The History of The Enola Gay

Enola Gay
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The 509th Composite Group/509th Bomb Wing

The unit that dropped the atomic bombs was activated at Wendover Army Air Field, Utah, Dec. 17, 1944. The crews trained with practice bombs called “pumpkins” because of their size and shape, which was the same as “Fat Man” atomic bomb.

The 509th deployed to Tinian in the Marianas in May 1945. It was a self-contained unit, with personnel strength of about 1770. It consisted of the 393rd Bomber Squadron, the 320th Troop Carrier Squadron, the 390th Air Service Group, the 603rd Air Engineering Squadron, the 1027th Air Materiel Squadron, the 1395th Military Police Company, and the First Ordnance Squadron (in charge of handling the atomic bombs).

After the war, the Group returned to the United States and was assigned to Roswell Army Air Base, N.M. It was redesignated the 509th Bombardment Group in 1946 and the 509th Bombardment Wing in 1947. The heritage was preserved in various locations and missions through the years. In the 1990s, the Air Force assigned all of its B-2 bombers to 509th, based at Whiteman AFB, Mo. At Whiteman, Tibbets was able to visit with pride his grandson, Capt. Paul W. Tibbets IV, a B-2 pilot and commander of the 509th Bomb Group

The Enola Gay Crew Flight Crew

Col. Paul W. Tibbets, 509th commander and pilot
Capt. Robert A. Lewis, co-pilot
Maj. Thomas W. Ferebee, bombardier
Capt. Theodore J. Van Kirk, navigator
S/Sgt. Wyatt E. Duzenbury, flight engineer
Sgt. Robert H. Shumard, assistant flight engineer
Pfc Richard H. Nelson, radio operator
S/Sgt George R. Caron, tail gunner
Sgt. Joseph S. Stiborik, radar operator
Navy Capt. William “Deak” Parsons, weaponeer and ordnance officer
Lt. Jacob Beser, radar countermeasures officer
Lt. Morris R. Jeppson, assistant weaponeer

Ground Crew
T/Sgt. Walter F. McCaleb
Sgt. Leonard W. Markley
Sgt. Jean S. Cooper
Cpl. Frank D. Duffy
Cpl. John E. Jackson
Cpl. Harold R. Olson
Pfc. John J. Lesniewski
Lt. Col. John Porter, maintenance officer

The names on the fuselage

The Enola Gay, on display at the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va., bears the same markings that it did in 1945, including the names of the flight crew from the historic mission, stenciled below the copilot’s window. But whereas 12 men were aboard the aircraft for the Hiroshima mission, only nine names are painted on the fuselage.

Three officers—Navy Capt. Deak Parsons, the weaponeer, Lt. Morris Jeppson, the assistant weaponeer, and Lt. Jacob Beser, the radar countermeasures officer—are not on the list. They were mission specialists rather than flight crew members.

Crew notes

Members of the Enola Gay crew had been on Tibbets’s B-17 crew in Europe: bombardier Ferebee (called by Tibbets “the best bombardier who ever looked through the eyepiece of a Norden bombsight”) and navigator Van Kirk.

Among others personally recruited by Tibbets for the 509th were the Enola Gay copilot, Lewis, Caron, tail gunner, Duzenbury, flight engineer, radar specialist Beser, and four members of the Bockscar flight crew: aircraft commander Chuck Sweeney, copilot Don Albury, bombardier Kermit Behan, and navigator James Van Pelt.

Lt. Jacob Beser was the radar countermeasures officer on the Enola Gay at Hiroshima and on Bockscar at Nagasaki, the only person aboard the bombing aircraft on both atomic bomb missions.

The Bockscar Crew

        Airplane Commander: Charles W. Sweeney
        Co-Pilot:                      Charles D. Albury
        2nd Co-Pilot:                Fred J. Olivi 
        Navigator:                    James F. Van Pelt
        Bombardier:                 Kermit K. Beahan
        Engineer:                     John D. Kuharek
        Radio Operator:            Abe M. Spitzer
        Radar Operator:            Edward K. Buckley
        Tail Gunner:                  Albert T. DeHart
        AsstEng/Scanner:         Raymond G. Gallagher
        Weaponeer:                  Frederick Ashworth
        Electronics Test Ofc.:    Philip M. Barnes
        ECM:                          Jacob Beser
Ground Crew:
       Frederick D. Clayton
       Robert L. McNamee
       John L. Willoughby
       Robert M. Haider
       Rudolph H. Gerken

US ARMY AIR FORCES (1944-1946)

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2006 Reunion Photo -
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