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Enola Gay Exhibit, First Draft-Final Draft

UNIT 4: "ENOLA GAY": THE B-29 AND THE ATOMIC MISSIONS

Source: The entire first draft of the script can be found in Judgement at the Smithsonian (New York: Marlowe & Company, 1995) 

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August 6, 1945, 2:00 a.m., Tinian Island, the Central Pacific. Bathed in floodlights, the B-29 "Enola Gay" awaits take-off on an historic mission: dropping the first atomic bomb on Japan. The head of the Manhattan Project, Gen. Leslie Groves, had warned the "Enola Gay's" commander, Col. Paul Tibbets, to expect "a little publicity," but Tibbets and his crew are stunned by the scene on the tarmac. Movie cameramen, photographers and reporters surround the crew. Groves is determined that this is one moment in history that was not going to go unrecorded. Soon thereafter, at 2:45 a.m., the aircraft took off. 

The beginning of the "Enola Gay's" mission was the culmination of over a year's work. The U.S. Army Air Forces had modified its most advanced bomber, the B-29, and had created a new, special military unit for delivering atomic bombs. This unit's mission was so secret that, with few exceptions, the nature of its weapons was concealed even from its members. 

UNIT 4: "ENOLA GAY": THE B-29 AND THE ATOMIC MISSIONS

Source: The Last Act: The Atomic Bomb and the End of World War II by the Curators of the National Air and Space Museum

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August 6, 1945, 2:00 a.m., Tinian Island, the Central Pacific. Bathed in floodlights, the B-29 Enola Gay awaits the start of its historic mission: to drop the first atomic bomb on Japan. Gen. Leslie Groves, the head of the Manhattan Project, had warned the Enola Gay's commander, Col. Paul Tibbets, to expect "a little publicity," but Tibbets and his crew are surprised by the scene on the tarmac. Movie cameramen and photographers surround the crew. Groves is determined that this moment in history will not go unrecorded. Soon, at 2:45 a.m., the aircraft takes off. 

The beginning of the Enola Gay's mission was the culmination of over a year's work. The U.S. Army Air Forces had modified its most advanced bomber, the B-29, and had created a new, special military unit for delivering atomic bombs. This unit's mission was so secret that, with few exceptions, the nature of its weapons was concealed even from its members. 

THE B-29: A THREE-BILLION DOLLAR GAMBLE

Although ultimately chosen to deliver the first atomic bombs, the Boeing B-29 Superfortress was conceived, designed, and rushed into production as a very long-range conventional bomber. Of the total wartime production of over 2,000 aircraft, only 15 were sent to the Pacific as potential atomic bomb carriers before the war's end. Most of the rest formed the backbone of what was, by the spring of 1945, the most powerful and destructive bomber force of World War II. 

The B-29 was the most technologically complex mass-production aircraft of World War II. The program to build it also represented the largest commitment of resources to a single military aircraft up to that time. Initiated in response to German victories in Europe during 1939 and 1940, the B-29 program eventually cost over 3 billion dollars--1 billion more that the Manhattan Project. 

THE B-29: A $3 BILLION GAMBLE

The Boeing B-29 Superfortress was conceived, designed, and rushed into production as a very long-range conventional bomber. Of the more than 3,700 B-29s built during the war, only 15, specially modified, were sent to the Pacific as potential atomic bombers 

The B-29 was the most technologically complex mass-production aircraft of World War II. This complexity represented a significant gamble: unforeseen technical problems during flight testing could have endangered the B-29 development and production program, which eventually cost over $3 billion--$1 billion more than the Manhattan Project. It was the largest commitment of resources to a single military aircraft up to that time. 

background photograph of B-29s in formation

NASM photograph

3A 38442

(no label needed) 

DESIGNING A SUPERBOMBER

In the wake of Nazi Germany's quick victory over Poland in 1939, Major General Henry H. "Hap" Arnold, Commander of the Army Air Corps, asked the War Department for authority to initiate design studies for a very long-range heavy bomber. After formulating its requirements for the new bomber, in January 1940 the Air Corps requested design proposals from four aircraft firms: Boeing, Lockheed, Douglas, and Consolidated. On September 6, 1940, the Boeing Company received a $3.6 million contract covering the construction of a wooden fullsize mock-up and two prototypes. The new bomber received the designation XB-29. 

DESIGNING A SUPERBOMBER

In the wake of Nazi Germany's quick victory over Poland in 1939, Maj. Gen. Henry H. "Hap" Arnold, Chief of the Army Air Corps, asked the War Department for authority to define requirements for a very-long-range heavy bomber. After drafting performance requirements for the new bomber, the Air Corps in January 1940 requested design proposals from Boeing, Lockheed, Douglas, and Consolidated. In September 1940, Boeing received a $3.6 million contract to build a fullsize wooden mock-up and two prototypes. The new bomber received the designation XB-29. 

photograph

Boeing conceptual drawing of 1938, which became the basis for the company's 1940 bomber proposal.

Courtesy of the Boeing Company Archives

model (if available) 

B-29 wind tunnel model 

STRETCHING AERODYNAMIC LIMITS

To meet the Air Corps' performance requirements for the new bomber, Boeing engineers stretched existing aircraft technology to the limit. To reduce drag (air resistance) and provide great lift at high speed, designers selected a long, narrow wing incorporating a newly designed, aerodynamically efficient airfoil. Flaps as large as the wings of some fighters would reduce the high landing speed inherent in such a heavy bomber. Flush riveting of most of the aircraft's skin produced a smooth, strong surface. Tight-fitting low-drag cowlings enclosed the B-29's four massive 2,200 hp Wright Cyclone R-33350 engines. Even the aircraft's rounded nose contributed to drag reduction by eliminating a vertical windscreen. 

Boeing design efforts resulted in a combination of flight and landing characteristics that compromised neither. As a result, although the B-29 carried a larger bombload over greater distances at higher altitude and speed than any other bomber of World War II, it proved surprisingly easy to fly. 

STRETCHING TECHNOLOGICAL LIMITS

To meet the Air Forces' performance requirements for the new bomber while working under a strict schedule , Boeing engineers stretched existing aircraft technology to the limit. An aerodynamically efficient wing, flush-riveted skin, and tight-fitting engine cowlings reduced drag (air resistance), allowing the B-29 to carry a larger bomb load higher, faster, and farther than earlier bombers. For the first time on a heavy bomber, defensive machine guns were installed in remotely controlled turrets. Over 125 electric motors powered the aircraft's internal equipment. 

The B-29's complexity was both a major technological achievement and a gamble for Boeing and the Army Air Forces. As Boeing began building the first prototype B-29, the program began to suffer numerous delays. Over 900 changes were to be made to the initial design. 

The prototype XB-29 traveling under guard from the Boeing factory in Settle to the test field before its first flight, July, 1942. 

Courtesy of the Boeing Company Archives

The XB-29 takes to the air for the first time, September 21, 1942. 

Courtesy of the Boeing Company Archives

A TECHNOLOGICAL GAMBLE

For the first time on a combat aircraft, heated pressurized compartments allowed crewmen to fly at high altitude without bulky clothing and oxygen masks. A 10-m (33-ft) tunnel, 86 cm (34 in) in diameter, ran through the aircraft's two bomb bays and connected two of the compartments. Bunks in the rear compartment allowed crewmen to sleep on long duration flights. The tail gunner's pressurized position remained isolated from the rest of the aircraft. 

The complexity of the B-29 represented not only a major technological e achievement, but also a significant gamble for Boeing and the Army Air Corps. If unforeseen problems turned up in the B-29's engines or internal systems during flight testing, the entire program could be endangered. 

PRESSURIZED CREW COMPARTMENTS

For the first time on a combat aircraft, heated, pressurized compartments allowed crewmen to fly at high altitude without bulky clothing and oxygen masks. A pressurized tunnel ran above the aircraft's two bomb bays and connected the fore and aft compartments. The tail gunner's pressurized position remained isolated from the rest of the aircraft. 

graphic from Time-Life 

B-29 internal systems and crew stations 

A TROUBLESOME GESTATION

As Boeing proceeded toward the construction of the first prototype B-29, the program to suffer from numerous delays. Over 900 changes were made to the basic design between 1940 and 1942. One of the most important was inclusion of a new type of defensive armament system incorporating four remotely-controlled machine gun turrets connected to a computer-assisted fire-control system. To provide electrical power for the fire control system, the pressurization system, and the aircraft's massive propellers, designers used over 125 electric motors, necessitating weight reduction for the rest of the aircraft. 

To eliminate further delays and speed production of the first prototypes, the B-29 Liaison Committee was established in April 1942 and empowered to make binding decisions for the program. As the year progressed, various subcommittees helped coordinate the assembly of the B-29 prototype, which made its first test flight on September 21, 1942. 

THE ENGINE CRISIS

Although the B-29 exhibited excellent flying characteristics, its engines caused problems from the beginning of flight testing. After several near-accidents, an engine fire caused the second prototype to crash on February 18, 1943, killing Boeing's chief test pilot and ten others on board. A Senate investigating committee determined that engine quality control had been deficient precipitating a crisis for the B-29 program. In response, General Arnold set up the "B-29 Special Project" under General Kenneth B. Wolfe. Arnold expected Wolfe , one of the Army Air Forces' most experienced engineering officers, to ensure that the first B-29 would be ready for combat by the end of 1943. 

Improved quality control, a redesigned engine cowling, improved lubrication and better cooling helped to reduce the B-3350's tendency to catch fire. The problem, however, persisted well into the B-29's service life. 

THE ENGINE CRISIS

The B-29's complex Wright Cyclone R-3350 engines caused problems from the beginning of flight testing. After several near-accidents, an engine fire caused the second prototype to crash, killing Boeing's chief test pilot Eddie Allen, 10 others on board, and 20 on the ground. The crash precipitated a crisis for the B-29 program, prompting a Senate investigation and tighter Army Air Forces control of the project's engineering and flight testing. 

Improved quality control, a redesigned engine cowling, improved lubrication, and better cooling helped to reduce the R-3350's tendency to catch fire. The fire problem persisted well into the B-29's service life, but by 1945 the kR-3350 had become a very reliable engine. 

photograph (could possibly substitute a photo of one of the Enola Gay's engines here) 

Instqllation diagram for the Wright Cyclone R-3350 18-cylinder radial engine. 

Courtesy of the Boeing Company Archives

One of the Enola Gay's four 5-meter (16-foot, 8-inch) diameter Curtiss Electric propellers. 

SUPERFACTORIES FOR A SUPERFORTRESS

Following the Japanese attack on Pearl harbor, the U.S. Army Air Forces ordered over 1,600 B-29s, even though the aircraft had never been flown. Although Boeing had already begun construction of a massive new factory for B-29s at Wichita, Kansas, the Army recognized that the order far exceeded Boeing's plant capacity. 

Chrysler Corporation would produce the new bomber's engine at a massive plant to be built at a massive plant in Chicago. General Motor's Fisher Division would be responsible for forgings, castings, stampings and various B-29 subassemblies. Bell Aircraft Company would build center sections and fuselages and, after some delays, entire aircraft in Marietta, Georgia. Additional B-29 factories were eventually established by Boeing at Renton, Washington, and the Martin Company in Omaha, Nebraska. 

The first production B-29s began to roll off the assembly lines during July 1943. By war's end, the four B-29 assembly facilities and engine factories had produced over 2,000 aircraft and 18,000 engines, a signal achievement. 

SUPERFACTORIES FOR A SUPERBOMBER

The U.S. Army Air Forces ordered over 1,600 B-29s even before the first aircraft had been flown. This order far exceeded the capacity of the massive B-29 factory Boeing was building at Wichita, Kansas. To meet the demand, fabrication of some components and assembly of airframes was contracted out. 

Chrysler Corporation produced the bomber's engines at a huge plant in Chicago. General Motors' Fisher Division manufactured forgings, castings, stampings and various B-29 subassemblies. Bell Aircraft Company built bomb bays, fuselages and, eventually, entire aircraft in Marietta, Georgia. Boeing later established another B-29 plant in Renton, Washington, and the Martin Company erected one in Omaha, Nebraska. 

The first production B-29s began to roll off the assembly lines during July 1943. By war's end, the four B-29 assembly facilities and engine factories had produced over 2,000 aircraft and 18,000 engines, a signal achievement. 

map

Sites of principal B-29 and R-3350 engine subcontractors 

A B-29 rolls out of Boeing's Wichita, Kansas, plant, one of four massive factories devoted to production of the Superfortess, 1944. 

Courtesy of the Boeing Company Archives

Workers install control cables in a bomb bay at Boeing's Renton, Washington, factory, 1944. 

Courtesy of the Boeing Company Archives

(additional photographs from the various production facilities may be added here.

Production of the R-3350 engine at Chrysler's Dodge factory in Chicago, 1943. 

Courtesy of Chrysler Corporation

THE B-29 AND THE BOMBING OF JAPAN

CREATING A NEW AIR FORCE

By October 1943, President Franklin Roosevelt had begun to lose patience with the B-29 program. General Arnold had promised that at least 150 B-29s would be available to begin bombing Japan from China by January 1, 1944. Aware of the President's dissatisfaction, Arnold activated the first B-29 combat unit, the XXth Bomber Command, in late November, and its parent organization the Twentieth Air Force, in April 1944. Arnold selected General Kenneth Wolfe, already deeply involved in the B-29 program, to command the XXth Bomber Command from an airfield near Salina, Kansas. Unlike all of the other Army Air Forces, the Twentieth Air Force would be directly under the command of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. 

The mission of the Twentieth Air Force would be the destruction of Japanese war industries as outlined under the "Air Plan for the Defeat of Japan," drafted by Wolfe and formalized by President Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Churchill, and the Combined Chiefs of Staff at the Cairo Conference in November 1943. 

