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Warren L. Coble « North Carolina's WWII ExperienceNorth Carolina's WWII Experience

Warren L. Coble

Hometown: Oakboro, NC
Branch of Service:
Army Air Forces, 393rd Bomb Squadron, 509th Composite Group
Location of Service:
Europe & Pacific

Sgt. Warren L. Coble, a native of Oakboro, NC was a B-29 radio operator during WW II in the 393rd Bomb Squadron in the 509th Composite Group navigator in WW II. He flew many missions over Germany, but late in the war he was selected for a very secret mission over Japan. I recall Uncle Warren twice telling the story of his training on Tinian Island in the Pacific Ocean. On August 6, 1945, with Warren serving as radio operator for his crew flew on the B-29 No. 91, the “Necessary Evil” to accompany the Enola Gay over Hiroshima. His plane served as the photography plane for the mission that dropped the first atom bomb and one that resulted in an estimated loss of 200,000 lives. On August 9, Warren also flew in the B-29 named “Up an’ Atom” on the Nagasaki mission. They served as the advance weather plane for the bomb drop over the primary target, Kokura, Japan. Kokura, however, was covered with clouds, so the secondary target, Nagasaki, became the site for the second atom bomb and a loss of another 70,000 lives.

Forty years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as Professor of Science Education at East Carolina University, I had the opportunity to visit the International Peace Park in Hiroshima numerous times. It was always a very moving experience. It was only after several years of work with our Japanese colleagues, Dr. Ebatani and his former student Dr. Takemura, did we ever talk about “the bomb.” Ebatani was on a field trip over the mountains from the delta city of Hiroshima (which means seven rivers) on the morning the bomb exploded over the Exposition Hall in the center of the city, killing 100,000 people. Takemura was a child living with his grandparents outside of the city. Their descriptions of life in Japan during the war– before and after the bomb–is wrenching. Takemura’s grandparents starved for lack of food. My “take-away” from the stories I heard from Uncle Warren and from Ebatani and Takemura–and from my visits to the Peace Park–is that all world leaders should be required to visit Hiroshima (Pearl Harbor and Auschwitz) before they assume power.

I never talked to my Uncle Warren about my trips to Hiroshima and the one trip I made to Nagasaki. I knew from my childhood that Warren felt the missions were necessary to avoid a land invasion of Japan and all of the dire predictions of that possibility. I also know he was very conflicted about the high death rate inflicted by the bombs and his role in unleashing this new threat on the world. He lived until January 1, 2005, but as a victim of Alzheimer’s disease, he lived his last 15 years of his long life oblivious to any memory or regret. May he rest in peace and with the grateful appreciation of his family and our state and nation.

Sgt. Warren Coble’s flight gear is on display in the Carolinas Aviation Museum in Charlotte, NC.

Charles R. Coble
Chapel Hill, NC