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Robert E. Hayes’s Interview

Manhattan Project Locations:

Robert “Bob” Hayes worked as an airplane mechanic on Kwajalein Island, maintaining Boeing B-29s. He talks about life in the Pacific during World War II, being trained to use a flamethrower on Iwo Jima, maintaining complicated airplane engines, and witnessing the Bikini Atoll nuclear tests.

Date of Interview:
July 18, 2014
Location of the Interview:


Alexandra Levy: All right, we are here today on July 18, 2014 in New Jersey with Robert Hayes. My first question for you is to please say your name and to spell it.

Robert Hayes: Robert, R-O-B-E-R-T, E, Hayes, H-A-Y-E-S.

Levy: Can you tell me a little bit about when and where you were born and grew up?

Hayes: I was born in Illinois, in Wilmington, Illinois, in that area. And I was born on a farm, my folks’ farm there, in 1926 I was born. October 4, 1926 is my birthday.

Every kid grew up working on the farm, and we were on the farm for about twenty years. When I was about twenty years old, my dad gave it up and we moved into the city. And that was a change of life, for the good for us [laugh]. He was not too happy but it was good for us, the kids. So we got along on that basis, yes.

Levy: What kind of an education did you receive growing up?

Hayes: What kind of an education did I get growing up? Well, first of all, I finished high school, then I got drafted into the Army and I came out and I did that. And I worked a couple of years, and then I went back to college and I went to Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. And I graduated from there – I cannot remember the year now – sometime in the 1900s area [laugh].

Levy: When were you drafted into the military in World War II?

Hayes: When I was eighteen, yeah.

Levy: What year was that?

Hayes: 1945.

Levy: So it was towards the end of the war?

Hayes: Yeah, toward the end of the war, yes, yes.

Levy: Do you remember when Pearl Harbor happened or any other major events in the war before you were drafted?

Hayes: No. I was in the Army about [00:03:00], let’s see, it was early ’45 I went in, and the war was still on and the war did not end until about six months. And then when the war ended, then we were shipped down somewhere else, you know. I was sent overseas at that time. I went overseas later and I was in the islands.

Levy: Did you go through basic training?

Hayes: Basic training, yes.

Levy: Do you remember where that was at?

Hayes: Where in the hell was that? That was Camp Hood, Texas. I remember it well, yes [laugh].

Levy: Can you tell me a little bit about it?

Hayes: Camp Hood, Texas was a new camp for training infantry people, and I mean, they gave you the works. I was eighteen and I think I must have lost thirty pounds when I was in Camp Hood, Texas. Because I was there for about four months, I guess. I went home, my mother barely did not know me [laugh]. The heat just took all the meat off of you, practically. 

And then after that, I went back and I had the opportunity to get to go to the Air Force, and I did. I got out of the infantry and I went to the Air Force. And then I worked as a mechanic in the Air Force on a B-29. That was what it was then. And that was just as the war was ending.

Levy: And do you remember what base that was?

Hayes: I was never overseas during the war, no, because I was young. I was born in 1926 and I was just like twenty years old at that time.

Levy: Where did you work on the B-29s?

Hayes: On the B-29s? Roswell, New Mexico.

Levy: So what kind of mechanical work were you doing?

Hayes: That was the mechanical work, I was an engine mechanic. And after I was broken in, I got assigned one engine on that plane. And that engine better be running right or I was in trouble [laugh], I did not go back to them. Well, I worked with my supervisor. He was good, so we never had [00:06:00] trouble [laugh].

Levy: Were you impressed by the B-29s? Was it a good plane?

Hayes: Oh, it was quite an airplane, it certainly was [laugh], yes. I had many rides on it because they always made a point of taking the mechanics up in the airplane with them. If they were not going to do the job right, you were going to be part of it [laugh].

Levy: Can you tell me a little bit more about what you remember about the airplane and the work you did?

