Enola Gay Bombadier Thomas Ferebee of Mocksville

 The Enola Gay and several members of its crew. Image from the U.S. Department of Defense.

On August 6, 1945, Major Thomas Wilson Ferebee, a U.S. Army Air Corps bombardier and Mocksville native, dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.

The 12-man crew aboard the B-29 bomber, the Enola Gay, took off for Hiroshima at 2 a.m. from Tinian Island in the western Pacific. Ferebee, then 26 and a veteran of 64 combat missions, was napping and initially did not hear the pilot, Colonel Paul Tibbets Jr., brief the crew about their top-secret mission.

A portrait of Ferebee. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.Approaching Hiroshima, Ferebee activated the plane’s automated Norden bombsight, centered its crosshairs on the Aioi Bridge and called “bomb away.” It was 8:15 a.m.

The 9,000-pound bomb, nicknamed “Little Boy,” tumbled from the plane’s belly and sped six miles to its target below. Forty-three seconds later, the bomb detonated, instantly killing 70,000 people. Many others died later from radiation.

On August 9, another bomber crew dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki. Six days later, the Japanese government surrendered unconditionally, ending World War II.

Ferebee retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1970 and died in 2000. He never expressed regret about dropping the A-bomb, maintaining that it saved more lives than it took by ending the war sooner.

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