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B-29 Drops Atomic Bomb on Japan - History

B-29 Drops Atomic Bomb on Japan - History

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An Airfoce B-29 named "Enola Gay" carried a 9,000 lb atomic bomb to Hiroshima on August 6th 1945. The bomb brought massive death and destruction to the city. A second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. Following the second bombing the Japanese surrendered.

See a Leaflet Dropped on Japanese Cities Right Before World War II Ended

W eeks would pass after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki before the official end arrived for World War II&mdashand, during that time, even though the war had been effectively won, the incendiary air raids that had been such a large component of U.S. military strategy in Japan did not cease.

On Aug. 14&ndash15, the very night before Emperor Hirohito would announce the impending surrender of his nation, a final firebombing raid went out on the city of Isesaki. One of the crewmen on that raid was First Lieutenant Maurice Picheloup, who held on to some souvenirs of that time&mdashleaflets dropped to warn Japanese citizens of the consequences of a failure to surrender, which went on display over the weekend as part of a new exhibition at the National World WWII Museum in New Orleans, Road to Tokyo.

Picheloup told the museum that the crew expected all along to be called back, aborting the mission. “That we would once again be burning relatively small cities was abhorrent to all of us,” Picheloup said, “despite the fact that these target cities had been warned by leaflets that they would be bombed if their leaders did not stop the war.”

But, as their B-29 approached its target, the code to abort (the word “Utah”) did not come. It was not until after they had carried out their original orders, after the bombs had been dropped, that the code word came.

Here’s an English translation of a similar leaflet’s contents, dating from that time as well:

America asks that you take immediate heed of what we say on this leaflet.

We are in possession of the most destructive explosive ever devised by men. A single one of our newly developed atomic bombs is actually the equivalent in explosive power to what 2000 of our giant B-29’s can carry on a single mission. This awful fact is one for you to ponder and we solemnly assure you it is grimly accurate.

We have just begun to use this weapon against your homeland. If you still have any doubt, make inquiry as to what happened to Hiroshima when just one atomic bomb fell on that city.

Before using this bomb to destroy every resource of the military by which they are prolonging this useless war, we ask that you now petition the Emperor to end the war. Our President has outlined for you the thirteen consequences of an honorable surrender: We urge that you accept these consequences and begin the work of building a new, better, and peace-loving Japan.

You should take steps now to cease military resistance. Otherwise, we shall resolutely employ this bomb and all other superior weapons to promptly and forcefully end the war.

Thank you!

By the time the 50th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Japan approached, the Smithsonian had already spent nearly a decade restoring the plane for exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution&rsquos National Air and Space Museum. But when the nearly 600-page proposal for the exhibit was seen by Air Force veterans, the anniversary started a new round of controversy over the plane, as TIME explained in 1994:

The display, say the vets, is tilted against the U.S., portraying it as an unfeeling aggressor, while paying an inordinate amount of attention to Japanese suffering. Too little is made of Tokyo’s atrocities, the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor or the recalcitrance of Japan’s military leaders in the late stages of the war &mdash the catalyst for the deployment of atomic weapons. John T. Correll, editor in chief of Air Force Magazine, noted that in the first draft there were 49 photos of Japanese casualties, against only three photos of American casualties. By his count there were four pages of text on Japanese atrocities, while there were 79 pages devoted to Japanese casualties and the civilian suffering, from not only the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki but also conventional B-29 bombing. The Committee for the Restoration and Display of the Enola Gay now has 9,000 signatures of protest. The Air Force Association claims the proposed exhibition is “a slap in the face to all Americans who fought in World War II” and “treats Japan and the U.S. as if their participation in the war were morally equivalent.”

Politicians are getting in on the action. A few weeks ago, Kansas Senator Nancy Kassebaum fired off a letter to Robert McCormick Adams, secretary of the Smithsonian. She called the proposal “a travesty” and suggested that “the famed B-29 be displayed with understanding and pride in another museum. Any one of three Kansas museums.”

Adams, who is leaving his job after 10 relatively controversy-free years, sent back a three-page answer stiffly turning down her request for the Enola Gay. The proposed script, he says, was in flux, and would be “objective,” treat U.S. airmen as “skilled, brave, loyal” and would not make a judgment on “the morality of the decision [to drop the bomb].”

Meanwhile curators Tom Crouch and Michael Neufeld, who are responsible for the content of the display, deny accusations of political correctness. Crouch claims that the critics have a “reluctance to really tell the whole story. They want to stop the story when the bomb leaves the bomb bay.” Crouch and Neufeld’s proposed display includes a “Ground Zero” section, described as the emotional center of the gallery. Among the sights: charred bodies in the rubble, the ruins of a Shinto shrine, a heat-fused rosary, items belonging to dead schoolchildren. The curators have proposed a PARENTAL DISCRETION sign for the show.

The veterans, for their part, say they are well aware of the grim nature of the subject. They are not asking for a whitewash. “Nobody is looking for glorification,” says Correll. “Just be fair. Tell both sides.”

Eventually, the criticism from veterans, Congress and others resulted in major changes to the exhibition. “[The show] will no longer include a long section on the postwar nuclear race that veterans groups and members of Congress had criticized. The critics said that the discussion did not belong in the exhibit and was part of a politically loaded message that the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan began a dark chapter in human history,” the New York Times reported. That version of the exhibition opened in 1995, displaying more than half of the plane, the restoration of which was still unfinished.