Hayes: The airplane? Well, the airplane was, you know, B-29 was a new aircraft right at the end of the war, and it was a big craft. And it could carry quite a bomb up. It was used in Japan quite a bit at the end of the war. I guess I was in the war probably about six months when the war ended, so I had the six months of service time during the war and then I had, say, another, I guess I would say another eighteen months – I would say two years in the Air Force.

Levy: Do you remember when you heard that the atomic bombs had been dropped on Japan?

Hayes: I heard it when everybody else did because they never let that out [laugh].

Levy: So was everyone relieved?

Hayes: Well, everyone was quite relieved because they figured that was going to be the end. And it sure was, because after they got two of them, no more. They dropped the one, I think, one week and they dropped one the next week and they said, “It is over. We are quitting.”

Levy: So when did you get sent to the Pacific then?

Hayes: Well, I was in the Pacific when it happened.

Levy: Okay, so when the bombs were dropped, you were already—?

Hayes: I was on Kwajalein.

Levy: So were people on Kwajalein worried that they might have to invade Japan?

Hayes: Oh, yes. Oh, that is what we were set up for.

Levy: You were getting set up?

Hayes: We were going to invade Japan. And if they had not quit, we would have been in there.

Levy: So can you tell me a little bit about what the preparation was at the time of the invasion?

Hayes: Oh, sure, sure. We were doing all – well, I was a mechanic on an aircraft so I was like an infantryman, more or less. But the infantry was really preferring to go into Japan. And where the hell was I? I was in the middle of the Pacific on one of those islands. Right now, I cannot remember all the names of those islands, but basically, that is where it was. And they would have invaded Japan if they had not stopped, and they knew that. No, they were told that specifically. And they did not want anymore. After [00:09:00] they saw that atomic bomb, that was the end.

Levy: So all the infantry must have been very relieved, then?

Hayes: That is right. Well, I think there were two bombs dropped if I remember. And after the second one, it was over. The war ended just like that. And the war had ended in Europe, now you have got to remember, in May. And this went on until like in the fall and that is when they quit.

Levy: So were you on Iwo Jima? Do you remember being on Iwo Jima?

Hayes: I landed on Iwo Jima but I did not stay there, no. No, I was on Kwajalein.

Levy: Kwajalein?

Hayes: Kwajalein, yeah.

Levy: Were you trained in any kind of combat?

Hayes: No, I did not have any kind of combat, no.

Levy: Were you trained how to use a flamethrower?

Hayes: Oh, sure.

Levy: Can you tell me a little bit about that?

Hayes: Well, a flamethrower is a wicked animal. You had to be careful with a flamethrower because you had to know which way the wind was blowing. Because if you fired a flamethrower into the wind, you might get roasted, you know? And that was the thing they trained you with.

Levy: So why did they train you with a flamethrower?

Hayes: Well, that was one of the jobs I had [laugh].

Levy: Was that in case you ever saw combat or for the invasion?

Hayes: Well, no, what they did, they gave us that combat training because they wanted everybody to have that combat training. And even though I was an aircraft mechanic, I had to take that training. 

Levy: Were you ever afraid that you might have to go into combat?

Hayes: Well, sure, I did not know. How the hell did we know? We did not know how long that war was going to go, you know. I had a brother that was over in Italy, and he had been to fifty missions over in Europe, and he came back and then they sent him to the Pacific. And he was in Hawaii getting ready to go out and bomb Japan when the war ended.

Levy: Oh, wow.

Hayes: He was a pilot, yeah. I could not be a pilot because I had a bad eye [laugh]. They said, “You got a good right eye,” when they took me in the Army, that is all.

Levy: But you both ended up working in the Air Force on planes?

Hayes: Yes, yes, yes. I was a mechanic on aircraft, yes. I do not claim to be anything else [laugh].

Levy: How did they train you to work on the plane engines?

Hayes: Plane engine? What I had was mostly on-the-job-training. They just assigned me to another mechanic. I did not go to any of the schools or that kind of thing. They did [00:12:00] have schools for the mechanics, but they were needing guys so bad they just put guys—and I had grew up on a farm and I knew how to take tractors apart and do that kind of stuff so it was kind of natural for me.

