The Enola Gay was the Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber that was used by the United States Army Air Forces during the final stages of World War II. It is best known for being the aircraft that dropped the atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. This event played a pivotal role in ending the war and shaping the course of history.
The mission to drop the atomic bomb on Japan was kept top-secret and only a select few knew about it. Even the crew of the Enola Gay did not know the nature of their mission when they took off from Tinian. The route they took to their destination was carefully planned and executed to make sure they reached their target on time and avoided any potential attacks along the way. In this blog post, we will explore the historic route of the Enola Gay.
Takeoff from Tinian
The Enola Gay was piloted by Colonel Paul Tibbets, who was also the commander of the 509th Composite Group, a special unit that had been set up to carry out the atomic bombing missions. The plane was named after Tibbets’ mother, Enola Gay Tibbets.
The mission to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima was codenamed “Operation Centerboard II”. The Enola Gay was one of three planes that had been specially modified to carry the atomic bomb. The other two were The Great Artiste, which would collect data on the explosion, and Necessary Evil, which was the standby plane in case anything happened to the Enola Gay.
The Enola Gay took off from North Field on Tinian Island in the Pacific Ocean at 2:45 am on August 6, 1945. It was a dark and moonless night, which was considered favorable for the mission. The plane carried a crew of 12, including Tibbets, co-pilot Robert Lewis, navigator Dutch Van Kirk, and bombardier Tom Ferebee.
The Flight to Hiroshima
The crew of the Enola Gay followed a pre-planned route that would take them over the Japanese island of Shikoku, then over the city of Hiroshima, and then out to sea to avoid any potential enemy defenses. The route was carefully planned to minimize the risk of being detected by Japanese radar and to avoid any anti-aircraft fire.
The flight to Hiroshima took about six hours. The crew of the Enola Gay flew at an altitude of 31,000 feet, which was considered the ideal altitude for a bombing mission. The plane was equipped with state-of-the-art radar and navigational equipment to help the crew navigate through the dark and cloudy skies.
As they approached the city of Hiroshima, the crew of the Enola Gay had to make a crucial decision. The primary target for the bombing was the Aioi Bridge, which was the designated target point for the bomb. However, the city was covered with thick clouds, which made it difficult for the crew to see the bridge. Tibbets made the decision to drop the bomb on the city center instead.
The Bombing of Hiroshima
At 8:15 am, the Enola Gay dropped the atomic bomb, nicknamed “Little Boy,” over the city of Hiroshima. The bomb exploded about 1,900 feet above the ground, creating a massive explosion that destroyed most of the city center and killed an estimated 140,000 people, many of whom died from radiation sickness in the months and years that followed.
The crew of the Enola Gay immediately turned away from the city and headed out to sea to avoid any potential damage from the blast. They watched in awe as an enormous mushroom cloud rose over the city.
The Return Trip
The mission was a success, and the Enola Gay headed back to Tinian Island. However, the crew was not certain if they would make it back safely. They had flown a total of 2,670 miles and had gone through six hours of intense flying. The plane was low on fuel, and the route back to Tinian was not as straightforward as the one they had taken to Hiroshima.
They encountered bad weather, which forced them to change course several times. They also had to refuel in mid-air from a B-29 tanker plane, which was a risky maneuver. Finally, after 12 hours of flying, they landed safely back on Tinian Island.
The Enola Gay’s mission to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima was a historic event that had far-reaching consequences. The route the crew of the Enola Gay took to their destination was carefully planned and executed to ensure that they reached their target on time and avoided any potential attacks along the way.
While the mission was controversial and remains a subject of debate to this day, there is no denying the bravery and skill of the crew of the Enola Gay. They carried out their mission with utmost professionalism and helped to bring an end to one of the deadliest conflicts in human history.
Did the crew of the Enola Gay know?
On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The bombing killed tens of thousands of people and contributed to Japan’s surrender, ending World War II. The plane that dropped the bomb was the Enola Gay, flown by pilot Paul Tibbets and his crew. But before the mission, did the crew of the Enola Gay know what kind of weapon they were carrying?
The answer is not straightforward, as sources and accounts differ. However, according to the official history of the Army Air Forces in World War II, the Enola Gay’s crew did not know the details of their mission until shortly before the flight. They had been training for months in Wendover, Utah, learning to drop “Little Boy” – the code name for the atomic bomb – but were only told that it was a highly destructive weapon. Even the plane’s nickname – Enola Gay – was just a play on words based on the pilot’s mother’s name.
