By Philip West, Steven I. Levine, Jackie Hiltz
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Extra info for America's wars in Asia: a cultural approach to history and memory
The new V-2 exhibit consciously jettisoned the technological celebratory, believing that a more important story was being ignored. For those comfortable with the museum-as-temple, the NASM seemed to be moving beyond a forum, however, to a tribunal in which American air power was being put on trial. For example, critics pointed to the 1991 exhibit "Legends, Memory, and the Great War in the Air," which examined, in part, how the romantic mythology of air war could mask the brutal realities of combat in World War I.
For three generations of American men and women who served in the armed forces, and for everyone on the home front who listened to the radio, watched newsreels and television, and anxiously scanned newspaper headlines, Asia was a battlefield long before it became a marketplace. For hundreds of millions of Japanese, Koreans, Chinese, and Vietnamese, the United States was either an enemy or an ally. The American soldier, dispenser of bullets and Hershey bars, napalm and chewing gum, was the ambiguous symbol of American culture and civilization.
At one point, a radio broadcast the Shizumas are listening to mentions the possibility that atomic weapons may be used in the Korean War that is then taking place. But this is a passing moment, very much in the background of the human relations that are at the heart of the story. The reader/viewer becomes intimately involved with the Shizumas, a family profoundly affected by the singular catastrophe of the Hiroshima bombing, who are struggling to make sense of precisely what happened while trying simultaneously to go on with their lives.