William A. Rooney Collection on the "Enola Gay"

DSpace/Manakin Repository

William A. Rooney Collection on the "Enola Gay"

 

William Albert Rooney, known as Bill, was born on August 29, 1917 in La Corrse, Wisconsin.

Rooney was drafted into military service on June 4, 1941 and was a member of the Army Air Forces until his honorable discharge on points in February 1946. He was an intelligence officer and a member of the 40th Bomb Group and in the 20th Bomber Command, headquartered in India and China. He received a number of military awards plus medals from the Chinese National Government and the People's Republic of China.

After the war, he had a business career in advertising in Chicago until his retirement in 1974. Rooney assisted with the formation of the 40th Bomb Group Association in 1980, and was editor of the organizations newsletter and MEMORIES, a publication of the group member's experiences. He authored one book, Architectural Ornamentation In Chicago and co-authored The Enola Gay and the Smithsonian Institution with Charles O'Reilly.

In 1995, the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum planned to create an exhibit on the Enola Gay, the B-29 bomber that dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan and its impact on the world in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the attack. Numerous veteran groups and others became angered when seeing the initial script for the exhibit, claiming that the exhibit showed too much sympathy for the Japanese and disregarded the American soldiers who sacrificed their lives. These groups insisted that the Smithsonian alter the exhibit to properly reflect the decision making process behind dropping the atomic bomb and displaying the Enola Gay proudly instead of endorsing the revisionist history theories of the issue. After several months of conversations and compromises, the Smithsonian scrapped its original exhibit and designed a simpler one, focusing on the aircraft and the importance of its place within the greater historical context.

Rooney was a founding member of the Enola Gay Restoration Committee and was earnestly involved in the "Display the Enola Gay Proudly Campaign," which collected over 12,000 signatures for their cause. He played an important role behind the scenes of the campaign, which included letter writing, collecting signatures and spreading the word about this issue through letters to editors of magazines and newspapers.

Bill Rooney was married to Roberta, with whom he had one child, Timothy (Susan) Rooney. He passed away at the age of 94 on September 3, 2011.

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