The Manhattan Project

Hiroshima Mission

Russell E. Gackenbach's Interview

Alexandra Levy: We are here on December 27th, 2016, in Florida, with Russell Gackenbach. My first question for you is to please say your name and spell it.

Russell Gackenbach: My name is Russell E. Gackenbach. G-A-C-K-E-N-B-A-C-H.

Levy: Please tell us your place and date of birth.

Gackenbach: I was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, March 1923, on March 23.

Russell E. Gackenbach

Russell E. Gackenbach was a navigator in the 393rd Bombardment Squadron and 509th composite group. He flew on both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki missions. His crew flew aboard the Necessary Evil, which was the camera plane for the Hiroshima mission. Gackenbach photographed the mushroom cloud over Hiroshima. His crew flew again during the Nagasaki mission as the weather reconnaissance plane for the city of Kokura. 

Jack Widowsky's Interview

Alexandra Levy: We are here on June 13th in New Jersey with Jack Widowsky. This is Alex Levy with the Atomic Heritage Foundation. My first question for you, Jack, is to please say your name and to spell it.

Jack Widowsky: My name is Jack Widowsky. J-A-C-K, which is easy, but the last name is W-I-D-O-W-S-K-Y.

Levy: Can you please tell me where you were born and when?

Widowsky: I was born in Newark, New Jersey, on September 10, 1922.

Jack Widowsky

Jack Widowsky served as the navigator on the B-29 Top Secret at Wendover and Tinian during World War II. He participated in the mission to bomb Hiroshima as the navigator of the Big Stink, which was the backup strike plane on Iwo Jima. He flew as the navigator of the Laggin' Dragon, one of the weather reconnaissance planes, during the mission to Nagasaki. In this interview, he discusses his time in the 509th Composite Group. He begins by narrating his introduction to the 509th after enlisting in the Air Force.

The Hiroshima Mission

Narrator: Apparently aloof from the rest of World War II, the solitary 509th, still unaware of its own purpose, carries on its puzzling training schedule. Their orders: practice runs to nearby islands. Then their own private missions to Japan, always above thirty thousand feet, always alone or in threes, always to drop just one bomb. Each time they must return to Tinian to face the ridicule of their fellow flyers. A poem is written in their dubious honor.

Jacob Beser's Lecture

Jacob Beser:  The story which we could tell. And one point that Dr. Wittman, though, which I wish you would please keep in mind—and this is true not only in this situation, but any historical event  should be evaluated in the context in which it took place, the context and the times in which it took place. Hopefully we proceed from there and progress. Forty years later, we all had 20/20 hindsight and we also have had access to archives and information that we did not have forty years ago.

The Atomic Bombers

Interviewer: At two forty-five in the morning of August 6, 1945, the B-29 Enola Gay took off from North field on Tinian. Aboard the plane were thirteen men a thing called “the Gimmick.” Some fourteen hundred miles and six hours later, the Enola Gay reached her appointment with history. The time was fifteen minutes and seventeen seconds past 8:00 AM, just seventeen seconds behind schedule. The place: Hiroshima. The Gimmick, also known as Little Boy, was a uranium atomic bomb with the explosive power of twenty thousand tons of TNT.

Bob Caron's Tape to Joe Papalia

Bob Caron: Oh, now for comments on Bob Lewis. I do not know what the hell to say about that, Joe. Bob calls me fairly frequently on his WATS [Wide Area Telephone Service] line, and I kind of feel like I am in the middle of something. He is very bitter, and very bitter towards [Paul] Tibbets. How justified it is I am just not sure. I do not know really the whole story. Bob is very emphatic when he tells his side of the story. When I mention some things, he just tells me, “Oh, you are too damn naïve.” Well, I know I am. Always have been.

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