Wendover, Utah History – “Enola Gay” Atomic Bomber Report
*My Dad, Huel Dean Christensen, said he was stationed at the Wendover, Utah Base when the Enola Gay B-29 Bomber was there, whether for refueling or whatever. **I stayed with my dad for a year until his passing in October 1999, 1 month after my daughter’s birth. Hey dad “Giant” we now have the Urantia Universal Military, the Universal Police Force, etc.!!
**On 9/11/2001 I, Chris Dwaine Christensen, was immediately dispatched from Wendover, Utah (where I was in active reserve status) to Salt Lake City, Utah (September 2001) where I began the long earthly stretch of my Paradise Universal Armed Military and Super-Galactic Ballistic War engagement against all wicked forces on Urantia/Earth and against any and all dark forces of the Lucifer rebellion. I am also now the Executioner of Days from the Paradise Reserve Corps of Destiny. I AM WEAPON!!
Wendover is a city in Tooele County, Utah, United States. The population was 1,537 at the 2000 census, with a 2006 estimated population of 1,632.
Wendover is on the western border of Utah, and is contiguous with West Wendover, Nevada. Interstate 80 runs just north of both cities, while Interstate 80 Business (Wendover Boulevard) runs through the two cities. The Wendover Cut-off was the former path of the Victory Highway as well as U.S. Route 40 to Wendover. Today it serves as a frontage road between Wendover and Knolls just to the south of the Interstate.
The town was established in 1908 as a station stop on the Western Pacific Railroad, then under construction.
The transcontinental telephone line was completed as workers raised the final pole at Wendover, Utah on June 27, 1914, after construction of 3,400 miles of telephone line. However, the line was not initiated until January 25, 1915, when the first transcontinental telephone call was made to coincide with the opening of the Panama Pacific Exposition.
From 1917 to 1939, a Western Pacific subsidiary known as the Deep Creek Railroad also operated into Wendover. The Western Pacific became part of the larger Union Pacific Railroad in 1983.
Hangar of the Enola Gay on the former Wendover Army Air Field
During World War II, the nearby Wendover Army Air Field was a training base for bomber pilots, including the crew of the Enola Gay. The Enola Gay was stationed here until June 1945.
RecentlyUtah Department of Transportation completed an interchange at Aria Boulevard on Interstate 80. Investment is also underway to restore the Wendover Airfield, which is currently managed by Tooele County. Meanwhile, lodging has increased along Wendover Boulevard in recent years.
Tooele County School District has completed Anna Smith Elementary School, which serves the Wendover area. Wendover and Tooele County recently built a joint complex for municipal and county functions.
Movements to unite Wendover with West Wendover, which is located across the border in Nevada and allows gambling operations, have taken place but require the approval of the U.S. Congress and the Nevada and Utah legislatures. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution permitting Wendover to leave Utah and join Nevada in 2002, but the bill was blocked in the U.S. Senate and did not become law.
Wendover Air Force Base is a former United States Air Force base in Utah now known as Wendover Airport. During World War II, it was a training base for B-17 and B-24 bomber crews. It was the training site of the 509th Composite Group, the B-29 unit that carried out the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
After the war, Wendover was used for training exercises, gunnery range and as a research facility. It was closed by the Air Force in 1969, and the base was given to Wendover City in 1977. Tooele County, Utah, assumed ownership of the airport and base buildings in 1998, and the County continues to operate the airfield as a public airport. A portion of the original bombing range is now the Utah Test and Training Range (UTTR) which is used extensively by the Air Force with live fire targets on the range.
Wendover Air Force Base’s history began in 1940, when the United States Army began looking for additional bombing ranges. The area near the town of Wendover was well-suited to these needs; the land was virtually uninhabited, had generally excellent flying weather, and the nearest large city (Salt Lake City) was 100 miles (160 km) away (Wendover had around 100 citizens at the time). Though isolated, the area was served by the Western Pacific Railroad, and many of its citizens were employed by the railroad.
