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Front Page » December 13, 2011 » Opinion » Historical Society learns about the Enola Gay
Published 1,895 days ago

Historical Society learns about the Enola Gay

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Emery County historical Society held a special Veterans Day memorial program at the Museum of the San Rafael. President Dottie Grimes asked all of those present that were veterans to please stand. Some of those veterans told of their experiences in the military service. The audience expressed appreciation for the service rendered by these veterans. The guest speaker Stephen Marquardt was there to tell about his father's experiences flying the B-29 called "Necessary Evil" by its crew, alongside the Enola Gay a B-29 dropping an atomic bomb over Japan in 1945.

In the 1960s, his father bought the Sorenson ranch near Moore, 6,000 acres and 2,000 acres in Sevier County by Fish Lake. During the summers, he would come to Emery County and work on the ranch. Two years later, his father sold the ranch and kept the mineral rights. Marquardt met Dottie Grimes in the Emery County Recorder's office while doing research about his father's history and the land, his father had owned. His father, George W. Marquardt died in 2003 from Parkinson's disease. Prior to becoming unable to communicate George started on his life story. Most of his history was about his experiences during World War II.

Marquardt began his father's history by opening a box and removing an old pair of goggles and a note card. The goggles, he said his father wore during the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to keep from being blinded by the flash of light. On the note card was a quote from his dad, "The human brain is a wonderful thing. It starts when you are born and it never stops until you stand up to speak in public."

He then quoted Winston Churchill, "There are many who say this bomb should never have been dropped at all. It is to this atomic bomb more than to any other factor that we may ascribe the sudden and speedy ending of the war against Japan.Without dropping the bomb we would have sacrificed a million American lives and a quarter million British in the desperate invasion of Japan. The bomb brought peace and it is up to man to keep the peace."

On Aug. 6, 1945 after 2 a.m. a B-29 Superfortress on a top-secret mission took off from the Tinian, Mariana Islands in the Pacific, under the command of Col. Paul W. Tibbets Jr. At 8:16 a.m. the crew carried out their top-secret mission of dropping an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, the second largest city in Japan. Sixty percent of the city was instantly destroyed. It was estimated 80,000 casualties. The Japanese government was aware of the inevitable continued hostilities and refused to surrender.

It was estimated that there would be 500,000 casualties if the United States invaded Japan to get the Japanese to surrender. Members of the 509th Composite Group were again called upon to fly a second mission by US leaders. This second mission took place Aug. 9, 1945, under the command of Major Charles Sweeney, to the primary target, a military arsenal at Kokura Japan. Due to smoke obscuring the target, the B-29 Superfortress plane diverted to the industrial city of Nagasaki Japan. Major Sweeney's plane, also known as Bockscar carried the bomb to this secondary target. More than 20,000 people were killed. The Japanese surrendered on Aug. 14, 1945.

Capt. George W. Marquardt, as a member of the 509th said in his memoirs, "I was a participant in these historic missions. I was the commander and pilot of the Necessary Evil, the number two plane carrying scientific and photographic equipment on the first mission, a B-29 Superfortress observation post. It was a long way from a peaceful college classroom in Illinois to this extraordinary vantage point and witness the end of World War II.

"There were 24 youngsters in my Golconda, Ill. high school graduating class. I attended college in Bloomington, Ill., where I won basketball and baseball scholarships. I attended college for three and a half years. During the last semester of my senior year, in 1941, I decided to join the Army Air Corps. I had my pilots license and signed a contract with the Air Corps. That would earn me $500 for every year that I stayed In the Air Corps.

"As a cadet in the Army Air Corps I was trained in Tulsa, Okla. for six months in 1941, I received advanced training in San Antonio, Texas. I trained initially to fly bombers and was assigned to a three-man crew. Every pilot that was available was used in World War II. After my training, I found I was assigned to the 509th Composite Group under the command of Col. Paul Tibbetts. We were all given a 10 day leave and were told to be ready to go to work when we returned.

"Upon our return to the 509th we were given additional training in ballistics using dummy bombs called pumpkins. This was in preparation for the atomic bombs, which were eventually used. Most of our ballistic testing was conducted in a range at the Salton Sea, Calif. area. This was to help us aim the bombs accurately. At the same time, a long series of tests were being conducted at Los Alamos, N.M. These tests were to determine the best procedures for dropping the bomb. The tests were also concerned with aircraft safety such as the shock pressure the lead aircraft could safely withstand. Tests were made to determine how to get the greatest distance away from the blast in the least amount of time. Special shock bracing for the crew was added to the plane.

