6th Bomb Group: Press
WWII veterans recall the tough missions leading up to Hiroshima, and the efforts to hide the Enola Gay, seen here returning from dropping the atomic bomb on that city 75 years ago today. (AP Photo/Max Desfor)
Memories of the Unit that Hid the Enola Gay, which Dropped the A-bomb on Hiroshima 75 Years ago Today
by Todd South, ARMYTIMES.COM | August 6, 2020
Day after day, the planes took off. Sometimes one minute apart, the shiny new “Superfortresses” humming through the sky over the vast Pacific to strike at the heart of the enemy and end World War II.
Maj. Jack Koser took to the skies on those never-ending flights. So did 1st Lts. Ed Vincent and Warren Higgins. Fresh-faced they flew. Some, teenagers barely out of high school. Now one has passed the century mark and others are not far behind. Their planes had painted pictures and names like “Flak Alley Sally” and “Lucky Strike” and “Here’s Lucky.” They hit the Japanese homeland hard. Fires raged. Mines they dropped dotted the harbors and bays, stalling supplies and choking the country’s navy.
Today, Aug. 6, marks the 75th anniversary of the day that the United States dropped the first atomic bomb, hitting Hiroshima, Japan, and three days later another bomb for Nagasaki.
Those historic, cataclysmic events sped up the end of the war and set the stage for the nuclear arms race and subsequent Cold War. The single bomb dropped this day in 1945 killed an estimated 140,000 people from both the blast and aftereffects. But those monumental events have overshadowed harrowing, death-defying and incredible work done by soldiers, sailors and Marines who took blood-soaked islands in the Pacific in the long slog toward Tokyo. And the air and ground crews flying off that hard-won soil to finally reach the heart of the enemy that dared attack the United States at Pearl Harbor.
The plane that dropped the big one.
And there was another piece of military technological history that some argue had a larger hand in ending the war than it gets credit for — the B29 Superfortress.
Though Tinian was where the famed “Enola Gay” launched its fateful mission to deliver the first A-bomb, it was also home to the 6th Bomb Group, which served as cover for the super-secret mission. The unit also hid the “Enola Gay” for a time, before it loaded its infamous payload “Little Boy” the first Atomic Bomb dropped in war — on Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945. The 6th Bomb Group, part of the Army Air Corps’ 313th Bomb Wing, 20th Air Force, made it to Tinian, one of the last Pacific islands in a chain leading to mainland Japan, months after Allied forces took the island in a battle that lasted just a few days but claimed more than 5,000 Japanese forces and more than 300 U.S. Marines.
6th Bomb Group: Press
An older Ed Vincent admiring reflection of a younger Ed Vincent.
Reprinted with permission by Saratoga Spotlight.
PHOTO: ©Teresa Nora Trobbe/Fotosbyt.com
Oh Beautiful, for Spacious Skies
by Genevieve Laucher, July 2019
Ed Vincent is a Saratoga resident who not only remembers World War II, but served in the war as a pilot. We are lucky to have such a courageous man among us!
Ed grew up in Filer, Idaho, a small town of one thousand people. He graduated from high school in 1941, then attended school in Pasadena to earn college credits before enlisting in a military cadet training program in 1942. Ed grew up building model airplanes and always wanted to be a pilot. In the military, he was able to pursue pilot training. Ed first traveled to Omaha, Nebraska, and Santa Ana, California for basic training. He flew over central California, Texas, New Mexico, Nebraska, Cuba, and Puerto Rico doing missions. He dropped sacks of flour from his plane as part of the training. There was a series of rigorous trainings at various locations, where Ed first flew small planes, then B-17s. He was excited to fly the larger planes. After graduating from the many trainings, Ed went into B-29 training in Nebraska, where they made up the crew of the bomb group.
He became part of the Sixth Bomb Group, consisting of 45 B-29 airplanes and their Air and Ground crews. The policy was that no one would fly with anyone they didn’t like, and they didn’t have to say why. In some cases, this was good because there was no animosity in the crews, but sometimes the reasons were not good, like having a religious bias. For that reason, there was some shuffling around of the crews. It was very different than today. Many people did not pass pilot training, and since Ed did, he had a large responsibility of being in charge of his crew. His crew consisted of his co-pilot, navigator, Flight engineer, radar operator, bombardier, and gunners.