Construction of the base began on 20 September 1940 and on the range on 4 November 1940. Wendover Air Base became a subpost of Fort Douglas in Salt Lake City on 29 July 1941. By that time a total of 1,822,000 acres (737,000 ha) had been acquired for the base and associated gunnery/bombing range 86 miles (138 km) long and 18 to 36 miles (29 to 58 km) wide. Ranchers protested the loss of their grazing land, which they claimed would wipe them out and cost the state of Utah $1.5 million annually. They took their complaints toGovernor Henry Hooper Blood, but the War Department pressed on with the development of the bombing range. The first military contingent arrived on 12 August 1941, to construct targets on the bombing range. To provide water, a pipeline was run from a spring on Pilot Peak to the base.
World War II
Aerial photo of Wendover AAF looking north, 1943
With the entrance of the United States into World War II, Wendover Field took on greater importance. It was the Army Air Force’s largest bombing and gunnery range. On March 1942 the Army Air Force activated Wendover Army Air Field and also assigned the research and development of guided missiles, pilotless aircraft, and remotely controlled bombs to the site. The new base was supplied and serviced by the Ogden Air Depot at Hill Field. In April 1942, the Wendover Sub-Depot was activated and assumed technical and administrative control of the field, under the Ogden Air Depot. The Wendover Sub-Depot was tasked to requisition, store, and issue all Army Air Forces property for organizations stationed at Wendover Field for training.
By late 1943 there were some 2,000 civilian employees and 17,500 military personnel at Wendover. Construction at the base continued for most of the war, including three 8,100-foot (2,500 m) paved runways, taxiways, a 300,000-square-foot (28,000 m2) ramp, and seven hangars. By May 1945 the base consisted of 668 buildings, including a 300-bed hospital, gymnasium, swimming pool, library, chapel, cafeteria, bowling alley, two movie theatres, and 361 housing units for married officers and civilians.
Heavy Bombardment Group training
Wendover’s mission was to train heavy bomb groups. The training of Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and Consolidated B-24 Liberator groups began in April 1942, with the arrival of the306th Bomb Group flying B-17s. From March 1942 through April 1944, Wendover AAF hosted twenty newly formed B-17 and B-24 groups during one phase of their group training.The Second Air Force organized bombardment training into three phases. In the first, training focused on the individual crew members. In the second, training involved the whole crew, who would conduct training together. The third and final phase saw the group’s crews training together, with formation flying and practice combat missions. Until the end of 1943, each phase of training was conducted at a different base.
- Heavy Bomb Groups Trained at Wendover Army Air Base
In April 1944, the role of Wendover Army Air Base changed with the arrival from Louisiana of P-47 fighters of the 72nd Fighter Wing. The program ended in September after three groups, totalling 180 men, had been trained.
509th Composite Group
In June 1943, preparations began for the operational use of atomic bombs. Although not as suitable for the atomic mission as the British Avro Lancaster with its cavernous 33-foot (10 m) bomb bay, Major General Leslie R. Groves, Jr., the director of the Manhattan Project, and General Henry H. Arnold, the Chief of United States Army Air Forces (USAAF), wanted to use an American plane, if this was at all possible, so the Boeing B-29 Superfortress was chosen, even though it required substantial modification. The modification project was codenamed Silverplate, but this codename eventually came to identify the training and operational aspects of the program as well.
Abandoned World War II housing units at Wendover Army Air Field
Arnold selected Lieutenant Colonel Paul Tibbets, an officer with a distinguished combat record in Europe and North Africa, who had expert knowledge of the B-29 as one of its test pilots, to form and train a group to deliver atomic bombs. Tibbets chose the Wendover over Great Bend, Kansas, and Mountain Home, Idaho, as the location for his training program. It was remote, which was good for secrecy and security, but within reasonable distance by air from the Manhattan Project’s Site Y, at Los Alamos, New Mexico, and the Salton Sea Naval Auxiliary Air Station, where bombing tables for the mission would be prepared. The base was given the code name “Kingman”, and became the Manhattan Project’s Site K. The activity to assemble, modify and flight test prototype bombs was named “Project W-47“.