But the exhibition proved popular. When it closed in 1998, about four million people had visited it, according to a report by Air Force Magazine‘s Correll &mdash the most ever to visit an Air and Space Museum special exhibition to that point.

It would take until 2003 for the full plane to be displayed, at the Air and Space Museum’s location in Chantilly, Va. That opening again provoked protest, but it can still be seen there.

Watch U.S. B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay decimate Hiroshima with a nuclear bomb in the Pacific War

NARRATOR: Having ignored American demands for surrender, the Japanese were now to experience the effects of a new weapon of destruction. Atom bombs were to be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

A Japanese reported: "Suddenly a glaring light appeared in the sky. In seconds, thousands of people were scorched by a wave of searing heat. Many were killed instantly, others lay writhing on the ground, screaming in agony. By evening the fire began to die down . . .

and then it went out. There was nothing left to burn--Hiroshima had ceased to exist. The bomb had heralded in a new and terrible concept of warfare, but its use probably saved hundreds of thousands of both American and Japanese lives . . . for the fighting was over.


World War 2 Edit

The wing's 509th Operations Group is a direct descendant organization of the World War II 509th Composite Group (509th CG). The 509th CG had a single mission: to drop the atomic bomb. The group made history on 6 August 1945, when the Boeing B-29 Superfortress "Enola Gay," piloted by Col. Paul W. Tibbets Jr., dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. The B-29 "Bockscar," piloted by Maj. Charles Sweeney, flew over the Japanese mainland on 9 August 1945 and dropped the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki. [4]

Cold War Edit

The wing was established as 509th Bombardment Wing, Very Heavy on 3 November 1947 and organized on 17 November 1947. [4] The initial mission of the 509th Bomb Wing was to carry out strategic bombing missions using Atomic Bombs at the direction of the President of the United States.

The wing's mission expanded in July 1948 when it received the 509th Air Refueling Squadron and its KB-29M hose-type tankers and later with B/KB–29P boom–type tankers. Although aerial refueling had been accomplished as far back as the 1920s, the Air Force decided to make it a permanent part of its operations. In fact, the 509th AREFS was one of the first two AREFSs ever activated. In the first week of December 1948, the squadron began receiving the KB-29M, modified B-29 bombers capable of providing air-to-air refueling for bombers using a refueling hose [vs. today's USAF standard flying boom]. With the addition of tankers, the 509th's bombers could reach nearly any point on earth. In June 1950, the wing received the B-50D Superfortress and in January 1954, the KC-97 Stratotanker replaced the aging KB-29Ms. [4]

The 509th BW entered the jet age in June 1955 when it received the B-47E Stratojet, the first all-jet bomber. Deployed as a wing several times in the early 1950s, three times to England on REFLEX deployments and once to Guam, the wing also deployed individual squadrons at other times. Temporarily had no refueling unit during 1958. The 509th BW moved its personnel and equipment to Pease Air Force Base, New Hampshire in August 1958. [4]

By 1961 it was believed that the B-47 was becoming obsolete and President John F. Kennedy directed that the phaseout of the B-47 be accelerated. However this was delayed in July by the onset of the Berlin crisis of 1961–62. There, the wing continued to function as an integral part of Strategic Air Command (SAC). By 1965, its B-47s were scheduled for retirement. Unfortunately, this retirement also included the 509th. Fate intervened, however, as SAC decided to keep the 509th alive and equipped it with B-52s and KC-135s. [4]

The 509th was initially phased down for inactivation in late 1965 as a part of the retirement of the B-47, but instead was converted to a B-52D Stratofortress and KC-135 in March 1966. The 509th was taken off nuclear alert as its B-52Ds were designed to carry a large number of conventional bombs (84 500-lb Mk 82 or 42 750 lb M-117s) for service in the Vietnam War as part of Operation Arc Light. The wing deployed KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft and crews, November 1966– December 1975 with B–52 aircraft and crews, November 1966– September 1969, and with B–52 crews, 1970. From 1 April to 1 October 1968 and 26 March to c. 21 March 1968, more than one-half of the wing was deployed to Andersen AFB, Guam to support SAC operations in Southeast Asia. [1]

On 1 December 1969 was wing redesignated as the 509th Bombardment Wing, Medium and began receiving the FB-111A strategic bomber in December 1970. [4] The FB-111A was the all-weather strategic bombing version of the Tactical Air Command F-111 which was equipped to carry the AGM-69 SRAM that carried a nuclear warhead with an explosive yield of 200 kilotons. The 509th would operate the aircraft for two decades. Won the SAC Bombing and Navigation competition and the Fairchild trophy in 1979, 1981, 1982, and 1983. Awarded the Sanders trophy for best air refueling unit in 1982. [1]

Over the next two decades, little changed for the 509th BW as it became SAC's fighter-bomber experts. However, a 1988 decision by the Department of Defense to close Pease created major changes for the famous 509th. Headquarters SAC decreed that the 509th would not inactivate but would transfer to Whiteman Air Force Base to become the first B-2 stealth bomber unit. As such, the wing moved to Whiteman on 30 September 1990, without people or equipment. [4]

As the Rockwell B-1B Lancer came into service, the FB-111 became redundant to SAC needs. In 1988, Pease was identified as one of several Air Force installations to be closed by 1991 as part of a Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) recommendation. The 509th's FB-111s were transferred from SAC to TAC between June and December 1990, being re-designated as the F-111G and converted into a tactical bomber.

