Sunday, August 6, 2006


Over Japan... At about 0930 hours, the first atomic bomb (nicknamed "Little Boy") is dropped on the city of Hiroshima by a specially equipped B-29 from the 509th Composite Group of the US 12th Air Force and piloted by Colonel Paul Tibbets. The plane is named by Tibbets after his mother, Enola Gay.

The bomb is a uranium fission weapon and the yield is in the region of 20,000 tons on TNT. Sixty percent of the city is destroyed in the blast and the firestorm that follows. About 80,000 Japanese are killed. Many more are severely burned and others become ill later, from exposure to radiation.

It is not the most devastating bombing attack of the war but the economy of the effort involved in sending only one plane on a mission to destroy a city shows only too well the complete change in military and political thinking which has begun.

Two TV movies chronicled aspects of this historic and horrific event which occurred 61 years ago today.

Broadcast in 1980, this movie told about Colonel Tibbets and his crew as they prepped for the mission to fly to Japan and drop the bomb on HIroshima. Patrick Duffy portrayed Tibbets and his crew and fellow officers were played by Billy Crystal, Gregory Harrison, Gary Frank, Stephen Macht, and Walter Olkewicz.

Robert Walden appeared as J. Robert Oppenheimer and Ed Nelson was President Harry Truman. (Also in a small role was Leslie Moonves who went on to become the Grand Poobah of CBS and the CW.)

Until the release of the movie "Jaws", most Americans probably weren't aware of the tragic fate suffered by the crew of the USS Indianapolis, the ship which delivered the bomb to be used on Hiroshima. But once they heard the haunting remembrance by Captain Quint (Robert Shaw), they could hardly forget it.

After they delivered the atom bomb to its secret destination of Tinian in July of 1945, the Indianapolis headed to Okinawa. But on July 30th, - the 47th birthday of Captain Charles Butler McVay, his ship was struck by torpedoes and sank. Those who died in the explosion or the sinking may be considered the lucky ones of those who eventually died before any rescue came.

Because the mission had been so highly classified, there was no record of the Indianapolis' whereabouts. (This was the belief for a long time, but later it was revealed that the Navy had lied and that three SOS messages were received but three different commanders failed to act on them.)

By the time rescue arrived on August 2nd, many of the survivors had been eaten by sharks. It took until August 8th to rescue all of the survivors - out of a crew of 1,199, only 316 men survived.

Later, Captain McVay was made the scapegoat for the Navy and was court-martialed for his actions that led to the ship's sinking. It took nearly fifty years and the dogged determination of a 12 year old boy doing a school project to finally clear Captain McVay's name.

But by then, it was too late. Dogged by mental health problems after his life was ruined by the Navy, Captain McVay took his own life in Litchfield, Connecticut, in November of 1968.

Stacy Keach played Captain McVay and his father portrayed McVay's father. Carrie Snodgrass portrayed McVay's wife and among the actors who played crew members of the Indianapolis were Richard Thomas, Steve Landesburg, Bob Gunton, Tim Guinee, Gordon Clapp, Jeffrey Nordling, and David Caruso.

The movie aired in 1991.


No comments: