Robert S. Norris: By the late 30s, physicists, in Europe primarily, but some in America too, were making great discoveries about the atom. The key date here was January 1939, when European scientists had discovered fission. News of that was brought to the United States by Niels Bohr. Actually, it was brought to Washington, DC, at a conference at George Washington University.
Hiroshima & Nagasaki Missions
Victor Kumin was a young scientist when he was drafted to the U.S. Army in 1944. In September of that year, he was transferred to Los Alamos. Here he was part of the Special Engineer Detachment (SED).
Cindy Kelly: I’m Cindy Kelly. I am in Riverside, California. It is Tuesday, February 21, 2017. I have with me Nancy Nelson. I’d like her to say her name and spell it.
Nancy Nelson: My name is Nancy Nelson, N-A-N-C-Y N-E-L-S-O-N.
Kelly: Tell me a little bit about yourself, so we can put this in context.
Nancy K. Nelson is the widow of Richard H. Nelson, who was the VHF radio operator when on the Enola Gay on the Hiroshima atomic bombing mission. In this interview, Nelson discusses how she met her husband after the war. She describes his experience training to be radar operator and in the 509th Composite Group. She recalls how he and other members of the missions felt about the atomic bombings.
Alexandra Levy: We are here on December 27th, 2016, in Florida, with Russell Gackenbach. My first question for you is to please say your name and spell it.
Russell Gackenbach: My name is Russell E. Gackenbach. G-A-C-K-E-N-B-A-C-H.
Levy: Please tell us your place and date of birth.
Gackenbach: I was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, March 1923, on March 23.
Russell E. Gackenbach was a navigator in the 393rd Bombardment Squadron and 509th composite group. He flew on both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki missions. His crew flew aboard the Necessary Evil, which was the camera plane for the Hiroshima mission. Gackenbach photographed the mushroom cloud over Hiroshima. His crew flew again during the Nagasaki mission as the weather reconnaissance plane for the city of Kokura.
Alexandra Levy: This is Alexandra Levy of the Atomic Heritage Foundation here in New Jersey on June 13, 2016, with Joseph Papalia. My first question is to please say your name and spell it.
Joseph Papalia: Joseph Papalia, P-A-P-A-L-I-A.
Levy: Can you tell us where and when you were born?
Papalia: I was born August 20, 1936, in East Meadow, New York.
Levy: Can you tell us briefly about your life and career, and how you became involved in the 509th Composite Group?
Alexandra Levy: We are here on June 13th in New Jersey with Jack Widowsky. This is Alex Levy with the Atomic Heritage Foundation. My first question for you, Jack, is to please say your name and to spell it.
Jack Widowsky: My name is Jack Widowsky. J-A-C-K, which is easy, but the last name is W-I-D-O-W-S-K-Y.
Levy: Can you please tell me where you were born and when?
Widowsky: I was born in Newark, New Jersey, on September 10, 1922.
Japan was one of the Axis powers in World War II. Its attack on Pearl Harbor, HI, on December 7, 1941 brought the US formally into the war. Japan also attacked British, Dutch, and American possessions in the Southwest Pacific around the same time.
Cindy Kelly: I’m Cindy Kelly. It’s Monday, March 14, 2016. We’re in Washington, D. C., and I have with me the author J. Samuel Walker. My first question to him is to tell me his name and to spell it.
Sam Walker: Well, my name is first initial J. Samuel Walker, so it’s J. S-a-m-u-e-l W-a-l-k-e-r. But, I go by Sam, S-a-m.