CREATING A NEW AIR FORCE

Under pressure from President Roosevelt to begin bombing Japan, General Arnold activated the first B-29 combat unit, the XXth Bomber Command, in November 1943, and its parent organization, the Twentieth Air Force, in April 1944. Arnold selected Brig. Gen. Kenneth Wolfe to head XX Bomber Command, which was expected to conduct missions against Japan from bases in China. Unlike all the other Army Air Forces, the Twentieth Air Force would be directly under the command of the Joint Chiefs of Staff with Arnold as their executive agent. 

photograph 

Brig. Gen. Kenneth B. Wolfe, first commander, XX Bomber Command, 1943. 

CREW TRAINING

Following activation of XXth Bomber Command, General Wolfe prepared plans to train 452 combat crews. As personnel trickled into their bases in late 1943, they found B-29s in such short supply that many were forced to train in older heavy bombers. By the end of the year, the average crew had less than 30 hours of flight time in the airplane they would be taking into combat. Although more B-29s became available for training during early 1944, the crews left for their first combat deployment with much to still learn about their complex, temperamental bombers. 

THE BATTLE OF KANSAS

The first B-29s off the assembly lines required extensive modification to make them ready for combat. Under pressure from President Roosevelt to deploy the 150 B-29s of the XXth Bomber Command to India by April 15, 1944, Army Air Forces Commanding General Arnold visited the modification center at Salina, Kansas, in early March, expecting to find the first contingent of new B-29s ready to begin the long flight to Asia. Arnold was shocked to find that none of the new bombers were ready and no one could say exactly when the modifications would be completed. 

To speed up the process, Arnold imposed greater Air Force control over program management, assign the B-29 priority over all other aircraft programs, and diverted workers from Boeing's assembly lines to the Salina, Kansas, modification center. 

Laboring on B-29s parked outdoors in freezing temperatures, Boeing workers modified just enough bombers by the end of March 1944 to equip the first units going overseas. The last of the 150 bombers left by April 15. The episode quickly became know as "The Battle of Kansas." 

THE BATTLE OF KANSAS

Because of production delays, few B-29s were available when training in late 1943. Many crews had to train in older heavy bombers instead. By the end of the year, the average crew had less than 30 hours of flight time in the airplane. 

To ease the B-29 shortage, General Arnold ordered workers to be diverted from other facilities to Kansas, where they accelerated Superfortress production. During the hectic month that followed, which became known as the "Battle of Kansas," the workers completed just enough B-29s to equip the first combat units. Although the vanguard squadrons of the XX Bomber Command departed at nearly full strength, the crews left for the war with much still to learn about their complex, temperamental bombers. 

photograph 

Crewmen train in a high-altitude chamber, Smoky Hill Army Air Field, Kansas, 1943. 

Courtesy of the Boeing Company Archives

photograph 

B-29s undergoing modification at Wichita during the "Battle of Kansas," March 1944. 

EARLY B-29 OPERATIONS IN ASIA

The first B-29s arrived in India during May 1944. Early bombing raids against targets in Japanese-held China and Southeast Asia were conducted from air bases in China. The first attack on Japan since the Doolittle Raid, a strike against coke furnaces and steel plants in the city of Yawata, was staged from Chengtu, China, on June 15, 1944. 

The B-29 crews operating from China faced enormous obstacles, however. Because Japanese forces blocked overland routes to Chengtu, all food, fuel, bombs, ammunition, and other supplies had to be flown to the base over the Himalaya Mountains from India. In some cases, it was estimated that supply aircraft burned 12 gallons of fuel for every gallon delivered to a Chinese airstrip within striking distance of Japan. Moreover, B-29 crews taking off from Chinese bases had to fly a 5,00 km (3,200 mi) round trip to reach those few cities in western Japan that were within their range. Operations were hampered by mechanical failures, the strain of very long flights at high altitude, and poor bombing results . 

BOMBING JAPAN

A DIFFICULT BEGINNING

Early bombing raids against targets in Japanese-held China and Southeast Asia were conducted by the XX Bomber Command from air bases in India and China. The first attack on Japan since the early 1942 Doolittle Raid was staged from Chengtu, China, on June 15, 1944. The targets were coke furnaces and steel plants in the city of Yawata. 

The B-29 crews operating from China faced enormous obstacle. Japanese forces blocked overland routes to China, so all food, fuel, bombs, and ammunition had to be flown to the base over the Himalaya Mountains from India. Three or four supply flights were needed for every bomber mission flown. Bomber crews taking off from Chinese bases had to fly 5,000-kilometer (3,200-mile) round-trips to reach those few targets in western Japan that were within their range. The strain of these long flights at high altitude revealed the weakness of the aircraft. 

photograph

Thousands of laborers constructed the XX Bomber Command's airfield at Chengtu, China, in 1944 without the aid of machinery. 

photograph 

A B-29 takes off from the airfield at Chengtu, China, passing the wreck of a B-29 that crashed on takeoff during an earlier mission, 1944. 

BASES IN THE CENTRAL PACIFIC

The "Air Plan for the Defeat of Japan" called for the largest share of the strategic bombing campaign to be conducted from bases in the central Pacific. After the seizure of the Marianas Islands, five great airfields would be constructed there, allowing a new B-29 organization, the Exist Bomber Command, to begin large-scale bombing of the Japanese home islands. On August 27, 1944, the Twentieth Air Force's Chief of Staff, Major General Hayward S. Hansell, took command of the XXIst Bomber Command and began to formulate plans for the campaign from the Marianas. 

BULLDOZERS BEFORE BOMBERS

Although the XXIst Bomber Command faced fewer logistical difficulties than had the XXth, the construction of airfields and support facilities in the Marianas represented a substantial accomplishment. After the capture of the island of Saipan in June 1944 and the islands of Tinian and Guam in early August, Army airfield engineers and Navy Seabees constructed the five largest air bases ever built to that time, each capable of handling several hundred B-29s. With completion of two airfields on both Tinian and Guam during the spring of 1945, the islands had been totally transformed, setting the stage for the last great air campaign of World War II. 

BULLDOZERS BEFORE BOMBERS: CREATING BASES IN THE CENTRAL PACIFIC

The "Air Plan for the Defeat of Japan," drawn up in 1943, called for most of the strategic bombing campaign to be conducted by the newly formed XXI Bomber Command from bases in the central Pacific. After the Marianas Islands were captured in the summer of 1944, Army engineers and Navy Seabees moved in and began constructing the five largest air bases ever built up to that time: one in Saipan and two each on Tinian and Guam. Each was capable of handling several hundred B-29s. 

The airfields were finished--and the three islands totally transformed--by the spring of 1945. This monumental accomplishment set the stage for the last great air campaign of World War II. 

Brig. Gen. Haywood S. Hansell Jr., first commander of the XXI Bomber Command, 1944. 

map 

B-29 bases in the Marianas 

(other photos of base construction, etc., may be added) 

Airfield construction, North Field, Guam. 1944. 

EARLY B-29 OPERATIONS IN THE MARIANAS

Operations from Saipan began on November 24, 1944, reducing the length of a round-trip flight to Tokyo to 4,800 km (3,000 mi). Most significant Japanese targets were now within the range. Additional airfields on Guam and Tinian allowed more B-29 groups to join the offensive. 

Still, problems remained. Major General Haywood Hansell, commander of XXIst Bomber Command, wanted to continue the high-altitude precision-bombing techniques first tried in Europe. Crews attacking targets in Japan from 9,000 m (30,000 ft), however, experienced a powerful and unknown phenomenon--jet-stream winds of over 320 km/h (200 mph). These high winds either pushed bombers along at ground speeds approaching 800 km/h (500 mph) or slowed them nearly to a standstill. Bombing accuracy was very difficult to achieve. Hansell ordered his bombers to attack at lower altitudes, but unpredictable weather often obscured targets anyway. By the end of 1944, B-29s had dropped 1,550 tons of bombs during seven raids on Japanese aircraft factories and steel plants. It was estimated that only one bomb in 50 had fallen within 1000 feet of its target. 

"Oh, I get that lonesome feeling
When I hear those engines whine,
Those 29's are breaking up
That old gang of mine.
There goes Jack, there goes Bill
Down over Tokyo.
We all hope it's home we go
How soon we do not know.
A goddamned Zeke rammed old Pete,
We wept to see him go,
Heavy flak riddled Jack,
He couldn't make Iwo.
Oh they say it's thirty missions
But it's more like twenty-nine,
Those 29s are breaking up
That old gang of mine." 

Song by an anonymous B-29 crewman, sung to the tune of "Those Wedding Bells Are Breaking Up That Old Gang of Mine"

INTO ACTION FROM THE MARIANAS

Operations from Saipan began In November 1944, reducing the length of a round-trip flight to Tokyo to 4,800 kilometers (3,000 miles) and bringing most significant Japanese targets within the range. 

Still, problems remained. Brigadier General Hansell, commander of XXI Bomber Command, wanted to continue the high-altitude, precision-bombing techniques first tried in Europe. But crews attacking targets in Japan from 9,000 meters (30,000 feet) encountered a powerful and previously unknown winds of over 320 kilometers (200 miles) per hour--the jet stream. These winds either pushed bombers along at ground speeds approaching 800 kilometers (500 miles) per hour or slowed them nearly to a standstill, making accurate bombing almost impossible, exposing them to enemy attack and placing great strain on their engines. Even at lower altitudes, unpredictable weather often obscured targets. By the end of 1944, after seven raids on Japanese aircraft factories and steel plants, only about 1 bomb in 50 had fallen within 300 meters (1,000 feet) of its target. 

photograph 

The Kawasaki aircraft factory near Kobe under attack on January 15, 1945. XXI Bomber Command B-29s rarely attained this degree of accuracy during high-altitude daylight attacks. 

CITIZEN AIRMEN

As the U.S. Army Air Forces expanded dramatically during World War II, it drew in men from every geographical region and background in America. Although the Air Force provided practically no flying opportunities for anyone other than white males, the B-29 units nevertheless contained a remarkably diverse mix of airmen. Almost all were volunteers, motivated by patriotism and sense of wartime duty. Flight pay the prospect of rapid promotion, and the glamour of aviation attracted others. As one of the Army Air Forces' highest priority units, the Twentieth Air Force attracted the best flyers among those still training in the United States. 

Although many senior officers came from combat units, most B-29 crewmen had not yet been overseas when they arrived at the great airfields in the Marianas. These citizen airmen faced an enormous responsibility--to take a complex, often dangerously temperamental aircraft into combat halfway around the world and deliver what their superiors hoped would be the final knockout blow against Japan. 

CITIZEN AIRMEN

As the U.S. Army Air Forces expanded dramatically during World War II, it drew men from every geographical region who were motivated by patriotism, sense of wartime duty, or the draft. Flight pay, the prospect of rapid promotion, and the glamour of aviation attracted others. 

Although many senior officers came from combat units, most B-29 crewmen had not yet been overseas when they arrived at the great airfields in the Marianas. These citizen airmen faced an enormous responsibility: to take a complex, often unpredictable aircraft into combat halfway around the world and deliver what they hoped would be the knockout blow against Japan. 

photograph 

Portrait of a typical B-29 crew: Homer's Roamers , the crew of Aircraft No. 3, 873rd Squadron, 1945. They survived the war. 

photograph 

Quonset hut crew quarters on Saipan. Eighteen enlisted crewmen were housed in each hut. 

B-29 crewmen try to relax between missions by playing baseball, 1945. 

Post-mission debriefing, 1945. 

(airmen's paraphernalia with I.D. captions) 

A HAZARDOUS BUSINESS

Although loss rates for American bomber crews bombing Japan rarely approached those suffered by those over Germany, combat aircrews in the Pacific nonetheless faced a host of dangers, particularly during the early stages of the Marianas campaign. Operating B-29s at the limit of their performance was often disastrous for crews attempting to take off with a full load of fuel and bombs. Japanese anti-aircraft fire and fighters sometimes posed a significant threat over the target. Nor was abandoning a wounded B-29 over Japan a good idea--capture by the Japanese often meant execution. 

The 2,400 km (1,500 mi) return flight over open ocean proved too much for many weary aircrews in damaged bombers. Others ditched at sea after running out of fuel on the long return flight. Although patrol aircraft and submarines rescued many downed crews, other disappeared into the Pacific without a trace. By War's end 417 B-29s had been lost in combat and through operational accidents with 3,015 crewmen listed as killed, wounded, or missing in action. 

A HAZARDOUS BUSINESS

Although loss rates for American crews bombing Japan never approached those suffered over Germany, crews faced many dangers. Engines sometimes failed on bombers taking off laden with fuel and bombs, lading to fiery crashes. Japanese antiaircraft fire and fighters sometimes posed a serious threat over the target. Nor was abandoning a wounded B-29 over Japan a good idea. Since capture could mean execution, frequently by beheading. 

Many bombers succumbed to battle damage, lack of fuel, or errors made by fatigued pilots during the 2,400 kilometer (1,500 mile) return flight. Although sea-air rescue units and submarines rescued many downed crews, other disappeared into the Pacific without a trace. By War's end 417 B-29s had been lost in combat and accidents in Asia and the Pacific, with 3,015 crewmen listed as killed, wounded, or missing. 

photograph 

Capt. Walter "Waddy" Young and his crew in front of Waddy's Wagon . All were lost on a January 9, 1945, mission to Musashino. 

photograph 

A B-29 pilot shows the strain of combat as his aircraft approaches the target. 

"On the long trip to the target, I found it hard to believe that such a serene and tranquil sky could, at any moment, become filled with so much violence and destruction. And in the face of that beauty, the thing that bound us all together...was that we were scared to death." 

George S. Gray, B-29 gunner, 500th Bomb Group

NASM photograph 

A Japanese Ki-45 "Nick" fighter passes just beneath the propellers of its target, 1945. 

NASM photograph 

A B-29 disintegrates over Japan after suffering a direct hit by antiaircraft fire during a mission in early 1945. 

B-29 crewman's flak jacket and helmet 

"Just after we had opened the bomb bay doors and were on the bomb run, one of the twin-engine fighters came out of the 12 o'clock high...and sliced off Mckillip's wing right between engines one and two.... Mac's plane turned over on its back and slowly spiraled down from 18,000 feet. Our tail gunner...saw it hit the round and explode. No parachutes were observed...[and] the entire crew was instantly killed. Many nights on Tinian, I actually fell off my cot dreaming I was going down with Mac's crew!" 

Willis C. Lundahl, B-29 pilot, 504th Bomb Group

A POLICY OF EXECUTION

The Japanese government announced publicly in 1945 that it would execute any captured Allied flyers. After Iwo Jima, the Japanese ordered that any airmen picked up at sea were to be killed. Commandants of Japanese prisoner-of-war camps were instructed to kill their prisoners if American forces invaded. The sudden Japanese surrender prevented those unnecessary deaths. For aircrew, capture meant imprisonment in horrible conditions and even execution. Like this Australian intelligence officer, Allied flyers were sometimes beheaded. 

"GENERAL HEADQUARTERS
SUPREME COMMANDER FOR THE ALLIED POWERS
LEGAL SECTION

Tokyo, Japan
APO 5000
26 March 1948
File No. 014.13

Legal Section Informational Summary No. 249
SUBJECT: US vs. Toshio TASHIRO etal

Charged with the responsibility for the murder of 62 captured American fliers who were either slashed, stabbed or burned to death when Tokyo Military Prison was destroyed by fire following a heavy US air raid [May 25-26, 1945], five Japanese war criminals are presently on trial before a Yokahama Eighty Army Military Commission.... 

The guards, KAMBE, OKUBO, and KAMIMOTO are charged with the outright acts of murder in that they willfully and unlawfully killed 17 prisoners by piercing and cutting them with swords during the time of the fire. TASHIRO, as prison warden, is charged with ordering his subordinates to kill any Americans that might escape from their cells during the air raid.... He specifically ordered his subordinates not to release the Americans, thereby causing the deaths of 45 American prisoners by burning." 

HAVENS FOR DAMAGED BOMBERS

By the spring of 1945, B-29 losses had dropped to very low levels on most missions. Although some bombers continued to be lost to battle damage or lack of fuel during the long return flights, emergency airfields constructed in Iwo Jima, roughly halfway between Marianas and Japan, provided a much needed haven for aircraft unable to limp home. 

Establishment of bases capable of handling B-29s on Okinawa, after its final capture in June 1945, provided another escape option for crippled aircraft. Finally, Japanese air defenses proved rather less than formidable against B-29s bombing from low-altitude at night. These defenses became even less effective as a result of bombing, naval blockade, and the general deterioration of Japanese society during the spring of 1945. By war's end, Japanese air defenses had claimed only one of every five B-29s lost during the war. 

REDUCING LOSSES

By the spring of 1945, the Twentieth Air Force had established air superiority over Japan. B-29 losses from enemy action had dropped to very low levels on most missions. Still, some bombers continued to be lost during the long return flights. 

Emergency airfields constructed in Iwo Jima, roughly halfway between the Marianas and Japan, provided a much needed haven for aircraft unable to limp home. Bases capable of handling B-29s were built on Okinawa after its capture in June 1945, providing more emergency landing strips for crippled aircraft. 

photograph 

A flight engineer and pilot monitor dwindling fuel reserves during a mission's return flight. 

photograph 

Exhausted from the tension of combat, a crewman naps during the six-hour return trip in the tunnel connecting the forward and aft crew compartments. 

photograph 

Lt. Gordon Savage of the 19th Bomb Group crash-landed his flak-riddled B-29 on Iwo Jima after the great Tokyo raid of March 9-10, 1945. All the crew survived. 

photograph 

Lt. Holly Anderson inspects the fuselage of his flak-damaged B-29 after landing on Iwo Jima, May 3, 1945. 

Returning from a bombing mission, this crippled Boeing B-29 did not quite make the runway at Saipan. With two engines having failed, it nosed into the sea, trapping three crewmen in the wreckage, who died as a result of the crash. 

Courtesy of the U.S. Air Force

This Boeing B-29 ran out of fuel and crash-landed at Isley Field, Saipan, while returning from a night bombing mission over Tokyo. Although it hit an antiaircraft gun position and crashed into a fuel truck before it slid to a stop, the crew escaped with only minor injuries. 

Courtesy of the U.S. Air Force

A SHIFT IN TACTICS

Dismayed with the poor results achieved by XXIst Bomber Command under General Haywood Hansell, General Arnold fired Hansell and appointed Major General Curtis E. LeMay, a veteran of the European air campaign, on January 20, 1945. 

Under pressure to attack Japanese cities with incendiary bombs, LeMay instituted radical changes in the tactics employed by the B-29s. Instead of high altitude daylight precision attacks, his bombers would conduct area raids at night, flying at very low altitudes. Under those circumstances, enemy air opposition and antiaircraft defenses were expected to cause fewer problems. LeMay stripped the aircraft of their guns, ammunition and three crewmen, raising the operational bomb load for a single airplane from three to six tons. Most of the bombs would be incendiaries. Reasoning that dispersed factories could be destroyed and civilian morale shattered by burning residential areas, LeMay ordered his crews to bomb by radar, with an entire city, or a major section of it, as the target. 

BURNING JAPAN

The poor results achieved by XXI Bomber Command prompted General Arnold to replace Brigadier General Hansell in January 1945 with Maj. General Curtis E. LeMay, a veteran of the European air campaign and second commander of the XX Bomber Command in China. 

Under pressure from Washington to improve results, LeMay changed tactics in March. Instead of high-altitude attacks, he decided to conduct low-altitude incendiary (firebomb) raids at night. Reasoning that the dispersed factories could be destroyed and civilian morale shattered by igniting massive fires, LeMay ordered his crews to navigate by radar and bomb entire cities or major sections of cities. 

MODEL M-50 INCENDIARY BOMB

Along with the Model M-69 and M-47 incendiary bombs, the M-50 provided XXIst Bomber Command with the ideal weapon for burning Japanese cities. B-29s released bundles of individual M-50s, which burst to scatter the individual bomblets at a preset altitude. Although not as effective as the jellied gasoline-filled M-69, the magnesium-filled M-50 was virtually impossible to extinguish. 

MODEL M-50 INCENDIARY BOMB

Along with the Model M-69 and M-47 incendiary bombs, the M-50 proved to be an effective weapon for burning Japanese structures. B-29s released bundles of individual M-50s, which burst at a preset altitude and scattered individual bomblets. Although not as effective as the jellied-gasoline-filled M-69, the magnesium-filled M-50 was virtually impossible to extinguish. 

photograph 

Loading incendiary bombs into the bomb bay of a XXI Bomber Command B-29, spring 1945. 

NASM photograph 

Tokyo aflame following the raid of May 25, 1945. 

photograph 

Maj. Gen. Curtis E. LeMay (center) confers with Brig. Gen. Norstad (left) and Brig. Gen. Thomas Power (right) shortly after Power returned from leading the March 9-10 raid on Tokyo. 

BURNING JAPAN

The fire bombing campaign, which began in earnest with the great raid against Tokyo on the night of March 9-10, proved destructive beyond LeMay's wildest expectations. During the next five months, LeMay's bombers destroyed one half of the total area of 66 cities--burning 178 square miles to the ground. By the beginning of the summer of 1945, the destruction wrought by the B-29s was so complete that LeMay warned his superiors that by September he would run out of targets. 

The cities of Hiroshima, Kokura, Niigata, and Nagasaki, however, had been largely spared from the aerial onslaught. The task of destroying them would be given to a unit recently arrived in Tinian's North Field--one trained to drop atomic bombs. 

SYSTEMATIC DESTRUCTION

The firebombing campaign, which began in earnest with the great raid against Tokyo on the night of March 9-10, proved far more devastating than expected. During the next five months, LeMay's bombers razed one half of the total area of 66 cities--burning 460 square kilometers (178 square miles). By the summer of 1945, Japan's productive capacity had been lowered as follows: power generation by 50 percent, oil by 85 percent, and overall industrial production by 60 percent. The destruction was so complete that LeMay warned his superiors that he would run out of targets by September. 

Hiroshima, Kokura, Niigata, and Nagasaki were largely spared from the aerial onslaught. The task of destroying them would be given to a unit recently arrived in Tinian's North Field--one trained to drop atomic bombs. 

NASM photograph 

Flames consume large sections of Nagoya following a night raid, May 1945. 

NASM photograph 

Yokohama burns fiercely after a daylight incendiary attack, June 1945. 

NASM photograph 

One of the final raids of the war destroyed 99.5 percent of the city of Toyama, August 1945. 

THE WORLD'S FIRST ATOMIC STRIKE FORCE

"...start training crews to drop the bomb, if and when we make it and drop it." 

Henry H. "Hap" Arnold, Commanding General, Army Air Forces, to his deputy Lt. Gen. Barney Giles, 1944

By the summer of 1944, Manhattan Project scientists had made significant progress on the atomic bomb. Slowly but surely, the Army Air Forces had worked most of the glitches out of the B-29. It was time to create and train a combat unit to deliver the new weapons. 

The Army Air Forces quickly realized that a standard bomber group would not be able to carry out the mission. To ensure secrecy, a uniquely organized, self-contained group was needed. For eight months, this "composite group" trained in isolation for a mission, the details of which were kept secret even from them. Only on August 6, 1945, when the "Enola Gay" returned safely from its atomic attack on Hiroshima, would the 509th Composite Group understand their own roll in history. 

THE WORLD'S FIRST ATOMIC STRIKE FORCE

"...start training crews to drop the bomb, if and when we make it and drop it." 

Henry H. "Hap" Arnold, Commanding General, Army Air Forces, to his deputy Lt. Gen. Barney Giles, 1944

By the summer of 1944, Manhattan Project scientists had made significant progress on the atomic bomb. The time had come to create and train a combat unit to deliver the new weapons. 

To ensure secrecy, the Army Air Forces created a uniquely organized, self-contained atomic strike force. For eight months, the 609th Composite Group trained in relative isolation for a mission, the details of which were kept secret even from them. Only when the Enola Gay returned safely from its atomic attack on Hiroshima, would the men of this group understand that serving their country had earned them a unique place in history. 

SELECTING AN ATOMIC COMMANDER

"You have to put together an outfit and deliver this weapon. We don't know what it can do...you've got to mate it to the training, the ballistics--everything. These are all parts of your problem." 

General Uzal Ent to Lt. Colonel Paul Tibbets, September 1944

Almost a full year of planning went into selecting a commander for the new 509th Composite Group. Three days before a decision was reached, Paul Warfield Tibbets' name was added to the list of nominees. After an unorthodox interview designed to test his fundamental honesty, Tibbets was told he would command a unit that would e responsible for dropping an atomic bomb. 

In 1944, "atomic power" did not have much meaning. Only after Tibbets learned that the atom bomb would have "an explosive power equal to that of several thousand tons of TNT," would he begin to understand the colossal potential of his mission. 

PAUL W. TIBBETS: "AN INDEPENDENT OPERATOR"

Paul Warfield Tibbets was an obvious choice to command the 509th. Born in 1915, Tibbets' love of aviation led him to abandon his medical education to pursue a far less promising career in aviation at age 22. Joining the U.S. Army Air Corps cadet program in 1937 earned his father's wrath but also secured him a place in history. 

By fall 1944, he had extensive combat experience, including the first daylight raid y an American bombing squadron on German-occupied Europe. As a 97th Bombardment Group officer in the North African and European Theaters he had gained leadership experience. A veteran of the B-29 testing program, he was one of the most experienced Superfortress pilots. Tibbets offered more than his stellar service record. According to his memoirs, he "gained a reputation as an independent type of operator. In the European theater, [he] was called on to do things for which no formula or standards had been established." An innovator, he took on a project with an underdeveloped airplane and an undeveloped bomb and successfully executed it. 

[Order of following two sections reversed] 

PAUL W. TIBBETS (1915- )

Paul Warfield Tibbets was an obvious choice to command the 509th. In 1936 he had abandoned his medical education to pursue a career in the U.S. Army Air Corps. By fall 1944, he had acquired extensive combat experience, had led the first U.S. daylight bomber raid over Europe, and had flown Gen. Mark Clark and Gen. Dwight Eisenhower into North Africa. He was also a veteran of the B-29 testing program and one of the most experienced Superfortress pilots. 

According to his memoirs, he "gained a reputation as an independent type of operator. In the European theater, [he] was called on to do things for which no formula or standards had been established." His talent as an innovator would serve him well as commander of the unconventional 509th.

Tibbets was told he would command a unit that would be responsible for dropping an atomic bomb on Germany and Japan. But in 1944 "atomic power" had little meaning. Only after he learned that the atomic bomb would have "an explosive power equal to that of several thousand tons of TNT," did he begin to understand the special significance of his mission. 

Col. Paul Tibbets wearing the Distinguished Service Cross immediately after returning from the Hiroshima mission, August 6, 1945. 

free floating quote 

"You have to put together an outfit and deliver this weapon. We don't know what it can do.... You've got to mate it to the airplane and determine the tactics, the training, the ballistics--everything. These are all parts of your problem.... If this is successful, you'll be a hero. But, if it fails, you'll be the biggest scapegoat ever." 

Maj. Gen. Uzal Ent, Commanding General of the 2nd Air Force, to Lt. Col. Paul Tibbets

CREATING THE 509TH COMPOSITE GROUP

"Never before and never again would such a group exist."

Paul Tibbets, 1993 

Standard bomb groups were comprised of four bomber squadrons, plus maintenance and ordnance squadrons. The 509th Composite Group was not a standard unit. Instead, it was comprised of one bomb squadron with its own dedicated support squadrons. Grouping bomber and support squadrons together under one central command was an unorthodox but necessary strategy for keeping the 509th's mission secret. 

The U.S. Army Air Forces selected various squadrons for the Group, while Tibbets hand-picked pilots and crewmen with whom he had experience flying. In addition to reviewing each candidate's performance record, the Air Forces made extensive security checks on each potential member. In late summer 1944, qualified squadrons and individuals were detached from their parent organizations and reassigned to what would become the 509th Composite Group. 

THE 393RD BOMBER SQUADRON

Before Tibbets took command of what would become the 509th, the Army Air Forces had already selected a bomber squadron to form the core of Tibbets' atomic strike force. One of Tibbets' first tasks was to approve the choice of the 393rd. 

The members of the 393rd had already complete two-thirds of their training in Nebraska and were eagerly anticipating the day they would be ordered to move to the Pacific. To the surprise and disappointment of the combat-ready 393rd, they received a transfer to an air base in Utah. 

Although pleased with the bomber squadron's superior training record, Tibbets asked the Army Air Forces to assign a few others, with whom he had previously served, to the 509th. Integrating this elite group with the bomber squadron added one more dimension to Tibbet's complex assignment. 

CREATING THE 509TH COMPOSITE GROUP

"Never before and never again would such a group exist."

Brig. Gen. Paul Tibbets, 1993

Almost a full year of planning went into selecting squadrons and a commanding officer for the new atomic strike force. The Army Air Forces chose the squadrons that would form the composite group and the man who would be its commanding officer, Lt. Col. Paul W. Tibbets. The Army Air Forces allowed Tibbets to bring into the group additional airmen with whom he had worked in Europe, Africa, and the B-29 testing program. 

THE SQUADRONS

B-29 bomb groups comprised three squadrons, plus maintenance and ordnance squadrons. The 509th Composite Group had one bomb squadron, one transport squadron, and dedicated support squadrons under one central command--an unorthodox but necessary strategy for maintaining secrecy. 

Maj. Gen. Uzal Ent selected the end of the world, perfect" according to Tibbets. The base was close to a bombing range, reserved for the 509th's use, and close to Los Alamos, where Manhattan Project scientists were designing the atomic bombs. 

Tibbets knew that his men would detest Wendover's primitive conditions and isolation. But he also felt that because the base offered so few distractions, the mission would command their full attention. 

map of Utah showing Wendover and relationship to Los Alamos

No label needed 

THE 393RD'S UNIFORM PATCH

The members of the 393rd continued to wear their flight jackets with the 393rd insignia even after they had been transferred into the 509th Composite Group. After the war, the 393rd's insignia was changed to incorporate the mushroom cloud into its imagery. 

TOM CLASSEN AND THE 393RD

After the 393rd bomber squadron became a part of the 509th Composite Group, Classen's role changed. Classen continued to train bomber pilots, but Tibbets also assigned him broader responsibilities. As Tibbets' Deputy Commanding Officer, Classen oversaw the Group's everyday affairs. 

SOMETHING NEW: A MILITARY POLICE COMPANY

Attaching a military police squadron to a bomber squadron was "something entirely new," according to the 509th yearbook. Guarding the 509th's atomic secrets, however, was a full-time job. While Tibbets prepared his air crews to deliver the bomb, the 395th Military Police Company completed a rigorous training program that prepared them to meet any enemy ground forces as well as curious fellow troops or civilians. 

1ST ORDNANCE SQUADRON

The members of the 1st Ordnance Squadron were responsible for assembling the atomic bombs. In a unit unique to all standard Army organization, they worked closely with Manhattan Project scientists. 

The technical and military security requirements for the squadron were exacting. The Army Air Forces accepted only one-fifth of those who met the basic qualifications. They warned those chosen that their jobs would be hazardous due to the experimental stage of the work. 

THE 1ST ORDNANCE SQUADRON: YOU'RE GOING TO BE A HERO

"Colonel, if you get any trouble from anybody, you can call on me." 

Colo Henry "Hap" Arnold to Paul Tibbets

"...if this is successful, you'll be a hero. But if it fails, you'll be the biggest scapegoat ever." 

General Uzal Ent, Commanding General of 2nd Air Force, to Paul Tibbets

Tibbets was given "broad authority" for someone of his rank. Bypassing the usual chain of command, Tibbets answered directly to "Hap" Arnold, or to Leslie Groves, the head of the Manhattan Project. While this autonomy would greatly aid Tibbets in carrying out his mission, it would sometimes cause ridicule and envy among other B-29 Groups. 

TIBBETS' PRIVATE AIRFORCE

In wartime, personnel transfers were not uncommon. Faced with training an entirely new group of men, commanding officers often requested the transfer of men with whom they had flown in combat. With luck, the Army Air Forces met their requests. 

With the help of "Silverplate," the code name for the Army Air Force's involvement in the atomic project, Tibbets successfully transferred anyone he chose to the 509th. He selected men who had been part of his regular bomber crews in Europe and North Africa. Others he had worked with on the B-29 testing and training program. 

Tibbets was not altogether successful at integrating crewmen he hand-picked with the bomber squadrons of the 393rd. Within themselves, however, each 393rd bomber crew was a tightknit group, loyal to each other, and entirely dependent on each other in the air. 

OLD FRIENDS

Tom Ferebee, who had been the bombardier in Tibbets' regular crew in Europe, was Tibbets' first choice for his 509th crew. Ferebee would take the bombardier's position on the first atomic mission--to Hiroshima--and acted as Tibbets' unofficial adviser. Ferebee recommended "Dutch" van Kirk, the regular navigator, and Wyatt Duzenbury, the regular first engineer, from their European bomber crew. 

Tibets also selected a number of airmen he had met in the B-29 training program, including pilots Robert Lewis, Charles Sweeney and Don Albury, and gunnery instructor George Robert Caron. 

OLD FRIENDS: TIBBETS' PRIVATE AIR FORCE

Faced with training an entirely new group of men, commanding officers often asked to transfer men with whom they had flown in combat. Granting Tibbets unusual leeway, the Army Air Forces met all his requests. 

Tom Ferebee and "Dutch" Van Kirk, who had been the bombardier and navigator in Tibbets' regular crew in Europe were his first choices. Ferebee recommended James Van Pelt as a first- rate navigator and Kermit Beahan as an accomplished bombardier. Tibbets also selected a number of airmen he had met in the B-29 training program, including pilots Robert Lewis, Charles Sweeney, and Don Albury, gunnery instructor George Robert Caron, and flight instructor Wyatt Duzenbury. 

Left to right: Lt. Col. Tibbets, Lt. Van Kirk, Lt. Lockhart, Lt. Ferebee, and the rest of the crew of the B-17 Red Gremlin , England, 1942. 

Ferebee's orders 

Tom Ferebee's orders to proceed to Wendover, Utah, Army Air Field, where the 509th trained. 

Lent by Tom Ferebee

Tom Ferebee recommended Kermit Beahan, Bombardier. 

Courtesy of Fred Olivi

James Van Pelt, navigator. 

Courtesy of James Van Pelt

Wyat Duzenbury "could coax magic out of aer engines," according to Tibbets, 1944. 

Courtesy of the National Archives

Charles Sweeney, 1945. 

Courtesy of

photograph of Albury 

Don Albury, according to Tibbets, was "about the most competent twenty-five-year-old I had ever known." 

Courtesy of

photograph of Lewis 

Tibbets considered Robert Lewis to be an impulsive young man, but a natural pilot. 

Courtesy of Ken Eidnes

Tibbets' rapport with non-commissioned officer Bob Caron was characteristic of his "independent" interpretation of Air Force protocol. 

RADAR COUNTERMEASURES

Although 509th navigators would learn to navigate without radar, Jacob Beser was assigned to the 509th group as a radar countermeasures officer. Beser, an engineering student, would help develop a system that would detect and block enemy radar. Because of the nature of his job, Beser was one of the few members of the 509th besides Tibbets who was told the mission's atomic secrets. 

ARRIVAL AT WENDOVER

"Don't ask what the job is. That is a surefire way to be transferred out." 

Paul Tibbets to the 393rd, September 1944

Rats, heat, desert, primitive accommodations, rancid drinking water, and termites welcomed the 393rd flight and ground crews to Wendover Air Force Base. Barbed wire and military police were everywhere. Nothing within sight gave them a clue to why they had been transferred to Wendover instead of the Pacific. 

The first meeting with their new commanding officer intrigued them but hardly satisfied their curiosity. Tibbets told them that they had been "brought here to work on a very special mission." He divulged little more, but did add, "You are going to take part in an effort that could end the war." 

"The place sounded so...awful that there just had to be a good reason for my being there." 

Jacob Beser, 1975

ARRIVAL AT WENDOVER

"Don't ask any questions. Don't answer any questions from anybody not directly involved in what we will be doing.... Don't ask what the job is. That is a surefire way to be transferred out." 

Paul Tibbets to the 393rd, September 1944

Desert conditions and rudimentary housing welcomed the 509th to Wendover. The FBI and counterintelligence tapped phone calls, censored mail, and used subtle means to remind the unit that they were always under surveillance. 

Nothing within sight gave them a clue to why they had been transferred to another stateside base instead of the Pacific. Tibbets told them only that they had been "brought here to work on a very special mission," but did add, "You are going to take part in an effort that could end the war." 

Lt. Jacob Beser at Wendover, May 1945. Beser later recalled, "The place sounded so...awful that there just had to be a good reason for my being there." 

photo of "What you See Here...Stays Here" 

This sign greeted servicemen at Wendover. 

"WELCOME TO ALCATRAZ"

Members of the 509th quickly learned that Tibbets intended to enforce the strictest security precautions. The Manhattan Project sent 50 special agents to help the military police unit monitor the 509th. They tapped phone calls, censored mail, and used subtle means to remind the unit that they were always under surveillance. 

Tibbets counted on working the 393rd so hard that they would not have time to complain about Wendover, the often-irritating security measures, and their apparently last chance to go overseas. While at Wendover, the 393rd crews learned a new way of flying and gained more experience flying B-29s. 

WILLIAM "DEAK" PARSONS AND THE BOMB

Months before the various squadrons of the 509th assembled at Wendover, Manhattan Project scientist and Navy Captain William "Deak" Parsons was developing a fusing device that would trigger the atomic bombs to explode at a specified altitude above their targets. He was also designing the casings for the two atomic bombs. In the fall of 1944, Parsons flew with Ferebee to test drop the various experimental bomb casings and determine the best design. 

"PUMPKIN" MISSIONS

On each training flight, 509th bomber crews dropped bombs filled with high explosives. Manhattan Project scientists stationed at a safe distance from the aiming point, analyzed the bomb's flight pattern, watched to see if the bomb's fusing mechanism worked, and investigated the bomb's impact. 

Shaped like the "Fat Man" type bomb and painted bright orange, these bombs earned the nickname "pumpkins." The pumpkin missions were a vital element in the test phase of Manhattan Project bomb development. 

WENDOVER TRAINING

On training flights from Wendover, 509th crews dropped bombs of various shapes and sizes. Some tests included 500- and 2,000-pound bombs. Others involved studies of what we now know as the "Fat Man" bomb. Painted bright orange, these bombs earned the nickname "pumpkins." 

These bomb drops provided information for Manhattan Project scientists, who were still developing and testing the ballistics and fusing mechanism of the atomic bombs. Stationed at at safe distance from the aiming point, they filmed and analyzed each bomb's flight pattern and watched to see if the bomb's fusing mechanism worked. 

Manhattan Project scientist and Navy Capt. William "Deak" Parsons helped to develop a fusing device that would trigger the atomic bombs to explode at a specified altitude above their targets. He also helped design the casings for the two atomic bombs. 

A "pumpkin" waits top be loaded into a B-29. 

Courtesy of Cheryl Debejare

OUT OF THE BOMB'S WAY

Manhattan Project scientists calculated that the bomb's explosion would cause a shock wave powerful enough to destroy an airplane flying too close. To prepare their crews to safely escape the predicted shock wave's effect, Tibbets and Classen taught the 393rd crews to roll their planes in a steep, diving turn after they dropped their bomb load. Executing this maneuver ensured that they would e miles from the blast site by the time the bomb exploded. 

Tibbets expected his pilots to learn how to execute the highly unorthodox escape turn. He did not, however, explain to them why their lives and the lives of their crews depended on mastering this maneuver. Caught by surprise the first time he experienced the turn, Tibbets' tail-gunner said it felt "like a roller coaster." 

LEARNING TO GET OUT OF THE BOMB'S WAY

Manhattan Project scientists calculated that the bomb's explosion would cause a shock wave powerful enough to destroy an airplane flying too close. To prepare their crews to escape the predicted shock wave, Tibbets and his chief subordinate taught the crews to roll their planes in a steep, diving turn after they dropped their bomb load. They expected their pilots to learn how to execute the highly unorthodox maneuver, but did not tell them why it was crucial 

George "Bob" Caron waves from his tail-gunner's position, Wendover, 1944. Caught by surprise the first time he experienced the escape maneuver, Tibbets' tail gunner said it felt "like a roller coaster." 

Courtesy of Ken Eidnes

LOTS OF FUN

Tibbets, a perfectionist, had great expectations for the 509th. Tension levels rose as his officers and enlisted men followed a high-paced training schedule, performed unorthodox flying maneuvers, and worked under seemingly excessive security precautions. Activities from hiking in the canyon country surrounding the base to gambling at the State Line Casino relieved the tension. 

OFF DUTY

A perfectionist, Tibbets had great expectations for the 509th. Tension levels rose as his officers and enlisted men followed an intensive training schedule, performed unorthodox flying maneuvers, and worked under seemingly excessive security precautions. Hiking in the canyon country surrounding the base relieved the tension. 

SPECIAL TRAINING: BATISTA FIELD, CUBA

In January 1945, Tibbets sent ten of his fifteen crews to Cuba for special training. Under Tom Classen's charge, the crews carried out long-distance navigational training over water at night. They also continued practicing high-altitude bomb runs. 

SPECIAL TRAINING: BATISTA FIELD, CUBA

After four months at Wendover, the 509th was becoming restless. Recognizing their growing impatience and desire to get into action, Tibbets sent 10 of his 15 crews to Cuba. He hoped the temporary transfer would give them the opportunity to train in Pacific-like conditions and would relieve tension. 

Under James Hopkins, the 509th's chief of operations, the crews carried out long-distance navigational training over water during day and night. They also resolved many other operation questions. 