On 14 September 1944, the 393d Bomb Squadron arrived at Wendover from its former base at Fairmont Army Air Base, Nebraska, where it had been an operational training unit (OTU) with the504th Bombardment Group since 12 March. When its parent group deployed to the Marianas in early November 1944, the squadron was assigned directly to the Second Air Force until creation of the 509th Composite Group on 17 December 1944. As part of the formation of the 509th, about 800 people stationed at the field, were transferred to the new group. To make the 509th Composite Group as self-contained as possible, other units were assigned, including the 390th Air Service Group, with the 603d Air Engineering and 1027th Materiel Squadrons; the 320th Troop Carrier Squadron, known as the “Green Hornet Airlines”; the 1395th Military Police Company, and later the 1st Ordnance Squadron. A Manhattan Project unit, the 1st Technical Detachment, was attached to the group.
The 216th Army Air Forces Base Unit (Special) constructed prototype atomic weapons (without nuclear material) and drop tested them. Little was known about the flight characteristics of the prototype atom bomb designs and how the fusing mechanism would work. In February 1945, a Flight Test Section was created within the 216th Army Air Forces Base Unit to carry out testing with prototype bombs in the shape of the Little Boy and Fat Man bombs. It was originally equipped with five Silverplate B-29s, three flight crews and five maintenance crews. To help out with an increasingly demanding schedule, four crews from the 393d Bombardment Squadron were made available. The Flight Test Section carried out 24 drop tests in June and 30 in July. About two thirds of the June tests were with Fat Man shapes and the rest with Little Boy ones. In July, all but four of the tests were with Fat Man shapes, some with explosive-filled Pumpkin bombs. Test drops were carried out at Wendover, at the Naval Ordnance Test Station at Inyokern, and at the Salton Sea Naval Auxiliary Air Station. Testing continued up to the last minute, with the Fat Man firing unit, known as the X-unit, only being successfully tested at Wendover on 4 August, and a final test of the X-unit was carried out six days later.
The aircrews trained continuously until May. Each bombardier completed at least 50 practice drops of inert pumpkin bombs before Tibbets declared his group combat-ready. The ground support echelon of the 509th Composite Group received movement orders and moved by rail on 26 April 1945 to its port of embarkation at Seattle, Washington. On 6 May the support elements sailed on the SS Cape Victory for the Marianas, while group materiel was shipped on the SS Emile Berliner. An advance party of the air echelon flew by C-54 to North Field, Tinian, between 15 and 22 May. It was joined by the ground echelon on 29 May 1945, marking the group’s official change of station. It was from Tinian that it carried out the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The 216th Army Air Forces Base Unit moved to Oxnard Field in September 1945, where it was transferred to the Manhattan District’s 9812th Technical Services Unit on 17 December 1945. Oxnard was later designated Sandia Base. The Special Ordnance Detachment took with it its special tools and equipment, and even some of its buildings. The test program resumed at Sandia in January 1946.
JB-2 being inspected by USAAF personnel at Wendover AAF, 1944
In early September 1944, a detachment of the Special Weapons Branch, Wright Field, Ohio, arrived at Wendover with thirteen Republic-Ford JB-2 flying bombs. The JB-2 was a United States copy of the Nazi V-1 flying bomb, which was reverse-engineered from malfunctioning wrecks of V-1s recovered in England. The United States JB-2 was different from the German V-1 in only the smallest of dimensions. At Wendover, a launch ramp was constructed for the JB-2, engineered from plans developed from aerial photographs of ramps used by the Germans in the Low Countries. In addition to the ground launch ramp, a B-17 Flying Fortress was modified to be able to carry the jet bomb underneath a wing and air launch it. Numerous tests were conducted and an initial production order was 1,000 units was made by the Army, with subsequent planned production of 1,000 per month. The fortunes of war in Europe in the spring of 1945 led to the decision to use the JB-2 in the Pacific Theater, to be used as part of Operation Downfall, the planned invasion of Japan. The sudden end of the war in September 1945 led to the curtailment of the JB-2 program and the weapon was never used in combat.
