“I realize the tragic significance of the atomic bomb…It is an awful responsibility that has come to us….We thank God it has come to us, instead of to our enemies; and we prey that he may guide us to use it in His ways, and for His purposes.”
President Harry Truman
“Forget self! All out for your country!”
August 6th, 1945 – In an explosion of red, orange, and pink, the sun peaked it’s majestic head above the surface of the ocean, emulating such beauty, that it was no wonder that the residents of the island country called it the land of the rising sun. On the mountain range some four miles from the coastline it would have been a divine sight to observe the way the land cascaded down into the sea, only to ascend back up into the heavens. For those early hours, there was a serene silence that matched the stillness of the royal blue water which surrounded the island, like a smooth glass table top.
Down in the busy town below, Ito Katsutoshi and Yamamoto Youku peddled their thin-framed bicycles of forest green and cherry red across the narrow wooden bridge that spread across the Hon River, in what was their humbled attempt to escape the hustle and bustle of the great transportation hub, and doorway to the rest of the world. The two road side by side, as they did throughout life, and the built in baskets placed conveniently in-between their handlebars bounced ever so slightly before them with each new board that came their way on the aqueduct beneath them.
Katsutoshi cast a longing sideways glance at his partner, and with a beaming grin etched across his face, he hurried himself out just in front of her, excited to reach their destination away from the rest of the world; even if only for a slight blimp in time. As he did so, Youku trailed his lead, the tires nearly touching, as Katsutoshi rounded the corner at the end of the overpass with a sharp right turn away from the busy traffic of the passing motor cars of a few varying colors.
Every so often, Katsutoshi would look behind his with a look of utmost admiration on his face as he continued along his trajectory leading to a nice and isolated beach area tucked nicely away from the rest of town where the Hon and Motoyasu Rivers joined one another at a V; Youku giggling all the while at the boyish way he carried himself. The two descended from their noble metallic steads as if in unison as the rubber hooves sunk into the sand of the expansive shore that paralleled the coastline on either side. They then proceeded to empty their belongings from the bikes carriages before leaving them behind as they continued on their way towards their little picnic. Katsutoshi lead Youku to the point just beyond where the waves collided with the shore, at which he stopped them both in their tracks.
A gust of wind sending his loosely fitted white collared button-up-shirt, Katsuoshi watched through his thick black rectangular framed glasses with great fondness as his love unpacked their picnic basket besides him. He then proceeded to casually place both of his hands into his forest green slacks, evidence of the time that he had been enrolled in the service for the last few years of ungodly conflict, and felt around for the small blue velvet covered box from within their depths; a family heirloom belonging to his mother secured inside.
For a brief moment, he took his attention away from Youku, and starred off into the horizon as if were peeking into a kaleidoscope that may reveal what their future together could possibly have in store for one another. He thought briefly about how long he had been in the service, and the time that they had been apart as Youku studied meticulously away for the last couple of years at the University of Literature and Science in their town, and he figured now would be the best time to ask her. Then his focus was brought once more to Youku, and how wonderful she looked in her white frilly button up dress with frilly edges that extended past her knees, and that was tied off at the waist. With the flowery engravings on it, it went well with her round hazel eyes and thick curly black hair that parted slightly on either side of her rounded face.
In that little while, that seemed to last all of eternity, their eyes interlocked with one another, and from beneath his glasses, Katsuoshi delighted in the way that he could discern that each of them could view their own reflection from out of the pupils of one another’s eyes, as only those who have starred at one another in the most intimate of ways have had the pleasure to experience; as if each one were mirroring the others soul, and it comforted him. He was just about ready to ask her the only question that he cared to know, when both of them became distracted by a loud droning some issuing somewhere in the near distance, off to the East in the direction of the Pacific.
As a result, Youku leaped up with a nervous little hop, and wrapped herself in a warm embrace in the comfort of Katuoshi’s arms; her left hand cradling the back of his head, and it surprised her how soothing his jet black hair, done up in a gentlemen’s style cut like her father felt woven between her fingertips during what appeared to be a moment of distress.
Somewhere, up above, about a mile high, in the sky, four miles from where Katuoshi and Youku stood rooted to the beach, the angel of death continued along its course due Northwest, carrying the greatest agent of destruction ever created by man, known simply as, little boy.
It came in the form of a one-hundred foot Boeing B-29 Superfortress Bomber bearing its name; the Enola Gay, which was as silver as the Silver-Plate program codename that was given to it, and others like it that ran strictly atomic weapons related missions. Along its some one-hundred and thirty-five foot wingspan there where markings on either side near the vast propellers of an encircled star besides the number eighty-two, and another engraving on the planes tail of an encircled letter R. As the sun cast its rays against its sides, it resembled a large aluminum like predatory bird, getting ready to circle its prey.