Levy: Did you work on a whole bunch of different planes or were you devoted to one or two?

Hayes: No, just the one aircraft.

Levy: Do you remember the name of the plane?

Hayes: Oh, no, I do not. I do remember the name of our squadron. Our squadron commander was the Enola Gay and that was Paul Tibbets and that was his mother’s maiden name.

Levy: Did you ever meet Paul Tibbets?

Hayes: Oh, yes. Yes, I did meet him. He would come around. He would come around to each crew maybe every month and kind of talk to the guys and shake hands. He was a great guy, he was.

Levy: So were you on Tinian Island?

Hayes: Yes.

Levy: That was where you were, Tinian Island?

Hayes: Yes, that was in ’45. It was in ’45 that I was over there.

Levy: Do you remember anything about Tinian Island?

Hayes: Tinian?

Levy: Tinian.

Hayes: Very little. Just another island out there [laugh].

Levy: It was very hot, I assume.

Hayes: Yeah, very hot, yes, very hot. Nothing much to do other than hang around the barracks and do that stuff, you know. And that was it.

The food was pretty good. They took care of our food, I will say that for them. And they fed us good and we had no complaints on the food, at least I did not. Some guys will complain about anything, but you know, I had no problems with food.

Levy: Did you meet any Japanese prisoners of war at any point?

Hayes: I had nothing to do with any of the prisoners of war.

Levy: Did you ever see any of them?

Hayes: I saw some of them coming in, but they were put in a separate area and that was about it. I was a mechanic on an airplane and they wanted me working on that airplane. I was not watching prisoners [laugh].

Levy: Was there a lot to do on the engines?

Hayes: Oh, yes, every day, every day you had to maintain that engine.

Levy: So what does that mean? Oil or wires?

Hayes: Well, first of all, they gave you a list of what had to be done, and you did that every day. You check-pointed it every day.

Levy: And [00:15:00] so what kinds of tools would you use then on the engine?

Hayes: We each had a toolkit they gave us and we had to take care of it. And we carried that with us and we took it back with us and we carried it back to the line.

Levy: So how many hours per day did you spend working on the engines?

Hayes: Well, it depended. But sometimes you would get up there early in the morning and go out there, and it was so hot that you would quit about 9:30 or 10:00. Then you would go back about 3:00 in the afternoon when the sun was starting to go down. And then we worked until like 6:30 or 7:00 at night, and then we would go and have dinner. That is the way it was.

Levy: So it was a really big job to maintain the engines?

Hayes: Yes. They gave us good consideration. I could not complain about the Air Force at all. When I went in, I was drafted into the infantry and I knew what that was because I had about six months of training in the infantry first. Then I was transferred to the Air Force because I had certain mechanical skills they wanted.

Levy: And you were happy to get out of the infantry?

Hayes: Oh, I was happy to get out of that, yes, I was happy to get out of that [laugh]. Very happy.

Levy: How did you feel when you found out you were going to be sent to the Pacific?

Hayes: Hey, you had to go somewhere [laugh]. You had to go put your two years in or whatever it was. Then they did not know because the war was still going on, see? When the war ended, then you knew when you could look forward to getting out. But I went and I got out, I think, the end of 1946, somewhere in there.

Levy: So the island that you were on during the war, there were a lot of B-29s there?

Hayes: There were a good number of them. Kwajalein was a B-29 base, yes.

Levy: Any crashes when planes were taking off or coming back?

Hayes: I do not recall that we ever had one. I do not think we did, not there. Because the fighting ended and then we lost some planes when they were fighting, you know. But some crews were lost, but that was it. But then when the war ended, then we was just—we were policing Japan, we were doing.

Levy: Were you really proud of your particular plane that you worked on?

Hayes: Well, sure. Sure, you like to be sure that what you were doing was right.

Levy: Were you friendly with the pilots and the people who flew the plane?