The training of B-29 aircrews and the testing of prototype atom bombs was the last major contribution of Wendover Field during World War II. After war’s end, some crew training continued, but at a reduced level. For a while, B-29s which had returned from the Marianas were flown to Wendover for storage. In the summer of 1946, the Ogden Air Technical Service Command at Hill Army Air Field north of Salt Lake City assumed jurisdiction over all operations at Wendover Field except engineering and technical projects.
Wendover played a key role in the postwar weapons development industry with three areas being developed. The first was further testing of the JB-2 Loon flying bomb. In the case of the second area, the B-17 Flying Fortress, obsolete as a combat aircraft, was being tested to fly remotely. Gliding bombs, based on captured technology from the wartime Henschel Hs 293 German radio-controlled glide bomb were being developed that could be controlled by radar or radio. The third consisted of bombs that could be controlled by the launching plane. The historic GAPA (ground to air pilotless aircraft) Boeing project resulted in the first supersonic flight of an American Air Force vehicle on 6 August 1946. In March 1947, the Air Proving Ground Command research programs were moved to Alamogordo Army Airfield, New Mexico. As a result, 1,200 personnel from Wendover Field were moved to New Mexico from Utah and were relocated to Alamogordo to conduct guided missile research projects. Three ongoing projects were transferred: Ground-to-Air Pilotless Aircraft (GAPA), JB-2 Loon flight testing, and ASM-A-1 Tarzon gliding bomb.
Transferred to the Strategic Air Command‘ Fifteenth Air Force in March 1947. With the establishment of the U.S. Air Force as an independent service later that year, the installation was renamedWendover Air Force Base in 1947, but while bombardment groups deploying on maneuvers used the bombing range, the rest of the base remained unused. It was inactivated in 1948 and declared surplus, although retained in a caretaker status. The Air Materiel Command assumed responsibility for the base in July 1950, placing it under the jurisdiction of Ogden Air Material Area at Hill Air Force Base. Between 1950 and 1954, the base was manned by a skeleton crew of thirteen. The buildings deteriorated. Some were removed, some demolished, and some burned down.
Tactical Air Command (TAC) reactivated the base under the Ninth Air Force on 1 October 1954, and tactical units deployed there for exercises, utilizing the base for the next four years. TAC invested several million dollars renovating the base facilities, and constructed new targets on the range. But only 331 personnel were assigned to the base in 1956. The base was deactivated again in December 1957. It transferred back to Ogden on 1 January 1958 and renamedWendover Air Force Auxiliary Field, while the range was renamed Hill Air Force Range in 1960, and inactivated in August 1961.
The base was reactivated on 15 July 1961, but the only personnel based there were a fifteen-man firefighting detachment. By 1962, when the base was again deactivated, only 128 of the original 668 buildings remained. The General Services Administration (GSA) wanted to sell the base to the town of Wendover, leaving only the bombing ranges and radar site with the Air Force. The base was renamed Decker Field, and again declared surplus in 1972. The base continued to be used occasionally for training by Air National Guard units, and the firefighting detachment remained until 1977.
Wendover was officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places on 1 July 1975. The entire facility was declared surplus in 1976, and on 9 July 1976, the water system and its annexes were transferred to the city of Wendover, Utah. The GSA deeded most of the base, including runways, taxiways, hangars, hospital complex, and several warehouses to Wendover for a civil airport on 15 August 1977. The Air Force retained about 86 acres (35 ha) of the cantonment area and 164 acres (66 ha) of the radar site.
Beginning in 1980 the 4440th Tactical Fighter Training Group began holding regular exercises known as Red Flag from Nellis AFB, Nevada. These exercises used Wendover, with over 9,000 men and women deployed to Decker Field, Utah. About 5,200 sorties were flown, representing over 9,500 flying hours. Red Flag exercises at Wendover were discontinued after 1986. The U.S. Air Force relinquished the remainder of Decker Field to the town of Wendover in 1992.