A map used by the 509th during training in Cuba. 

Courtesy of Charles Levy

THE UNTOUCHABLES

No matter what stunts the members of the 509th pulled, invoking the code name Silverplate rescued them from the consequences of their high jinks. They soon earned the reputation of being "untouchable." To some extent, Tibbets encouraged his crews' spirited off-duty antics. He believed that they helped build esprit de corps

OVERSEAS: THE 509TH GOES TO TINIAN

In June 1945, the 50th Composite Group travelled to its overseas base on the small Pacific island of Tinian. By the time the 509th arrived on Tinian, in June 1945, the 313th Bombardment Wing was well-established, having participated in dozens of missions over Japan. The 313th Bombardment Wing, composed of 192 B-29 crews, arrived on Tinian in December 1944 and occupied the island's North Field. With is Silverplate clearance, Tibbets, however, was able o displace 313th combat veterans from some of the island's best accommodations on North Field. 

One step closer to the war, the 509th practiced dropping conventional bombs, grew increasingly impatient with security measures, and tried to entertain themselves. They anxiously awaited the day when hey would finally carry out their mysterious mission. 

OVERSEAS: THE 509TH ON TINIAN

During May and June 1945, the 50th Composite Group completed its transfer to its overseas base on the small Pacific island of Tinian. One step closer to the war, the 509th practiced dropping conventional bombs, grew increasingly impatient with security measures, and tried to keep from getting bored while they eagerly awaited the day when hey would finally put their training to use. 

The 509th headquarters on Tinian, 1945. 

BOMBING ISLANDS: ROTA, TRUK, MARCUS ISLAND

Training missions in the Pacific began on June 30, 1945. Each mission focused on a different aspect of combat flying, including navigational techniques, instrument calibration, and visual and radar-aided bomb drops. The nearby islands of Rota and Truk provided targets for the crews in training. 

A "flurry of excitement" accompanied the announcement of the Group's first combat mission. On July 6, five crews bombed the runways of the Japanese airfield on Marcus Island. During the Marcus Island raids, the 509th dropped various sizes of bombs on the island with varying degrees of success and with little enemy resistance. 

BOMBING "THE EMPIRE": JAPAN, 1945

On July 20, 1945 the 509th made its first airstrike on Japan. Ten crews loaded their planes with Fat-Man shaped high-explosive bombs, called Pumpkins, and took off at 0200 hours. More than twelve hours later, all ten crews returned safely to Tinian. Because of poor weather conditions, however, only five crews had been able to bomb their primary targets visually. Four had used radar to drop their bombs on secondary targets. The tenth had jettisoned its bomb load in the ocean because of engine failure. 

Before dropping the atomic bomb, the 509th flew three more "Pumpkin" missions to Japan. Largely due to variable weather conditions, the results of these missions ranged from "fair to unobserved" to "effective and successful." From these missions to the Nagasaki raid, cloud cover posed a constant threat to the 509th's success. 

[Order of following two sections reversed] 

INTO COMBAT

Training missions began on June 30, focusing on the special tactics for their secret mission. Nearby island provided targets for the crews in training. 

On July 20, 1945 the 509th made its first airstrike on Japan, dropping "Fat-Man"- shaped high-explosive bombs, called "pumpkins". Because of poor weather conditions, however, only five crews had been able to bomb their primary targets visually. Four used radar to drop their bombs on secondary targets. Engine failure forced another to jettison its bomb load in the ocean. 

The 509th flew three more "pumpkin" missions to Japan. Largely due to variable weather conditions, the results of these missions ranged from "fair to unobserved" to "effective and successful." 

Intelligence officer Hazen Payette, who had served with Tibbets in Europe, briefs crews on Tinian, 1945. 

Courtesy of Charles Levy

Members of the 509th attend target-study classes. 

Courtesy of Charles Levy

Before takeoff, crews invited visitors to the flight line to autograph bombs. 

Courtesy of Charles Levy

map 

The Bockscar crew's flights, 1944-45. A "flurry of excitement" accompanied the announcement of the group's first combat mission, during which five crews bombed a Japanese airfield. 

Courtesy of Charles Levy

TENSION IN PARADISE

From the moment Tibbets' crews arrived, the other B-29 squadrons stationed on Tinian questioned them. Why had the 509th supplied its own mechanics instead of using the already existing support squadrons on the island? Why did the 509th fly ten-plane bombing runs instead of standard hundred-plane-strong raids? Why was the 509th fed luxuriously in a separate mess while other bomber squadrons based on Tinian ate regular military rations? Why did the 509th members refuse to divulge information about their mission? 

Envy and curiosity sparked one Tinian inhabitant to write a poem dedicated to razzing the inactive and seemingly unimportant 509th. 

TENSION ON TINIAN

By the time the 509th Composite Group arrived, the 313th Bombardment Wing was already well established at Tinian's North Field and had flown dozens of missions over Japan. From the moment Tibbets' crews showed up, rivalries arose between the 313th and the 509th. 

On arrival the 509th moved into some of the best facilities on Tinian, which had been vacated by the U.S. Navy Seabees. To the 313th crews, many questions arose. Why had the 509th supplied its own mechanics instead of using the already existing support squadrons? Why did the 509th fly only single-plane strikes? And why did they refuse to divulge information about their mission? 

B-29s of the 313th Bomber Wing fill North Field. 

"Nobody Knows poem 

Envy and curiosity sparked a clerk in base operations to write a poem razzing the inactive and seemingly unimportant 509th. Some of the members enjoyed it and put it in their yearbook. 

cartoon map 

Tinian had reminded one New York City-born Seabee of Manhattan Island, so he laid out the streets accordingly. The section reserved for the 509th Composite Group was in the "Columbia University" district. 

Levy's crew in scooter 

Members of Fred Bock's crew drove a scooter made by the Seabees from parts of derelict Japanese airplanes. 

Courtesy of Charles Levy

SURVIVAL GEAR

The commander of the 313th Bombardment Wing already stationed on Tinian quickly learned that Tibbets' crews "knew more about airplanes and navigation" than his combat veterans. But the 509th had not yet learned about air sea rescue, ditching and bail-outs, dinghy drill, and survival, even though extensive training at Wendover and Batista Field had prepared them to operate their B-29s with great precision. Each crew member was fitted with survival vest equipped with items that would help him if he had to abandon his airplane. 

SURVIVAL GEAR

The commander of the 313th Bombardment Wing quickly learned that Tibbets' crews "knew more about airplanes and navigation" than his combat veterans. But the 509th had much to learn about air-sea rescue, ditching and bail-outs, dinghy drill, and survival. Each crew member was fitted with survival vest equipped with items to aid him if he had to abandon his airplane. 

Map of wind and ocean currents. 

Courtesy of Richard Nelson

Pilot's guide to the Pacific. 

Courtesy of William "Pappy" Hulse

Signal mirror 

Courtesy of William "Pappy" Hulse

Waterproof watch box with compass. 

Courtesy of William "Pappy" Hulse

Collapsible fishing pole. 

Courtesy of William "Pappy" Hulse

Sewing kit and first aid kit. 

Courtesy of William "Pappy" Hulse

GETTING AROUND

By the time the 509th arrived on Tinian the island looked like " a huge airport." Seabees had erected quonset huts, constructed runways, and built an extensive network of roads. Tinian had reminded one New York City-born Seabee of the island of Manhattan and had laid out the streets according to its plan. 

Based at Tinian's North Field, the 509th bartered with the Seabees to obtain vehicles to get around the island. William "Locke" Easton, pilot, and other 509th members, traded liquor for Seabee-build scooters. 

WAITING TO "WIN THE WAR"

As at Wendover, the 509th followed a rigorous training schedule. After completing their training in the Pacific, however, they found they had a surprising amount of leisure time. Swimming, horseshoes, baseball, and racing scooters helped them bide their time until Tibbets finally called them to carry out their mission that "was going to win the war." 

WAITING

As at Wendover, the 509th followed a rigorous training schedule on Tinian. Swimming, horseshoes, baseball, and racing scooters helped them bide their time until Tibbets called on them to carry out their mission that "was going to win the war." 

Special Services Activities memo 

No label needed 

Playing cards 

Courtesy of Charles Levy

THE B-29 SUPERFORTRESS "ENOLA GAY"

On August 6, 1945, the "Enola Gay" dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, and changed the face of warfare. This aircraft, Army Air Forces serial number 44-86292, only received its name on the night before the mission, when Col. Paul Tibbets named the aircraft after his mother. 

Manufactured under license by Martin Aircraft in Omaha, Nebraska, the "Enola Gay" was delivered to the 393rd Bombardment Squadron, 509th Composite Group, on June 14, 1945. Like the other "Silverplate" aircraft, it was specially modified for its atomic mission. All gun turrets were removed except for the tail guns and the aircraft incorporated the latest technology: the newest version of the huge R-3350 engines, Curtiss Electric reversible propellers and pneumatic bomb-bay doors. 

The "Enola Gay" arrived at Tinian on July 2, 1945, and flew its first combat mission with conventional bombs four days later. After returning to the United States in November 1945, the aircraft was modified for the Bikini atomic tests of 1946. It flew back to the Pacific in April 1946, but was not used in those tests. 

THE B-29 SUPERFORTRESS "ENOLA GAY"

On August 6, 1945, the Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, and changed the face of warfare. The night before the mission, pilot Col. Paul Tibbets named the aircraft after his mother. 

Manufactured under license by Martin Aircraft in Omaha, Nebraska, aircraft serial number 44-86292 was hand-picked by Tibbets. Captain Lewis and his crew from the 509th Composite Group took possession at the factory on June 14, 1945. Like the other 509th aircraft, it was specially modified for its atomic mission. It was armed only with tail guns and incorporated the latest technology: the newest version of the huge R-3350 engines, Curtiss Electric reversible propellers, and pneumatic bomb-bay doors. 

The Enola Gay arrived at Tinian on July 2, 1945, and flew its first combat mission with conventional bombs four days later. After returning to the United States in November 1945, the aircraft was assigned to the Bikini atomic tests. It flew back to the Pacific in April 1946, but was not used in those tests. 

A 1:48 scale model of the Enola Gay as it appeared on August 6, 1945. 

Model built and donated by Peter Espada

specifications block 

BOEING B-29-45-MO SUPERFORTRESS "ENOLA GAY" 
Wingspan: 43 m (141 ft 3 in)
Length: 30.2 m (99 ft)
9 m (29 ft 7 in)
Weight, empty: 31,400 kg (69,000 lb)
Weight, gross: 62,500 kg (137,500 lb)
Top speed: 586 km/h (364 mph) at 7,600 m (25,000 ft)
Armament: Two 12,7 mm (.050 cal) machine guns in tail
Engines: Four Wright Cyclone R-3350-57, fuel-injected 18-cylinder engines, 2,200 hp each
Manufacturer: Glenn L. Martin Co., Omaha, Nebr. (under license from Boeing aircraft Co., Seattle, Wash.), 1944-45

THE MARKINGS OF THE "ENOLA GAY"

The stencils of crew names on both sides of the nose were added after the Hiroshima raid and do not include all those who sere on the mission. Omitted from the twelve who flew on August 6 were crew members who were from the Manhattan Project or were closely related to the bomb: Capt. (USN) William Parsons, "Little Boy" project leader and bomb commander, Lt. (USAAF) Morris R. Jeppson, Parson's assistant in arming the atomic bomb, and Lt. (USAAF) Jacob W. Beser, the radar countermeasures officer. Not all ground crew who ws before August 6, the projected mission date, Tibbets selected seven crews to attend briefings for Mission No. 13, the first atomic strike. Tibbets and other officials listed targets and described the immediate effect of the bomb, but did not reveal its atomic nature to the excited crews. 

THE MARKINGS OF THE "ENOLA GAY"

The crew names stenciled on both sides of the nose were added sometime after the Bikini atomic tests of 1946 and do not include all 12 who sere on the August, 6, 1945, mission. Omitted were Navy Capt. William S Parsons, "Little Boy" project leader and bomb commander; Army Air Forces Lt. Morris R. Jeppson, Parson's assistant in arming the atomic bomb; and Army Air Forces Lt. Jacob W. Beser, the radar countermeasures officer. Not all ground crew who worked on the Enola Gay were included in the stencils either. 

The Enola Gay flew on August 6 with the "circle R" tail markings of another B-29 squadron to confuse Japanese intelligence. The 509th's regular tail insignia was a horizontal arrow in a circle. 

Aero, curatorial file 

The Enola Gay on Tinian, shortly after the Hiroshima mission, displaying the 509th Composite Group's regular tail insignia. 

THE RESTORATION OF THE "ENOLA GAY"

In July 1946, the Air Force stored this historic aircraft at Davis Montana AFB, Arizona. Col. Tibbets flew it to Park Ridge, Illinois, on July 3, 1949, where it was accepted by representatives of the Smithsonian. The "Enola Gay" was moved to Pyote AFB, Texas, in February 1952 and it remained there until December 2, 1953, when it made its last flight to Andrews AFB, Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C. In 1960-61, Smithsonian technicians disassembled the "Enola Gay" and stored its components indoors at what is now the Paul E. Garber Preservation, Restoration and Storage Facility in Silver Hill, Maryland. 

Restoration began at the Garber Facility in December 1984 and was completed in (month) 1995. It was by far the largest aircraft restoration project ever undertaken by the National Air and Space Museum, consuming over 50,000 (?) person-hours. Except for some historic post-Hiroshima markings, the aircraft has been returned as far as possible to its configuration of August 6, 1945. This extremely thorough restoration will allow the preservation of the "Enola Gay" for decades and even centuries into the future. 

