Russell E. Gackenbach was a navigator in the 393rd Bombardment Squadron. He flew on both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki missions. His crew flew aboard the Necessary Evil, which was the camera plane for the Hiroshima mission. Gackenbach photographed the mushroom cloud over Hiroshima. His crew flew again during the Nagasaki mission as the weather reconnaissance plane for the city of Kokura. In this interview, Gackenbach describes his wartime experiences, from enlisting in the service, to training in Wendover, UT and Cuba with the modified B-29s, to flying on both atomic bomb missions. He recalls the personalities of other members and leaders in the 509th, including Col. Paul Tibbets and his crew pilot, Capt. George Marquardt. He also describes his life after the war, including being honored at a Tampa Bay Buccaneers game as their “hero of the day” and participating in 509th reunions around the country.
Jack Widowsky served as the navigator on the B-29 Top Secret at Wendover and Tinian during World War II. He participated in the mission to bomb Hiroshima as the navigator of the Big Stink, which was the backup strike plane on Iwo Jima. He flew as the navigator of the Laggin’ Dragon, one of the weather reconnaissance planes, during the mission to Nagasaki. In this interview, he discusses his time in the 509th Composite Group. He begins by narrating his introduction to the 509th after enlisting in the Air Force. He describes the copious travelling he did as he and his crew trained to be a part of the team that would eventually drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Two important themes of this interview are the intense security and secrecy the project necessitated, as well as the jovial camaraderie enjoyed by Widowsky and the other members of the 509th.
Colonel (later General) Paul Tibbets was the pilot of the Enola Gay, the B-29 that dropped the “Little Boy” atomic bomb over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. In this documentary Tibbets co-produced with the Buckeye Aviation Book Company, “Reflections on Hiroshima,” he recounts his memories of the day the atomic bomb was first used in warfare. Tibbets recalls how he became a pilot, and explains how the Manhattan Project’s “Silverplate” program produced a special version of the B-29 capable of delivering the atomic bomb. He also discusses the target selection process and describes the “odd couple” of J. Robert Oppenheimer and General Leslie Groves. He remembers seeing the mushroom cloud over Hiroshima and feeling the shock wave of the blast, and shares his views on the role of morality during war.
Walter Goodman was recruited into the Special Engineer Detachment at Los Alamos in 1943. Goodman worked as an electrical engineer on the implosion bomb and helped design equipment to measure the efficiency of an atomic blast. In July 1945, Goodman deployed to Tinian Island to help prepare the Fat Man bomb to be dropped on Japan. On August 9, 1945, he witnessed the bombing of Nagasaki from the instrumentation aircraft The Great Artiste and took motion pictures of the mushroom cloud above the city. In this interview, he recounts the Nagasaki mission and describes the disagreement between American and foreign-born scientists at Los Alamos about sharing information about atomic weapons.
In this lecture at Johns Hopkins University, Jacob Beser talks about his early career in the Air Corps in World War II, as well as how he was recruited to the 509th Composite Air Group. He discusses his personal feelings on the morality of the bombs, as well as the situation that lead President Truman to decide to use the atomic bombs. Beser also answers questions on Los Alamos, the targets for the atomic bombings and the idea of dropping a bomb as a warning to the Japanese government. He discusses the Hiroshima and Nagasaki missions and his feelings after the fact. Beser also touches on the Japanese-American internment during World War II, which he considers to be one of the largest blots on American democracy.
In this 1962 radio interview, Robert Lewis, Richard Nelson, Charles Sweeney, and Abe Spitzer discuss their experience as members of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombing missions. Lewis was a captain in the 509th Composite Group and was the co-pilot of the Enola Gay on the day of the Hiroshima mission. Nelson was the radio operator of the Enola Gay on the day of the Hiroshima mission. Charles Sweeney was the pilot of the Great Artiste on the Hiroshima mission and the pilot of the Bockscar on the Nagasaki mission. Abe Spitzer was the radar operator on the Great Artiste on the Hiroshima mission and the radar operator on the Bockscar on the Nagasaki mission. All four men describe their feelings after the bomb was dropped and address whether or not those feelings have changed.
In this tape, Ray Gallagher gives an account of the Hiroshima mission from the perspective of a flight engineer on the observation ship: The Great Artiste. He discusses the trip to Hiroshima, how he felt when the first bomb was dropped and the reactions of the top brass. Gallagher also gives a step-by-step account of the Nagasaki mission: taking off from the runway on Tinian, flying to Kokura and then to Nagasaki, and barely making it to Okinawa. He explains how a problem with refueling Bock’s Car affected the mission, and what the mushroom cloud over Nagasaki looked like from the plane. He also discusses his feelings on the necessity of the atomic bombs, and the tension the men experienced during the mission. At the end, Gallagher provides his thoughts on heroism.
Ray Gallagher and Fred Olivi were both members of the 509th Composite Group that was responsible for dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Gallagher flew on both missions, on The Great Artiste, which was an observer plane on the Hiroshima mission, and then on the Bock’s Car, which dropped Fat Man. Fred Olivi was the Bock’s Car’s co-pilot during the Nagasaki mission. They are joined by historian and Truman specialist, Robert Messer. In this interview, the veterans discuss their careers after the war, Colonel Paul Tibbets, and the upkeep of the Enola Gay and Bock’s Car. The program takes callers and the veterans and Messer answer questions about a number of issues surrounding the atomic bomb missions. Olivi and Gallagher reflect on dropping the atomic bombs and state their hope that no more atomic bombs will ever be used.
Ray Gallagher and Fred Olivi were both members of the missions responsible for dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Gallagher flew on both missions, first on the Great Artiste, which was an observer plane, and then on Bockscar, which dropped Fat Man. Fred Olivi was Bockscar’s co-pilot. They are joined by historian and Truman specialist Robert Messer. In this interview, the veterans discuss how they were recruited to and trained for the 509th Composite Group. They talk about what it was like to drop the bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, witnessing the mushroom cloud, and their feelings and reflections in the aftermath. Messer weighs in on the moral and practical decision to drop the bomb.
Ross Simpson presents a series of promos for his Nuclear War Radio Series around the 40th anniversary of the nuclear bombing of Japan. The series is presented in five parts. The first part is a series of interviews with members of NORAD about nuclear threats today. The second part is a series of interviews with the members of the Enola Gay crew that flew on the Hiroshima mission, discussing whether they have any regrets for their role in the bombing. The third part is a pair of interviews with a Hiroshima survivor and a member of an American team that explored the rubble after the impact of the bombing on Japan. The fourth part discusses nuclear proliferation and its dangers. The subject of the fifth part is the Nagasaki bombing and the enduring effects of the last nuclear bomb dropped “in anger.”