Nestled away at the forefront of the flight deck, acting commander and pilot Colonel Paul Tibbets and his co-pilot Captain Robert Lewis starred off at the mesmerizing view below them with a stern seriousness fixed upon both of their faces, as they kept their steady course towards the up and coming destination before them. Sweat trickled down both of their young faces, as the sun made its way through the thick heavy glass paneling that enclosed them from all sides, and yet they would not let it deter their intense level of focus that was needed for the mission ahead of them.
“Paul, its time. We’re ready to arm the bomb,” a voice said from behind him, although it was barely audible to the Colonel who had a headset resting firmly upon his head in order to keep in contact with the communications tower back home. Suddenly, he felt a hand grasp at his shoulder from the same direction, and in so doing, it grabbed his full and undivided attention.
“What was that,” Paul inquired with a quick glance backwards. He made sure to remove his headset from the right side of his head as he did so in order to hear what was being told to him all the better.
“The bomb sir, its ready and armed,” Major Thomas Ferebee repeated with a slight nod, after which he turned around with a little about face like motion, and made his way back towards the tail of the plane in which he had come from.
“Judge, this is the Enola Gay, armed, and ready to get to work,” the Colonel gave the command after words, speaking into his air-to-ground radio in front of him, relieved to finally have given the order he had been waiting to execute.
Then, there was only a solemn silence amongst the twelve passengers of that plane, which was only slightly undetected as a result of the loud droning roar coming from the plane’s large jet engines, as each crew member began to man and operate at their various stations, working with the highest level of precision so that they may execute their given task flawlessly.
Back in the belly of the belly of the beast Thomas Ferebee, and the planes main weapon engineer, Captain Deke Parsons tinkered around with the large bomb before them, in their last efforts to see that it was ready before it was released through large hatch door below them. Little boy was a faded forest green in color, which matched the color of matching attire of all the passengers that consisted of button up shirts, slacks, and cap to top things off. But it was the size of it that really surprised everyone on board; at 9,700 pounds, the uranium gun-type bomb was unlike any that they had ever seen before.
“My God, would you just look at this thing,” Parsons started, as Ferebee continued working meticulously away at arming the device. “It looks like something that you would expect to read about in some sort of science fiction book, or maybe over the radio. Like, you remember that one broadcasting about the aliens that had invaded, and it had all the people in that one town all in a ruckus? Yeah, this is definitely something like out of one of those. That is, not something that you’d see everyday.”
“Thomas, really? Can’t you see that I need to give this thing all my attention. It’s hard enough trying to keep centered with the radio, recorder, radar, the roar of the jet engine, and all of these other bells and whistles going off, so please, save the commentary for some other time won’t you?” As soon as the words had left his mouth, Deke nicked his hand against the side of the device, and a slick trickle of ruby-red blood began to make its way down his forefinger, but, determined, Parsons continued on with what he was doing.
“You think you maybe ought’ to be wearing gloves,” Thomas asked with a slight snigger.
“No I shouldn’t be wearing gloves, you wouldn’t understand it. You’ve got to get a feel for it; a feel for the touch of the thing.
“Whatever you say boss.”
Back on the flight deck, Robert hummed quietly to himself, as he scrawled away at the little booklet laid out across his lap. He was slouched sideways in an attempt to be as comfortable as he could possibly be for what lay ahead of them, and what ever the future had in store for him, and the rest of the men, on the ship, and back home for that matter. Every so often he would stop to take a sip out of the aluminum canteen that had been given to him.
“Hey, Bob, what are you doing over there, writing a song,” the colonel asked with a playful grin etched across his face, which brought out his prominent jaw-line.
“Oh, yeah, no, it’s nothing like that Commander. I’m keeping record. I’m writing a journal actually,” he answered, the sun briefly reflecting off of his bright yellow fluorescent jacket that he, and the rest of the crew were wearing.
“Really, and what for?”
“I was thinking of writing it for my grandchildren.”
“How exactly is it that you’re going to do that, when you haven’t even gotten a wife yet,” Paul let out with a slight scoff. “For christ sakes man, you’re only a kid. Right now you’re a bonafide bachelor, a hot and ready playboy, and you’re hear sitting talking about grandchildren.”
