Taped recordings and transcripts of interviews with the pilot and crew of the Enola Gay have been donated to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, 40 years after they were apparently lost and 73 years after the aircraft dropped the first atomic bomb used in warfare on the city.
The 27 tapes cover 30 hours of interviews and are accompanied by 570 pages of typed transcripts that were collected by Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan-Witts before the publication of their book, “Enola Gay: Mission to Hiroshima”, in 1977. Officials of the museum told the Mainichi newspaper that it had been feared that the recordings had been subsequently lost.
They added that the recordings and documents are historically important to the overall story of the attack on Hiroshima because they reveal what was happening inside the aircraft during the mission as well as the feelings of the crew.
The transcript records Paul Tibbets, the pilot of the B-29 Superfortress, stating that the mission was shrouded in secrecy and that the crew had been issued with handguns and cyanide tablets in case they were shot down.
Mr Tibbets also said he had a taste like lead in his mouth the instant the bomb detonated above the city and a “big relief”.
“I got the brilliance. I tasted it. Yeah, I could taste it. It tasted like lead”, Mr Tibbets said. “And this was because of the fillings in my teeth. So that’s radiation, see. So I got this lead taste in my mouth and that was a big relief – I knew she had blown”.
Mr Tibbets put the Enola Gay into an evasive turn immediately after the bomb detonated, but the crew could feel the shockwave of the blast.
“If you can imagine yourself inside a tin building and somebody comes along on the outside and hits it with a hammer, you get the sound effect”, he said, adding that he could also see the mushroom cloud expanding over the city through his screen.
The recordings include comments by Thomas Ferebee, the bombardier who released the atomic bomb, and three other crew members.
The recordings were found in 2017 among the effects of a Japanese person, who has not been named, and were donated to the museum by his family.
On Friday, a minute’s silence was marked at 8:15am – the moment the bomb detonated above what is today Hiroshima’s Peace Park – in memory of those killed in the attack. An estimated 100,000 people died in the initial blast or subsequently of radiation poisoning. A second attack was conducted three days later against the city of Nagasaki, killing around 80,000 people, before Japan surrendered and ended World War II.
Kazumi Matsui, the mayor of Hiroshima, used his address at the memorial event to underline the horror of the first nuclear attack and call for more efforts to rid the world of atomic weapons.
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