Sole Stealth bomber unit Edit

In 1988, Congressman Ike Skelton (D-MO) announced the B-2 Advanced Technology Bomber would be based at Whiteman AFB, Missouri. It was also announced that the 509th Bombardment Wing would become the USAF's first B-2 Spirit active-duty wing. Military personnel began leaving Pease in June 1990, and on 30 September 1990, the 509th was inactivated at Pease and activated at Whiteman Air Force Base as a non-operational unit the same day without aircraft, personnel or equipment. With the reassignment the unit was redesignated as the 509th Bombardment Wing, Heavy. On 1 June 1992, the Air Force disestablished the Strategic Air Command (SAC), transferring all bomber aircraft to the newly established Air Combat Command (ACC). The 509th was redesignated the 509th Bomb Wing on 1 September 1991, and became part of the new Air Combat Command on 1 June 1992. [1]

In 1993, after two years of non-operational status, the 509th became operational again. On 1 March 1993, the wing activated the 509th Operations Group as part of the 509th Bomb Wing's reorganization under the USAF Objective Wing plan. All flying squadrons, as well as an Operational Support Squadron (OSS) were assigned to the 509th OG. The wing grew larger on 1 July 1993, when it accepted host responsibilities for Whiteman from the 351st Missile Wing. Its 509th OG received the first operational B-2 Spirit stealth bomber on 17 December 1993 (the date was the 49th anniversary of the activation of the 509th Composite Group and the 90th of the Wright brothers' flight). [4]

Since its arrival at Whiteman, the 509th underwent inspections, tests, and other challenges to insure it was ready to return as an integral part of the nation's defensive coalition. With the B-2, the wing can bring massive firepower to bear, in a short time, anywhere on the globe through previously impenetrable defenses. The wing has deployed elements into combat over the skies of Serbia as part of Operation Allied Force in 1999 Afghanistan in 2001 as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, in 2003 over Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom, and in 2011 over Libya during Operation Odyssey Dawn. [6]

The wing began to continuously deploy to Andersen AFB, Guam, in February 2005. This deployment provides a continuous bomber presence in the Asia-Pacific region and augmented Pacific Command's establishment of a deterrent force. [7]

On 1 February 2010, the 509th Bomb Wing became part of the Air Force's newest command, Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC). [4]

On June 5, 2015, Paul W. Tibbets IV, grandson of the World War II nuclear pilot, assumed command of the 509th Bomb Wing. [8]

131st Bomb Wing Edit

On 16 March 2006, the Air Force announced that elements of the 131st Fighter Wing, Missouri Air National Guard (MOANG), would become an associate unit assigned to the 509th BW. [9] The 131st Fighter Wing transitioned from flying and maintaining the F-15C Eagle fighter to the B-2 Spirit bomber. The final flight of the F-15C Eagle by the 131st occurred in June 2009 from St. Louis's Lambert International Airport. The unit was redesignated as the 131st Bomb Wing on 1 October 2008.

The 509th and the 131st joined forces according to what is known as a "classic associate wing" structure. The active-duty wing, the 509th retains full "ownership" of the operational assets aircraft, maintenance facilities, etc. Each wing has its own chain-of-command and organizational structure, but the members of each unit perform their duties in a fully integrated manner. Translation, active-duty and ANG pilots and maintainers fly B-2 missions and sustain the aircraft as though it were one unit. [10]

Emblem Edit

Or, in base a label Gules of three, surmounted by an atomic cloud Proper, between a pair of wings Azure all with a diminished bordure of the first. Attached below the shield a White scroll edged with a narrow Yellow border and inscribed "DEFENSOR VINDEX" (Latin for "Champion Defender") in Blue letters.

The 509th Bombardment Wing's emblem is rich in tradition. Each symbol on the shield represents some part of the past. The Air Force wings represent the branch of service but are not in the familiar outstretched position. When the ancient Greeks approached a stranger, they raised their arms with palms outward to show they were carrying no weapons – a sign of peace. The 509th obtained special permission to display the wings in this configuration to show that it, too, comes in peace. The atomic cloud burst represents two things: that the 509th is the only unit to ever drop atomic bombs in wartime and that it still uses atomic power as a deterrent to war and defender of peace. Finally, the 'eldest son' symbol (the red 'tripod') shows that the wing is the oldest atomic trained military unit in the world.

This Day in History: The US drops atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan

The United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan at 8:15: a.m. on August 6, 1945.

Smoke rises 20,000 feet above Hiroshima, western Japan, after the first atomic bomb was dropped during warfare. (AP Photo, File)

The four-tonne uranium bomb called “Little Boy” was dropped from the US B-29 bomber Enola Gray some 31,500 feet above the city’s center. It exploded less than a minute later, sending temperature at the impact site to between 3,000 and 4,000 degrees Celsius. Nearly everything within a two kilometre range of the site was destroyed, with “black rain” of higgly radioactive particles falling on the city within an hour.

An unidentified man stands next to a tiled fireplace where a house once stood in Hiroshima, western Japan. (AP Photo/Stanley Troutman, Pool, File)

The ensuing devastation was unlike anything the world had ever seen before, a nuclear attack that would killed an estimated 300,000 people – roughly 40 per cent of the city’s population – including those with radiation-related injuries and illnesses. About half of those died in by the year’s end.