However, other accounts and interviews with crew members suggest that they had some idea of what they were carrying. In a 1995 interview, pilot Paul Tibbets stated that they were told they would be dropping a bomb unlike any other, and that “most of us felt it would be something comparable to a 2,000-pound blockbuster.” Co-pilot Robert Lewis also wrote in his logbook shortly after the mission that they “dropped the bomb,” suggesting he knew what kind of weapon it was.
It’s worth noting that the secrecy around the atomic bomb was incredibly tight, and only a select few knew the full details of the weapon and its capabilities. President Truman himself only learned of the bomb’s successful test a few weeks before its use on Japan. So it’s possible that even if the Enola Gay crew had some inkling of what they were carrying, they didn’t know the full extent of its power or the devastation it would cause.
The crew of the Enola Gay guessed – but had not been told explicitly – what the weapon in its bomb bay was. They had trained for months to drop a highly destructive weapon, but may not have known the full details of an atomic bomb until just before they flew their mission. the decision to drop the bomb was made by policymakers and military leaders at the highest levels, not by the pilot or crew of the Enola Gay.
How did the plane escape the atomic bomb?
On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The bomb, nicknamed “Little Boy,” was carried by the B-29 bomber called the Enola Gay, piloted by Colonel Paul Tibbets. However, the Enola Gay did not simply fly over the city and drop the bomb.
After reaching the predetermined altitude, the Enola Gay released Little Boy, which was dropped with the aid of a parachute. The bomb weighed around 4.5 tons and was 28 inches in diameter; it was carried in a casing that was around 120 inches long. Once the bomb was released, the Enola Gay executed a hairpin turn in order to escape the expected shock wave of the blast.
The reason for this maneuver was that the Enola Gay needed to get as far away from the bomb as possible before the explosion occurred. If the plane had continued on the same course after releasing the bomb, it would have been caught in the blast and would have been destroyed.
By turning sharply, the Enola Gay was able to create distance between itself and the bomb. The maneuver allowed the plane to climb rapidly, shedding weight as it went, and avoiding the expected shock wave. The turn was so sharp that the co-pilot, Robert Lewis, later described the maneuver as feeling like a “giant hand had just flicked the airplane.”
Once the Enola Gay was far enough away and out of danger, it circled around to observe the aftermath of the explosion. The mushroom cloud from the atomic bomb rose to a height of almost 40,000 feet and was visible from miles away.
The Enola Gay’s maneuver to escape the atomic bomb involved a sharp hairpin turn to create enough distance between the plane and the bomb to avoid being caught in the expected shock wave of the blast. This maneuver allowed the plane to survive and provided the crew with an opportunity to observe the aftermath of one of the deadliest events in human history.
What plane dropped the Little Boy?
On August 6, 1945, the United States military dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima with the aim of bringing an end to World War II. The bomb, named “Little Boy,” was dropped by a B-29 bomber called the Enola Gay. The Enola Gay was part of the 509th Composite Group, which was specifically established by the US Army Air Forces to conduct atomic bombing operations.
The Enola Gay was piloted by Paul Tibbets, who led a crew of twelve, including co-pilot Robert A. Lewis and weaponeer Col. Thomas Ferebee. The bomber was named after Tibbets’ mother, Enola Gay Tibbets. It was specially modified to carry the atomic bomb, and it underwent several extensive tests to ensure that the bomb would be dropped accurately and safely.
The Enola Gay’s bombing mission, known as the Hiroshima mission, was top secret, and the crew was only informed about the nature of the bomb shortly before the mission. The aircraft took off from the North Field airbase on the island of Tinian in the Pacific Ocean at 2:45 a.m. local time on August 6, 1945. The mission was carefully planned, and the crew carried out their duties with precision.
At 8:15 a.m. local time, the Enola Gay dropped the Little Boy atomic bomb from an altitude of approximately 31,000 feet over Hiroshima. The bomb detonated at an altitude of about 1,900 feet, and the explosion created a fireball that destroyed most of the city, killing an estimated 80,000 people instantly. This number grew to around 140,000 by the end of the year due to radiation poisoning.
The Enola Gay was the plane that dropped the Little Boy atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima during World War II. The bombing mission was top secret and was carried out with precision by a specially trained and equipped crew. This mission and the subsequent bombing of Nagasaki three days later led to Japan’s surrender and the end of World War II.