At twenty-nine, Paul was the eldest man aboard the Elola Gay, and in moments like these that it showed, and it was also in instances like these that it was hard for him to overlook the fact that it was only just kids really, men in their early twenties, who were given such a heavy task. He took a deep gulp as he thought back to his radar operator, Richard Nelson, who had only just turned twenty, and the fact hit him all the harder.
Just then he heard the voice of his radio operator, Private Richard Nelson, who was tucked away right besides them alongside their navigator, Captain Theodore Van Kirk at their station as he asked, “What time is it?”
“It is thirteen minutes past eight private, and make sure as to not forget to check the circuits while you are at it.”
Just then, Ferebee’s head popped in from the circular enclosure that separated the flight deck from the rest of the plane. “Sir, the bomb is ready,” he said in an exasperated sort of way; sweat beating it’s way down his rough face, and down this his tawny blonde curly mustache. On his mark, Paul reached forward to the radio in front of him, and gave the following speech over the Enola Gay’s intercom:
“Very well then boys, I’m going to need every one of you to listen up okay. You’re receiving this message late, but I’m going to lay everything down on you, and set everything straight. Right now, you are witnessing history, and aboard this plane is nothing other than an atomic bomb,” he finished with a stern tone in his voice, and with a heavy emphasis placed on the word atomic.
“What the hell is an atomic,” Joseph Stiborik asked in a confused sort of way, more to himself than anyone in particular through the frequent blips coming from the tele-screen in front him and his counterpart Richard Nelson who was sitting besides him.
“Hello,” Nelson let out in an exaggerated and prolonged sort of way, as if in response to Joseph, and everyone in the nearby proximity turned to face him with startled looks upon their faces.
“What is Nelson,” the commander inquired in a serious tone.
“Bravo, it’s colonel Jake, reports are indicating that the enemy has locked unto us with their early morning sweep, but it’s no sweat, and no real surprise either.
Just then, another male in his mid-twenties rushed through the disk shaped archway that separated the cock-pit from the rest of the plane. Second Lieutenant Morris Jeppson, the Enola Gay’s Ordnance Expert, had the same grave expression of great seriousness etched across his elongated face, and his medium length combed-over blond hair had begun to skew itself in every which direction as a result of the great heat that each and every single solitary member of the 509th Composite Group had been subjected to during their assignment.
“Commander, I just received word from my weather scout. According to them, fly cover is at approximately three-tenth’s at all altitudes, and they recommend that we proceed with due caution,” Jeppson informed Paul, relaying the information from a metallic clipboard held up in front of his in his hands.
“Navigator to airplane commander, our true heading is two-hundred and sixty-four degrees, altitude is 31,000 feet, and our current airspeed is two-hundred miles per hour,” Captain Theodore Van Kirk reported from his seat directly adjacent to both of the radar operator’s, as the rest of Paul’s team finished providing the final bits of intel before commencing with the deployment of Little Boy. “Approaching our initial point sir,” he continued in the same thoughtful tone.
Once again, Commander Paul Tibbets grabbed at the radio in front of him, and ordered the following over the intercom:
“Commander speaking, and initial point check. Alright, at this time, I’m going to have to ask all passengers with the exception of Ferebee and Lieutenant Beser to put your googles on,” Paul of course, was referring to the black goggles that he had been directed to make sure his men wore for their protection prior to the blast. They were thick and well rounded, and were fashioned in the way that you would expect professional swimmers to wear. At his command, all of his men obeyed the direct instruction, with curious looks on their faces as they placed the dark goggles over their eyes. “Bob, that means you as well,” he continued, with a friendly gesture drawn across his face, as his co-pilot continued to scribble away in his sketchbook.
“Check,” Robert issued in a less than enthusiastic sort of way, putting his journal aside as he made sure to secure his sweet new shades around his boyish face.
“What are you writing in there now anyways,” inquired the acting pilot, as he removed his headset to make room for his own googles; the last to act upon his own instruction.
“Oh, just that there’s going to be a brief intermission period from now until well after we blast our target,” he replied in the most natural sort of way, as if it were a completely normal occurrence.
Back in the heart of the Enola Gay, Ferebee’s head intimately kissed the large optical deceive before him, with his sights set on the upcoming target. Back home, he had practiced for this exact second of his life with Paul countless times, but it seemed all but too surreal as all that practice was finally a reality, and his hands slightly trembled as he aimed for the utmost accuracy, for he knew that the slightest movement in any way meant missing the target by some, one-thousand plus feet.
