The Enola Gay undoubtedly became World War II’s most famous airplane when it dropped the world’s first atomic bomb on Hiroshima August 6, 1945. It was built in Omaha.
The B-29 Superfortress bomber was the single most complicated and expensive airplane produced by the United States during World War II. Nearly 4,000 B-29s were built for combat in the Pacific theater. It was assembled on a rush basis by a vast manufacturing program that involved hundreds of thousands of workers.
The Enola Gay was specially modified for its mission and was handpicked from the assembly line in Omaha by the pilot of the atomic bomb mission, Col. Paul Tibbets. He named the plane after his mother. The plane was delivered to the U.S. Army Air Forces on May 18, 1945.
While President Truman (middle) was attending the Potsdam Conference on the shape of the post-war world, he learned that the atomic bomb worked. Great Britain’s Prime Minister Churchill (left) and the Soviet Union’s Premier Stalin (right) were our allies.
Courtesy Harry S. Truman Library, United States Army Signal Corps, 63-1457-28
The decision to drop the bomb was a difficult one for the new President Harry S. Truman. That single blast was the equivalent of 20,000 tons of T.N.T. The force of the blast had the potential to shorten the war and reduce the number of American and Japanese casualities. But that single blast also had the potential to kill hundreds of thousands Japanese civilians. Truman decided to go ahead. Col. Tibbets and the crew of Enola Gay dropped the first bomb — codenamed "Little Boy" — on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. On the ground, 80,000 people died immediately. When the second atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, 70,000 died.
On August 15, Japan surrendered.
"I thought at the time and I still do, that we saved an awful lot of lives. American and Japanese both. The Japanese were never going to give up unless we had something like that. We would have had to kill off all the Japanese, and there would have been a lot of Americans killed in the meantime... My conscience never hurt me any. I think we saved thousands and thousands of lives."
— Vince Ortman.
The controversy over the decision to drop the bomb has continued. In 1958, the Hiroshima City Council passed a resolution criticizing some of Truman’s remarks about the decision. Truman responded to them in a letter, saying he was not offended by the resolution. But he went on to defend, once again, the decision to drop the bomb.
Some World War II Medal of Honor recipients
are in the Nebraska Hall of Fame
Find about all its members.