The operations building/museum/gift shop at the Historic Wendover Airfield. The tall structure behind the building is the old control tower from World War II.
As of 2015, this former Air Force Base is used as a civil airport, with an unusually long runway for such a facility (there are two 8,000′ long runways). Wendover is one of the most intact World War II training airfields. It is also one of the most historic. The airfield is very isolated in northwest Utah, sitting in the middle of a vast wasteland miles away from any major population center. It is probably for this reason, and the dry hot climate, that much of the airfield remains today. Still-extant facilities include the vast runway system, numerous ramps, taxiways, dispersal pads, and most of the original hangars (including the Enola Gay B-29 hangar). Most of the hospital complex and many barracks remain, as does a chow hall, chapel, swimming pool and many other World War II-era buildings. In 2009, a hangar at the base dubbed The Manhattan Project’s Enola Gay Hangar was listed as one of the most endangered historic sites in the United States. A local group, “Historic Wendover Airfield”, is attempting to preserve the former base.
Numerous films and television shows have been filmed using Wendover Field, including The Philadelphia Experiment (1984), Con Air (1995), Mulholland Falls (1996), Independence Day (1996),Hulk (2003) and The Core (2003).
The Enola Gay (pronunciation: ) is a Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber, named for Enola Gay Tibbets, the mother of the pilot, Colonel Paul Tibbets, who selected the aircraft while it was still on the assembly line. On 6 August 1945, during the final stages of World War II, it became the first aircraft to drop an atomic bomb. The bomb, code-named “Little Boy“, was targeted at the city of Hiroshima, Japan, and caused unprecedented destruction. Enola Gay participated in the second atomic attack as the weather reconnaissance aircraft for the primary target of Kokura. Clouds and drifting smoke resulted in a secondary target, Nagasaki, being bombed instead.
After the war, the Enola Gay returned to the United States, where it was operated from Roswell Army Air Field, New Mexico. In May 1946, it was flown to Kwajalein for the Operation Crossroads nuclear tests in the Pacific, but was not chosen to make the test drop at Bikini Atoll. Later that year it was transferred to the Smithsonian Institution, and spent many years parked at air bases exposed to the weather and souvenir hunters, before being disassembled and transported to the Smithsonian’s storage facility at Suitland, Maryland, in 1961.
In the 1980s, veterans groups engaged in a call for the Smithsonian to put the aircraft on display, leading to an acrimonious debate about exhibiting the aircraft without a proper historical context. The cockpit and nose section of the aircraft were exhibited at the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) in downtown Washington, D.C., for the bombing’s 50th anniversary in 1995, amid controversy. Since 2003, the entire restored B-29 has been on display at NASM’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. The last survivor of its crew, Theodore Van Kirk, died on July 28, 2014, at the age of 93.
The Enola Gay (Model number B-29-45-MO,[N 1] Serial number 44-86292, Victor number 82) was built by the Glenn L. Martin Company (now Lockheed Martin) at its Bellevue, Nebraska plant, located at what is now known as Offutt Air Force Base. The bomber was one of 15 B-29s with the “Silverplate” modifications necessary to deliver atomic weapons. These modifications included an extensively modified bomb bay with pneumatic doors and British bomb attachment and release systems, reversible pitch propellers that gave more braking power on landing, improved engines with fuel injection and better cooling, and the removal of protective armor and gun turrets.
Enola Gay after Hiroshima mission, entering hard-stand. It is in its 6th Bombardment Group livery, with victor number 82 visible on fuselage just forward of the tail fin.
Enola Gay was personally selected by Colonel Paul W. Tibbets, Jr., the commander of the 509th Composite Group, on 9 May 1945, while still on the assembly line. The aircraft was accepted by the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) on 18 May 1945 and assigned to the 393d Bombardment Squadron, Heavy, 509th Composite Group. Crew B-9, commanded by Captain Robert A. Lewis, took delivery of the bomber and flew it from Omaha to the 509th’s base at Wendover Army Air Field, Utah, on 14 June 1945.
