How to Drop an Atom Bomb

Saturday Evening Post, June 8, 1946

Saturday Evening Post, June 8, 1946

On June 8, 1946, the Saturday Evening Post published an article by Col. Paul W. Tibbetts, Jr., the pilot of the Enola Gay who dropped “Little Boy” on Hiroshima, as told to Wesley Price, a Post stringer who wrote about aviation.

The feature story follows Col. Tibbetts from the formation of the 509th Composite Group, to practicing extreme maneuvers over the Utah desert out of Wendover (now Historic Wendover Airfield), to Tinian, and to dropping the bomb.

The captivating article provides insight into the 509th from a fresh, first-hand perspective less than a year after the bombing. Further, the secrecy of the mission is repeatedly emphasized, including a poem by an exasperated clerk at the base operations who was frustrated by the lack of information:

Into the air the secret rose,
Where they’re going nobody knows;
Tomorrow they’ll return again,
But we’ll never know where they’ve been.
Don’t ask about results or such,
Unless you want to get in Dutch;
But take it from one who is sure of the score,
The 509th is winning the war.

When the other Groups are ready to go,
We have a program of the whole damned show;
And when Halsey’s Fifth shells Nippon’s shore,
Why, shucks, we hear about it the day before;
And MacArthur and Doolittle give it out in advance.
But with this new bunch we haven’t a chance.
We should have been home a month or more,
For the 509th is winning the war.

Tibbetts reflects on how he felt about dropping the bomb, saying, “We’re all living in the Atomic Age together, and the atom bomb was made and dropped for the people of the United States.”

Source:  Tibbetts Jr., P. W., & Price, W. (1946). How to Drop an Atom Bomb. Saturday Evening Post, 218(49), 18-136.