THE RESTORATION OF THE "ENOLA GAY"

In July 1946, the Army Air Forces stored this historic aircraft in Arizona. Colonel Tibbets flew it to Park Ridge, Illinois, on July 3, 1949, and turned it over to the Smithsonian. The Enola Gay was moved to Pyote Air Force Base, Texas, in February 1952 and it remained there until December 2, 1953, when it made its last flight, to Andrews Air ForceBase, Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, the Air Force had no aailable hangar space, and the Smithsonian had no appropriate storage facilities for an aircraft of this size. The aircraft sat outdoors and suffered corrosion and vandalism. Fearing further deterioration, in 1960-61, Smithsonian technicians disassembled the Enola Gay and stored it indoors at what is now the Paul E. Garber Preservation, Restoration and Storage Facility in Silver Hill, Maryland. 

Restoration began at the Garber Facility in December 1984. It is by far the largest aircraft restoration project ever undertaken by the National Air and Space Museum, and will ensure the preservation of the Enola Gay for future generations. 

Scenes from the restoration of the Enola Gay at the National Air and Space Museum's Garber Facility. 

WHEN WILL THE "ENOLA GAY" BE ASSEMBLED?

The huge size of this four-engine bomber has made it infeasible to reassemble the whole aircraft anywhere inside the National Air and Space Museum building, or even at the Museum's Garber Facility outside Washington. Therefore, except for a propeller and a few other smaller components, this exhibit contains only the forward fuselage section, which is slightly less than two-thirds of the airplane's original length. 

The "Enola Gay" will be reassembled and put on permanent display at the Museum's new Extension building at Washington Dulles Airport, once that facility is completed sometime in the next decade. 

WHEN WILL THE "ENOLA GAY" BE ASSEMBLED?

Because of its huge size, the Enola Gay cannot be reassembled and displayed as a complete aircraft inside the National Air and Space Museum building or even at the present restoration facility outside Washington. Therefore, except for a propeller and some small components, this exhibit contains only the forward fuselage section, which is slightly less than two-thirds of the airplane's 30-meter (99-foot) original length. 

The Enola Gay will be reassembled and put on permanent display at the Museum's new extension facility, to be built at Washington Dulles International Airport sometime in the next decade. 

A copy of the act authorizing the construction of the National Air and Space Museum extension at Dulles Airport. 

THE "LITTLE BOY" ATOMIC BOMB

A bomb of this type was dropped by the "Enola Gay" on Hiroshima, Japan, on August 6, 1945. Unlike the "Fat Man" plutonium bomb dropped on Nagasaki, the "Little Boy" used uranium 235 as the critical material. Inside the bomb, a shortened smooth-bore 76.2 mm (3 in) naval gun fired a uranium bullet at target rings also made of uranium 235. At the moment of impact, a critical mass was formed, initiating a nuclear explosion. Due to the gun barrel and the heavy casing, the "Little Boy" weighed over four metric tons (8,900 lb), almost as much as the much larger "Fat Man." 

The bomb casing shown here was a "War Reserve" training version of the "Little Boy" and was built after the war. Except for the absence of electronic firing circuitry and nuclear material, this bomb casing is virtually identical to the Hiroshima weapon. 

THE "LITTLE BOY" ATOMIC BOMB

A bomb of this type was dropped by the Enola Gay on Hiroshima, Japan, on August 6, 1945. Unlike the "Fat Man" plutonium bomb dropped on Nagasaki, the "Little Boy" used uranium 235. Inside the bomb, a shortened smooth-bore naval gun fired a uranium bullet at target rings also made of uranium 235. At the moment of impact, a critical mass was formed, initiating a nuclear explosion. Due to the gun barrel and the heavy casing, the "Little Boy" weighed over four metric tons (8,900 pounds), almost as much as the much larger "Fat Man." 

"LITTLE BOY" ATOMIC BOMB CASING

The bomb casing shown here was built after the war as a version of the uranium bomb. Except for the absence of electronic firing circuitry and nuclear material, this bomb casing is very similar to the Hiroshima weapon. It contains no nuclear material and presents no radiation hazard. 

specifications block 

"LITTLE BOY" ATOMIC BOMB
Weight: 4,045 kg (8,900 lb)
Diameter: 0.7 m (2 ft 4 in)
Length: 3.2 m (10 ft 6 in)
Yield: 12 kilotons (the equivalent of 12,000 tons of TNT)
Manufacturer: Manhattan Project (1944-46), Atomic Energy Commission (1947-50)

redraw diagram from "U.S. Nuclear Weapons"

[No label needed.] 

THE MISSIONS

Little more than four weeks after their arrival on Tinian, the 509th Composite Group dropped two atomic bombs on Japan. On August 6, pilot Paul Tibbets and his crew of the Enola Gay conducted the first atomic strike in history, dropping a gun-type "Little Boy" bomb on the city of Hiroshima. Three days later, Charles Sweeney, piloted the Bockscar and its crew on the second and last atomic of the war. Because of bad weather over the primary target--the industrial city of Kokura--Sweeney's crew dropped their implosion-type "Fat Man" bomb on Nagasaki instead. 

MISSION NO. 13: THE FIRST ATOMIC STRIKE

In early August 1945, tension rose among the 509th crew members as they anticipated Tibbets' order to "deliver the bomb." Even though their commanding officer still withheld many details from them, the 509th sensed their mission's momentous nature. 

A few days before August 6, the projected mission date, Tibbets selected seven crews to attend briefings for Mission No. 13, the first atomic strike. Tibbets and other officials listed targets and described the immediate effect of the bomb, but did not reveal its atomic nature to the excited crews. 

AUGUST 4: THE FIRST BRIEFING

Tibbets ordered seven crews to attend the first briefing, on August 4. Although many of them arrived at the briefing hut in high spirits, their mood quickly changed. Military police, armed with carbines, surrounded the building and inside, curtains were drawn. In the darkened hut, they quietly awaited their commanding officer's arrival. 

Tibbets was to the point. He told them the bomb was ready to be dropped, announced crew assignments and then unshrouded bulletin boards to reveal aerial photographs of the potential target cities. 

MISSION NO. 13: HIROSHIMA

On August 6, 1945, seven crews were ordered to attend the first briefing for mission No. 13. Military police armed with carbines surrounded the building and the curtains inside were drawn. In the darkened hut, they quietly awaited their commanding officer's arrival. 

Tibbets spoke to the point. He informed them the "gimmick" was ready. Operations officer Hopkins announced crew assignments and then intelligence officer Payette unshrouded map boards to reveal aerial photographs of the potential target cities: Hiroshima, the primary target, and Kokura and Nagasaki, the backup targets to be bombed if Hiroshima was clouded over. 

Capt. Joe Buscher, intelligence officer, describes the potential targets. 

SUBSTITUTIONS

Tibbets announced that No. 82's regular crew, with a few substitutions, would deliver the bomb. He assigned himself to the pilot's position, van Kirk as the navigator, and Ferebee as the bombardier. For the most part, Tibbets' crew selections did not surprise the 509th. Bob Lewis, No. 82's regular pilot, however, was greatly disappointed with his assignment as co-pilot. 

As commanding Officer, Tibbets reserved the right to make changes. He had experiences flying in combat with Ferebee and van Kirk and had the utmost faith in them. The final strike crew, regardless of its overall high skill level, however, had never flown a combat mission together. This situation made some of the crew members uneasy. 

CREW SUBSTITUTUIONS

Tibbets announced that No. 82's regular crew, with a few substitutions, would deliver the bomb. Basing his decision on rank and experience, he assigned himself as pilot and chose van Kirk as navigator, and Ferebee as bombardier--the three had flown together in combat in Europe. As commanding officer, he had the right to make such changes, and they came as no surprise to most of the 509th. 

Even so, the decision aroused discontent. No 82's regular pilot, Capt. Robert Lewis, was furious at being relegated to co-pilot at the last minute. Some members of the final strike crew felt uneasy because they had never before flown in combat together. 

Van Kirk used this navigator's kit and plotter on the Hiroshima strike. 

Courtesy of Theodore "Dutch" Van Kirk

Van Kirk used this master clock for accurate navigation to Enola Gay's rendezvous point with the photography and instrument planes over Iwo Jima. 

Courtesy of Theodore "Dutch" Van Kirk

Each crew member carried a .45 caliber automatic pistol. 

Courtesy of Theodore "Dutch" Van Kirk

"SOME WEIRD DREAM"

"It was like some weird dream, conceived by one with too vivid an imagination." 

Radio operator Abe Spitzer's unsanctioned diary, Tinian 1945

After Tibbets announced crew assignments and described primary and secondary targets, Manhattan Project scientist and Navy Captain Deak Parsons briefed the crews about the bomb. He was not able to show them the film footage of the Trinity explosion, because the projector failed. Even without visual evidence to dramatize the bomb's potential effect, however, Parson's personal descriptions of the bomb test still astounded the 509th. 

Even if Parsons had divulged the mission's atomic secrets to the crews, this information might not have made a significant impression on them. Aside from the few engineering students among them, the majority of the 509th members had gained their information about atomic power from the pages of science fiction novels. 

PROTECTIVE GOGGLES

Deak Parsons explained that the bomb's blast would crate such a bright flash that crews near the explosion would need to wear goggles, similar to those worn by welders, to protect their eyes. Turning the knob on the nose bridge would change the goggle's darkness. Parsons warned that they must adjust the knob to the darkest setting during the bombing. 

"SOME WEIRD DREAM"

"It was like some weird dream, conceived by one with too vivid an imagination." 

Radio operator Abe Spitzer's unsanctioned diary, Tinian 1945

After Tibbets announced crew assignments and described targets, Manhattan Project scientist and Navy Captain Deak Parsons briefed the crews about the power of the bomb, without divulging its atomic nature. He could not show them the film footage of the Trinity explosion, because the projector failed. But even without it, Parson's first-hand descriptions of the bomb test and still photographs astounded the crews. 

Capt. Deak Parsons briefs the seven crews who would carry out the first atomic strike. 

Parsons explained that the bomb would crate such a bright flash that crews would need to wear goggles, similar to those worn by welders, to protect their eyes. 

Courtesy of...

LITTLE BOY GOES TO TINIAN

On July 26, the U.S.S. Indianapolis arrived at Tinian. Aboard the veteran naval cruiser were the gun and bullet elements of the Little Boy bomb. That same day, two air transports departed for Tinian, each carrying a uranium target. 

Once all parts were delivered to Tinian, Manhattan Project scientists and the 509th Ordnance specialists began to assemble the bomb, but did not arm it. Deak Parsons, the 509th's atomic bomb specialist, had seen a significant number of B-29s crash on the North Field tarmac. Having considered the possible gruesome results if the Enola Gay , loaded with a live atomic bomb, crashed on take-off, Parsons decided to finish arming the bomb once the Enola Gay had reached cruising altitude. 

On August 1, Manhattan Project commander Groves received a telex informing him that pre-flight assembly of the bomb had been completed and that the mission could be flown any time the weather permitted. 

"LITTLE BOY" GOES TO TINIAN

On July 26, the cruiser USS Indianapolis arrived at Tinian, carrying the gun and bullet elements of the "Little Boy" bomb. That same day, two 509th transports departed for Tinian, each carrying a uranium target element. 

Once all parts were delivered, Manhattan Project scientists and 509th Ordnance specialists began to assemble the bomb, but did not arm it. Having considered the possible catastrophic results if the Enola Gay , loaded with a live atomic bomb, crashed on takeoff, Parsons decided to finish arming the bomb once the Enola Gay had reached bombing altitude. 

Receipt for the uranium components of the "Little Boy" bomb. 

Lent by the Smithsonian Institution Libraries

THE SINKING OF THE "INDIANAPOLIS" Only three days after leaving the atomic bomb components on Tinian, the USS Indianapolis was torpedoed and sunk by a Japanese submarine. Because the whereabouts of the warships at sea were confidential, the sinking at first went unnoticed. The majority of those who had escaped the wreck perished in the ensuing five-day ordeal in shark-infested waters. Only 317 of the Indianapolis's 1,197-man crew of sailors and Marines survived--the greatest single U.S. naval tragedy of World War II. 

The sinking was a powerful reminder to the 509th of the human costs of the ongoing war. Someone inscribed the "Little Boy" bomb with the message, "Greetings to the Emperor, from the men of the Indianapolis ." 

Survivors of the Indianapolis return home on the escort carrier USS Hollandia . 

"A TICKLISH PROCEDURE": LOADING THE BOMB

Silverplate B-29 bomb bays had been specially modified to carry their unusually large and heavy bombs. Because there was little clearance with the bomb bay catwalks and only a single shackle and adjustable sway braces held the bomb, loading it was "a rather ticklish procedure," according to one engineer. 

"A TICKLISH PROCEDURE": LOADING THE BOMB

On August 5, the competed bomb was placed on a transport dolly, shrouded for secrecy, and rolled out to the pit, where it was loaded into the Enola Gay . 

The bomb bays of the 509th's B-29s had been modified to carry the unusually large and heavy atomic bombs. Because the bomb was so huge, was suspended from only a shingle shackle, and put so much weight in the front of the bomb bay, it was immobilized by an "H" frame and by adjustable sway braces. Loading it was "a rather ticklish procedure," according to one engineer. 

loading procedure 

Courtesy of Los Alamos National Laboratory

0000-0235 HOURS: AUGUST 6

In the early hours of August 6, seven of the 509th's fifteen crews crawled from their cots or tore themselves from their card game to attend one last pre-flight briefing. After eating a quick meal and attending a religious service, they headed off to the flight line where their planes waited. 

When they arrived, they were surprised to find camera lights illuminating the field and more than 100 people on the tarmac. Feeling like moviestars, they granted interviews, nervously milled around, and made final checks on their airplanes. Around 2:20 a.m., Tibbets "called a halt" so that they could complete preparations for takeoff. 

PREFLIGHT: 11:00 P.M. TO 2:35 A.M.

In the late hours of August 5, briefing began for seven of the 509th's 15 crews. In the hours before, some men had tried to sleep, others had composed letters home, and some had found relief in a late-night card game. After eating a special breakfast and attending a religious service, they headed off to the flight line. 

When they arrived, they were surprised to find camera lights illuminating the aircraft parking area and more than 100 people on the tarmac. They answered questions, nervously milled around, and made final checks on their airplanes. Around 2:20 a.m., Tibbets "called a halt" so they could complete preparations for takeoff. 