An estimated 140,000 people, including those with radiation-related injuries and illnesses, died through December. 31, 1945. (US Air Force via AP, File)

Exposure to the blast’s radiation caused many to vomit and experience hair loss. Those with severe symptoms died within three to six weeks. Those who didn’t die developed burns and cancers and other illnesses.

Three days after Hiroshima was hit, the US released a second bomb, this time on Nagasaki. Japan surrendered on August 15, effectively ending World War II and putting an end to its hostility towards its Asian neighbours.


Early history Edit

The Enola Gay (Model number B-29-45-MO, [N 1] Serial number 44-86292, Victor number 82) was built by the Glenn L. Martin Company (later part of Lockheed Martin) at its bomber plant in Bellevue, Nebraska, located at Offutt Field, now Offutt Air Force Base. The bomber was one of the first fifteen B-29s built to the "Silverplate" specification— of 65 eventually completed during and after World War II—giving them the primary ability to function as nuclear "weapon delivery" aircraft. These modifications included an extensively modified bomb bay with pneumatic doors and British bomb attachment and release systems, reversible pitch propellers that gave more braking power on landing, improved engines with fuel injection and better cooling, [2] [3] and the removal of protective armor and gun turrets. [4]

Enola Gay was personally selected by Colonel Paul W. Tibbets Jr., the commander of the 509th Composite Group, on 9 May 1945, while still on the assembly line. The aircraft was accepted by the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) on 18 May 1945 and assigned to the 393d Bombardment Squadron, Heavy, 509th Composite Group. Crew B-9, commanded by Captain Robert A. Lewis, took delivery of the bomber and flew it from Omaha to the 509th base at Wendover Army Air Field, Utah, on 14 June 1945. [5]

Thirteen days later, the aircraft left Wendover for Guam, where it received a bomb-bay modification, and flew to North Field, Tinian, on 6 July. It was initially given the Victor (squadron-assigned identification) number 12, but on 1 August, was given the circle R tail markings of the 6th Bombardment Group as a security measure and had its Victor number changed to 82 to avoid misidentification with actual 6th Bombardment Group aircraft. [5] During July, the bomber made eight practice or training flights, and flew two missions, on 24 and 26 July, to drop pumpkin bombs on industrial targets at Kobe and Nagoya. Enola Gay was used on 31 July on a rehearsal flight for the actual mission. [6]

The partially assembled Little Boy gun-type fission weapon L-11, weighing 10,000 pounds (4,500 kg), was contained inside a 41-inch (100 cm) × 47-inch (120 cm) × 138-inch (350 cm) wooden crate that was secured to the deck of the USS Indianapolis. Unlike the six uranium-235 target discs, which were later flown to Tinian on three separate aircraft arriving 28 and 29 July, the assembled projectile with the nine uranium-235 rings installed was shipped in a single lead-lined steel container weighing 300 pounds (140 kg) that was locked to brackets welded to the deck of Captain Charles B. McVay III's quarters. [N 2] Both the L-11 and projectile were dropped off at Tinian on 26 July 1945. [8]

Hiroshima mission Edit

On 5 August 1945, during preparation for the first atomic mission, Tibbets assumed command of the aircraft and named it after his mother, Enola Gay Tibbets, who, in turn, had been named for the heroine of a novel. [N 3] When it came to selecting a name for the plane, Tibbets later recalled that:

. my thoughts turned at this point to my courageous red-haired mother, whose quiet confidence had been a source of strength to me since boyhood, and particularly during the soul-searching period when I decided to give up a medical career to become a military pilot. At a time when Dad had thought I had lost my marbles, she had taken my side and said, "I know you will be all right, son." [10]

In the early morning hours, just prior to the 6 August mission, Tibbets had a young Army Air Forces maintenance man, Private Nelson Miller, paint the name just under the pilot's window. [11] [5] Regularly-assigned aircraft commander Robert Lewis was unhappy to be displaced by Tibbets for this important mission, and became furious when he arrived at the aircraft on the morning of 6 August to see it painted with the now-famous nose art. [12]

Hiroshima was the primary target of the first nuclear bombing mission on 6 August, with Kokura and Nagasaki as alternative targets. Enola Gay, piloted by Tibbets, took off from North Field, in the Northern Mariana Islands, about six hours' flight time from Japan, accompanied by two other B-29s, The Great Artiste, carrying instrumentation, and a then-nameless aircraft later called Necessary Evil, commanded by Captain George Marquardt, to take photographs. The director of the Manhattan Project, Major General Leslie R. Groves Jr., wanted the event recorded for posterity, so the takeoff was illuminated by floodlights. When he wanted to taxi, Tibbets leaned out the window to direct the bystanders out of the way. On request, he gave a friendly wave for the cameras. [13]

After leaving Tinian, the three aircraft made their way separately to Iwo Jima, where they rendezvoused at 2,440 meters (8,010 ft) and set course for Japan. The aircraft arrived over the target in clear visibility at 9,855 meters (32,333 ft). Captain William S. "Deak" Parsons of Project Alberta, who was in command of the mission, armed the bomb during the flight to minimize the risks during takeoff. His assistant, Second Lieutenant Morris R. Jeppson, removed the safety devices 30 minutes before reaching the target area. [14]

The release at 08:15 (Hiroshima time) went as planned, and the Little Boy took 53 seconds [15] to fall from the aircraft flying at 31,060 feet (9,470 m) to the predetermined detonation height about 1,968 feet (600 m) above the city. Enola Gay traveled 11.5 mi (18.5 km) before it felt the shock waves from the blast. [16] Although buffeted by the shock, neither Enola Gay nor The Great Artiste was damaged. [17]

The detonation created a blast equivalent to 16 kilotons of TNT (67 TJ). [18] The U-235 weapon was considered very inefficient, with only 1.7% of its fissile material reacting. [19] The radius of total destruction was about one mile (1.6 km), with resulting fires across 4.4 square miles (11 km 2 ). [20] Americans estimated that 4.7 square miles (12 km 2 ) of the city were destroyed. Japanese officials determined that 69% of Hiroshima's buildings were destroyed and another 6–7% damaged. [21] Some 70,000–80,000 people, 30% of the city's population, were killed by the blast and resultant firestorm, [22] and another 70,000 injured. [23] Out of those killed, 20,000 were soldiers and 20,000 Korean slave laborers. [24]

Enola Gay returned safely to its base on Tinian to great fanfare, touching down at 2:58 pm, after 12 hours 13 minutes. The Great Artiste and Necessary Evil followed at short intervals. Several hundred people, including journalists and photographers, had gathered to watch the planes return. Tibbets was the first to disembark, and was presented with the Distinguished Service Cross on the spot. [17]

Nagasaki mission Edit

The Hiroshima mission was followed by another atomic strike. Originally scheduled for 11 August, it was brought forward by two days to 9 August owing to a forecast of bad weather. This time, a nuclear bomb code-named “Fat Man”, was carried by B-29 Bockscar, piloted by Major Charles W. Sweeney. [25] Enola Gay, flown by Captain George Marquardt's Crew B-10, was the weather reconnaissance aircraft for Kokura, the primary target. [26] Enola Gay reported clear skies over Kokura, [27] but by the time Bockscar arrived, the city was obscured by smoke from fires from the conventional bombing of Yahata by 224 B-29s the day before. After three unsuccessful passes, Bockscar diverted to its secondary target, Nagasaki, [28] where it dropped its bomb. In contrast to the Hiroshima mission, the Nagasaki mission has been described as tactically botched, although the mission did meet its objectives. The crew encountered a number of problems in execution, and had very little fuel by the time they landed at the emergency backup landing site Yontan Airfield on Okinawa. [29] [30]

Hiroshima mission Edit

Enola Gay's crew on 6 August 1945, consisted of 12 men. [31] [32] The crew was: [33]

    Paul W. Tibbets Jr. – pilot and aircraft commander Robert A. Lewis – co-pilot Enola Gay's regularly assigned aircraft commander* Thomas Ferebee – bombardier
  • Captain Theodore "Dutch" Van Kirk – navigatorWilliam S. "Deak" Parsons, USN – weaponeer and mission commander. Jacob Beser – radar countermeasures (also the only man to fly on both of the nuclear bombing aircraft. [34] ) Morris R. Jeppson – assistant weaponeer Robert "Bob" Caron – tail gunner*
  • Staff Sergeant Wyatt E. Duzenbury – flight engineer* Joe S. Stiborik – radar operator*
  • Sergeant Robert H. Shumard – assistant flight engineer* Richard H. Nelson – VHF radio operator*

Asterisks denote regular crewmen of the Enola Gay.

Of mission commander Parsons, it was said: "There is no one more responsible for getting this bomb out of the laboratory and into some form useful for combat operations than Captain Parsons, by his plain genius in the ordnance business." [35]

Nagasaki mission Edit

For the Nagasaki mission, Enola Gay was flown by Crew B-10, normally assigned to Up An' Atom:

  • Captain George W. Marquardt – aircraft commander
  • Second Lieutenant James M. Anderson – co-pilot
  • Second Lieutenant Russell Gackenbach – navigator
  • Captain James W. Strudwick – bombardier
  • Technical Sergeant James R. Corliss – flight engineer
  • Sergeant Warren L. Coble – radio operator
  • Sergeant Joseph M. DiJulio – radar operator
  • Sergeant Melvin H. Bierman – tail gunner
  • Sergeant Anthony D. Capua Jr. – assistant engineer/scanner

Source: Campbell, 2005, pp. 134, 191–192.

On 6 November 1945, Lewis flew the Enola Gay back to the United States, arriving at the 509th's new base at Roswell Army Air Field, New Mexico, on 8 November. On 29 April 1946, Enola Gay left Roswell as part of the Operation Crossroads nuclear weapons tests in the Pacific. It flew to Kwajalein Atoll on 1 May. It was not chosen to make the test drop at Bikini Atoll and left Kwajalein on 1 July, the date of the test, reaching Fairfield-Suisun Army Air Field, California, the next day. [36]

The decision was made to preserve the Enola Gay, and on 24 July 1946, the aircraft was flown to Davis–Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson, Arizona, in preparation for storage. On 30 August 1946, the title to the aircraft was transferred to the Smithsonian Institution and the Enola Gay was removed from the USAAF inventory. [36] From 1946 to 1961, the Enola Gay was put into temporary storage at a number of locations. It was at Davis-Monthan from 1 September 1946 until 3 July 1949, when it was flown to Orchard Place Air Field, Park Ridge, Illinois, by Tibbets for acceptance by the Smithsonian. It was moved to Pyote Air Force Base, Texas, on 12 January 1952, and then to Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, on 2 December 1953, [37] because the Smithsonian had no storage space for the aircraft. [38]

