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75 years after dropping atomic bombs on Japan, a look at the role Wendover, Utah played

Posted at 9:29 AM, Aug 07, 2020

WENDOVER, Utah — Thursday, August 6 marked 75 years since the devastating events of the atomic bomb being dropped on Hiroshima, Japan ultimately ending World War II.

It and a bomb dropped on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, changed the course of history forever and changed many lives, ultimately killing between 129,000 and 226,000 Japanese citizens.

The plane carrying the first bomb named the Enola Gay was a specially designed B-29 Superfortress that was designed and outfitted at Wendover Army Airbase and overseen by Colonel Paul Tibbits.

“It’s something that it’s a part of history," Jim Peterson, Wendover Army Airbase Museum Director, told FOX13. "It’s something that happened right here in Wendover.”

For a part of history that is so important, few people know about the huge Utah connection Peterson said.

For months leading up to the missions, the 509th Composite Group in Wendover was developed in secret, testing and developing the aircraft that would ultimately drop both atomic weapons.

The plane that actually dropped the bomb, the Enola Gay, has a story all its own.

“None of the atomic mission planes had any nose art, in fact the tail design was changed several times to confuse people.” Peterson said. “The day before the mission, Colonel Tibbetts chose which plane he'd fly and told one of the airmen to go out and paint 'Enola Gay' on the nose. Enola Gay is Tibbetts mother.”

The Army airbase is the most complete one still in existence in the U.S. and has over 88 structures intact including the hangers where those 15 B-29 aircraft were outfitted for their missions.

“It’s a place that is like no other," Peterson said. "You can feel the walls talking to you.”

One of those who knows all about that is Steven Marquart, who is the son of one of the pilots who flew on both missions, including flying the Enola Gay itself on the second mission to do weather scouting.

“He was an eyewitness to what happened 75 years ago today, his plane was pointed directly at Hiroshima,” Marquart told FOX13, also emphasizing the role Wendover played in his entire family's life. “This is part of my dad’s life, a big part of it. He met my mother in Salt Lake when he trained here.”

The base is in pretty much the best shape it's been in in recent history thanks to the hard work of Peterson who has started a foundation to preserve the historic Wendover Air field.

Information can be found on how to visit and donate to his cause here:

For Peterson, he does it for all those veterans who came before, and while getting choked up, said, “The sacrifices of our veterans, it’s something that as the generations get further from that time that needs to not get lost in our memories.”