Operations Order *35 specified that the bomb type to be used was "special," but did not mention that it was atomic. 

Courtesy of the Hoover Institution

Parsons and Tibbets interviewed. 

Camera crews filmed the Enola Gay's crew for 20 minutes before takeoff. 

Tibbets waves from the cockpit of the Enola Gay before takeoff. 

A PERFECT PERFORMANCE

Every step of the mission--takeoff, arming the bomb, finding the target, dropping the bomb--posed a potential problem. With the help of favorable weather conditions, however, Tibbets and his crew successfully and safely carried out their mission. 

Tibbets recognized that the Enola Gay , loaded with bomb and fuel was 15,000 pounds over its designed takeoff weight limit. Using almost the entire runway, he expertly lifted the plane into the air. At 0300, fifteen minutes after takeoff, Deak Parsons and Morris Jeppson, carefully began the final bomb assembly. Three hours later, the Enola Gay and its two escort planes met at the designated rendezvous point above Iwo Jima. 

For the remaining hours of the flight, the crew took turns napping and "George," the automatic pilot, steered the bomb toward Japan. Approximately two hours before "bombs away," Jeppson activated the bomb. They arrived at their target 17 seconds late and Ferebee came very close to the designated aiming point. Groves described the mission as a "perfect performance." 

FLIGHT TO JAPAN

The Enola Gay , loaded with bomb and fuel was 15,000 pounds over its designed takeoff weight limit. Using almost the entire runway, Tibbets expertly lifted the plane into the air. Fifteen minutes after takeoff, Deak Parsons and Morris Jeppson, carefully began the final assembly of the bomb's detonating device. Three hours later, the Enola Gay and its two escort planes circled over over the designated rendezvous point above Iwo Jima. 

For the remaining hours of the flight, some of the crew took turns napping, and "George," the automatic pilot, steered the plane toward Japan. At 6:15 a.m., Hiroshima time, the weather plane over the city of Hiroshima reported to Tibbets that the cloud cover was favorable for visual bombing. Tibbets announced to his crew, "it's Hiroshima." 

(if available) 

This is the original navigator's log of the Hiroshima mission. It was kept by the Enola Gay's "Dutch" Van Kirk. Note "Bomb away" at 0915, Tinian time. 

Lent by Theodore "Dutch" Van Kirk

ARMING THE BOMB

"The bomb was now independent of the plane. I had a feeling the bomb had a life of its own now that it had nothing to do with us." 

Bob Lewis, Enola Gay's co-pilot comments on the activation of the bomb

At 7:15 a.m. (6:15 a.m. in Hiroshima) the weather scout plane over the city of Hiroshima reported to Tibbets that the cloud cover was favorable for a visual bombing of the city. Tibbets announced to his crew, "it's Hiroshima." 

At 7:30 a.m., one hour and forty-five minutes before "bombs away," assistant weaponeer Morris Jeppson once again entered the bomb bay. Throughout the flight, three green plugs inserted into the forward part of the bomb had inactivated the electronic firing circuitry. Jeppson's final task was to replace the green plugs with the red plugs that would open the firing circuit. 

ARMING THE BOMB

"The bomb was now independent of the plane. I had a feeling the bomb had a life of its own now that it had nothing to do with us." 

Capt. Bob Lewis, Enola Gay's co-pilot, comments on the activation of the bomb

One hour and 45 minutes before "bombs away," assistant weaponeer Morris Jeppson entered the bomb bay to arm the bomb. Throughout the flight, three green plugs inserted into the forward part of the bomb kept the electronic firing circuitry inactive. Jeppson's final task was to replace the green plugs with the red plugs that would open the firing circuit. 

The green arming plug was one of the three actually in the Hiroshima bomb before it was dropped. Morris Jeppson took it out and replaced it with a red plug identical to the one shown here. 

Lent by Morris Jeppson

BOMBS AWAY

Tibbets handed over control of the plane to bombardier Ferebee and navigator van Kirk. Ferebee trained the plane's Norden bombsight on the target. Then, van Kirk fed Ferebee updated calculations on wind speed and altitude, which Ferebee, in turn, entered into the bombsight's computer. Using the target as a base point, it automatically corrected the course of the airplane. At 17 seconds after 9:14 a.m. (8:14 a.m., Hiroshima time), Ferebee flipped a switch which turned over control of the plane and the bomb to the bombsight's computer. One minute later, it automatically dropped the bomb. 

The lightened plane lurched upward, Tibbets took back the controls and turned the Enola Gay in the practiced violent escape turn. Eleven miles from the blast, a flash of light filled the cockpit and the first of two shock waves hit the plane. Tibbets announced, "Fellows, you have just dropped the first atomic bomb in history." 

BOMB AWAY

While Tibbets maintained the plane's altitude and airspeed, to bombardier Ferebee began to track the T-shaped Aioi bridge in the center of Hiroshima with the Norden bombsight In coordination with navigator Van Kirk, Ferebee monitored wind, temperature, altitude, and airspeed and adjusted the bombsight accordingly. His adjustments directed the aircraft along the desired approach path and programmed the sight to automatically release the bomb. At 8:15 a.m., Hiroshima time, the bombsight's crosshairs aligned perfectly over the target. Ferebee, who was counting down the seconds to the drop, never got to "one" before the bomb was away. As a backup measure, he was prepared to toggle a switch that would manually drop it in the unlikely case that the circuitry failed. 

As the lightened plane lurched upward, Tibbets took the controls and executed the escape turn. Forty-three seconds later, a flash of light filled the cockpit, and soon thereafter the first of two shock waves hit the plane. Tibbets announced, "Fellows, you have just dropped the first atomic bomb in history." 

FIRST ATOMIC BOMB: HIROSHIMA

"The flash after the explosion was deep purple, the reddish and reached to almost 8,000 feet; the cloud, shaped like a mushroom, was up to 20,000 feet in one minute, at which time the top part broke from the 'stem,' and eventually reached 30,000 feet." 

"The stem of the mushroom-like column of smoke, looking now like a giant grave marker, stood one minute after the explosion upon the whole area of the city, excepting the southern dock area. This column was a thick white smoke, darker at the base, and interspersed with deep red. 

"Though about fifteen miles from the target when the explosion occurred, both escort aircraft, as well as the strike plane, reported feeling two shock waves jar the aircraft. Approximately 390 statue miles away from the target area, the column of smoke still could be seen piercing the morning sky." 

509th Composite Group Administrative Report 

"I don't believe anyone ever expected to look at a sight quite like that. Where we had seen a clear city two minutes before, we could now no longer see the city." 

Co-pilot Bob Lewis, post-war interview 

Courtesy of Frank Shelton

"That city was burning for all she was worth. It looked like...well, did you ever go to the beach and stir up the sand in shallow water and wee it all billow up?" 

Jacob Beser, radar countermeasures officer

As Tibbets tamped down the tobacco in his pipe, he commented to Bob Lewis on the bomb's impact. "I think this is the end of the war." 

FIRST ATOMIC BOMB: HIROSHIMA

"The flash after the explosion was deep purple, the reddish and reached to almost 8,000 feet; the cloud, shaped like a mushroom, was up to 20,000 feet in one minute, at which time the top part broke from the 'stem,' and eventually reached 30,000." 

"The stem of the mushroom-like column of smoke, looking now like a giant grave marker, stood one minute after the explosion upon the whole area of the city, excepting the southern dock area. This column was a thick white smoke, darker at the base, and interspersed with deep red. 

"Though about fifteen miles from the target when the explosion occurred, both escort aircraft, as well as the strike plane, reported feeling two shock waves jar the aircraft. Approximately 390 statue miles away from the target area, the column of smoke still could be seen piercing the morning sky." 

509th Composite Group Administrative Report 

photograph #1 of explosion 

"I don't believe anyone ever expected to look at a sight quite like that. Where we had seen a clear city two minutes before, we could now no longer see the city." 

Co-pilot Bob Lewis, post-war interview 

"That city was burning for all she was worth. It looked like...well, did you ever go to the beach and stir up the sand in shallow water and wee it all billow up?" 

Jacob Beser, radar countermeasures officer

picture #2 of explosion 

As Tibbets tamped down the tobacco in his pipe, he commented to Bob Lewis on the bomb's impact. "I think this is the end of the war." 

A HERO'S RETURN

Over 200 officers and enlisted men waited anxiously for the Enola Gay's return. Twelve hours and thirteen minutes after it left Tinian, Tibbets landed the plane on North Field. 

General Carl Spaatz, commander Strategic Armed Forces in the Pacific, and "all the ranking military brass that could be mustered in the Marianas at that time," met the crew as they disembarked. To Tibbets' surprise, Spaatz greeted him, shook his hand, and then pinned a Distinguished Service Cross to his rumpled overalls. 

Atomic Might 

The Japs well knew, -they had been warned
Of the Allied might that was being formed
But they chose to die for the Rising Sun
And proudly stuck to their ill made gun.
But a thunderous blast, a blinding light,
Brought the 509th atomic might.

It was the 6th of August, that much we knew
When the boys took off in the morning dew,
Feeling nervous, jumpy, sick and ill at ease
They flew at the heart of the Japanese,
With a thunderous blast, a blinding light,
And the 509th's atomic might.

Below like a miniature checker board
Lay a Japanese town in one accord,
Unknowing the might that lay in store
It went to the shelters, the rich and poor,
That's when the thunderous blast, and blinding light
Came from the 509th's atomic might.

From out of the air the secret fell
And created below a scene of hell.
(?)
Has there been displayed such a sight,
As the thunderous blast, the blinding light,
Of the 509th's atomic might.

From ear to tongue, from tongue to press
The story spead (?),-stupendous-nothing less!
From pole to pole, around the earth,
Folks knew now of our powerful worth,
With thunderous blast, the blinding light,
Of the 509th's atomic might.

Oh, God!-that when this war doth cease
And again we turn our thoughts to peace
That you will help us build,-not devastate,
A life with love and truth,-not hate,
Without the thunderous blast, the blinding light
Of the 509th's atomic might.

Sgt. Harry Barnard 

A HERO'S RETURN

Over 200 officers and enlisted men waited anxiously for the Enola Gay's return. Twelve hours and 13 minutes after leaving Tinian, Tibbets landed the plane on North Field. 

Lt. Gen. Carl Spaatz, commander of the U.S. Army Strategic Air Forces, and "all the ranking military brass that could be mustered in the Marianas at that time," met the crew as they disembarked. To Tibbets' surprise, Spaatz agreed him, shook his hand, and then pinned a Distinguished Service Cross to his rumpled flying suit. 

Lt. Gen. Carl Spaatz awards Paul Tibbets the Distinguished Service Cross for his historic flight. 

August 7-9 issues 

President Truman's announcement made the front page of the "Daily Mission," published by the 313th Bomb Wing Education Office on Tinian. 

Courtesy of Leonard J. Hardy

(if available) 

Sixteen hours after the 509th dropped the "Little Boy" bomb on Hiroshima, the White House released a prepared statement announcing the atomic bomb to the American public. This is an original copy distributed on Tinian. 

Courtesy of Charles Levy

"THE GREATEST THING IN HISTORY"

"This is the greatest thing in history." 

President Harry S. Truman, August 6, 1945

Sixteen hours after the 509th dropped the "Little Boy" bomb on Hiroshima, President Truman made a radio broadcast in which he announced the atomic bomb to the American public. 

While President Truman informed the United States, Hap Arnold sent a cable to Gen. Carl Spaatz, ordering him to enlist B-29 squadrons in an extensive propaganda campaign in the Pacific. In les than 24 hours of receiving the order, Spaatz had arranged for pamphlets, which described the destructive power of an atomic attack, to be printed and dropped over the Japanese islands. 

TEXT OF TRUMAN'S AUGUST 6 STATEMENT ON THE BOMB

Sixteen hours ago an American airplane dropped one bomb on Hiroshima, an important Japanese Army base. That bomb had more power than 20,000 tons of T. N. T. It had more than two thousand times the blast power of the British "Grand Slam" which is the largest bomb ever yet used in the history of warfare.

The Japanese began the war from the air at Pearl Harbor. They have been repaid many fold. And the end is not yet. With this bomb we have now added a new and revolutionary increase in destruction to supplement the growing power of our armed forces. In their present form these bombs are now in production and even more powerful forms are in development.

It is an atomic bomb. It is a harnessing of the basic power of the universe. The force from which the sun draws its power has been loosed against those who brought war to the Far East.

Before 1939, it was the accepted belief of scientists that it was theoretically possible to release atomic energy. But no one knew any practical method of doing it. By 1942, however, we knew that the Germans were working feverishly to find a way to add atomic energy to the other engines of war with which they hoped to enslave the world. But they failed. We may be grateful to Providence that the Germans got the V-1's and the V-2's late and in limited quantities and even more grateful that they did not get the atomic bomb at all.

The battle of the laboratories held fateful risks for us as well as the battles of the air, land and sea, and we have now won the battle of the laboratories as we have won the other battles.

Beginning in 1940, before Pearl Harbor, scientific knowledge useful in war was pooled between the United States and Great Britain, and many priceless helps to our victories have come from that arrangement. Under that general policy the research on the atomic bomb was begun. With American and British scientists working together we entered the race of discovery against the Germans.

The United States had available the large number of scientists of distinction in the many need areas of knowledge. It had the tremendous industrial and financial resources necessary for the project and they could be devoted to it without undue impairment of other vital war work. In the United States the laboratory work and the production plants, on which a substantial start had already been made, would be out of reach of enemy bombing, while at that time Britain was exposed to constant air attack and was still threatened with the possibility of invasion. For these reasons Prime Minister Churchill and President Roosevelt agreed that it was wise to carry on the project here. We now have two great plants and many lesser works devoted to the production of atomic power. Employment during peak construction numbered 125,000 and over 65,000 individuals are even now engaged in operating the plants. Many have worked there for two and a half years. Few know what they have been producing. They see great quantities of material going in and they see nothing coming out of these plants, for the physical size of the explosive charge is exceedingly small. We have spent two billion dollars on the greatest scientific gamble in history--and won.

