Norris Jernigan served in the 509th Composite Group at Wendover, UT, and Tinian Island during the Manhattan Project. In this interview, Jernigan describes being assigned to the Intelligence Office of the 393rd Bomb Squadron. As a clerk, he prepared information for briefing missions and typed subsequent reports. He recalls his surprise at being transferred to Wendover and learning that the 393rd had been selected to be part of a top-secret project. Jernigan discusses what it was like serving on Tinian, the relationships between the different squadrons, and the atmosphere of the island during and between the atomic bombings of Japan. He remembers the intense secrecy surrounding the work at Wendover, the friendships he made, and the shock of spending time in sunny Cuba for training after the cold Utah winter. He also describes seeing the Enola Gay in pieces in 1980 before it was restored by the Smithsonian, and reflects on the atomic bombings and the Manhattan Project’s legacy for today.
Robert S. Norris is a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists and is the author of the definitive biography of General Leslie Groves. In this interview, Norris provides an overview of the French atomic program, describing the influence of Marie Curie and Frédéric Joliot-Curie. He goes on to explain how nations, including the United States, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, and France, became nuclear powers in the context of the Cold War. He also discusses current debates over nuclear weapons. Norris provides insight into the creation of the 509th Composite Group, and the U.S. decision to use the atomic bombs in Japan.
Nancy K. Nelson is the widow of Richard H. Nelson, who was the VHF radio operator on the Enola Gay on the Hiroshima atomic bombing mission. In this interview, Nelson discusses how she met her husband after the war. She describes his experience training to be a radar operator and in the 509th Composite Group. She recalls how he and other members of the missions felt about the atomic bombings. Nelson also discusses her experiences going to 509th Composite Group reunions and her husband’s friendships with General Paul Tibbets and other members of the 509th including Tom Ferebee, Dutch Van Kirk, and others. She also describes her husband’s visit to Japan and other reunions and events where he shared his wartime experience.
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.
Joseph Papalia is an official historian of the 509th Composite Group, the US Army Air Force unit created specifically for dropping atomic bombs. Papalia, who served in the Air Force in the 1950s, became interested in the 509th later in his life. He began attending 509th reunions, held annually, and became friends with many veterans of the group, as well as with other historians who focused on the unit. In this interview, he describes how the reunions have changed as the veterans have grown older or passed away, as well as how they view their role in the atomic bombings and their legacy. He also tells anecdotes about members of the unit, including Colonel Paul Tibbets and Captain Bob Lewis. He shares examples of the 509th memorabilia and artifacts that he has collected over the years.
This broadcast is a dramatic retelling of the Hiroshima mission and the trials the 509th Composite Group faced in the lead up to that mission. The broadcast includes a speech by Colonel Paul Tibbets and a reading of a letter written by Enola Gay co-pilot, Robert Lewis.
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.
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.”
Bob Caron served as the tail gunner on the Enola Gay under the command of Colonel Paul Tibbets. He witnessed the bombing of Hiroshima, capturing photographs of the destruction. In this interview with radio host Ross Simpson, he describes the immensity of the weapon and his memories of the flight over Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945. Caron recounts a conversation with Colonel Tibbets in which Caron deduced that the crew intended to drop an atomic weapon, before any official announcement was made. He also discusses the aftermath of the bomb and the responses he has received from both service members and civilians.