Hayes: Yeah, they came around and they checked on what you were doing. I have to say, they did a good job. And if you were not doing it right, they told you. I did not have a problem with that because I had a pretty good mechanical inclination, but some guys did not know a bolt from a screw, you know. [Laugh] They just put them in there. They had to be handled carefully [laugh]. That was life in the Air Force.

Levy: So when the war ended, you stayed on Kwajalein the rest of the time you were in the Army?

Hayes: Yes, yes.

Levy: What work were you doing after the war ended?

Hayes: After the war ended? I stayed there and I was helping them fix up planes and doing this. I was working on airplanes.

Levy: Did you still have one dedicated aircraft, or was it a more general upkeep after that?

Hayes: Well, basically, after the war ended, the older guys got out so then we had to replace them, see, what they were doing. And so I had to stay in the full two years, which I did, and got out then.

Levy: So did you get busier then when the war ended, because you had to take over some of the other work that other people had been doing?

Hayes: Oh, yes, sure, sure. And we understood that because we were younger, you know. I was like eighteen years old when I got drafted and you know, I had been in, say, two years when the war ended. But some guys had been in there four and five years, you know? And so they went home first. That is the way it was.

Levy: But you were okay with staying out on Kwajalein?

Hayes: I had no problem, no. No problem with that.

Levy: Did you like being in the Pacific?

Hayes: I had a brother who was a pilot and he had bombed Europe, he had done fifty-two missions over in Europe. And then they were getting ready to send – he was in Hawaii getting ready to go bomb Japan, when the war ended. [00:21:00] They had him go back and they actually got him as far as Hawaii, and then he was going to go down to one of the other islands on the base and then started bombing Japan. And so [laugh] I thought after all his missions he did in Europe, he had to go and do that. But then the war ended. He went back home and he got married before I even got home [laugh].

Levy: So he must have been very relieved then when the war ended and he did not have to go to Japan.

Hayes: Oh, yes, very happy. We were all happy.

Levy: What kind of a plane did he fly?

Hayes: What kind of a plane did he fly? He flew a B-17, that is what it was. That was the big plane in World War II.

Levy: Was the B-29 bigger or smaller?

Hayes: B-29 was later. It came in later during the war. It was used mostly in the Pacific.

Levy: Which was bigger, the B-29 or the B-17?

Hayes: The B-17 was an excellent aircraft but it did not have the distance that the B-29 did. The B-29 was built for the Pacific and the B-17s were built to bomb Europe. That is all it was, basically, because the war was first of all in Europe before we get in with the Japanese, see. And you know, the distance in the Pacific was just miles and miles. In Europe, you could base the planes there and they could make the raids. That is what they did. 

Levy: A lot of historians think that the Americans’ planes were really one of the decisive factors in the war.

Hayes: Yes.

Levy: What do you think? Do you think planes were really important?

Hayes: Yes. Well, the planes were, as far as I could see, the way we maintained them, they were good aircraft. You know, it depends on how you maintain the planes, and that is what it boiled all down to.

Levy: Do you have any stories that you remember specifically about you or your coworkers or colleagues?

Hayes: No, I do not have any stories because I was not in long [00:24:00] enough during the war from that standpoint. And I do not have any stories that I would relate to anybody, what I ever did or whatever got involved in. Because I got involved at the right time, as far as I was concerned, because I did not have to get exposed to all of what they did, you know. 

I was on Kwajalein for about six months longer after the war. Because I went in, I was younger, I went in later and I had to do two years.

Levy: So can you tell me about then what you did on Kwajalein after the war was over? You said that you had to take over from some of the older people.

Hayes: We maintained a certain strength and certain airbase there. Wanted to keep a certain number of planes there. They did not want somebody starting a war over there again until they got the Japs under control [laugh].

Oh, we were living in Japanese barracks. And the Japanese had been in there, they were Japanese barracks. And then we took the island away from the Japanese, so we moved into the Japanese barracks. And they were not bad. They had cleaned them all up, you know. The Army went in and redid them and did that, and that is where I was on Kwajalein. I had no complaints. Some guys would complain about anything but hey, you are in a war, you are in a war, that is what it is.