But the greatest marvel is not the size of the enterprise, its secrecy, nor its cost, but the achievement of scientific brains in putting together infinitely complex pieces of knowledge held by many men in different fields of science into a workable plan. And hardly less marvellous has been the capacity of industry to design, and of labor to operate, the machines and methods to do things never done before so that the brain child of many minds came forth in physical shape and performed as it was supposed to do. Both science and industry worked under the direction of the United States Army, which achieved a unique success in managing so diverse a problem in the advancement of knowledge in an amazingly short time. It is doubtful if such another combination could be got together in the world. What has been done is the greatest achievement of organized science in history. It was done under high pressure and without failure.

We are now prepared to obliterate more rapidly, and completely every productive enterprise the Japanese have above ground in any city. We shall destroy their docks, their factories, and their communications. Let there be no mistake; we shall completely destroy Japan's power to make war.

It was to spare the Japanese people from utter destruction that the ultimatum of July 26 was issued at Potsdam. Their leaders promptly rejected that ultimatum . If they do not now accept our terms they may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth. Behind this air attack will follow sea and land forces in such numbers and power as they have not yet seen and with the fighting skill of which they are already well aware. 

The Secretary of War, who has kept in personal touch with all phases of the project, will immediately make public a statement giving further details.

His statement will give facts concerning the sites at Oak Ridge near Knoxville, Tennessee, and at Richland near Pasco, Washington, and an installation near Santa Fe, New Mexico. Although the workers at the sites have been making materials to be used in producing the greatest destructive force in history they have not themselves been in danger beyond that of many other occupations, for the utmost care has been taken of their safety.

The fact that we can release atomic energy ushers in a new era in man's understanding of nature's forces. Atomic energy may in the future supplement the power that now comes from coal, oil, and falling water, but at present it cannot be produced on a basis too compete with them commercially. Before that comes there must be a long period of intensive research.

It has never been the habit of the scientists of this country or the policy of this Government to withhold from the world scientific knowledge. Normally, therefore, everything about the work with atomic energy would be made public.

But under present circumstances it is not intended to divulge the technical processes of production or all the military applications, pending further examination of possible methods of protecting us and the rest of the world from the danger of sudden destruction.

I shall recommend that the Congress of the United States consider promptly the establishment of an appropriate commission to control the production and use of atomic power within the United States. I shall give further consideration and make further recommendations to the Congress as to how atomic power can become a powerful and forceful influence towards the maintenance of world peace. 

MISSION NO. 16

While perfect timing characterized the Hiroshima raid, urgency and haste affected the second. Mission planners felt it was necessary to conduct another atomic raid before the Japanese had time to "recover their balance." When they received the news that deteriorating weather conditions threatened to postpone the mission by a week, they quickly changed the projected mission date from August 11 to August 9. 

Accelerated preparations introduced a high level of risk into every step of the mission. Although problems occurred from bomb assembly to bomb delivery , Charles Sweeney and is crew successfully dropped their bomb on Japan and returned safely. 

"With the success of the Hiroshima weapon, the pressure to be ready with the much more complex implosion device became excruciating... Everyone felt that the sooner we could get off another mission, the more likely it was that the Japanese would feel that we had large quantities of the devices and would surrender sooner." 

Post -war interview with member of the "Fat Man" assembly team Bernard O'Keefe 

(Kokura to be crossed out and Nagasaki written in for dramatic effect) 

MISSION NO. 16: KOKURA/NAGASAKI

Three days after Hiroshima, Maj. Charles Sweeney, piloted the Bockscar and its crew on the second and last atomic attack of the war. Because of poor visibility over the primary target--the industrial city of Kokura--Sweeney's crew dropped their plutonium "Fat Man" bomb on Nagasaki. 

While perfect timing characterized the Hiroshima raid, a defective fuel transfer pump and a threatening typhoon marked the second. When deteriorating weather conditions threatened to postpone the mission by a week, Col. Tibbets and his staff quickly changed the projected date from August 11 to August 9. 

ADDITIONAL BOMBS

"Additional bombs will be delivered on the above targets as soon as made ready by the project staff..." 

Gen. Handy, Acting Army Chief of Staff, to Gen. Spaatz, Commander, Strategic Air Forces in the Pacific, July 25, 1945

There was no separate order to drop the second bomb. Acting on the July 25 directive, the 509th Ordnance Squadron and Manhattan Project scientists began to prepare the implosion-type Fat Man bomb for the second mission. The primary target for that raid would be the Japanese arsenal at Kokura. 

WHY A SECOND BOMB?

"Additional bombs will be delivered on the above targets as soon as made ready by the project staff..." 

Gen. Handy, Acting Army Chief of Staff, to Gen. Spaatz, Commander, Strategic Air Forces in the Pacific, July 25, 1945

There was no separate order to drop the second bomb, and no instructions were given to wait for a Japanese response to the first attack. Major General Groves, head of the Manhattan Project, felt it was important to drop another bomb immediately to show the Japanese that the United States possessed more than one atomic weapon. Acting on the July 25 directive, the 509th's Ordnance Squadron and Manhattan Project scientists on Tinian began to prepare the "Fat Man" plutonium bomb for the second mission. 

"With the success of the Hiroshima weapon, the pressure to be ready with the much more complex implosion device became excruciating.... Everyone felt that the sooner we could get off another mission, the more likely it was that the Japanese would feel that we had large quantities of the devices and would surrender sooner." 

Post-war interview with Bernard O'Keefe, a member of the "Fat Man" assembly team

Luis Alvarez (left), one of the Manhattan Project scientists who flew in the instrument plane during the Nagasaki raid, helps carry the plutonium core for the second bomb to the assembly hut. 

Courtesy of Esther Samra

Receipt for the "Fat Man" plutonium delivered to Tinian on July 26, 1945. 

Lent by the Smithsonian Institution Libraries

(photos of the Japanese language leaflet and the original English) 

This leaflet, warning of the atomic bomb, was dropped on Nagasaki and two other Japanese cities the day before the second atomic bomb. It was largely disregarded because the Japanese people did not yet understand what had happened to Hiroshima. 

ONWARD TO KOKURA

At pre-flight briefings similar to those before the Hiroshima flight, Tibbets assigned six crews and described the two potential targets, Kokura and Nagasaki. The mission's weaponeer then briefed them on the atomic bomb. In the early hours of August 9, crews headed for the airfield. 

Heated discussions between Tibbets and crew members took precedence over interviews that morning. A preflight check of the strike plane, Bockscar , piloted by Charles Sweeney, uncovered a malfunctioning fuel pump. With no time to fix the defective pump, Sweeney suggested changes in the flight plan. To save fuel, he would rendezvous with the escort planes over the coast of Japan instead of Iwo Jima and would make a refueling stop in Okinawa on the return trip to Tinian. 

To add to the mechanical problems, weather conditions were unfavorable. Forecasters predicted that the crews would fly through tropical rain squalls all the way to Japan. At 0247, Sweeney lifted the Bockscar off the tarmac. In the sky, "flashes of lightening [sic] stabbed into the darkness with disconcerting regularity." 

THE PROBLEMS BEGIN

At pre-flight briefings, Tibbets assigned six crews and described the primary and secondary targets, Kokura and Nagasaki. The mission's weaponeer then briefed them on the atomic bomb. In the early hours of August 9, crews headed for the airfield. 

A preflight check of the strike plane, Bockscar , piloted by Charles Sweeney, uncovered a malfunctioning fuel transfer pump. With no time to fix the defective pump, Sweeney and Tibbets decided to proceed. The one change was to move the rendezvous point with the escort planes closer to Japan because of the location of the weather front. 

To add to the mechanical problems, weather conditions were unfavorable. Forecasters predicted that the crews would fly through tropical rain squalls all the way to Japan. At 3:47 a.m., Tinian time, Sweeney lifted the Bockscar off the tarmac. 

Van Pelt, Sweeney, and Olivi (left to right) discuss flight plans after they learn about the defective fuel transfer pump. 

The strike plane's crew. Standing, left to right: bombardier Capt. Kermit Beahan, navigator Capt. James Van Pelt, co-pilot Capt. Charles Albury, third pilot observer 2nt Lt. Fred Olivi, command pilot Maj. Charles Sweeney. Kneeling, left to right: radar operator Staff Sgt. Edward Buckley, flight engineer Master Sgt. John Kuharek, assistant flight engineer Sgt. Raymond Gallagher, tail gunner Staff Sgt. Albert Dehart, radio operator Sgt. Abe Spitzer. Missing from the picture are weaponeer Cmdr. (U.S. Navy) Fred Ashworth, assistant weaponeer 2nd Lt. P.M. Barnes, and radar countermeasures officer Lt. Jacob Beser. 

crewman paints Bockscar insignia 

No. 77, Bockscar . The nose art was applied after the atomic strike. The aircraft can now be seen at the U.S. Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. 

An original strike order for the Kokura/Nagasaki mission. 

Courtesy of the Hoover Institution

MONITORING THE BOMB

On the Hiroshima flight, the assistant weaponeer made the final arming of the Little Boy gun-type bomb about two hours before the bomb drop. Because the Bockscar flew according to a different flight plan, weaponeer Richard Ashworth armed the Fat Man implosion-type bomb minutes after the Bockscar left Tinian. 

A MISSED RENDEZVOUS

The Bockscar crew reached the rendezvous point one minute ahead of schedule at 9:09 a.m. (8:08 a.m., Japan time) Bock's instrument plane arrived three minutes later. Bock made a visual sighting of Hopkins' camera plane, but lost contact with it. Because they had been ordered to maintain radio silence at that point, they could not inquire about its location. Without Hopkins, Sweeney and Bock circled the rendezvous point, waiting for the arrival of the third plane. After forty-five minutes, it had not appeared. Unsure about their escort's status, but concerned about diminishing fuel reserves, they proceeded to the target. 

KOKURA: THE BOMBING THAT NEVER HAPPENED

Although weather scouts had reported that both primary and secondary targets were clear for visual bombing, by the time the Bockscar crew arrived over Kokura, at 9:44 a.m. (Japanese time), a thick haze obscured the city. Ironically, smoke from a regular B-29 incendiary attack on a neighboring city had shrouded Kokura. Sweeney made three passes over the city, but each time bombardier Kermit Beahan announced "No drop." 

Tense moments passed as Sweeney waited for his flight engineer's report on the plane's fuel reserves. Kuharek's calculations revealed that just enough fuel remained to drop the bomb on the secondary target and return to a "friendly air field." Sweeney alerted special air-sea rescue forces that ditching the aircraft was a possibility. He then turned the Bockscar toward the secondary target of Nagasaki. 

KOKURA: "NO DROP"

Weather scouts had reported that both Kokura and Nagasaki were clear for visual bombing. But Bockscar's arrival over Kokura, was delayed by a missed rendezvous with one of the accompanying planes. The delay cost 45 minutes and more precious fuel. By the time Bockscar flew over Kokura, a thick haze and smoke obscured the target. Ironically, smoke from a regular B-29 incendiary attack on a neighboring city had shrouded Kokura. Sweeney made three passes over the city, but each time bombardier Kermit Beahan announced "No drop." 

A tense crew received flight engineer Kuharek's report that just enough fuel remained to drop the bomb on the secondary target and return to a friendly air field. Sweeney alerted special air-sea rescue forces that he might have to ditch the aircraft. He then turned the Bockscar toward the secondary target, Nagasaki. 

THE SECOND ATOMIC BOMB: NAGASAKI

To their dismay, the Bockscar crew found Nagasaki obscured by thick cloud cover. Faced with jettisoning the bomb, weaponeer Ashworth opted to use radar, even though they had been ordered to bomb visually. 

While on the Hiroshima flight, bombardier Ferebee had steered the plane to the target with the Norden bombsight, Bockscar bombardier Kermit Beahan temporarily gave up control. Although accounts vary, the most popular remembrance of the bomb drop is that, at the last minute, Beahan exclaimed "I have the target, taking control" A hole broke in the clouds and Beahan dropped the bomb. At 11:02 a.m., Japanese time, the "Fat Man" tumbled from the Bockscar's bomb bay and seconds later, exploded, 2,600 m (8,500 ft) from the intended target. 

The return trip was equally tense. By the time the Bockscar reached Okinawa, fuel reserves had dipped dangerously low. Sweeney's "Mayday" calls did little to clear the crowded Yontan Airfield runway. Firing signal flares finally roused a response. After refueling and reporting to Tibbets, they took off for Tinian, where they received a subdued welcome. 

THE SECOND ATOMIC BOMB: NAGASAKI

Because clouds obscured Nagasaki, Bockscar's bombardier Kermit Beahan could not see the target. Although Tibbets had ordered them to bomb visually, Sweeney had to make a choice: either use radar--a fairly crude technology in 1945--or jettison the bomb in the ocean. Reluctant to waste the valuable and powerful weapon, he authorized navigator Van Pelt to use radar for the approach. Shortly before 11:02, Japanese time, Beahan spotted recognizable features through the overcast and dropped the "Fat Man" over Nagasaki. Although relieved, the crew would later be disappointed to learn that they had missed the aiming point by 2.6 kilometers (1.6 miles) 

The mission was far from over. By the time the Bockscar reached Okinawa, fuel reserves were dangerously low. Sweeney's "Mayday" calls did little to clear the crowded runway. Firing signal flares finally roused a response. Upon landing, one engine quit for lack of fuel. But for Van Pelt's accurate navigation, Bockscar might not have made it. After refueling the plane took off for Tinian. 

The "Fat Man" exploded with the energy of 22 kilotons, almost twice as powerful as the "Little Boy" bomb at Hiroshima. 

Courtesy of Charles Levy

"After explosion, a balloon-like ring of white smoke formed, followed by a light-red ball of fire which covered two-thirds of the target area." 

509th Composite Group Administrative Report courtesy of Charles Levy.

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