articles—is that the Japanese people were the first victims of the nuclear bomb, and that the military and technological milestone of creating nuclear weapons should not be celebrated. In essence, the History Wars is a warning of the dangers of increasing one's nuclear arsenal.
The other theme of the text is the examination of war in general, regardless of the presence of nuclear weapons. This aspect of the articles and the exhibit drew ire from American veterans who countered that it was the Japanese Imperial forces that initiated the war with the United States during World War II by bombing Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The anti-war stance of the exhibit and the collection of articles come from a humanistic viewpoint that evokes questions about morality, warfare ethics, and codes governing combat engagement. Essentially, the historians who contributed to the History Wars posited that using nuclear weapons to end a war is not justified, regardless of who started the engagement of warfare.
The other major theme of the work is the question of what the American public should know when analyzing past wars. The exhibit's subtext was anti-war and anti-nuclear, but the veterans believed that the viewpoint of the exhibit was one-dimensional. The work ponders the concept of information itself and whether that information should be censored in museums and other institutions where historical information is exhibited.
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