Levy: Did you help maintain any of the planes that were involved in nuclear testing?

Hayes: Yes, sure. We had to keep those planes ready to go any time. They never knew when it was going to flare up again either [laugh].

Levy: What were [00:27:00] some of the most serious challenges that you and your colleagues faced in maintaining the planes?

Hayes: In maintaining a plane? Well, the weather was one big problem. In the Pacific, you know, you have got storms and you could get a storm and a storm could last two or three days, and you could not work on a plane. So when you went back out there, you had a lot of work to do. That is the way it was.

Levy: Because the water would get into the engines?

Hayes: Well, sure, but it did not bother the engines so much, but you had certain things that you had to do on that plane daily. And when the weather was real bad, they said, “Leave it sit.” And you would go back out and do whatever you had to do.

Levy: So you would just have to work harder and longer then after that?

Hayes: That is right, harder and longer. But everybody – the guys I was with, they all accepted that. We knew that was the game plan. And then the thing ended and then everybody was saying, “Oh, when am I going to get out of here?” Well, it took a while. 

I went to Kwajalein just about the time the war ended, about three months before the war ended. And we were getting prepared for, you know, the Japanese thing. And that is the way it was.

Levy: And then when the war ended, how much longer were you on Kwajalein for?

Hayes: About five months.

Levy: And after five months, did you get sent somewhere else?

Hayes: Five months, then I came back. And eventually, about two years I got out.

Levy: So what else did you do in the Army after the war ended?

Hayes: Well, you did the same thing, you maintained the planes, maintained the aircraft.

Levy: What about the nuclear tests? Was that when you were on Kwajalein, or was that later?

Hayes: The nuclear thing was later, after when I was on Kwajalein – let me think now. No, I think, what did they drop, what did they do? They dropped one or two on Japan.

Levy: They dropped a couple on Japan and then later in ’46, they had the Bikini tests.

Hayes: Bikini, yeah.

Levy: Were you there? Did you see that?

Hayes: Well, Bikini, yes. I saw the Bikini thing, yes.

Levy: Do you remember the mushroom cloud and how big it was?

Hayes: Well, yeah. It was big [laugh].

Levy: Did you come into contact with any other key military figures at the time?

Hayes: No, not really. I was down in the ranks [laugh]. I was a Corporal.

Levy: So you met Colonel Paul Tibbets, but was he about the highest rank that you met?

Hayes: Oh, yes, yes. Paul Tibbets was our commander and he would come around and they would talk to us. He was a decent guy, very decent guy.

Levy: So what did you end up studying in college after the war was over?

Hayes: College? Well, what I did, I came back and I decided what I was going to do, and I decided to go back to school. And I majored in Business Administration, that is what I did. And I got out and I went to work for a company and I went into the personnel administration and that type thing, and that was my career.

Levy: Did any of the skills that you learned in the military affect your life later on?

Hayes: Not really. I would say not really. But you know, it was nice to have been there and done that, and you can talk about it a little bit. That was about it.

Hayes: Well, sure I knew. He was in charge of the place [laugh].

Levy: What role did patriotism play for you and your comrades in the Pacific?

Hayes: Well, patriotism always played a certain part, but it was not an over-ending part, I do not think, you know, for anybody really. Yeah, we wanted everything to go right, that was the main thing.

Levy: So when you were sent to the Pacific, no one knew how the war was going to end at this point. You did not know that there was an atomic bomb.

Hayes: No.

Levy: When did you find out about the bomb? When it was dropped on Japan?

Hayes: I was on one of the islands when I heard about it. I cannot recall much on it. It was in the Pacific. I think it was Tinian, I think. But when we heard that that bomb had been dropped on Japan, we knew that it was not going to last very long and it did not.

Levy: And so when you were in the Pacific, did you make friends with [00:36:00] a lot of the other soldiers?

