A Necessary Evil: The Story of the Enola Gay

The man who burned my hometown of Atlanta, General William Tecumseh Sherman, is famous for saying, “war is hell.” Some quibble with the exact wording he used, but no one doubts the essential truth of his remark. Ask anyone who has served in the military during a time of conflict; they will verify the accuracy of Sherman’s comment without hesitation. Speaking of hell, traditional accounts of that infernal place say that it’s a vast, fiery wasteland. That depiction comes close to describing what was unleashed on the city of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. The events of that day serve as a sober reminder that some evils are necessary. The Enola Gay is a Boeing B-29 super fortress manufactured in Bellevue, Nebraska by the Glenn L. Martin Company, known today as Lockheed Martin. The bomber was modified to include a reworked bomb bay with pneumatic doors and fuel-injected engines. Unlike most examples of the aircraft, the Enola Gay has no gun turrets or armor plating. The aircraft is named for the mother of Colonel Paul Tibbets, who led the flight over Hiroshima. The choice of Tibbets for the mission infuriated regular commander Robert Lewis, who was bumped in favor of the colonel. Tibbets is remembered as a strong and decisive officer who had a special love for flying the B-29, which he described as “the most beautiful piece of machinery that any pilot ever flew.” RELATED: Check Out This 1970 Ford M151-A2 Military Jeep Preparations for the mission were extensive. The Enola Gay made eight training flights and participated in bombing runs over Nagoya and Kobe. On July 31, 1945, the plane and its crew took part in a final rehearsal flight. Then, at 2:30 a.m. local time on August 6, Tibbets and his men began the six-hour flight to Hiroshima. The colonel carried cyanide pills for himself and the crew to swallow, should they be captured by the enemy. Flying escort with the Enola Gay were two additional planes. One was dubbed The Great Artiste. The other was unnamed at the time but was later given the ironic yet fitting name Necessary Evil. The three aircraft took different routes until they reached the airspace over Iwo Jima, where they rendezvoused and adjusted their courses for Japan. By this point in the war the Japanese usually disregarded small groups of American planes. So the trio of bombers encountered no resistance as they flew over the mainland. At approximately 8:15 a.m. local time the Enola Gay appeared over Hiroshima. It was flying 31,060 feet above the city when it opened its bomb bay doors. The bomb, nicknamed “Little Boy,” was in the air 43 seconds before detonating at 1,968 feet. Little Boy unleashed forces equivalent to 16 kt of TNT. The heat, pressure, and radiation vaporized everything within about one mile of the explosion’s center. The total area of destruction spread across 4.7 miles. Approximately 70-80,000 people, or around 30% of the city’s population of 350,000 people, were killed. Another 70,000 suffered injuries of varying degrees. RELATED: Watch Japan's Star Wars Plane in Action The Enola Gay and its two companion aircraft returned safely from their mission. Colonel Tibbets landed his plane on a base at Tinian after a total of 12 hours and 13 minutes in flight, receiving the Distinguished Service Cross soon thereafter. His aircraft was transferred to an airbase in Roswell, New Mexico. After the war, it was sent to Davis-Moncton Air Force Base in Arizona, and from there to various locations until 1961, when the Smithsonian took possession of its dismantled components. Restoration of the Enola Gay began on December 5, 1984. In 1995, the Smithsonian planned to display the aircraft in observance of the 50th anniversary of World War II’s end. However, both the American Legion and the Air Force Association objected to elements of the planned exhibit, saying that they focused too much attention on the death and damage caused by the bombing. Controversy led to the event’s cancellation. Officials did put the aircraft’s fuselage on display in 1995; several protesters were later arrested for throwing red paint, ash, and blood on the display. Despite the controversy, the planes restoration continued. Today the Enola Gay is on display in a hangar at Washington Dulles international Airport. To this day, some critics condemn President Truman’s decision to use nuclear weapons. However, these persons would do well to remember Sherman’s words. War is hell indeed, and the pain inflicted on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was no greater than that suffered by countless millions during the six years from 1939 to 1945. RELATED: Planes Ditch Windows, Add HD Screens by 2024 Together, the two atomic blasts claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. However, they also prevented the slaughter of an estimated 1,000,000 persons, had the US invaded Japan using conventional weapons. Using numbers to weigh ethics may seem cold and cruel. But coldness and cruelty are essential aspects of warfare. In the final analysis, what Colonel Tibbets and the other members of the Enola Gay crew did on August 6, 1945 was a sad, but necessary, evil. RELATED: Read More Military News From BoldRide _____________________________________ Click Here to Read the Original Article on BoldRide