The only true copy of the navigator’s log from the Enola Gay’s atomic bombing of Hiroshima is heading to auction at Bonhams on March 9.
Theodore Van Kirk was the navigator on the mission. He made this copy shortly after landing back in Guam from the log he made on the plane (which sold for $372,500 at Sotheby’s in 2016).
It includes information relating to the devastating moment that heralded the dawn of the atomic age.
Wind speed, altitude and mission orders (“Drop first atomic bomb”) all are featured in detail.
There are a number of differences between the two sheets. Van Kirk fails to include a couple of key observations (including the fact that the mushroom cloud disappeared at 10:52). The letter “o” also looks very different in each.That’s because B-52 bombers were notoriously prone to vibration, making writing difficult.
The piece was kept as a memento by Captain Robert Lewis, co-pilot on the mission, who has added his own corrections. After being filled out, the file was tossed onto a pile on the floor. Lewis sensed it would be of historical interest in the future and asked if he could make a copy and keep this version.
Lewis later explained in a 2002 interview with the SF Chronicle: “What you have to understand is, if I hadn’t saved it would be lost, because the Army, the Air Force, didn’t try to save anything… all we wanted to do was to get out of the service and get home.”
There was no love lost between Lewis and the rest of the crew. He had originally been slated to pilot the mission, along with a hand-picked crew who had been training for months.
However on the eve of the bombing he was demoted to co-pilot and most of his crew switched out for one headed by Colonel Paul Tibbetts. Lewis was particularly irked that Tibbetts named the plane for his mother, Enola Gay Tibbetts.