Ed went overseas in January of 1945. There had been attempts to bomb Japan before that by flying from India to China, but this was very inefficient. The United States had previously owned Guam, but the Japanese military took over the entire Pacific Theater. Once our military re-gained the Mariana Islands, it was much easier to send airplanes over to Japan and back.
Ed’s crew was stationed on the island of Tinian, where there were six runways. There were still some Japanese soldiers occupying the island and hiding in caves to signal to Japan, but they did not know where and when the U.S. would drop bombs.
Over the next eight months, from January to August 1945, Ed and his crew flew 32 missions dropping bombs over Japan. The bombings started out slower in January and February, and began to pick up in March. The most B-29s flown over Japan at one time was 800, with each plane dumping 15 tons of bombs. During some of the missions, Ed and his crew were shot at by smaller Japanese fighter planes, one time by a dozen fighter planes at once. They had to patch up any holes shot in the plane after each mission. Over the course of the 32 missions, Ed’s plane got 141 holes.
A typical day for Ed and his crew was waking up and having breakfast, followed by a briefing for the night mission. They would then go down to the flight line, inspect the plane, and talk to the ground crew. Once the plane was ready to go, Ed would make the 7.5-hour flight from Tinian to Japan, drop bombs and often get shot at while over Japan, and then make the 7.5-hour flight back to Tinian. They had to make sure that they had enough fuel for 15 hours, and that the engines were in shape.
B-29s have four engines (2,200 horsepower each) each) but can fly on two, and another plane even had to glide into Iwo Jima, halfway between Japan and Tinian, on only one engine in an emergency. Each airplane flew a couple of missions each week. Ed was part of the 300 plane, March 10th Mission involved in the bombing of Tokyo, which was the most devastating bombing mission. Over the course of eight months, Ed had friends’ planes go down, which was terrifying.
Of the B-29s that went out, about 20% did not return. Each mission was a huge risk.
Besides dropping bombs, the U.S. Navy also planned out locations for the Air Force to drop mines. The purpose of the mines was to block shipping channels to stop materials going to Japan. With Japan cut off from their supply of food and raw materials, and down to only 10% of their shipping, the hope was that they would surrender.
They finally did in August 1945, and the war ended. After the war, me Navy had to de-arm the mines that had not yet exploded. Thankfully, Ed and the other Air Force pilots had followed their instructions, and they knew exactly where the mines were. The Army Air Force wanted to prove their value and raise funds, so they planned a non-stop flight from Japan to Washington, D.C. Ed was one of three pilots on a crew that flew one of four planes non-stop from Hokkaido. It was a 27.5-hour flight, and widely publicized.
When Ed returned home, he went to college, and graduated from USC in 1949. He started his career in mechanical engineering, first with General Electric, where he worked in New York then in San Jose. His boss became the President of U.S. Electric Motors, and hired Ed as the plant manager. He moved cities several times, living in Nashville, Tennessee, Prescott, Arizona, and back to San Jose. He worked for a couple more companies, but his role was mostly managing
people. Ed enjoyed managing big organizations, and was told he was good at it! He retired at age 65.
AND ON A PERSONAL NOTE
Ed was married to his first wife, Virginia, for 66 years. Together, they have three children: two boys and one girl. They moved to Saratoga 35 years ago. Their sons had already graduated from high school, but their daughter was able to attend Saratoga High School. One son now lives in Cupertino, the other lives in Boise, Idaho, and their daughter lives near Dallas, Texas. Ed and Virginia also have eleven grandchildren and three great grandchildren. Sadly, Virginia passed away in 2011. Ed re-married at the age of 90 and has now been married to his current wife, Lois, for six years. Her husband had passed away before Virginia, but they had all known each other before their spouses passed away. Ed is very glad to have Lois in his life and values her companionship. Recently, Ed has been to committee meetings for the Veterans Memorial and Support Foundation and has been able to speak as a veteran. With his bravery and experiences in World War II, he has a lot to contribute and deserves to be honored.