The Enola Gay was disassembled in 1960 and kept the parts at Andrews Air Force Base after being presented to the Smithsonian.
We went to the Enola Gay: On October 1, 2022, the 19Fifty crew visited the National Air and Space Museum to capture brand-new images and videos of some of the world’s most remarkable aircraft. We had the good fortune to approach the SR-71, Bell X-1, X-35, and NASA Discovery Space Shuttle up close.
Yet unless we got as close as we could to the B-29 Enola Gay, no trip to this amazing museum would be complete. Yep, that is the bomber that fired off the first nuclear missile used in combat. Below are some fascinating original videos and images.
Given the possibility of Russia using nuclear weapons in Ukraine, it is instructive to examine the initial nuclear attacks on Japan and the well-known airplane that participated in both nuclear bombing missions. The nuclear age began when the Enola Gay, a B-29 bomber, dropped the world’s first nuclear weapon on Hiroshima in 1947. The Enola Gay delivered a terrifying application of the atomic bomb’s power and altered how we perceived combat.
The Enola Gay B-29 was designed with nuclear conflict in mind. Silver plates were used o protect against nuclear fallout during production in 1945. They eliminated protections against conventional bombs to carry a 10,000-pound bomb to reduce weight. Only a tail gunner was left to defend the bomber after removing the turrets to make the aircraft lighter.
The aircraft was initially called the “Number 82” before getting its catchy moniker. It flew from New Mexico to Tinian in the Mariana Islands, where the crew practiced loading a device before conducting mock bombing runs.
After choosing number 82, Colonel Paul Tibbets Jr. gave it the new name Enola Gay in honor of his mother. The actual mission that would fundamentally alter everything was about to begin. Enola Gay delivered the 10,000-pound, uranium-enhanced bomb at Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Two observation aircraft were among the seven aircraft on the flight. In the bomb bay, a crew member activated the device. At 26,000 feet, the Enola Gay was in the air. The 10-foot-long bomb was dropped by the bombardier when he arrived at the target, and it burst 1,800 feet above the city with force equivalent to 15,000–20,000 tonnes of TNT. It produced a massive fireball 840 feet wide with a temperature of at least one million degrees Celsius.
Unknown to the pilots, the Japanese radar detected the aircraft and attempted to alert the city’s residents. But many choose to disregard the advice. The mission aimed to cross a bridge close to the city’s center. Between 80 and 140,000 people died instantly when Little Boy exploded. In the coming weeks, radiation exposure would kill thousands of people while injuring 100,000. You might feel the blast up to 37 miles away. Two-thirds of Hiroshima’s buildings were destroyed. Captain Robert Lewis, the co-pilot of the Enola Gay, reacted to the shocking catastrophe by saying, “My God, what have we done?”
There was still an ongoing nuclear attack on Japan. Fat Man dropped a bomb on Nagasaki three days later. That item was dropped by a B-29 known as Bockscar, not the Enola Gay. As a weather observation aircraft that ensured the skies were clear for the bombing run, the Enola Gay was also sent on that operation. Enola Gay participated in the Bikini Atoll nuclear experiments between 1946 and 1958 after Nagasaki.
After being deactivated and disassembled in 1960 and having its parts donated to the Smithsonian, stored the Enola Gay’s parts at Andrews Air Force Base. In 1984, construction crews started putting it back together as part of a 10-year repair project. The aircraft required additional attention to detail and wasn’t finished for public viewing until 2003. It was eventually displayed at the Udvar-Hazy Center of the Air & Space Museum in Chantilly, Virginia.