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Enola Gay set to go on display

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  • Enola Gay set to go on display

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- It carried the most destructive weapon of World War II and now the Enola Gay, the aircraft that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, is set to go on display at the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum.

    The newly-reassembled B-29 bomber was unveiled to the media on Monday in a giant hangar at the museum's Steven Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles International Airport. The center opens to the public on December 15.

    "Because of the work of some very talented men and women, future generations will sense first-hand the unalterable significance of this aircraft in World War II and human history. Let's learn from it," said museum director Gen. J.R. "Jack" Daily in prepared remarks.

    The Enola Gay unleashed an atomic bomb nicknamed "Little Boy" on the Japanese port city of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. It killed more than 140,000 people and left tens of thousands more disfigured and suffering from lingering radiation illness that later raised the death toll to more than 230,000.

    The bombing was carried out on a sunny day at 8:15 a.m. from an altitude of 31,600 feet (9,632 meters). The Enola Gay was then used as the advance weather reconnaissance aircraft for the follow-up attack on Nagasaki that killed 70,000 people. Six days after that, Japan surrendered.

    Nearly a decade ago, an exhibit in Washington about the atomic bomb and the Enola Gay -- named after the pilot's mother -- was met with a storm of controversy because many U.S. veterans felt the Japanese were cast as victims of American aggression. A smaller, less interpretive exhibit finally opened several months late.

    The bomb killed 140,000 in Hiroshima. The pilot of the plane, retired Gen. Paul Tibbets, and other veterans are happier this time round.

    "He is very excited and proud that the whole plane will finally be on display, not so much for him but for all the veterans who have strong feelings about it," Gerry Newhouse, a spokesman and business manager for Tibbets, told Reuters.

    The Air Force Association, which took up the cause a decade ago for veterans, also said it approved.

    "We believe that it is historically accurate this time and we congratulate the Air and Space Museum," said Napoleon Byars of the association.

    Japanese-American Aiko Herzig said she hoped the exhibition would include scenes showing the devastation of the bomb.

    "I have no objections to the Enola Gay being reassembled but to see an aircraft without the story behind it is a waste of time. We need to remind ourselves about how terrible nuclear weapons are," said Herzig, a researcher of Japanese-American history.

    "He is very excited and proud that the whole plane will finally be on display," a spokesman said of Paul Tibbets , who piloted the Enola Gay.
    With a wingspan of 141 feet (43 meters) and a gross weight of 137,500 pounds (62,370 kilogram), the Enola Gay was too large and heavy to be housed at the museum's flagship building on the National Mall.

    The museum has spent more than 300,000 staff hours restoring the Enola Gay, which was one of 15 B-29s modified specifically for the secret atomic bomb missions.

    The planes were fitted with special engines, propellers and faster-acting pneumatic bomb bay doors. They were also the first successful large-scale use of pressurized crew compartments.

    After the war, the Enola Gay was modified for tests in the Pacific to determine the effects of atomic weapons on naval ships but it never took part in the program.

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