Hayes: Well, you made friends with the people you were working with, sure. You got along with the people you worked with. I never had a problem getting along with anybody but there were some people who were difficult to take, but you just rolled with the punches.

Levy: What did people do in their spare time to relax? Did you play games, or what?

Hayes: Well, yeah, you could play baseball and do that kind of thing. They had activities for you. Gave you baseballs and bats and that stuff and a place to play. They took care of the guys pretty good.

Levy: Did you have a position in baseball that you liked to play?

Hayes: No, not particularly, not particularly. I used to play first base mostly [laugh].

Levy: Do you remember what else you used to do on Kwajalein in your spare time?

Hayes: Well, you could always go to the beach [laugh]. There was always water. We would go swim, too, in the water. It was okay. Hot, you know. We would go about 4:00 in the afternoon. We would take a dip, then go and get washed up, get a shower because you are in salt water. That is the only thing about that. You went in the ocean, you were in salt water, you had to go get cleaned up. So we always did that, anyway. Well, certain things we did, you know. And they had a little club on the island there. You could go to non-commissioned officer club-type things. It was fine. I never had a problem.

Levy: So were the beaches very pretty over there?

Hayes: Oh, yes, some of the beaches were nice. They were nice islands. It was always warm, and it would cool down at night, but it was warm in the daytime. And I had skin that I could not just – see, my arms here now, I do not know what happened to them. But I got burned somewhat on my arms [laugh]. That was the way it was.

Levy: Was there any wildlife on the islands?

Hayes: Any what?

Levy: Any animals that you saw?

Hayes: No, no, no.

Levy: Was there any remnants of the Japanese? Like any guns or anything that you saw?

Hayes: No, no.

Levy: Did people have to be careful about—?

Hayes: No, they were chased out of there long before.

Levy: So you did not have to worry about any mines or bombs?

Hayes: No no, no, I was not on a big island. Some of the big islands, they found some of the mines but not on the small islands. Small islands, they cleaned them right off of there, before they took them.

Levy: How [00:39:00] did you come to be involved in Operation Crossroads?

Hayes: Crossroads? I have no idea. I was just one of the guys that was selected [laugh].

Levy: Did you do airplane maintenance for that, as well?

Hayes: Yeah, that is what I did. I did airplane maintenance. And that was about it.

Levy: You showed me your great yearbook that you have from Operation Crossroads. Did they send that to you afterwards?

Hayes: They did afterwards, yes. Yes, they did. I got that about a year later.

Levy: It seemed like they took a lot of photographs?

Hayes: Yes, they did, yes.

Levy: Do you remember there being a lot of people with cameras during that?

Hayes: I do not know. I do not know how they did it. I never questioned anything they did.

Levy: When you were on Kwajalein, was there a lot of emphasis on secrecy or not?

Hayes: Not secrecy so much. We were there, there was a bomb, it was a bomber base and they were using it to bomb the Japanese, and that was it. And then make raids and go out sometimes, that was it. But I did my time and came home, thank God. I got home at the end of 1946, somewhere in there.

Levy: Were you relieved to be home after being in the Pacific for so long?

Hayes: No, it did not bother me. I stayed there the time I had to stay. And you stayed there, you know? What are you going to do?

Levy: When you got home, was there anything that felt strange to do, like, you know, sleeping in a bed again?

Hayes: No.

Levy: So you transitioned pretty quickly?

Hayes: No, I never paid a lot of attention to that, nothing.

Levy: Were there a lot of bugs on Kwajalein?

Hayes: No, the bugs were not too bad, no. At night, it was cool, nice and cool at night. You got a nice cool breeze. And in the daytime, it was hot. And I burned so I had to be careful. When I worked on the aircraft, I had a big hat [laugh].

Levy: So when you were working on [00:42:00] the aircraft, what kind of—?

Hayes: Well, we did not work on the aircraft until 4:00 in the afternoon. We would work on the aircraft from about 4:00 in the afternoon until about dark, which was probably about somewhere around 8:00. And then we did not work in that hot part of the day because you would put your hand on the plane and it would burn you.

