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Memory wars : the politics of remembering the Asia-Pacific war

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Publication Date: January 1995

Publisher(s): East-West Center

Author(s): Geoffrey M. White

Series: AsiaPacific issues ; no. 21

Topic: Culture and religion (Museums, memorials, and monuments)
International relations (War)

Type: Report

Coverage: Japan United States

Abstract:

Earlier this year the Smithsonian Institution announced that it would replace a planned exhibit on the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with a small exhibit of just the plane that bombed Hiroshima (the Enola Gay) and videos of the crew. The announcement was meant to end a year of impassioned public wrangling among World War II veterans, historians, and politicians over how the war should be remembered. But the debate has continued, as has a similar one in Japan where opinion about the war is far less monolithic than generally depicted in the United States. In both countries the issues raised go far beyond the problem of what really happened at the end of the war. Foremost among these is the question of the role of national cultural institutions in educating the public, particularly when the subject has international dimensions. In the case of the Smithsonian exhibit, how could an intensely international story-the sacrifices of America's veterans and the suffering of Japan's atomic bomb victims-be represented in an intensely national site?