"Throughout the fall and winter of 1944 and 45, the delivery group carried out tests near Los Alamos, N.M. and South of Tinian, Marianas Islands. Tinian is next door to Saipan in the Marianas Islands. I'm sure you have heard of Saipan. There were some battles for Saipan.

"I had dropped many belly bombs over the Salton Sea. But one day I was given the assignment to drop 10,000 pound bombs. We were assigned to make our own ballistics tests of how to drop 10,000 pound bombs. The Air Force had no tests for dropping bombs. I piloted the plane. The bombardier had gone to the hospital and a check pilot was going to be the bombardier. We took off over Southern California and dropped a 10,000 pound bomb over the Salton Sea. Everything went off all right. On the return the green light was on. After requesting landing information the control tower informed us the number two engine was on fire. We made a tight turn hoping number two engine would not blow up. I was praying to myself, the number two engine would not blow or fall off. We successfully landed and told everyone to get ready to get out. There is a hole directly behind the pilot seat for an exit. The plane was still rolling down the runway when we got off. The plane on fire proceeded down the runway some sustained minor injuries. After the plane stopped a large crowd gathered. I told the Colonel I am sorry I burned up one of your airplanes. He replied, 'I'm glad you're safe. Don't worry about the plane we have more.' These planes were specifically designed to deliver the atomic bomb.

"The Army Air Force, lower echelons requested replacement of the planes we were using, to satisfy the Manhattan project, which was the codename for the secret atomic bomb project. The response from headquarters was, the 509th could have as many planes as they wanted.

"In December 1944, we went to Cuba for special navigation training. Finally, in the spring of 1945 specially modified B-29s were delivered. After the initial check flights, bombing ballistic tests were made.

"In May of 1945 I received orders to go to the island of Tinian in the Marianas Islands. Knowing that I would be leaving soon Bernice and I were married May 31, 1945," according to the history.

Stephen Marquardt said, "Bernice is my mother. My father came to Salt Lake City. my mother was the secretary and general manager at the New House Hotel and my father had her type a letter for him. They courted for some time. When my dad was getting ready to go overseas my mother basically gave him an ultimatum, either you marry me before you leave, or I won't be here when you get back. So they got married."

Back to the history, "We spent a couple of days in Salt Lake and then went to our base at Wendover, Utah for my departure. I could not tell her anything about our mission. I hoped that I would return home quickly. Our plane left Wendover on June 6, 1945. Col. Tibbets wrote about this mission in his book the Enola Gay. I knew Paul Tibbets, very well. He was the perfect man for the job. Absolutely a great commander. To this day if he asked you to do something you would do it without question.

"Adm. Chester W. Nimitz arranged for assistance from the Navy to rescue us in case we had to ditch. The Navy had several flying boats in readiness on nearby islands.

"We had to drop four or five bomb loads filled with TNT over Japan before our special raid. The special raid was the dropping of the atomic bomb. On the third run my bombardier took over the run, but the bomb didn't release from the shackles. On the second run, it still did not release. I got upset and chewed him out. I told him that if the bomb didn't release this time, he would have to get into the bomb bay and release the bomb himself. He got my message and the third run was successful.

"We made several training runs on islands held by the Japanese in the Pacific and on the Japanese homeland. We were still testing ballistic designed bombs like the atom bomb and getting familiar with the long over water flight.

"Early Sunday morning. Aug. 5, 1945, Saturday Aug. 4, in the United States, word came that the weather would be favorable for takeoff the next morning. Preparations were speeded up for immediate loading. Capt. William Parsons, a Navy ordnance expert was completely responsible for the technical control of the bomb and to the success for its use. This worried him, the night before he had seen four B-29s crash and burn at the end of the runway. He said to Gen. Thomas Farrell 'if we crack up at the end of the runway tomorrow morning and the plane gets on fire there is a danger of an atomic explosionand we would lose this end of the island, if not the whole of Tinian with every blessed thing and person on it.' Gen. Farrell said 'we will just have to make sure that doesn't happen.' Well said Parsons, I will just have to arm the bomb after we take off. That is what Parsons did.

"Gen. Gross called a meeting of all Air Force commanders and their squadron. Then Col. Tibbets called each of us into a room where he asked each of us what do you know about the bomb. After the meeting we were shown the bomb training site in New Mexico. That occurred on July 16.

