Member of Enola Gay Crew Never Regretted Dropping Bomb on Hiroshima

Maj. Thomas Ferebee and other crew members of the Enola Gay / AP
Maj. Thomas Ferebee and other crew members of the Enola Gay / AP

Maj. Thomas Ferebee, a decorated crew member of B-29 bomber the Enola Gay that dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945, does not regret carrying out the bombing in order to save American lives, his nephew wrote.

James Martin, a Marine Corps veteran, wrote of his uncle in an op-ed for USA Today published three days before Barack Obama will become the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima:

As the bombardier, peering through his Norden bombsight, he was the last man to see Hiroshima in any detail before it was leveled, making his perspectives on the event somewhat unique. He always said he never tossed and turned at night over his role in the mission. While he is distinguished in his hometown of Mocksville, N.C., he was occasionally accused, in later years, of having blood on his hands. He was always calm and confident in answering critics. He never second-guessed [President] Truman’s decision and took pride in knowing the critical job he performed in bringing the war to an end. … Tragic as the bombing of Hiroshima was, it was also necessary. The alternative to Hiroshima would have been one of the bloodiest, if not the bloodiest, slaughter in human history.

Had the bombs not been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to bring an expedient end to World War II, Martin noted, America would have been forced to invade Japan, which would have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of American service members.

"The Joint Chiefs of Staff estimated as many as 134,556 dead and missing Americans. A study for the office of War Secretary Henry Stimson put the figure at 400,000 to 800,000 dead GIs, with Japanese fatalities reckoned between five and 10 million military personnel and civilians," Martin wrote. "In addition to combat casualties, the more than 27,000 American POWs held by Japan were subject to immediate execution should the United States invade."

Martin echoed sentiments recently expressed by a number of veterans to the Washington Free Beacon. Several veterans, including those from World War II, stressed that the bombing of Hiroshima was necessary to save both American and Japanese lives. Like Martin, the veterans emphasized that there is no need for Obama to apologize for Hiroshima.

Obama will visit Hiroshima on Friday, May 27, in an effort to push for a world without nuclear weapons. He is expected to reflect on what took place in the Japanese city on Aug. 6, 1945, though the White House has gone out of its way to insist that the president will not apologize for the bombing of Hiroshima.

Ferebee, who retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1970, died in 2000 at the age of 81. He received  Silver Star, the Legion of Merit, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, the Bronze Star, and the Air Medal for his years of service.