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509th Composite Group


Col. Paul W. Tibbets, Jr., pilot of the Enola Gay, August 6, 1945
  "Col. Paul W. Tibbets, Jr., pilot of the ENOLA GAY, the plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, waves from his cockpit before the takeoff, 6 August 1945.". (NWDNS-208-LU-13H-5)

Scientists of the Manhattan Project had been working feverishly throughout the war to develop the atomic bomb before the Germans did. The new weapon was first tested on the ground in the deserts of New Mexico. No one knew if this bomb could be dropped from aircraft without endangering the lives of the crew.

The unit selected for this dangerous mission was the 509th Composite Group commanded by Col. Paul W. Tibbets, Jr. Colonel Tibbets, shown here in his aircraft, flew the first atomic bomb mission to Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Records show that the aircraft was named in honor of his mother, Enola Gay Tibbets. For this mission, Tibbets was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

Atomic cloud rises over JapanOne of the men instrumental in the development of the bomb, Navy Capt. William S. Parsons, flew along on the mission in order to arm the bomb away from friendly territory and avoid endangering American lives. The bombing mission was a success, and a second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. Within a week, Japan sued for peace. Captain Parsons was awarded the Silver Star.

The Japanese government announced their willingness to surrender within a week of the dropping of the two atomic bombs. A now faded message notified Gen. Douglas MacArthur of the Japanese capitulation as well as his appointment as Supreme Commander Allied Powers.