THE SAGA OF THE SUPERFORTRESS
(HIROSHIMA & NAGASAKI)
(From The Poet's Salute To Valor)
The year was 1944 and the war in Europe was being won.
But across the world in the Great Pacific thousands were slaughtered by the Rising Sun.
The "island hopping" had been expensive, in the air, at sea and the island atolls.
From Pearl Harbor to Guadalcanal-----, to Okinawa ---, the angels wept while inscribing the "rolls".
Iwo Jima had been secured by the gallant Marines according to plan.
Now wounded bombers would have a haven returning from strikes on mainland Japan.
Okinawa was "neutralized"---, in American hands--, the last major bastion off Japanese shores,
The home islands were the final "objective", and THAT would mean the end of the war !
The B-29 had "come on line", "The Superfortress", a Great Silver Queen.
She'd JOIN THE BATTLE so gallantly waged ---, by the Army --, the Navy --, Coast Guard-----, Merchant Sea men ---, and
She flew the strikes then "bandaged her wounds" if she was lucky, returned and survived.
But too many times her gallant crew men were blown to bits or burned alive.
A Superfortress "over gross" with bombs and fuel, the runway short,
Was often times a funeral pyre, no second chance and no abort.
Burning fuel, exploding bombs, a Hellish death for plane and crew.
But the Superfort kept coming back, she'd do the job she'd come to do!
Fragmentation bombing raids were wreaking HELL on the tyrants lair.
And then the fire bomb missions came, it seemed like flames were everywhere.
Though victory seemed to be in sight, the enemy's cities were all "aglow",
But still the tyrant refused to quit, and IF he'd quit no one could know.
Suicide missions and kamikazes at Okinawa had taught us well,
That fanatical minds of the Rising Sun would "take their nation AND people to Hell.
Missions continued, more Japanese died, "sacrificial lambs" of tyrannical rule.
Prolonging the war would kill even more----, an all out invasion even more cruel.
Then the latter part of '45, with a nuclear bomb in American hands.
Perhaps NOW we’d "talk in a language" that the militant radicals could well "understand"!
The "Manhattan Project" had developed the bomb, a secret Paul Tibbets had quietly borne.
If it succeeded the war would be shortened, there'd be fewer casualties to lose, bury and mourn.
The decision was made not out of malice but a flickering hope that lives could be saved,
And fewer Allied AND Japanese victims would be "ending the war" with a stone on their grave.
Paul Tibbets had proven his honor and valor from the first bombing mission over Occupied France,
To the secret he'd borne on the nuclear bomb through a "mine-field" of spies and espionage "plants".
Thus Tibbets was put in command of the mission, his superiors were confident, justifiably so,
The "buck had stopped" at the President's desk, Truman had signed,--, the mission was "GO"!
The Enola Gay was waiting on Tinian, Bob Lewis and crew had delivered her there,
They'd fly with Tibbets this historic mission ---, this trip into history, a ride they would share.
In San Francisco, a heavy cruiser ---, with top secret cargo---, had departed her dock.
In a head long dash for Tinian Island, the Indianapolis was racing the clock.
Then dropping components of the bomb at Tinian she sailed on her way thus sealing her fate.
Somewhere between Guam and the Philippine islands she was sunk by a sub, the I.58.
The bomb was assembled and loaded on board, the crew took their posts for the mission they'd fly.
Each one aware of the length of the runway, the overweight bomber and how they might die.
Tibbets checked his coveralls pocket, the small metal box, 12 cyanide pills.
"Torture Insurance" in case of a "shoot down" and enemy capture in the paddy's or hills.
One for each of the crewmen aboard, a precaution "revisionists" could not understand,
But they've never seen the "final results" of a P. O. W. in Japanese hands!
One by one the engines were started, Enola Gay trembled and strained at her brakes.
With the weight of command Paul Tibbets was bearing, the thought ever pre- sent, "no room for mistakes".
If "rotation speed" wasn't achieved the FINAL result was a horrible thought.
A mushroom cloud might engulf Tinian, an inferno of death and extinction their lot.
