Japan

[National Archives and Records Administration]

By the summer of 1945, it appeared the Allies were going to have to invade Japan. But on a small Pacific island of Tinian, in the Northern Marianas, the crew of a B-29 bomber named the Enola Gay was working on a secret mission – something that had never been done before. The lead bombardier was a North Carolinian: Thomas Ferebee, Bill Ferebee’s brother, from Mocksville. Ferebee had already flown 63 combat missions in Europe. His commander then, as now, was Colonel Paul Tibbets who had requested Ferebee for this all-important mission in the Pacific. This time, the cargo was different. On August 6th, 1945, Thomas Ferebee opened the bomb bay doors and dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later, after the Japanese refused to give up and another bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, they surrendered. Soldiers everywhere celebrated and back home, people in every town and city of North Carolina did the same – ringing church bells, crowding in the streets, singing, dancing. Everyone was jubilant – crazy. World War II was over.

On the tiny Pacific island of Tinian – in the Northern Marianas – a B-29 bomber named the Enola Gay was being fitted with a top-secret weapon. Colonel Paul Tibbets commanded the mission and Bill Ferebee (pictured)’s older brother, Major Thomas Ferebee of Mocksville, was the lead bombardier. Tibbets and Ferebee had flown together on B-17 missions earlier in the war. “Tibbets said he was the bravest man he had ever seen in combat. He was Tibbets’ lead bombardier. He had 63 combat missions in Europe and North Africa before Tibbets brought him back to train to drop the atomic bomb.” In the early morning hours of August 6, 1945, the Enola Gay took off from Tinian. At approximately 8:15 am, Thomas Ferebee opened the bomb bay doors and dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. Despite warnings of utter destruction, the Japanese refused to concede. Three days later, another B-29 dropped a second bomb on Nagasaki.

Videos

In this excerpt, we see the Enola Gay crew loading the atomic bomb and taking off for Japan. Travel inside the plane as it drops the bomb and see an aerial view of the aftermath.