The Manhattan Project

Colonel Paul Tibbets

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?

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.

Nuclear War Radio Series

Ross Simpson: All right, here’s the promo for Part One of the Nuclear War Series. I’m Ross Simpson on a bus, heading into Cheyenne Mountain, outside of Colorado Springs, Colorado. This is the home of NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command. This is also where my five part series on the nightmare of nuclear war begins this morning.

Bob Caron's Interview

Ross Simpson: I’m talking with Bob Caron, who was the Tail Gunner on the Enola Gay, the day it flew to Hiroshima, Japan and dropped the first atomic bomb. Bob, what do you remember about that day? It’s been forty years. Forty years is a long time.

Catherine Dvorak's Interview

Cindy Kelly:  Okay, it is Friday, February 7, 2014. We’re here in Alexandria, Virginia. My name is Cindy Kelly, Atomic Heritage Foundation. I’m interviewing the daughter of Colonel Heflin, and she is here. Please tell us your name. 

Cathy Dvorak:  Cathy Dvorak. 

Kelly:  And spell it please. 

Dvorak:  D as in David, V as in Victor, O-R-A-K. 

Kelly:  And Cathy, how do you spell it? 

Wendover Air Field, UT

Wendover Air Field was chosen as the rear training base for the 509th Composite Group because of its isolation. It is located in the salt flats located 125 miles west of Salt Lake City. Colonel Paul Tibbets, head of the 509th, remarked upon seeing Wendover for himself: "The end of the world, perfect." Life at Wendover was primitive: the drinking water was bad, infrastructure was limited, rats invaded barracks, and there was sand in everything.

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