Nuclear Museum Logo
Nuclear Museum Logo

National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Harry Andritsis’ Interview

Manhattan Project Locations:

Harry Andritsis was an engine mechanic and a member of the ground crew that was responsible for the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Andritsis received special training for the mission at Wendover Airfield in Utah and later flew to Tinian with Colonel Paul Tibbets in early August to complete the operation. Even as the engine mechanic for the Enola Gay, Andritsis had absolutely no knowledge that the plane would drop the world’s first atomic bomb on Japan.

Date of Interview:
May 5, 2008
Location of the Interview:


Paul Williams: How did you come to be posted on Tinian? What were you doing when the war broke out?

Harry Andritsis: Well, let’s see. They shipped me to Wendover, Utah. I had my secret training there but I didn’t know what it was about or anything until I got to Tinian.

Williams: When you say secret training, how did that work? Did you just know that you were working with a different kind of bomber—I mean, a bomber that was modified?

Andritsis: In Utah everything was hush-hush. There was never any talk about anything you saw or heard on the base. There was no conversation of any kind. And then in August I was shipped out of there [Wendover].

Williams: When you were shipped out to Tinian, did you know what to expect? Did you have any idea about what the island was like?

Andritsis: No, I had no idea where I was going. I flew over there with Colonel Tibbets.

Williams: How long did you spent out there?

Andritsis: I think maybe a couple of months—maybe a bit less.

Williams: So what were your impressions of the Island when you arrived?

Andritsis: It was nice. It was very cool.

Williams: So you were never aware of the mission of the Enola Gay before it happened, is that correct?

Andritsis: Correct.

Williams: As a mechanic, when you were working on the engine of the Enola Gay—was it just the Enola Gay, or was it other planes like it?

Andritsis: Oh no, it was the same for the Enola Gay. At that point I was crew chief on the ground.

Williams: And did it seem like it was an unusual plane in any way, or did it seem like the other bombers that you had seen?

Andritsis: Well this was a special type of a plane modified in many different ways.

Williams: So did you think it was odd the modifications—did you think it must have an unusual mission?

Andritsis: Well we did, but we were told to not ask questions. No conversation of anything that was going to take place on Tinian. 

Williams: Were you surprised when you heard the news about the first bomb being dropped on Hiroshima? Was Tibbett’s able to tell you at the base what he had done?

Andritsis: No, he didn’t. When he came back [he could]. Yeah, we learned that they had blown up the thing.

Williams: So you hadn’t heard of the atomic bomb before he left?

Andritsis: No, but I assumed they were getting them ready.

Williams: So did you understand at the time that this was a new kind of bomb, potentially far more devastating than others?

Andritsis: I knew that it was a suicide mission—it could have exploded anytime, anywhere, any second. We were on strict orders that we could’ve been wiped out, at the slightest mistake.

Williams: So your job then as the engine mechanic was especially important in this situation that nothing went wrong with the plane?

Andritsis: Exactly. It had to be perfect conditions or it could never leave the field.

Williams: There was some concern about the plane taking off and about the runway being long enough?

Andritsis: Oh I can’t remember now thoroughly, it’s been a long time, but the mission was complete. Everything was successful.

Williams: Did you get along with Colonel Tibbets?

Andritsis: Tibbets was an officer and the enlisted men kept to the enlisted men. But we got along because he was a great man, and I was very happy that I’d been assigned to the Enola Gay.

Williams: Once the Enola Gay came back after the mission was successful, was that the end of that particular job for you?

Andritsis: Well, there was another mission after that.

Williams: Did you work on the Nagasaki mission as well?

Andritsis: Well everything was on the same base, but it was a different crew chief and a different plane. But as soon as the Enola came back, we were told that we were going home.

Williams: Did you return to a civilian role after the war?

Andritsis: Yeah, I was discharged in Roswell, New Mexico and I went back to become a civilian. They wanted me to stay in and make me a master sergeant.

Williams: Any lasting stories to share?

Andritsis: We just wanted to get in there, get it over, and go home. It was a great mission, a good end to a good war. It would’ve taken a lot of Americans to take Japan. It was either them or us. Was it a good thing? Well, if we didn’t do it, we wouldn’t be here to talk about it now.

Copyright 2013 The Atomic Heritage Foundation. This transcript may not be quoted, reproduced, or redistributed in whole or in part by any means except with the written permission of the Atomic Heritage Foundation.