It was hoped that the Air Force would guard the plane, but, lacking hangar space, it was left outdoors on a remote part of the air base, exposed to the elements. Souvenir hunters broke in and removed parts. Insects and birds then gained access to the aircraft. Paul E. Garber of the Smithsonian Institution, became concerned about the Enola Gay ' s condition, [38] and on 10 August 1960, Smithsonian staff began dismantling the aircraft. The components were transported to the Smithsonian storage facility at Suitland, Maryland, on 21 July 1961. [37]

Enola Gay remained at Suitland for many years. By the early 1980s, two veterans of the 509th, Don Rehl and his former navigator in the 509th, Frank B. Stewart, began lobbying for the aircraft to be restored and put on display. They enlisted Tibbets and Senator Barry Goldwater in their campaign. In 1983, Walter J. Boyne, a former B-52 pilot with the Strategic Air Command, became director of the National Air and Space Museum, and he made the Enola Gay ' s restoration a priority. [38] Looking at the aircraft, Tibbets recalled, was a "sad meeting. [My] fond memories, and I don't mean the dropping of the bomb, were the numerous occasions I flew the airplane . I pushed it very, very hard and it never failed me . It was probably the most beautiful piece of machinery that any pilot ever flew." [38]

Restoration of the bomber began on 5 December 1984, at the Paul E. Garber Preservation, Restoration, and Storage Facility in Suitland-Silver Hill, Maryland. The propellers that were used on the bombing mission were later shipped to Texas A&M University. One of these propellers was trimmed to 12.5 feet (3.8 m) for use in the university's Oran W. Nicks Low Speed Wind Tunnel. The lightweight aluminum variable-pitch propeller is powered by a 1,250 kVA electric motor, providing a wind speed up to 200 miles per hour (320 km/h). [39] Two engines were rebuilt at Garber and two at San Diego Air & Space Museum. Some parts and instruments had been removed and could not be located. Replacements were found or fabricated, and marked so that future curators could distinguish them from the original components. [40]

Exhibition controversy Edit

Enola Gay became the center of a controversy at the Smithsonian Institution when the museum planned to put its fuselage on public display in 1995 as part of an exhibit commemorating the 50th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. [41] The exhibit, The Crossroads: The End of World War II, the Atomic Bomb and the Cold War, was drafted by the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum staff, and arranged around the restored Enola Gay. [42]

Critics of the planned exhibit, especially those of the American Legion and the Air Force Association, charged that the exhibit focused too much attention on the Japanese casualties inflicted by the nuclear bomb, rather than on the motives for the bombing or the discussion of the bomb's role in ending the conflict with Japan. [43] [44] The exhibit brought to national attention many long-standing academic and political issues related to retrospective views of the bombings. After attempts to revise the exhibit to meet the satisfaction of competing interest groups, the exhibit was canceled on 30 January 1995. Martin O. Harwit, Director of the National Air and Space Museum, was compelled to resign over the controversy. [45] [46] He later reflected that

The dispute was not simply about the atomic bomb. Rather, the dispute was sometimes a symbolic issue in a "culture war" in which many Americans lumped together the seeming decline of American power, the difficulties of the domestic economy, the threats in world trade and especially Japan's successes, the loss of domestic jobs, and even changes in American gender roles and shifts in the American family. To a number of Americans, the very people responsible for the script were the people who were changing America. The bomb, representing the end of World War II and suggesting the height of American power was to be celebrated. It was, in this judgment, a crucial symbol of America's "good war", one fought justly for noble purposes at a time when America was united. Those who in any way questioned the bomb's use were, in this emotional framework, the enemies of America. [47]

The forward fuselage went on display on 28 June 1995. On 2 July 1995, three people were arrested for throwing ash and human blood on the aircraft's fuselage, following an earlier incident in which a protester had thrown red paint over the gallery's carpeting. [48] The exhibition closed on 18 May 1998 and the fuselage was returned to the Garber Facility for final restoration. [49]

Complete restoration and display Edit

Restoration work began in 1984, and would eventually require 300,000 staff hours. While the fuselage was on display, from 1995 to 1998, work continued on the remaining unrestored components. The aircraft was shipped in pieces to the National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia from March–June 2003, with the fuselage and wings reunited for the first time since 1960 on 10 April 2003 [3] and assembly completed on 8 August 2003. The aircraft has been on display at the Udvar-Hazy Center since the museum annex opened on 15 December 2003. [49] As a result of the earlier controversy, the signage around the aircraft provided only the same succinct technical data as is provided for other aircraft in the museum, without discussion of the controversial issues. It read:

Boeing’s B-29 Superfortress was the most sophisticated propeller-driven bomber of World War II, and the first bomber to house its crew in pressurized compartments. Although designed to fight in the European theater, the B-29 found its niche on the other side of the globe. In the Pacific, B-29s delivered a variety of aerial weapons: conventional bombs, incendiary bombs, mines, and two nuclear weapons.