“We’re approaching about eight-hundred feet now, drop time about thirty seconds,” he reported as he zeroed in on his mark,” without so much as lifting his head an inch. “Approaching, and approaching,” Ferebee continued, “eighty-feet, or fifteen seconds till our mark, and,” he trailed off, with a highly palpable tension that could be felt by all building throughout the aircraft. “Now, bombs away,” he shouted as to be heard throughout the great air-carrier.”
In the beginning it is said that God said, “let there be,” whether it was in regard to light, the firmament, the ocean, the heavens the sky, and so forth, that is, that words breed creation, and conversely, the opposite is true, and destruction takes only a fraction of the time.
Upon the utterance of a single solitary word, the large double door hatch swung open, and Little Boy made its decent from the ethers up above, towards the one-hundred and twenty-thousand individuals living in the town of Hiroshima, Japan down below. As it made it passage, the sound of a thundering humming reverberation pierced the air, growing faintly more audible to the twelve men aboard the Enola Gay as it fell further and further away, and just as equally ear-splitting to those that came closer to it at an exponential rate that only gravity can enforce upon a large falling object.
As the large green shelling screamed towards the earth in its plummet, it rotated to and fro from either side; first counter-clock wise, then clockwise, and back again. Aboard the plane, there was not a man who was not looking at his watch, or counting silently in their heads as to how many seconds had passed. Bombardier Ferebee for a second had doubts as to whether or not that it would work, and crossed the great atomic creature off as a dud, although maybe that wasn’t so much a thought, as it was a hope inside of his heart.
After forty-three seconds, both and barometric triggers started, sending signals through the tiny red, yellow, and white circuitry within the casing of the true MOAB’s, which switched on a tiny green light, which started a great chain of events starting with the beginning of a firing mechanism. Upon ignition, a great uranium bulled was shot through barrel and into a uranium tunnel, in one swift movement, causing a number of atoms to split simultaneously; in the blink of an eye, matter of solid form began to fall apart, the result of which was that it released an unprecedented quantity of energy throughout the titanic nine-thousand-seven-hundred pound weapon. This reaction took place after forty-three seconds, and at forty-five, there was impact.
The force of the collision erupted like an earthquake thirty miles in all directions from ground zero sending violent vibrations in the nearby proximity, and in the blink of an eye, there was a blinding white flash. From this great unseeing white light emerged a monumental pillar of fire, caked in a thick layer of smoke; a great head forming at its top, that could only be compared to some mushroom shaped inferno, but even that paled to the ineffable quality of that devastating combustion that towered over the surrounding area at a height near that of Mt. Everest; the result an explosion equivalent to fifteen kilotons, or fiteen-thouend tons of TNT.
Up above, the Enola Gay shook vehemently due to the mighty shockwaves that shot out into the nearby vicinity. Inside, Richard Nelson ran from his station at the operator table, to the cock pit where Paul and Robert where situated, and in his quivering anxiety, fell on the floor at their feet.
Nelson, get down from here. What on earth are you doing on the flight deck,” the Commander asked startled.
“N-n-n-noo-thing more to report from down there. P-p-per-mission to join the flight deck” Nelson stuttered with his things loosely held in front of him in his shivering arms.
“Permission granted. Plug yourself in, and get recording from up here,” he answered, and then turned to face his co-pilot, who, like the rest of his crew had a blank expression etched across his ghost white face. “Well granddaddy Bob, I believe you have something to journal about,” he said in an attempt to lighten the mood some as they continued on their way to their final destination in Tinian. “My God, what have we done,” he went on, removing his cap, and running his hands through his short, well-kept jet black hair. In the back of his mind, he justified it by thinking how many lives they had saved through what they had done.
“This is unbelievable, have you seen anything like that before Commander,” Robert responded in an awe-struck tone.
“Well, this certainly means the end of the war,” the Commander answered, and, eleven miles from Hiroshima, the Enola Gay and it’s crew of twelve; Commander Paul Tibbes, Co-Pilot Robert Lewis, Weaponeer Deke Parsons, Assistant Flight Engineer Robert H. Shumard, Flight Engineer Wyatt Duzenbury, Tail Gunner Robert Carson, Radar Operator Robert Nelson, Ordnance Expert Morris Jeppson, Radar Operator Joseph Stiborik, Electronic Countermeasures Jacob Beser, Bombardier Thomas Ferebee, and Navigator Theodore Van Kirk, sailed off into the horizon in what would be their historic flight. Meanwhile, somewhere miles below, hidden deep within the valley of ash, the engraving of a man proposing two his wife lie caked onto the baked into the beach, or what remained of it, like incalculable others to be found throughout the devastated city, revealing different futures, such as their’s, that could have been, but would never be.
(C) Aaron M. Weis