Bomb bay views

There seems to be a degree of interest in what the bomb bays looked like in the Enola Gay, so here are some high resolution photos of same. They will show good detail up to about 200% magnification.

The first photo shows some detail of the weapon hook and sway braces. Both the Little Boy and Fat Man braces were mounted in the Enola Gay, in keeping with the multiple use concept for all the Silverplate aircraft. The outer braces near the wall are for the Fat Man weapon. A significant amount of added bracing was required on the Silverplate aircraft to spread the stress of supporting the five ton weapon across more of the airframe. Several lab designs were built and tested to destruction before the B-29s were actually modified. Another Silverplate modification was extension of the Interphone system into the bomb bays to allow the weaponeer to talk with other crewmen while he was arming the weapon. The interphone stations were mounted on the explosion proof light brackets. Access to the weapon connectors was provided by the two handholes flanking the viewing window on the bottom of the tunnel. The handholes were normally plugged by a standard aviation gas cap.

Forward bomb bay - looking forward

The photo below shows a view looking aft. The beautifully shellacked plywood seat shown in the photo was built by Bernard Poppert (my boss), the NASM restoration expert responsible for the Enola Gay since about 1985. Its purpose was to provide a seat for the weaponeers to use in flight while arming "Little Boy", an operation that was apparently particularly touchy and time consuming compared with the "Fat Man" plutonium weapon. We subsequently discovered from a very rare photograph that the original was made from sheet aluminum and dipped down lower to provide better access. In 2003 I had the privilege of talking with Leon D. Smith. His name is not exactly a household word, but Leon did much of the weaponeer panel design and was actually slated to go on the Hiroshima mission. He told me that he and Morris Jeppson decided who was going to go with Captain Parsons through the flip of a coin, and he lost! At any rate, he told me that they never used the seat in practicing the arming procedure for the mission...he and Parsons simply jumped down on the bomb bay doors to do the final hookup and arming. I gingerly tested that remarkable story last summer by gently pushing on the doors from the inside with my hand while they were closed. All I can say is they felt terribly "springy" to me to use that procedure without fear of going right through, but then there was a war on...

Forward bomb bay - looking aft

Forward bomb bay - looking aft, different perspective. The two flaps on the ends of the doors help them open more quickly and keep them wide open in the slipstream.

Below are two photos of the aft bomb bay. Note that the type of bomb bay fuel tank that gave Major Sweeney so much trouble in Bockscar on the Nagasaki mission is not installed. Its primary purpose was to counterbalance the weight of the weapon, and wasn't strictly necessary for most of the target distances envisioned.

Aft bomb bay - looking forward

Aft bomb bay - looking aft