Bob Lewis fingered the microphone switch, then taxi instructions crackled the "phones",
"Cleared to taxi---, take off runway Able", ---- the tower instructed ----, as Enola Gay's engines throbbed to a drone.
Poised on the runway where her mission would start, flight controls free on the Great Silver Queen,
The propeller controls and magnetos checked, oil and fuel pressure all in "the green",
Bob Lewis then radioed for take off clearance, Enola Gay thundered and started her roll,
Slowly ---, ponderously ---, she struggled for speed, for elevator, rudder and aileron control.
The thundering Superfort at maximum power with the deadly "top secret" bomb in her bay,
Was en-route to deliver a stern ultimatum to the Japanese war lords this historic day.
Under maximum power the "Magnificent Bird" was "reaching for sky" the Superfort's realm.
The end of the runway was looming ahead, their lives all "hung" on the man at "the helm".
A precipitous drop off at the end of the runway ---. "a fiery death or crushed on the rocks".
Would they survive to finish their mission ----, or would they go home in a flag covered "box" ?
Tibbets aware of the weight of the bomber delayed lift off till the brink came in view,
Then easing gently back on the yoke, Enola Gay shuddered-, struggled-, then flew!
Clawing for altitude the over gross bomber would write a new saga in history today.
"The beginning of the end of World War II" was hanging by shackles poised in her bay.
The primary strike of the "knock out punch" soon would be thrown at the "enemy's jaw".
PROVIDING it worked according to theory and didn't fall victim to "Murphy's Law".
Lifting off the runway behind them, "No. 91" and "The Great Artiste".
They'd fly the mission with Tibbets to target, recording results when the bomb was "released".
Major Charles Sweeney in the "Great Artiste", Major George Marquardt was in "91".
They too would "grace" the pages of history at the end of the day when the mission was done.
"Top Secret" would wait "standby" at Iwo, vigilant and ready, awaiting the call,
If something went wrong "her suit case was packed", in case of abort she'd "carry the ball",
And three weather planes were an hour ahead, en-route to the "Land of The Rising Sun".
Which would "finger" the target for Tibbets, would it be Hiroshima the Primary one ?
Straight Flush" would report Hiroshima conditions, "Jabbit III" would radio Kokura's report,
"Full House" would circle above Nagasaki, for one of the targets their time was now short".
The Enola Gay headed for Iwo, on through the night the great bomber flew,
She'd rendezvous there with "91", and Sweeney in the "Artiste" too.
Over Iwo the bombers assembled, then headed for "target", the atmosphere calm.
Soon Jeppson would climb down to the bay, inserting the "plugs" and arming the bomb.
The three Superforts now en-route to the "target", climbing to altitude, six miles above earth,
This day they'd take the Pacific War "home", back to the nation which "gave it it's birth"!
Then from enemy skies above Hiroshima, Claude Eatherly's coded message was clear,
"Cloud cover less than three tenths" ----, "Bomb primary"----, Hiroshima, Japan would soon disappear.
As Enola Gay flew above Hiroshima, Tom Ferebee at his bombardier's post.
Like Tibbets a veteran of dozens of missions, both were professionals too noble to boast.
The initial point came, the plane was on course, Ferebee directing her path to release,
Would "Little Boy" work according to plan -, and if it performed would it expedite peace?
In the city below nobody could know of the awesome destruction that soon would descend.
But this day some minds would ponder surrender, the "toll was too high, some how it must end"!
In the final seconds before the release Ferebee was cool, intent on the drop.
If everything went according to plan there was going to be one Hell of a "Pop"!
The aiming point came, he toggled the switch, Paul Tibbets then wrenched the plane to a turn,
Diving and turning away from the target, in a matter of seconds Hiroshima would burn.
Donning dark glasses to shield from the glare the crew kept a vigil for the "Hell soon to be",
As Enola Gay sped away from the target they watched and they wondered at what they would see.
In the Great Artiste, Sweeney like Tibbets was wrenching the plane in a steep diving turn.
