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Blog Topic: Seven B-29s for Hiroshima Atom Bomb Mission

April 5, 2015

Atom bomb explosion over Hiroshima

Atom bomb cloud over Hiroshima, August, 1945. Public domain photo.

Last week we visited Wendover Air Field, which was the training center for the atomic bomb missions of August 1945. After doing a bit of reading about the bombing of Hiroshima, I was surprised to learn of the number of B-29s that were involved with the mission. Although only one B-29 carried and dropped the actual bomb, it turns out that a total of seven B-29s were used in the bombing mission.

The plan called for three potential targets, and in order of preference, they were the cities of Hiroshima, Kokura, and Nagasaki. If the weather was good at Hiroshima, that is where they would drop the bomb. But it took seven B-29s to accomplish the complete mission. Three of the B-29s were dispatched in advance of the weapon carrier, Enola Gay. For weather reconnaissance, each of these flew over a different target choice - Hiroshima, Kokura, or Nagasaki, to provide up to date weather conditions and confirm that there was a reasonable chance of being able to drop the bomb at one of the locations.1

A fourth B-29, Top Secret, with pilot Charles F. McKnight, was at stand-by on Iwo Jima, where a pit had been built to facilitate the unloading and reloading of the atomic bomb, in case the Enola Gay had to abort. The other three B-29s were: the Enola Gay flown by Paul Tibbets, (this aircraft carried and dropped the atomic bomb); The Great Artist, flown by Charles W. Sweeney, (this aircraft carried an instrument package to measure the force of the blast); and lastly, Necessary Evil, flown by Captain George W. Marquardt (this aircraft carried photographic equipment).

Even though most references to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki cover the primary bomber, Enola Gay or Bock's Car, the fact is that this was really a team effort and there were multiple B-29s up there involved with the atomic bomb missions.

~ Jon

Notes and Reference
1The weather reconnaissance aircraft were: Straight Flush (pilot Claude R. Eatherly), flown over Hiroshima; Jabit III (pilot John A. Wilson), flown over Kokura; and Full House (pilot Ralph R. Taylor), flown over Nagasaki.
2Lee Bowen, History of the Air Force Atomic Energy Program 1943-1953, (United States Air Force Historical Division) Volume 1, p. 134. (Document declassified June 29, 1961).


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