The log charts the steady progress of the Enola Gay (named for the pilot Colonel Paul Tibbets’ mother, Enola Gay Tibbets) noting positions and other details every 10 minutes or so, from its take-off from the base on Tinian Island at 2:45 am (Tinian local time), to its return to base at 2:58 pm that same day, recording the fateful moment at 15 seconds past 08:15am when it dropped "Little Boy” on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, resulting in the death of 71,000, and injuring another 68,000. Detonated only 43 seconds after having been dropped at 1,890 feet, it effectively destroyed the city. Three days later, a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki – the Enola Gay serving once again, this time as the weather reconnaissance aircraft. A week later, Japan surrendered, and World War II came to an end.
The log begins at 0245 at Tinian, and notes "N Tip Siapan" (sic) as the first position in the log, at 0255½. At 0435, one hour and forty minutes later, Van Kirk notes that the compass was reset, and at 0515, notes that he altered the true course slightly from 335° to 334°. After flying over Iwo [Jima] at 0555, he notes the bomber as “circling left” before passing over Iwo [Jima] again at 0602½ following a second resetting of the compass, and then a third reset at 0740. At 0830, Van Kirk notes that the IFF system (Identification, Friend or Foe) was shut off, and as they approached the target at 0912, he notes “Large T ships in Harber (sic) at Mishima”. At 0915½ (30 seconds past 8:15am Hiroshima local time) in the position field Van Kirk notes the action that would end the war and change the world forever, “Bomb Away”, further writing in the remarks field “Circle E of Target.” By 0931 they were flying over Mishima, and just past 29° 43’ E 137° 03’ E, a little over an hour and a half later, Van Kirk notes “10:52 – Cloud Gone”. By 1219 they were flying back over Iwo Jima, and at 1458, they arrived safely back at base on Tinian Island, 12 hours and 13 minutes later.
Decades after the historical flight took place, Captain Van Kirk recalled that "Our takeoff time was 2:45 A.M... The purpose of the log, was to record flight data used by the navigator to keep the airplane on course and on time, and, also, to allow the navigator to determine aircraft location in a short time in the event of problems with the plane or bomb... the line of small uninhabited volcanic islands between Tinian and Iwo Jima permitted good course control via radar. During darkness, until about 4:45 A.M., celestial sightings on the star Polaris gave latitude readings and therefore good speed lines on the course we were flying. During daylight, between Iwo Jima and Japan, good weather permitted accurate drift readings and from them accurate wind calculations. Also, visibility was outstanding allowing visual sightings of the Japanese coast line about 75 miles away at our high altitude" (In an audio interview recorded ca. 2007).
In 1945, the 509th Composite group, which was formed by the US Air Force and trained in secret, deployed to Tinian with 15 B-29 bombers, along with the Enola Gay and 1700 men including ground and flight crews. Amongst them was the 12-man crew of the Enola Gay; the navigator, Captain Theodore Van Kirk; Colonel Paul W. Tibbets Jr., aircraft commander and pilot; Captain Robert A. Lewis, co-pilot; Major Thomas Ferebee, bombardier; Captain William S, Parsons, weaponeer and mission commander; 1st Lieutenant Jacob Beser, radar countermeasures; Sergeant Joe S. Stiborik, radar operator; 2nd Lieutenant Morris R. Jeppson, assistant weaponeer; Sergeant Robert H. Shumard, assistant flight engineer; Private 1st Class Richard H. Nelson, VHF radion operator; and Technical Sergeant George R. “Bob” Caron, tail gunner. Theodore “Dutch” Van Kirk was the last surviving member of the crew, and died in 2014 at the age of 93.
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