Would "Little Boy" blow as experts had promised" ? in only mere seconds he knew they would learn.
Then the timing device triggered the bomb, in a microsecond Hiroshima was "done"",
As a mushroom cloud arose in the sky with the blinding brilliance of a thousand suns.
A shock wave radiated out from the blast -, like a "spirit" ---, yet visible to tail gunner George Caron's eye.
It struck the bomber like the fist of a giant, Enola Gay lurched and bucked in the sky.
One more shock wave struck at the bomber, radiating out from the blast of the bomb,
Then the skies around the Great Silver Bird were quiet again, peaceful and calm.
Then Tibbets circled the raging inferno observing the Hell in the cauldron below,
And watching the mushroom soar in the sky, like a great giant "flower" it continued to grow.
Then Tibbets set course for Tinian Island as the mushroom cloud continued to boil.
The mission successful, a "strategic surprise" for the "game" had been played "according to Hoyle".
Tibbets then turned the bombers controls over to Lewis in the co-pilot's seat.
As they headed for Tinian, a well deserved rest, their mission accomplished, their job was complete.
The Tinian landing was "anti-climatic", the Great Silver Bird was back in her "nest".
There General Spaatz pinned the D. S. C.,--, a well deserved medal---, on Paul Tibbets chest.
Decorated too were the rest of the crew, the D. F. C. a coveted reward,
For mission completed and "scoring a bull's eye" with the "Little Boy" bomb they'd carried aboard.
Still "Rising Sun" radicals refused to surrender, they'd "fight to the death, to the very last man".
So America had no other alternative, a second strike scheduled according to plan.
"Bock's Car" would throw the second strike punch, with Major Charles Sweeney commanding the raid.
Sweeney and crew would "retrace" the steps that Tibbets AND Sweeney had already made.
The mission appeared "jinxed" from the start with unusable fuel --, and one escort short,
Sweeney elected to finish the mission, they were committed, they wouldn't abort.
Captain Fred Bock in "The Great Artiste" had assembled with Sweeney for the 2nd drop mission.
They waited in vain for "Full House" to arrive as they pondered "which target" –, and weather conditions .
Major James Hopkins piloting "Full House" couldn't make contact due to the clouds.
Radio silence was now in effect, NO communications or talking allowed.
"Bock's Car" and crew and "The Great Artiste" proceeded to target, they couldn't delay.
Hopkins no doubt would envision their move and soon "Full House" would be on her way.
Over Kokura the primary target, the weather report turned into bad news.
Clouds and smoke obscured visibility, as "Fat Man" waited, ready and "fused".
Yet "Bock's Car" made three runs over "target", a visual drop just couldn't be scored.
Could they bomb Nagasaki then make it back "home", their shortage of fuel could not be ignored.
As "Bock's Car" thundered through enemy skies, Nagasaki was looming some where up ahead.
Major Charles Sweeney pondered the variables,--- could they make the drop --, must they "scratch it" instead?
Still flying along and "shadowing" "Bock's Car" –, Captain Fred Bock in "The Great Artiste".
She was still laden with monitoring instruments –, she'd record the results of the plutonium "beast".
Sweeney decided the "bomb had to go", Nagasaki awaited and still unaware.
When "Bock's Car" arrived over the city, cloud cover again was awaiting them there.
Bombardier Beahan then spotted a hole, a one shot chance to "finish the play",
"I'll take it" he said-----, he crossed the hairs ---, toggled the switch --, and "Fat Man" tumbled out of the bay.
Like Tibbets before him Sweeney reacted, wrenching the bomber in a steep diving turn,
Soon Nagasaki just like Hiroshima would erupt in a mushroom, the city would burn.
The shock waves struck just as before, "Bock's Car" lurched and bucked in the sky.
Meanwhile --, six hundred gallons of UNUSABLE fuel had shortened the range the bomber could fly.
Tinian Island was now out of range, Okinawa isle it was destined to be.
Unless of course they exhausted their fuel, the haunting thought a ditching at sea".
Sweeney leaned mixture for maximum range, "Bock's Car" plodded along in the air.
