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Last Updated: Monday, 18 August, 2003, 21:36 GMT 22:36 UK
Hiroshima plane to go on display
The newly reassembled and restored Enola Gay
The reconstructed plane is too big for the main museum

The American aircraft that carried out the Hiroshima bombing in Japan, the Enola Gay, has been reassembled to be put on public display in Washington.

The restored B-29 bomber was unveiled to the media at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum on Monday, and is due to go on public display in December.

The Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945, leading to Japan's surrender six days later.

More than 140,000 people were killed as a direct result of the bombing. Many more suffered radiation illness, raising the eventual death toll to more than 220,000.

The National Air and Space Museum has spent months restoring the Enola Gay, which was one of 15 aircraft modified for the secret atomic bomb missions.

"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 JR Daily.

Vetted by veterans

In 1995 the museum staged an exhibition about the atomic bomb, featuring the forward fuselage of the Enola Gay.

Aftermath of the Hiroshima bombing
The bomb killed two thirds of Hiroshima's 350,000 people
Controversy initially surrounded that event: US veterans objected to a draft script accompanying the exhibition, which they said portrayed the Japanese as victims of US aggression.

The script was eventually revised and the exhibition ran for more than three years.

The latest exhibition is attracting no such criticism from veterans.

"We believe that it is historically accurate this time and we congratulate the Air and Space Museum," Napoleon Byars of the Air Force Association told Reuters news agency.

A Japanese-American also quoted by the Reuters, Aiko Herzig, said she hoped the exhibition would include scenes showing the devastation of the bomb.

"We need to remind ourselves about how terrible nuclear weapons are," she said.

With a wingspan of 43 metres (141 feet) the Enola Gay was too large and heavy to be housed at the museum's main building.

It will be on display at a giant hangar at the museum's Steven Udvar-Hazy Center, near Dulles International Airport in Washington.


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