The Manhattan Project

509th Composite Group

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. 

Joseph Papalia's Interview

Alexandra Levy: This is Alexandra Levy of the Atomic Heritage Foundation here in New Jersey on June 13, 2016, with Joseph Papalia. My first question is to please say your name and spell it.

Joseph Papalia: Joseph Papalia, P-A-P-A-L-I-A.

Levy: Can you tell us where and when you were born?

Papalia: I was born August 20, 1936, in East Meadow, New York.

Levy: Can you tell us briefly about your life and career, and how you became involved in the 509th Composite Group?

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.

Mack Newsom's Interview

Cindy Kelly: I’m Cindy Kelly. It is Sunday, May 15, 2016, and I’m in Houston, Texas. I’m here to interview Mack Newsom. My first question for you is to say your formal name and spell it.

Mack Newsom: My full name is Mack Newsom, M-A-C-K. Well, originally it was Victor McKee, but they call me Mack. V-I-C-T-O-R and M-C-K-E-E, McKee.

Cuba

After the activation of the 509th Composite Group in December 1944, some members of the group (including members of the 393rd Bombardment Squadron, the unit's combat squad) went to Cuba for training. At Batista Field in San Antonio de Los Baños, the group trained for a month. They worked on long-range, over-water flights, in preparation for the long haul between Tinian Island and Japan. The avoided formation flights so crews would adjust to flying solo.

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.

William Downey's Interview - Part 2

William Downey: The depersonalization of the world, and what the Soviet Union does to their own people in mental hospitals in the process of destroying them, so all people would be destroyed everywhere. So, it is not the peace I want. It is not peace that I want. It is peace with justice. It is peace with freedom. It is peace that makes it possible for a man to dream his dream and stretch and strain and sweat to attain it. Without that, peace is a fraud and a delusion and a pretty word for tyranny. Do you follow me?

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