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The Enola Gay is the B-29 Superfortress bomber that dropped the first atomic bomb, code-named "Little Boymarker", to be used in war, by the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) in the attack on Hiroshima, Japanmarker on 6 August 1945, just before the end of World War II. Because of the bomber's role in the atomic bombings of Japan, its name has been synonymous with the controversy over the bombings themselves. The B-29 was named after Enola Gay Tibbets, the mother of the pilot, Paul Tibbets.

The Enola Gay gained additional national attention in 1995 when the cockpit and nose section of the aircraft was exhibited at the National Air and Space Museummarker (NASM) of the Smithsonian Institutionmarker in downtown Washington, D.C.marker The exhibit was changed due to a controversy over original historical script displayed with the aircraft. In 2003, the entire restored B-29 Enola Gay went on display at NASM's new Steven F.marker Udvar-Hazy Centermarker.

World War II

The Enola Gay (B-29-45-MO, serial number 44-86292, victor number 82) was assigned to the USAAF's 393d Bombardment Squadron, Heavy, 509th Composite Group. The bomber was one of 15 B-29s with the "Silverplate" modifications necessary to deliver atomic weapons. Enola Gay was built by the Glenn L. Martin Company at its Bellevue, Nebraskamarker, plant at what is now known as Offutt Air Force Basemarker and was personally selected by Colonel Paul W. Tibbets, Jr., commander of the 509th Composite Group, on 9 May 1945 while still on the assembly line. This would be the B-29 that he would use to fly the atomic bomb mission.

The Enola Gay was accompanied by two other B-29s, Necessary Evil which was used as a camera plane to photograph the explosion and effects of the bomb and carry scientific observers, and The Great Artiste which was the blast measurement instrumentation aircraft.

Enola Gay in its 6th BG livery, victor number 82 visible on fuselage just forward of the tail fin

The aircraft was accepted by the USAAF on 18 May 1945, and assigned to Crew B-9 (Captain Robert A. Lewis, aircraft commander), who flew the bomber from Omaha to the 509th's base at Wendover Army Air Fieldmarker, Utahmarker on 14 June 1945. Thirteen days later, the aircraft left Wendover for Guammarker, where it received a bomb bay modification and flew to Tinianmarker on 6 July. It was originally given the victor number "12," but on 1 August was given the circle R tail markings of the 6th Bomb Group as a security measure and had its victor changed to "82" to avoid misidentification with actual 6th BG aircraft.

During July of that year, after the bomber flew eight training missions and two combat missions to drop pumpkin bombs on industrial targets at Kobe and Nagoya, Enola Gay was used on 31 July on a rehearsal flight for the actual mission. A "dummy" Little Boymarker assembly was dropped off Tinian.
Enola Gay after strike at Hiroshima, entering hard-stand
On 5 August 1945, during preparation for the first atomic mission, pilot Colonel Paul Tibbets who assumed command of the aircraft, renamed the B-29 after his mother, Enola Gay Tibbets (1893–1983), who had been named for the heroine of a novel. According to Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan-Witts, regularly assigned aircraft commander Robert Lewis was unhappy to be displaced by Tibbets for this important mission, and became furious when he arrived at the aircraft on the morning of 6 August to see it painted with the now-famous nose art. Tibbets himself, interviewed on Tinian later that day by war correspondents, confessed that he was a bit embarrassed at having attached his mother's name to such a fateful mission.

The Hiroshima mission had been described by Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan Witts in Enola Gay book as tactically flawless, and Enola Gay returned safely to its base on Tinian to great fanfare on the base. The first atomic bombing was followed three days later by another B-29 (Bockscar) (piloted by Major Charles W. Sweeney) which dropped a second nuclear weapon, "Fat Manmarker", on Nagasaki. The Nagasaki mission, by contrast, had been described as tactically botched, although the mission had met its objectives. The crew encountered a number of problems in execution, and Bockscar had very little fuel by the time it landed on Okinawa. On that mission, Enola Gay, flown by Crew B-10 (Capt. George Marquardt, aircraft commander, see Necessary Evil for crew details), was the weather reconnaissance aircraft for Kokura.

Subsequent history

Enola Gay in the Smithsonian storage facility at Suitland, 1987

On 6 November 1945, Lewis flew the Enola Gay back to the United States, arriving at the 509th's new base at Roswell Army Air Field, New Mexicomarker, on 8 November. On 29 April 1946, Enola Gay left Roswell as part of Operation Crossroadsmarker and flew to Kwajalein on 1 May. It was not chosen to make the test drop at Bikini Atollmarker and left Kwajalein on 1 July, the date of the test, and reached Fairfield-Suisun Army Air Fieldmarker, Californiamarker, the next day.

The decision was made to preserve the aircraft, and on 24 July 1946, the plane was flown to Davis-Monthan Air Force Basemarker, Arizonamarker, in preparation for storage. On 30 August 1946, the title to the aircraft was transferred to the Smithsonian Institutionmarker and was removed from the USAAF inventory. From 1946 to 1961, the Enola Gay was put into temporary storage at a number of locations:

Restoration of the bomber began on 5 December 1984, at the Paul E. Garber Preservation, Restoration, and Storage Facility in Suitland.

Recent developments

Enola Gay became the center of a controversy at the Smithsonian Institutionmarker in 1994, when the museum put its fuselage on display as part of an exhibit commemorating the 50th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. The exhibit, "The Crossroads: The End of World War II, the Atomic Bomb and the Cold War", was drafted by the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museummarker and arranged around the restored Enola Gay.

