Sunday, March 17, 2024



What happened to Enola Gay and Bockscar after they dropped their atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?


Enola Gay:

The plane which dropped the first atomic bomb, on Hiroshima, was named Enola Gay by the pilot Colonel Paul Tibbets after his mother, who in turn had been named after a heroine in a novel

The director of the Manhattan Project, Major General Leslie R. Groves, Jr., wanted the event recorded for posterity, so the takeoff was illuminated by floodlights. When he wanted to taxi, Tibbets leaned out the window to direct the bystanders out of the way. On request, he gave a friendly wave for the cameras.

Enola Gay returned safely to its base, several hundred people, including journalists and photographers, having gathered to watch the planes return. Tibbets was the first to disembark and was presented with the Distinguished Service Cross on the spot.

Enola Gay landing at its base after its bombing of Hiroshima

Enola Gay, with a different crew, participated in the second atomic attack as the weather reconnaissance aircraft for the primary target of Kokura. Clouds and drifting smoke resulted in a secondary target, Nagasaki, being bombed instead.

After the war, the Enola Gay returned to the United States, where it was operated from Roswell Army Air Field, New Mexico. In 1946 it was transferred to the Smithsonian Institution, and spent many years parked at air bases exposed to the weather and souvenir hunters, before being disassembled and transported to the Smithsonian's storage facility at Suitland, Maryland, in 1961.

In the 1980s, veterans groups engaged in a call for the Smithsonian to put the aircraft on display, leading to an acrimonious debate about exhibiting the aircraft without a proper historical context. The cockpit and nose section of the aircraft were exhibited at the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) in downtown Washington, D.C., for the bombing's 50th anniversary in 1995, amid controversy. Since 2003, the entire restored B-29 has been on display at NASM's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.

Enola Gay nose, port side, at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.

Tibbets died in 2007 at age 92. He had requested cremation and no physical memorial, because it would become a pilgrimage site for nuclear protesters.

Col Paul Tibbets

Enola Gay Tibbets 1890-1966

Interviewed after the mission, Tibbets confessed that he was embarrassed at having attached his mother’s name to such a fateful mission.

Asked in an interview “If you had to drop the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima again and the conditions were similar, would you?”“I wouldn’t hesitate a minute,” Tibbets replied.


Three days later another B 29, named Bockscar, sometimes written as Bock’s Car, dropped a second atomic bomb, named Fat Boy, on Nagasaki.

B-29 Bockscar at the National Museum USAF

Bockscar at Dayton before it was moved indoors. On the Nagasaki mission, it flew without nose art added after the mission), and with a triangle N tail marking, rather than the circle arrowhead shown here.

Bockscar with temporary triangle N tail marking, on 9 August 1945, the day of its atomic bombing mission

About 44% of the city was destroyed; 35,000 people were killed and 60,000 injured.

The name Bockscar was a play on words of the railroad term boxcar in that the captain of the plane was Captain Frederick Bock.

Captain Frederick Bock (1918-2000)

After the war, Bockscar returned to the United States in November 1945. In September 1946, it was given to the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. The aircraft was flown to the museum on 26 September 1961, and its original markings were restored (nose art was added after the mission). Bockscar is now on permanent display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Dayton, Ohio, next to a replica of the Fat Man bomb.

The bombs:

Two variations of designs for atomic bombs were developed through the Manhattan Project.

Both Little Boy and Fat Man were nuclear bombs that worked through the principle of nuclear fission. A free neutron would hit one atom of the fissionable material in the bomb. The atom would then split into two, and release its components, more neutrons, and energy. Those neutrons would go on to hit more atoms and cause more fission, and so on and on. This rapid chain reaction releases so much energy that it ultimately causes the massive explosion.

One of the issues at the time of development of the atomic bombs featured in the film Oppenheimer was whether the fission would keep happening uncontrolled and destroy the world.

What set the bombs apart was their design, mode of detonation, and the elements used.


Little Boy

Fat Man




Element used




9,700 pounds

10,800 pounds

Target city

Hiroshima, Japan

Nagasaki, Japan

Detonation time

8:15 AM, August 6, 1945

11:01 AM, August 9, 1945


Boeing B-29

Boeing B-29

Impact force

Equal to 15,000 tons of TNT.

Equal to 21,000 tons of TNT

Impact area

5 square miles

3 square miles

Approximate death toll by year-end




Little Boy and Fat Man

By the way:

Another mattter addressed in the film Oppenheimer is Oppenheimer's change of attitude after being instrumental in developing the bomb, becoming  pposed to its development and use.

A 1995 report in the Atlantic on the day of the detonation describes that “the room was packed with whistling, cheering, foot-stomping scientists and technicians and that he (Oppenheimer) was sorry that the bomb had not been ready in time for use on Germany.” Oppenheimer even advised the B-29 bomber planes on how to deploy the bombs in the most effective manner while inflicting the most damage on the Japanese people.

However, Oppenheimer had a major change in disposition only a month later when he visited President Harry S Truman and told him “I have blood on my hands.” President Truman was reportedly annoyed with Oppenheimer’s regret and told his staff “Don’t let that crybaby in here again” while telling Oppenheimer that the blood was on his hands.

By November 1945 a communication to his fellow workers at the Los Alamos laboratory, Oppenheimer had said, “If you are a scientist you believe . . .that it is good to turn over to mankind at large the greatest possible power to control the world and to deal with it according to its lights and vales.”

After being excommunicated by President Truman, Oppenheimer devoted his life to regulating the use of nuclear power.

The real Oppenheimer and film Oppenheimer


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