HIROSHIMA -- Interview tapes and their transcripts of American airmen who dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945 have been discovered and donated to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, the Mainichi Shimbun has learned.
According to a transcript of the recordings, Paul Tibbets, the pilot of the B-29 bomber "Enola Gay," told the interviewer that the Hiroshima mission was secret and that the crew was carrying cyanide tablets for killing themselves if needed. The pilot said that he tasted lead in his mouth the moment the bomb detonated, and felt a "big relief."
Museum officials say the existence of those tapes and transcripts had never before been confirmed, adding that they are important as they depict in detail the situation inside the bomber and the psychological state of the crew.
The records include 27 tapes spanning about 30 hours, and 570 pages of transcripts. They were donated to the museum in June last year by the bereaved family of a Japanese person who had owned them. A memo left with the items suggests that they are copies of records made for the 1977 book "Enola Gay: Mission to Hiroshima" written by British authors Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan-Witts.
The tapes contain voices of five people, including Tibbets and Thomas Ferebee, the bombardier who pushed the button to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. A memoir written by Jacob Beser, who was aboard both the Enola Gay and the Bockscar, the B-29 that dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945, was also included.
According to the donated records, the interviewer asked in detail how the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. When asked why the crew members carried handguns, Tibbets explained that they were for protection, and revealed that they had cyanide tablets, too, to kill themselves to avoid capture by the Imperial Japanese Army in case the aircraft crashed. This indicates that the atomic bombing of Hiroshima was indeed a highly confidential mission.
The Enola Gay took off from a U.S. base on Tinian Island in the Pacific in the early hours of Aug. 6, 1945 and made its way to the target -- the T-shaped Aioi Bridge in the Hiroshima city center. The "Little Boy" uranium bomb detonated at 8:15 a.m. Tibbets is quoted as saying in the records that at the moment of the explosion, "I got the brilliance, I tasted it. Yeh, I could taste it. It tasted like lead. And this was because of the fillings in my teeth. So that's radiation, see. So I got this lead taste in my mouth and that was a big relief -- I knew she had blown."
After dropping the bomb, the Enola Gay made a rapid evasive right turn but the shockwaves hit the fuselage, according to Tibbets. "If you can imagine yourself inside a tin building and somebody comes along on the outside and hits it with a hammer, you get the sound effect," he recalled. The pilot also said he saw the mushroom cloud from the bomb through the aircraft's window.
The museum is considering releasing the audio tapes and having experts analyze the recordings after getting approval from the people concerned. Museum curator Ryo Koyama said, "The records contain vivid testimonies by each and every crew member (of the Enola Gay) and has historic value."
(Japanese original by Shun Teraoka, Hiroshima Bureau and Akira Okubo, Osaka City News Department)