If they could make Okinawa and land-----, "another saga of a "wing and a prayer".
The needles were showing fuel tanks were empty as Okinawa appeared just off the nose.
Sweeney poised himself for the landing -, from his fingers caressing the throttles and wheel------, to rudder and brake
pedals at the tip of his toes.
Only one chance it HAD to be good, not enough fuel to do an "abort".
Coming in "hot" for a margin of safety, was a risk in itself, the runway was short.
But coming in slow then power plant failure, the bomber would falter, go into a stall.
And drop like a stone out of the sky, to the island or sea and killing them all.
Then the end of the runway flashed underneath, as the Great Silver Bird soared through the air.
Retarding the throttles and easing the yoke, Major Charles Sweeney then started his flare.
But coming in hot "Bock's Car" wouldn't settle, the end of the runway was coming in view.
Had "Bock's Car" completed her historic mission only to die with Sweeney and crew?
Eventually "Bock's Car" started to settle, as forward speed and lift was reduced,
As last the wheels touched on the runway, the Great Silver Bird was attempting to "roost".
But the runway ahead now was too short for the landing roll that a Superfort takes.
The bomber weaved and Sweeney corrected, then lined on the runway he STOOD on the brakes!
With the end of the runway just off of the nose, smoke billowed from tires that threatened to burn
Sweeney then made a critical decision, yanking the bomber in a gut wrenching turn.
One idling engine conked to a stop, centrifugal force had starved it of fuel.
Smoke was billowing in clouds from the tires, would they catch fire before they could cool?
At last the bomber rolled to a stop, the LAST half of the runway is always too short.
While "Bock's Car" was being serviced and fueled, Sweeney and Ashworth filed their report.
In spite of bad weather ----, unusable fuel ---, an alternate target --, and that "battle front phantom" we call "Murphy's
"Bock's Car" had thrown the second strike punch and made it home safely, the "luck of the draw".
JUST SEVEN GALLONS OF USABLE FUEL were left in her tanks when she rolled to a stop.
Hardly enough to re-start an engine, register oil pressure and "cycle" a prop.
With "Bock's Car" refueled and ready to go, soon she was heading for her Tinian base.
Her crew was exhausted from the stress of the mission, and "the tired" was etched in everyone's face.
Landing at Tinian the last leg of the mission, soon they'd enjoy a well deserved rest.
There Sweeney was decorated for commanding the mission, the D. S. C. was pinned on his chest.
Each crewman received the D. F. C., a token of valor for the role they had played,
And the risks that they had willingly taken –, along with Chuck Sweeney in flying the raid.
A few days later the enemy surrendered, the carnage had ended, they lay down their arms,
And those who'd survived the blood bath of war could return to their families, their jobs and their farms.
The two Superforts returned to the states, "Bock's Car" is enshrined in a museum intact,
But Enola Gay was soon disassembled by political apologists who "bemoan" the attacks.
They're either naive or have an "agenda", who STARTED the war then slaughtered and plundered ---,
Raining destruction and death from the skies while on the ground their artillery thundered ?
Remember Pearl Harbor, Bataan and Tarawa, the carnage in China and Phillipine Isles ,
Where thousands were slaughtered like so many lambs, bayoneted, be-headed or shot with out trial.
American sons died by Japanese guns, in the steaming jungles or ocean beach sands,
From Guadalcanal to the Philippine Islands-, to Iwo Jima-, and then Okinawa's bloody "last stand".
They died at their posts in a fighter or bomber, in a sub, on a carrier or cruiser at sea.
So even apologists could keep their free speech to condemn and accuse in the land of the free!
For years the apologists had it their way, casting their insults at the plane and the crew,
Whose heroic mission saved American lives, brought an end to the slaughter of World War II.
The Enola Gay remained disassembled, her components were scattered like chaff in the breeze.
Her amputated fuselage was in the Smithsonian , the only part of her admirers could see.
But this "savior of freedom" would be resurrected, NOT to exhort or glorify war,
But to remind barbarians that the price of aggression comes with a cost that they cannot ignore!