Levy: What kind of a uniform did you wear when you were on Kwajalein? Did they have you in fatigues?

Hayes: Just the old military – pair of tan pants and a khaki shirt, that is what it was.

Levy: Were you allowed to wear shorts or did you have to wear long pants?

Hayes: I never wore shorts because my legs would get burned, so I never paid much attention. Some guys wore shorts. They were allowed to if they wanted to, on the line. Not in the mess hall. If you went to the mess hall, they did not tolerate that in the mess hall, and that was good. And there had to be certain rules that had to be followed, and they were not wrong. And I never had a problem.

Levy: What kinds of rules do you remember? Were there any that other people had problems with?

Hayes: Well, sure. You know, you had to be at work at a certain time and you had to do certain things on the aircraft. You know, they would come out and they would check to see that you had done those. If you did not do them, you were in trouble [laugh]. You might get away with them once, but you would not get away with them twice.

Levy: And you never got in trouble?

Hayes: I never got in trouble, no, never in any trouble. 

Levy: Did you like your commanding officers?

Hayes: I had no problem with them, no. They would come around and talk to us and shake hands maybe once a week or so, and that is it. And the guy we were working with, who was a supervisor, he was the one that we were really working with – senior mechanic [laugh]. He was really in charge of the upkeep of the aircraft, and I was just a mechanic on the group.

Levy: Were there any parts of working on the engine that you particularly liked doing? Any of the maintenance that you liked especially?

Hayes: Well, yeah, there were parts of the engine that you could do and there were parts of the engine you could not do, it took a specialist to do. And they had them and they would come out and do what they had to do. And they would say, “Hey, you have got to come out and you have got to change this thing. That is not working.” They would do it. So that is the way it worked.

Levy: Was there ever any trouble getting any supplies?

Hayes: I did not see any trouble, no. We had plenty [00:45:00] of supplies, we had plenty of food. No, it was not bad. I heard a lot of guys complaining because guys will complain about anything, you know.

JoAnn Coakley: Tell her about what you saw when they did the test bombs. You rode in a plane with them because you were a mechanic and you said that they were taking photographs. You have some of them.

Hayes: Well, I did not. I did not have any camera.

Coakley: You did not take the pictures but there were photography people on the plane and you saw a big explosion—

Hayes: Well, we saw the explosion, yeah.

Coakley: Yeah, but describe that a little bit.

Hayes: You could see that. Well, that is just [sound effect], blew that big bomb [laugh].

Levy: Were you scared at all?

Hayes: No, I was far away from it [laugh], several miles.

Levy: Was there a big light?

Hayes: Sure.

Levy: Was it very loud?

Hayes: Well, it was a loud pop. But they told us what was going to happen and, you know, look out there and you will see it [laugh].

I was not on the plane during the test. I went up there the night after the test, the evening of the test, and then I got right up there.

Levy: What had it [00:48:00] done?

Hayes: Well, what could you imagine [laugh]? There were trees all blown over, and on the one island there they had no trees left [laugh]. But the radiation was pretty good but they did not stay very long. When the Geiger counter got up, he would pull out and go away. That is what it was.

Levy: So did they just take you up so you could see it? Or were you there for part of your work?

Hayes: No, I was on the ground crew, and they took me along if I wanted to go for a ride. I told the pilot ahead of time and he said, “Yes, you can go,” so I would go up there in the evenings, when they were taking the pictures, and do that. But they did not stay there very long, just went up and never bothered me. Not to this day [laugh] anyway.

Levy: So you did not see the clouds – the mushroom clouds?

Hayes: Oh, we saw it in the morning, but that was from the other island. You could see it from miles away, yes, sure. But that is another thing in the service, that’s all. 

Levy: Did you see the Enola Gay?

Hayes: Hmm?

Levy: Did you see the Enola Gay?

Hayes: Oh, sure. Enola Gay was right on our island. That was his mother’s name. So I do not know. That is a lot of past history [laugh].

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