Thirteen days later, the aircraft left Wendover for Guam, where it received a bomb-bay modification, and flew to North Field, Tinian, on 6 July. It was initially given the Victor (squadron-assigned identification) number 12, but on 1 August, was given the circle R tail markings of the 6th Bombardment Group as a security measure and had its Victor number changed to 82 to avoid misidentification with actual 6th Bombardment Group aircraft. During July, the bomber made eight practice or training flights, and flew two missions, on 24 and 26 July, to drop pumpkin bombs on industrial targets at Kobe and Nagoya. Enola Gay was used on 31 July on a rehearsal flight for the actual mission.
The partially assembled Little Boy gun-type nuclear weapon L-11 was contained inside a 41-inch (100 cm) x 47-inch (120 cm) x 138-inch (350 cm) wooden crate weighing 10,000 pounds (4,500 kg) that was secured to the deck of the USS Indianapolis. Unlike the six Uranium-235 target discs, which were later flown to Tinian on three separate aircraft arriving 28 and 29 July, the assembled projectile with the nine Uranium-235 rings installed was shipped in a single lead-lined steel container weighing 300 pounds (140 kg) that was securely locked to brackets welded to the deck of Captain Charles B. McVay III‘s quarters.[N 2] Both the L-11 and projectile were dropped off at Tinian on 26 July 1945.
Little Boy unit on trailer cradle in pit on Tinian, before being loaded intoEnola Gay’s bomb bay.
On 5 August 1945, during preparation for the first atomic mission, Tibbets assumed command of the aircraft and named it after his mother, Enola Gay Tibbets, who had herself been named for the heroine of a novel.[N 3] When it came to selecting a name for the plane, Tibbets later recalled that:
my thoughts turned at this point to my courageous red-haired mother, whose quiet confidence had been a source of strength to me since boyhood, and particularly during the soul-searching period when I decided to give up a medical career to become a military pilot. At a time when Dad had thought I had lost my marbles, she had taken my side and said, “I know you will be all right son.”
The name was painted on the aircraft on 5 August by Allan L. Karl, an enlisted man in the 509th. Regularly assigned aircraft commander Robert Lewis was unhappy to be displaced by Tibbets for this important mission, and became furious when he arrived at the aircraft on the morning of 6 August to see it painted with the now-famous nose art.
Hiroshima was the primary target of the first nuclear bombing mission on 6 August, with Kokura and Nagasaki as alternative targets. Enola Gay, piloted by Tibbets, took off from North Field, in theMariana Islands, about six hours’ flight time from Japan, accompanied by two other B-29s, The Great Artiste, carrying instrumentation, and a then-nameless aircraft later called Necessary Evil, commanded by Captain George Marquardt, to take photographs. The director of the Manhattan Project, Major General Leslie R. Groves, Jr., wanted the event recorded for posterity, so the takeoff was illuminated by floodlights. When he wanted to taxi, Tibbets leaned out the window to direct the bystanders out of the way. On request, he gave a friendly wave for the cameras.
After leaving Tinian, the aircraft made their way separately to Iwo Jima, where they rendezvoused at 2,440 meters (8,010 ft) and set course for Japan. The aircraft arrived over the target in clear visibility at 9,855 meters (32,333 ft). Captain William S. “Deak” Parsons of Project Alberta, who was in command of the mission, armed the bomb during the flight to minimize the risks during takeoff. His assistant, Second Lieutenant Morris R. Jeppson, removed the safety devices 30 minutes before reaching the target area.
The release at 08:15 (Hiroshima time) went as planned, and the Little Boy took 43 seconds to fall from the aircraft flying at 31,060 feet (9,470 m) to the predetermined detonation height about 1,968 feet (600 m) above the city. Enola Gay traveled 11.5 mi (18.5 km) before it felt the shock waves from the blast. Although buffeted by the shock, neither Enola Gay nor The Great Artiste was damaged.