On 6 August 1945, this Martin-built B-29-45-MO dropped the first atomic weapon used in combat on Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later, Bockscar (on display at the U.S. Air Force Museum near Dayton, Ohio) dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan. Enola Gay flew as the advance weather reconnaissance aircraft that day. A third B-29, The Great Artiste, flew as an observation aircraft on both missions.

Transferred from the U.S. Air Force

Wingspan: 43 m (141 ft 3 in)
Length: 30.2 m (99 ft)
Height: 9 m (27 ft 9 in)
Weight, empty: 32,580 kg (71,826 lb)
Weight, gross: 63,504 kg (140,000 lb)
Top speed: 546 km/h (339 mph)
Engines: 4 Wright R-3350-57 Cyclone turbo-supercharged radials, 2,200 hp
Crew: 12 (Hiroshima mission)
Armament: two .50 caliber machine guns
Ordnance: Little Boy atomic bomb
Manufacturer: Martin Co., Omaha, Nebraska, 1945
A19500100000 [50]

The display of the Enola Gay without reference to the historical context of World War II, the Cold War, or the development and deployment of nuclear weapons aroused controversy. A petition from a group calling themselves the Committee for a National Discussion of Nuclear History and Current Policy bemoaned the display of Enola Gay as a technological achievement, which it described as an "extraordinary callousness toward the victims, indifference to the deep divisions among American citizens about the propriety of these actions, and disregard for the feelings of most of the world's peoples". [51] It attracted signatures from notable figures including historian Gar Alperovitz, social critic Noam Chomsky, whistle blower Daniel Ellsberg, physicist Joseph Rotblat, writer Kurt Vonnegut, producer Norman Lear, actor Martin Sheen and filmmaker Oliver Stone. [51] [52]

Bombing with Conventional Weapons

American high level bombing missions with conventional weapons were typically at about 24,000 to 25,000 feet, and these bombers (often times a formation of airplanes) continued to fly straight forward or gradually turn to head back to base. There wasn't any special escape maneuver used since there was no danger of being caught in the bomb blasts. They just held formation after the bombs were dropped.

Low altitude bombing involved a danger from the blast, which could destroy the aircraft, but this was handled with a time delay on the bomb's fuse. So a low altitude bomber would come over and drop its bomb, which would impact on the target and detonate after the bomber was safely out of range.


Before World War II, the United States Army Air Corps concluded that the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, which would be the Americans' primary strategic bomber during the war, would be inadequate for the Pacific Theater, which required a bomber that could carry a larger payload more than 3,000 miles. [7]

In response, Boeing began work on pressurized long-range bombers in 1938. Boeing's design study for the Model 334 was a pressurized derivative of the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress with nosewheel undercarriage. Although the Air Corps did not have money to pursue the design, Boeing continued development with its own funds as a private venture. [8] In April 1939, Charles Lindbergh convinced General Henry H. Arnold to produce a new bomber in large numbers to counter the Germans' production. [9] In December 1939, the Air Corps issued a formal specification for a so-called "superbomber" that could deliver 20,000 lb (9,100 kg) of bombs to a target 2,667 mi (4,292 km) away and at a speed of 400 mph (640 km/h). Boeing's previous private venture studies formed the starting point for its response to that specification. [10]

Boeing submitted its Model 345 on 11 May 1940, [11] in competition with designs from Consolidated Aircraft (the Model 33, later to become the B-32), [12] Lockheed (the Lockheed XB-30), [13] and Douglas (the Douglas XB-31). [14] Douglas and Lockheed soon abandoned work on their projects, but Boeing received an order for two flying prototypes, which were given the designation XB-29, and an airframe for static testing on 24 August 1940, with the order being revised to add a third flying aircraft on 14 December. Consolidated continued to work on its Model 33, as it was seen by the Air Corps as a backup in case there were problems with Boeing's design. [15] Boeing received an initial production order for 14 service test aircraft and 250 production bombers in May 1941, [16] this being increased to 500 aircraft in January 1942. [11] The B-29 featured a fuselage design with circular cross-section for strength. The need for pressurization in the cockpit area also led to the B-29 being one of very few American combat aircraft of World War II to have a stepless cockpit design, without a separate windscreen for the pilots.

Manufacturing the B-29 was a complex task. It involved four main-assembly factories: a pair of Boeing operated plants at Renton, Washington (Boeing Renton), and Wichita, Kansas (now Spirit AeroSystems), a Bell plant at Marietta, Georgia near Atlanta ("Bell-Atlanta"), and a Martin plant at Omaha, Nebraska ("Martin-Omaha" – Offutt Field). [11] [17] Thousands of subcontractors were involved in the project. [18] The first prototype made its maiden flight from Boeing Field, Seattle on 21 September 1942. [17] The combined effects of the aircraft's highly advanced design, challenging requirements, immense pressure for production, and hurried development caused setbacks. The second prototype, which, unlike the unarmed first, was fitted with a Sperry defensive armament system using remote-controlled gun turrets sighted by periscopes, [19] first flew on 30 December 1942, this flight being terminated due to a serious engine fire. [20]