"We had a briefing the night before the bomb drop. We took off at about 2:30 a.m. from the north runway on Tinian. I joined up with Col. Tibbets, about 45 minutes after takeoff. Col. Tibbets flying the Enola Gay had the bomb called little boy," according to the history.

Stephen Marquardt showed on a map the route taken by the planes from Tinian to Japan.

History continuted, "There was a backup up plane in case something happened to the Enola Gay, we would stop at Iwo Jima and transfer the bomb to the backup plane. Maj. Charles Sweeney flew the number two plane 'The Great Artiste', flew on the right of Col. Tibbets plane. Maj. Sweeney's plane had instruments that would drop when the bomb was dropped.These instruments were to measure the heat of the blast. Sweeny and I found out later that none of those instruments survived the blast.

"Myself, George W. Marquardt was flying, number three plane 'The Necessary Evil.' We were carrying a scientist and photographic equipment. He told us you boys are making history today. Then he showed us his hand that had been burned by radiation. Capt. Parsons was in the bomb-bay arming the bomb when we started to climb to 30,000 feet our cruising altitude, in preparation to drop the bomb. The bomb was set to detonate at 1,800 feet after it was released.

"As we approached Hiroshima, the Major flying the B-29 that was 45 minutes ahead of us reported the weather was clear over Hiroshima. This was necessary because the bombs had to be dropped visually. When we flew over Hiroshima, the Japanese were alerted to take cover in the air raid shelters. When we came over 45 minutes later the Japanese were not alerted and they came out of their shelters. That is why so many of them were killed. The person assigned to my plane as an observer was supposed to take photographs with a movie camera and failed to get a usable photograph of the blast. He had forgotten to open the shutter. There are very limited pictures of the blast over Hiroshima from an amateur camera.

"We proceeded to the initial point where I initiated a 360 degree turn and Sweeney remained in formation with Tibbetts. There was a tone on the radio that stopped when the bomb was released from the Enola Gay. It took approximately 40 seconds for the bomb to reach 1,800 feet where it detonated.

"After the bomb was dropped Sweeney and Tibbets flying away in formation, the only two people that could see Hiroshima from those planes were the tail gunners. My navigator also had a camera and took pictures. We had been cautioned not to take personal cameras on this mission, his picture is famous.

"We in the Necessary Evil had a front row seat, I was in the pilot seat.

"When the bomb detonated there was a brilliant flash, which was partially obscured by the special goggles we had been given for the mission. When I saw the flash, I had to take the goggles off, because I couldn't see my copilot Jim Anderson. It seemed as if the sun had come out of the earth and exploded, smoke boiled around the pillar as it rose. The thin layer of clouds at about 4,000 feet below us rippled like water when a stone is thrown into it. You could see this for miles. The shockwave lashed each plane and it sounded as if a monster hand had slapped the side of the plane. I circled around three times and began my journey back to Tinian. Gen. Farrell radioed that the tests had been successful, conditions normal proceed to Tinian this message was monitored by my radioman.

"Showing him the respect he deserved Sweeney and I throttled back so that Col. Tibbets could arrive back at Tinian alone. On Aug. 9, 1945 a second bomb was dropped over Nagasaki, instead of the principal target Kokura. Sweeney piloted The Bockscar for this mission. I had reported the target was clear, but by the time Sweeney got there clouds had formed and Sweeney diverted to Nagasaki the secondary target. At the moment the bomb was dropped over Nagasaki I was landing on Iwo Jima," said the history.

Stephen said, "My father was flying the Enola Gay over Nagasaki. He did aerial reconnaissance for the Nagasaki mission. George W. Marquardt was actually the last pilot to fly the Enola Gay in World War II in combat."

George W. said after the bombing of Nagasaki, we were sure the war would end soon. With a show of force and maximum effort all planes, that could fly were ordered into the air, Aug. 14, the day the Japanese surrendered.

"I still have no misgivings about my participation in the dropping of the A - bomb. Though it saddens me about the loss of lives," said George's history.

In the face of longstanding controversy, George Marquardt remained steadfast in defending Pres. Harry S. Truman's decision to use the bomb.

"I have never for one moment regretted my participation in the dropping of the A-bomb,'' he told The Salt Lake Tribune in 1995. "It ended a terrible war.''

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