The detonation created a blast equivalent to 16 kilotons of TNT (67 TJ). The U-235 weapon was considered very inefficient, with only 1.7% of its fissile material fissioning. The radius of total destruction was about one mile (1.6 km), with resulting fires across 4.4 square miles (11 km2). Americans estimated that 4.7 square miles (12 km2) of the city were destroyed. Japanese officials determined that 69% of Hiroshima’s buildings were destroyed and another 6–7% damaged. Some 70,000–80,000 people, or some 30% of the city’s population, were killed by the blast and resultant firestorm, and another 70,000 injured. Out of those killed, 20,000 were soldiers.
Photo showing the plane back to its base.
Enola Gay returned safely to its base on Tinian to great fanfare, touching down at 2:58 pm, after 12 hours 13 minutes. The Great Artiste and Necessary Evilfollowed at short intervals. Several hundred people, including journalists and photographers, had gathered to watch the planes return. Tibbets was the first to disembark, and was presented with the Distinguished Service Cross on the spot.
The Hiroshima mission was followed by another atomic strike. Originally scheduled for 11 August, it was brought forward by two days to 9 August owing to bad weather. This time, a Fat Mannuclear weapon was carried by B-29 Bockscar, piloted by Major Charles W. Sweeney. Enola Gay, flown by Captain George Marquardt’s Crew B-10, was the weather reconnaissance aircraft forKokura, the primary target. Enola Gay reported clear skies over Kokura, but by the time Bockscar arrived, the city was obscured by smoke from fires from the conventional bombing of Yawataby 224 B-29s the day before. After three unsuccessful passes, Bockscar diverted to its secondary target, Nagasaki, where it dropped its bomb. In contrast to the Hiroshima mission, the Nagasaki mission has been described as tactically botched, although the mission did meet its objectives. The crew encountered a number of problems in execution, and had very little fuel by the time they landed at the emergency backup landing site Yontan Airfield on Okinawa.
Enola Gay’s crew on 6 August 1945, consisted of 12 men. The crew was:
Source: Campbell, 2005, p. 30. Asterisks denote regular crewmen of the Enola Gay.
Of mission commander Parsons, it was said: “There is no one more responsible for getting this bomb out of the laboratory and into some form useful for combat operations than Captain Parsons, by his plain genius in the ordnance business.”
For the Nagasaki mission, Enola Gay was flown by Crew B-10, normally assigned to Up An’ Atom:
- Captain George W. Marquardt – aircraft commander
- Second Lieutenant James M. Anderson – co-pilot
- Second Lieutenant Russell Gackenbach – navigator
- Captain James W. Strudwick – bombardier
- First Lieutenant Jacob Beser – radar countermeasures
- Technical Sergeant James R. Corliss – flight engineer
- Sergeant Warren L. Coble – radio operator
- Sergeant Joseph M. DiJulio – radar operator
- Sergeant Melvin H. Bierman – tail gunner
- Sergeant Anthony D. Capua, Jr. – assistant engineer/scanner
Source: Campbell, 2005, p. 134, 191−192.
Enola Gay in the Smithsonian storage facility at Suitland, 1987
On 6 November 1945, Lewis flew the Enola Gay back to the United States, arriving at the 509th’s new base at Roswell Army Air Field, New Mexico, on 8 November. On 29 April 1946, Enola Gayleft Roswell as part of Operation Crossroads nuclear tests in the Pacific. It flew to Kwajalein on 1 May. It was not chosen to make the test drop at Bikini Atoll and left Kwajalein on 1 July, the date of the test, reaching Fairfield-Suisun Army Air Field, California, the next day.
The decision was made to preserve the Enola Gay, and on 24 July 1946, the aircraft was flown to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, in preparation for storage. On 30 August 1946, the title to the aircraft was transferred to the Smithsonian Institution and the Enola Gay was removed from the USAAF inventory. From 1946 to 1961, the Enola Gay was put into temporary storage at a number of locations. It was at Davis-Monthan from 1 September 1946 until 3 July 1949, when it was flown to Orchard Place Air Field, Park Ridge, Illinois, by Tibbets for acceptance by the Smithsonian. It was moved to Pyote Air Force Base, Texas, on 12 January 1952, and then to Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, on 2 December 1953, because the Smithsonian had no storage space for the aircraft.