On 18 February 1943, the second prototype, flying out of Boeing Field in Seattle, experienced an engine fire and crashed. [20] The crash killed Boeing test pilot Edmund T. Allen and his 10-man crew, 20 workers at the Frye Meat Packing Plant and a Seattle firefighter. [21] Changes to the production craft came so often and so fast that in early 1944, B-29s flew from the production lines directly to modification depots for extensive rebuilds to incorporate the latest changes. AAF-contracted modification centers and its own air depot system struggled to handle the scope of the requirements. Some facilities lacked hangars capable of housing the giant B-29, requiring outdoor work in freezing cold weather, further delaying necessary modification. By the end of 1943, although almost 100 aircraft had been delivered, only 15 were airworthy. [22] [23] This prompted an intervention by General Hap Arnold to resolve the problem, with production personnel being sent from the factories to the modification centers to speed availability of sufficient aircraft to equip the first Bomb Groups in what became known as the "Battle of Kansas". This resulted in 150 aircraft being modified in the five weeks between 10 March and 15 April 1944. [24] [25] [26]

The most common cause of maintenance headaches and catastrophic failures was the engines. [24] Although the Wright R-3350 Duplex-Cyclone radial engines later became a trustworthy workhorse in large piston-engined aircraft, early models were beset with dangerous reliability problems. This problem was not fully cured until the aircraft was fitted with the more powerful Pratt & Whitney R-4360 "Wasp Major" in the B-29D/B-50 program, which arrived too late for World War II. Interim measures included cuffs placed on propeller blades to divert a greater flow of cooling air into the intakes which had baffles installed to direct a stream of air onto the exhaust valves. Oil flow to the valves was also increased, asbestos baffles installed around rubber push rod fittings to prevent oil loss, thorough pre-flight inspections made to detect unseated valves, and frequent replacement of the uppermost five cylinders (every 25 hours of engine time) and the entire engines (every 75 hours). [N 1] [24] [27]

Pilots, including the present-day pilots of the Commemorative Air Force's Fifi, one of the last two remaining flying B-29s, describe flight after takeoff as being an urgent struggle for airspeed (generally, flight after takeoff should consist of striving for altitude). Radial engines need airflow to keep them cool, and failure to get up to speed as soon as possible could result in an engine failure and risk of fire. One useful technique was to check the magnetos while already on takeoff roll rather than during a conventional static engine-runup before takeoff. [27]

In wartime, the B-29 was capable of flight at altitudes up to 31,850 feet (9,710 m), [28] at speeds of up to 350 mph (560 km/h) (true airspeed). This was its best defense because Japanese fighters could barely reach that altitude, and few could catch the B-29 even if they did attain that altitude. Only the heaviest of anti-aircraft weapons could reach it, and since the Axis forces did not have proximity fuzes, hitting or damaging the aircraft from the ground in combat proved difficult. [ citation needed ]

Forget the Enola Gay: Meet the Bockscar B-29 That Dropped the Second Bomb

The first atomic bombing made history and so the Enola Gay is remembered, but the second attack was done by a different plane.

Key point: Both atomic bombings were world-changing events that remain debated to this day. Here is the B-29 that conducted the second raid.

The Enola Gay is remembered today as being the aircraft that dropped the first atomic bomb on Japan nearly seventy-five years ago, and its infamous flight has been the subject of much debate. The aircraft’s mission has been chronicled in movies, TV shows and even a 1980s anti-war song by the British New Wave group Orchestral Manoeuvers in the Dark—although the song was as much about UK’s Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s decision to allow nuclear missiles to be stationed in Great Britain.

This first appeared earlier and is being reposted due to reader interest.

In fact, the B-29 bomber has remained so controversial that there were protests when it was put on display at the National Air & Space Museum in Washington, DC.

Then there is Bockscar, another B-29 that hasn't shared in such controversy—at least not to the level of its sister aircraft. In fact, Bockscar is largely forgotten even though it carried the second atomic bomb—Fat Man—which was dropped on Nagasaki days after the first bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.

Bockscar was actually one of fifteen specially modified “Silverplate” B-29s that were assigned to the 509th Composite Group. While most B-29s were armed with eight .50 caliber machine guns in remote-controlled turrets along with two additional .50 caliber machine guns and one twenty-millimeter cannon in the tail, these modified aircraft had retailed the tail guns and even had their armor removed to save weight to be able to carry the extremely dangerous atomic bombs at extreme flight distances.

What is also notable about the two aircraft is that their respective pilots who regularly flew the aircraft named the planes. Colonel Paul Tibbets, who piloted the Enola Gay, had named his aircraft for his mother “Enola Gay Tibbets” (1893–1983) who herself was named after the heroine of the novel Enola or, Her Fatal Mistake. In the case of Bockscarnot to be confused with the Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcarthe moniker was a play on Captain Frederick Bock's last name, who had previously participated in air raids on Japan that were launched from parts of China controlled by the Allies.

Yet it wasn’t Bock who piloted the aircraft he had named on August 9, 1945.

That is because Maj. Charles W. Sweeney had used Bockscar for more than ten training and practice missions even though he and his usual crew had piloted another aircraft named The Great Artiste. When Sweeney and his crew were chosen to deliver the Fat Man while Bock and his crew were chosen to provide observation support the decision was made to swap the crews rather than to move the complex instrumentation equipment.

So what is largely forgotten is that while Bock didn't pilot Bockscar he was in fact present in the other B-29, The Great Artiste, which was used for scientific measures and photography of the effects caused by the release of Fat Man.

Today the Enola Gay remains in the National Air & Space Museum in Washington, DC while Bockscar is in the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.