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.
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.