It was hoped that the Air Force would guard the plane but, lacking hangar space, it was left outdoors on a remote part of the air base, exposed to the elements. Souvenir hunters broke in and removed parts. Insects and birds then gained access to the aircraft. Paul E. Garber, the first head of the National Air Museum of the Smithsonian Institution, became concerned about the Enola Gay‘s condition, and on 10 August 1960, Smithsonian staff began dismantling the aircraft. The components were transported to the Smithsonian storage facility at Suitland, Maryland, on 21 July 1961.
Enola Gay remained at Suitland for many years. By the early 1980s, two veterans of the 509th, Don Rehl and his former navigator in the 509th, Frank B. Stewart, began lobbying for the aircraft to be restored and put on display. They enlisted Tibbets and Senator Barry Goldwater in their campaign. In 1983, Walter Boyne, a former B-52 pilot with the Strategic Air Command, became director of the National Air and Space Museum, and he made the Enola Gay‘s restoration a priority. Looking at the aircraft, Tibbets recalled, was a “sad meeting. [My] fond memories, and I don’t mean the dropping of the bomb, were the numerous occasions I flew the airplane…. I pushed it very, very hard and it never failed me…. It was probably the most beautiful piece of machinery that any pilot ever flew.”
Restoration of the bomber began on 5 December 1984, at the Paul E. Garber Preservation, Restoration, and Storage Facility in Suitland-Silver Hill, Maryland. The propellers that were used on the bombing mission were later shipped toTexas A&M University. One of these propellers was trimmed to 12.5 feet (3.8 m) for use in the university’s Oran W. Nicks Low Speed Wind Tunnel. The lightweight aluminium variable-pitch propeller is powered by a 1,250 kVA electric motor providing a wind speed up to 200 miles per hour (320 km/h). Two engines were rebuilt at Garber and two at San Diego Air & Space Museum. The work was slow and meticulous. Every component was carefully cleaned. Some parts and instruments had been removed and could not be located. Replacements were found or fabricated, and marked so that future curators could distinguish them from the original components.
Under the cockpit window of theEnola Gay, while in storage 1987.
Enola Gay became the center of a controversy at the Smithsonian Institution when the museum planned to put its fuselage on public display in 1995 as part of an exhibit commemorating the 50th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. The exhibit, The Crossroads: The End of World War II, the Atomic Bomb and the Cold War, was drafted by the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum staff, and arranged around the restored Enola Gay.
Critics of the planned exhibit, especially those of the American Legion and the Air Force Association, charged that the exhibit focused too much attention on the Japanese casualties inflicted by the nuclear bomb, rather than on the motivations for the bombing or the discussion of the bomb’s role in ending the conflict with Japan. The exhibit brought to national attention many long-standing academic and political issues related to retrospective views of the bombings. As a result, after various failed attempts to revise the exhibit in order to meet the satisfaction of competing interest groups, the exhibit was canceled on 30 January 1995. Martin O. Harwit, Director of the National Air and Space Museum, was compelled to resign over the controversy.
The forward fuselage did go on display on 28 June 1995. On 2 July 1995, three people were arrested for throwing ash and human blood on the aircraft’s fuselage, following an earlier incident in which a protester had thrown red paint over the gallery’s carpeting. The exhibition closed on 18 May 1998, and the fuselage was returned to the Garber Facility for final restoration.
Complete restoration and display
Restoration work began in 1984, and would eventually require 300,000 staff hours. While the fuselage was on display, from 1995 to 1998, work continued on the remaining unrestored components. The aircraft was shipped in pieces to the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia from March–June 2003, with the fuselage and wings reunited for the first time since 1960 on 10 April 2003 and assembly completed on 8 August 2003. The aircraft is currently at Washington Dulles International Airport in the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, since the museum annex opened on 15 December 2003.