The History of
The 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
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
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.
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.
Charles D. Albury
2nd Co-Pilot: Fred J.
F. Van Pelt
Radio Operator: Abe M.
Radar Operator: Edward K.
Tail Gunner: Albert
AsstEng/Scanner: Raymond G.
Electronics Test Ofc.: Philip M.
Frederick D. Clayton
Robert L. McNamee
John L. Willoughby
Robert M. Haider
Rudolph H. Gerken
2006 Reunion Photo -
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