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"The Last Act" Balancing Act
By Paul F. Straney and Robert Sacchi

Page 3

The August script planned to display one of two wrist watches. One watch belonged to Akito Kawagoe. Mr. Kawagoe was a soldier billeted in the Futaba-No-Sato army barracks, 1.1 miles (1.8 Km) from the Hiroshima blast's hypocenter. His watch broke when debris fell on him. Akito Kawagoe survived. The other watch was found in the Motoyasu River. The atomic blast's heat scorched the watch. Anyone who was near that watch would have died in the blast. The Museum decided to display Mr. Kawagoe's watch.

The Smithsonian removed almost all of the script on the post war arms race. The arms race was also a soar point for exhibit opponents. Dr. Hallion said of earlier scripts "the postwar section was a case where they tried to do to much." The August script had 12 pages of text, ten pictures, two graphs, and a cartoon about the post war arms race and related issues. The October script has a page of text and the graph showing the rise and fall in the number of deployed nuclear weapons.

A difficult subject is the Kamikaze. (1) The Kamikaze was an extension of Japan's military tradition called Bushido. Bushido was the code of honor among the warrior class. Bushido formed the basis for Emperor worship. (2) John Correll explained the first scripts' only heroes were the Kamikaze pilots. Mr. Correll has no problem with the exhibit talking about Bushido:

I want to explain Bushido and why you (the Japanese) did it. Look Bushido caused people to refuse to surrender. Bushido caused people, average Japanese, to abuse prisoners. Bushido caused aggression. Yes, let's tell everybody about Bushido. ... If you look at what was the real meaning of Bushido and how did this apply to the prosecution of the Greater East Asia Co-prosperity sphere. How did this cause the Japanese from 1930-1945 (3) to regard captive populations, and a variety of other kinds of things? You bet the more said about that the better.

The August script toned down the glamorization of the Kamikaze. The exhibit will display an Okha (4) suicide plane. Dr. Crouch explains its purpose:

The Okha is there to talk about the sort of ferocious stage that the fighting had reached in late 1944 or early 1945 and what US planners were looking at. I mean you're looking at a nation that's clearly beaten. I mean there is no way these guys are going to win this war any more. At the same time they are showing no inclination to surrender. Quite the opposite the fighting is getting fiercer on the ground and now they're doing this craziness with crashing airplanes into our ships. You have to remember that the biggest naval losses, in terms of ships in the history of the (US) Navy, were occurring at the Philippine Sea, at Okinawa, as a result of the Kamikaze campaign. I mean this was serious stuff that was taking American lives in a big way. That is part of the direct context of The (Atomic) Bomb that American planners were looking at. The extent of the casualties in those campaigns of 1944 and 1945 and the Kamikaze is part of that. That's why it (the Okha) is there.

Dr. Crouch pointed out the difficulty with presenting the Kamikaze story. "That involves someone's religion and when you deal with someone else's religion you have to be careful. I suppose you can call that political correctness."

Dr. Crouch points out the Museum must take Japanese sensibilities into account. "If the Japanese aren't comfortable with the script they will pull out and not lend us the objects." Without the artifacts from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki museums it is unlikely the Museum will have any 'Ground Zero' artifacts. This could convince many foreign visitors the US is trying to sanitize the atomic bombings.

The artifacts have been a sore point because the original planning documents specifically mentioned obtaining artifacts that belonged to women and children, and religious artifacts. Dr. Crouch explains why there are so many children's artifacts:

At Hiroshima, specifically, there really was an extraordinarily abnormal number of young people downtown that day. The 'Ground Zero' area in Hiroshima around the Aioi Bridge was an area where ... they were cutting fire breaks, literally, through the center of the city. Five big ones right through the center of the city. They had evacuated large numbers of people out of the houses that were to be destroyed to make the fire breaks. At that time in Japan, of course, everybody over the age of 13 was essentially available for service to the state. So the folks who were downtown at 'Ground Zero' that morning doing the work on the fire breaks and clearing trash away from the work and all that stuff were junior and senior high school kids for the most part. That's one of the reason's why so many of those objects are from kids. Literally, they were down there in extraordinary numbers that wouldn't of been the case under normal circumstances. The other thing is ... you had parents going through the center of both cities searching for children and the remains of children and so on and so forth. When they would be unable to find the child's body but ran across some object that had belonged to the child, something that had his or her name on it or something like that, clearly that became a family treasure, heir loom, a memory of a dead child. So when the (Hiroshima and Nagasaki) museums came along to collect this stuff ten years after that. That's the kind of stuff people brought in to be collected.

Dr. Hallion acknowledges the large number of children near 'Ground Zero.' However, he believes the inordinate number of children's artifacts may be "self censorship." Dr. Hallion explains:

There were two full Japanese divisions essentially destroyed at Hiroshima. Where are the remnants of those? Where are the destroyed weapons or the helmets or other artifacts?

Dr. Hallion didn't know of any exhibit that had military artifacts. He did name three possible places. (5) None of these had military artifacts.

1 Kamikaze, which means divine wind, it is the name the Japanese gave their suicide pilots. The name comes from the Typhoons in the Sea of Japan, which on a number of occasions decimated fleets attempting to invade Japan.

2 The Imperial Japanese battle cry was, Tenno Bonzai. It means "Long Live the Emperor."

3 Many historians use the "Manchurian Incident," September 18-19, 1931 as the start of Japanese expansionism. The Japanese began their colonial designs with the Sino-Japanese War, 1894-1895. The Japanese used treachery, assassination, and force of arms to achieve their ends.

4 Okha means Cherry Blossom. Japanese propaganda compared Kamikaze pilots to Cherry Blossoms, which fall at the moment of perfection. US sailors nicknamed the aircraft the Baka, which means fool. The Okha was an unsuccessful aircraft. US Navy planes usually shot down the mother craft before it got close enough to the fleet to launch the Okha. Only a small number of Okha's hit their target. The Okha's only sank one ship.

5 The US Army Military History Program. The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC. The Atomic Museum at Alamogordo, New Mexico.

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Paul F. Straney and Robert Sacchi © 1996