Critics of the exhibit, especially those of the American Legion and the Air Force Association, charged that the exhibit focused too much attention on the Japanese casualties inflicted by the nuclear bomb, rather than on the motivations for the bombing or the discussion of the bomb's role in ending the World War II conflict with Japan. The exhibit brought to national attention many long-standing academic and political issues related to retrospective views of the bombings (see the debate over the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki). As a result, after various failed attempts to revise the exhibit in order to meet the satisfaction of competing interest groups, the exhibit was canceled on 30 January 1995, though the fuselage did go on display. On 18 May 1998, the fuselage was returned to the Garber Facility for final restoration.
Under the cockpit window of the Enola Gay, while in storage 1987.

The entire aircraft has since been restored for static display and is currently a major permanent exhibit at the National Air and Space Museum's Steven F.marker Udvar-Hazy Centermarker near Dulles International Airport outside of Washington, D.C. As a result of the earlier controversy, the signage around the aircraft provides only the same succinct technical data as is provided for other aircraft in the museum, without discussion of the controversial issues.

The aircraft is shielded by various means to prevent a repetition of the vandalism which was attempted against it when it was first placed on display, which was the throwing of a jar of red paint onto the Enola Gay's wing. A video analytics system was installed in 2005. Multiple surveillance cameras automatically generate an alarm when any person or object approaches the aircraft.

The propellers that were used on the bombing mission were later shipped to Texas A&M Universitymarker. One of these propellers was trimmed to 12½ ft for use in the university's Oran W. Nicks Low Speed Wind Tunnel. The lightweight aluminum variable pitch propeller is powered by a 1,250 kVA electric motor providing a windspeed up to 200 mph.

Mission personnel

Enola Gay's crew on 6 August 1945 consisted of 12 men:

(Asterisks denote regular crewmen of the Enola Gay.)


Image:Enola Gay Modern.jpg|The Enola Gay on display at the Steven F.marker Udvar-Hazy Centermarker.Image:Enola Gay-27527-2.jpg|A Cockpit view of the Enola Gay at the Steven F.marker Udvar-Hazy Centermarker.Image:Enola Gay-27527-1.jpg|A Side view of the Enola Gay at the Steven F.marker Udvar-Hazy Centermarker.Image:Enola Gay cockpit.jpg|A close up Cockpit view of the Enola Gay at the Steven F.marker Udvar-Hazy Centermarker.Image:The enola gay.jpg| A full length Photo Stitched Picture of the Enola Gay on display at the Steven F.marker Udvar-Hazy Centermarker.

See also



  • Bowers, Peter M. Boeing B-29 Superfortress. Stillwater, Minnesota: Voyageur Press, 1999. ISBN 0-933424-79-5.
  • Campbell, Richard H. The Silverplate Bombers: A History and Registry of the Enola Gay and Other B-29s Configured to Carry Atomic Bombs. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2005. ISBN 0-7864-2139-8.
  • Haggerty, Forrest. 43 Seconds to Hiroshima: The First Atomic Mission. An Autobiography of Richard H. Nelson, "Enola Gay" Radioman. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2005. ISBN 1-42084-316-8.
  • Harwit, Martin. An Exhibit Denied: Lobbying the History of Enola Gay. New York: Copernicus, 1996. ISBN 0-38794-797-3.
  • Hess, William N. Great American Bombers of WW II. St. Paul, Minnesota: Motorbooks International, 1999. ISBN 0-76030-650-8.
  • Krauss, Robert and Amelia. The 509th Remembered: A History of the 509th Composite Group as Told by the Veterans Themselves, 509th Anniversary Reunion, Wichita, Kansas October 7–10, 2004. 509th Press, 2005. ISBN 0-92356-866-2.
  • LeMay Curtis and Bill Yenne. Super Fortress. London: Berkley Books, 1988. ISBN 0-425-11880-0.
  • Mann, Robert A. The B-29 Superfortress: A Comprehensive Registry of the Planes and Their Missions. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2004. ISBN 0-7864-1787-0.
  • Marx, Joseph L. Seven Hours to Zero. New York: G.P. Putnam Son's, 1967.
  • Newman, Robert P. Enola Gay and the Court of History. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2004. ISBN 0-82047-457-6.
  • O'Reilly, Charles T. and William A. Rooney. Enola Gay and the Smithsonian Institution. New York: McFarland & Company, 2005. ISBN 0-78642-008-1.
  • Pace, Steve. Boeing B-29 Superfortress. Ramsbury, Marlborough, Wiltshire, United Kingdom: Crowood Press, 2003. ISBN 1-86126-581-6.
  • Polmar, Norman. The Enola Gay: The B-29 that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Dulles, Virginia: Brassey's, 2004. ISBN 1-57488-859-5.
  • Rhodes, Richard. The Making of the Atomic Bomb. Simon & Schuster, 1986. ISBN 0-684-81378-5.
  • Thomas, Gordon and Max Morgan Witts. Enola Gay. New York: Stein & Day Publishing, 1977. ISBN 0-81282-150-5.
    • republished 1995 by Dalton Watson as Enola Gay: Mission to Hiroshima. ISBN 1-85443-127-7.
    • republished 2006 by Konecky & Konecky as Enola Gay: The Bombing of Hiroshima. ISBN 15685-2597-4.
  • Thomas, Gordon and Max Morgan Witts. Ruin from the Air: The Enola Gay's Atomic Mission to Hiroshima. London: Hamilton, 1977 (republished in 1990 by Scarborough House, ISBN 0-81288-509-0).
  • Tibbets, Paul W. Flight of the Enola Gay. Reynoldsburg, Ohio: Buckeye Aviation Book Company, 1989. ISBN 0-94239-711-8.
  • Wheeler, Keith. Bombers over Japan. Virginia Beach, Virginia: Time-Life Books, 1982. ISBN 0-8094-3429-6.

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