It's easy to be a history revisionist, with a draft exempt status and "judgmental" tongue,
THEY'VE not heard a "shot fired in anger", seen shattered bodies -, and witnessed their buddies as they died young!
The politically correct, the history revisionists demanded apologies for dropping the bomb.
But where's the apologies from the Japanese government to the widows, the orphans, the dads and the moms?
WHERE'S the apology for Pearl Harbor's attack, the Bataan Death March, Corrigidor's Hell?
WHERE'S the apology's for Guadalcanal ---, Wake Island--, Tarawa---, the Philippines, China, Korea, Iwo Jima ------, and
Okinawa as well?
Where's the apologies for Guam and Saipan, Bouganville, New Guinea, Rabaul, and the others?
Where's the apologies for the loss of our friends, our cousins, our uncles, our dads and our brothers.
WHERE'S the apology for the Sullivan brothers the Pacific war claimed plus a few thousand more.
All five were lost when their ship was torpedoed, their memory's a legacy of the heart break of war.
WHERE'S the apologies for Hornet and Yorktown, Indianapolis and Lexington along with their crews ?
That side of the story the history revisionists either ignore or try to excuse!
Hiroshima Castle stands as a monument "painting" the aggressor as "really "the victim".
As the Heroic Symbol of our rise from Pearl Harbor was long disassembled by "apologist dictum"!
If the Japanese warlords had developed the bomb GUESS where those mushroom clouds would have "soared"?
That's another untold part of the story that history revisionists have always ignored!
Barbarians exploit "apologist appeasers"----, a fact Neville Chamberlin of Britain ignored.
The diplomats words fall on "deaf ears" of tyrants who conquer with the "gun and the sword".
The appeasement policies of "olive branch diplomats", who condemn and accuse us for dropping the bomb,
Gave us fifty eight thousand American dead and a war that we lost in Viet Nam.
And next it was Bosnia, then Iraq and Afghanistan, while innocents die, appeasers judge from their "Ivory Towers",
Too passive to profit from the lessons of history, the lessons we taught them in our finest hours!
Barbarians exploit the apologist’s rhetoric and barbarians exploit the revisionists too.
Apologist rhetoric informs our enemies of all of the things we're fearful to do!
Let not the honor of America’s heroes be trampled ---, by "arm chair strategists" who weren't even there.
Many unborn or too young to remember -, Pearl Harbor -, and after--, OR the mushroom clouds that rose in the air.
Let NOT the shame of revisionist rhetoric tarnish the honor of the Enola Gay,
Nor the memory of those she carried to history on a war ending mission –, long ago and far away.
We must honor this part of America’s history, the crew --, and the plane that was long scattered in parts,
Not to insult, gloat or belittle, but to reflect the gratitude that's etched in our hearts.
The Enola Gay is a gallant memorial to the struggle for freedom that she helped us to win.
Let Enola Gay stand as a National Shrine --, complete, proud and intact --, warning Barbarians, don't try it again!
Ivan L. Fail
This long "story poem" was written after reading the book "Enola Gay".
In 1967 I passed through Dayton, Ohio and stopped to visit the Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, saw
and took photos of "Bock’s Car" "who" is on display there.
A few years ago my wife and I traveled to Branson, Missouri meet and pay our respects to Brigadier General Paul Tibbets,
Dutch Van Kirk the navigator and Tom Ferrebee the bombardier on the Enola Gay. They were gracious enough to pose with us for
several photos and autograph the book "Return Of The Enola Gay".
The Enola Gay has been and is now restored and on display at Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, the Smithsonian National Air
And Space Museum (NASM)’s annex at Washington-Dulles International Airport in the Chantilly area of Fairfax County,
This poem "The Saga Of The Superfortress" is included with my other poetic tributes to America’s war heroes in a
soon to be finished, self published book titled "The Poet’s Salute To Valor".
I regret to say that Tom Ferrebee passed away some time ago and Paul Tibbets passed away in 2007.
IVAN L. FAIL; FORMER MARINE. (1954-1957)