The Day the Sun Rose from the West.

August 6th, 1945 - The 393d Bombardment Squadron B-29 Enola Gay, piloted by Colonel Paul W. Tibbets, took off from North Field airbase on Tinian for the primary target, Hiroshima, and with Kokura and Nagasaki as mission alternatives. The Enola Gay was accompanied by two other B-29s. The Great Artiste, commanded by Major Charles W. Sweeney, carried instrumentation, and a then-nameless aircraft later called Necessary Evil commanded by Captain George Marquardt, served as the photography aircraft

After leaving Tinian the aircraft made their way separately to Iwo Jima where they rendezvoused at 8,010 ft and set course for Japan. The aircraft arrived over the target in clear visibility at 32,333 ft. Parsons, who was in command of the mission, armed the bomb during the flight to minimize the risks during takeoff. His assistant, Second Lieutenant Morris Jeppson, removed the safety devices 30 minutes before reaching the target area.

About an hour before the bombing, Japanese early warning radar detected the approach of some American aircraft headed for the southern part of Japan. An alert was given and radio broadcasting stopped in many cities, among them Hiroshima. At nearly 08:00, the radar operator in Hiroshima determined that the number of planes coming in was very small—probably not more than three—and the air raid alert was lifted. To conserve fuel and aircraft, the Japanese had decided not to intercept small formations.

The normal radio broadcast warning was given to the people that it might be advisable to go to air-raid shelters if B-29s were actually sighted. However, a reconnaissance mission was assumed because at 07:31 the first B29 to fly over Hiroshima at 32,000 feet had been the weather observation aircraft Straight Flush that sent a Morse code message to the Enola Gay indicating that the weather was good over the primary target. Because it then turned out to sea, the 'all clear' was sounded in the city.

At 08:09 Colonel Tibbets started his bomb run and handed control over to his bombardier.

The release at 08:15 (Hiroshima time) went as planned, and "Little Boy", a gun-type fission weapon with 140 lbs of uranium-235, took 43 seconds to fall from the aircraft flying at 31,060 feet to the predetermined detonation height about 1,968 feet above the city. The Enola Gay travelled 11.5 miles before it felt the shock waves from the blast.
Bob Caron, the tail gunner was the only crew member to see the fireball. Even wearing the goggles, he thought he was blinded. The plane raced away, while the shockwave from the explosion raced toward them at 1,100 feet per second. When the shockwave hit, it felt like a near-miss from flak. The mushroom cloud boiled up, 45,000 feet high, three miles above them, and it was still rising. They flew away, shocked and horrified at the sight below. The city had completely disappeared under a blanket of smoke and fire. They radioed back to headquarters that the primary target had been bombed visually with good results.

The mushroom cloud over Hiroshima was visible for an hour and a half as they flew southward back to Tinian.
.

.
The Tokyo control operator of the Japan Broadcasting Corporation noticed that the Hiroshima station had gone off the air. He tried to re-establish his program by using another telephone line, but it too had failed. About 20 minutes later the Tokyo railroad telegraph center realized that the main line telegraph had stopped working just north of Hiroshima. From some small railway stops within 9.9 mi of the city came unofficial and confused reports of a terrible explosion in Hiroshima. All these reports were transmitted to the headquarters of the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff.

Military bases repeatedly tried to call the Army Control Station in Hiroshima. The complete silence from that city puzzled the General Staff; they knew that no large enemy raid had occurred and that no sizable store of explosives was in Hiroshima at that time. A young officer was instructed to fly immediately to Hiroshima, to land, survey the damage, and return to Tokyo with reliable information for the staff. It was felt that nothing serious had taken place and that the explosion was just a rumour.

The staff officer went to the airport and took off for the southwest. After flying for about three hours, while still nearly 99 miles from Hiroshima, he and his pilot saw a great cloud of smoke from the bomb. In the bright afternoon, the remains of Hiroshima were burning.
.

.
Their plane soon reached the area where Hiroshima once stood, and the Staff officer began to circle the area in disbelief of the view outside his cockpit window. Hiroshima was simply gone.
.

.

 


Leave a comment