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Dropping the Bomb

I take a deep breath and relax my grip on the controls of the B-29 Superfortress, the war weapon of the century. Old Enola Gay, unwavering and patriotic, is flying steady (“1945”). (Adjective out of order) Everything was going according to plan. It was 0815 in the morning. My crew and I have been flying for six, long, enduring hours. It’s now or never (Nieburh). Our flight navigator, Dutch, tapped the back of my seat to get my attention. (Appositive) I turn my head slightly to the right to let him know I’m listening.

“We’re ready when you are, Paul.”

I offer a curt nod and glance around the cabin. Everything’s as it should be. I have nothing to worry about. I look forward to Ferebee, our bombardier, arching an eyebrow for confirmation from him. We have to be sure this is Hiroshima. There is no room for error, especially now. His eyes twinkling with amusement, he nods and looks out at the sky ahead. (Absolute)

“I got it.” (Nieburh)

I hear Dutch chime in from behind me, verifying Ferebee’s statement.

“Target confirmed, Paul. That’s Hiroshima.”

I offer another nod and flick on the microphone switch, broadcasting my voice throughout the cabin.

“Two minutes and counting.”

I take a deep breath and glance at the clock. All is quiet on the aircraft. There’s no real reason for this eerie silence. Intruding thoughts perhaps, as we reflect on our impending mission. The Japanese can’t detect us, but even so I think we’re all trying to contain our nerves before we explode. What a morbidly ironic thought.

“One minute.”

Funny how time slows in a minute, just 60 seconds. Hiroshima is innumerably populated. Not just by soldiers, but civilians as well. Women and children-all of them will be killed or injured. At our debriefing they informed us that there were approximately 40, 000 military personnel, and 340,000 civilians. All’s fair in war I suppose. Morality is a luxury but nevertheless, still relevant in war. I keep thinking-340, 000 civilians? That’s a lot of people to be killing. That’s a lot of guilt hanging over my head (“Atomic”).

“30 seconds.”

I take a deep breath. I’ve watched the engineers work. I’ve studied the statistics. The casualties today won’t be the last of them. The radiation will last for months, maybe years. I don’t want to think about the casualty count for that.

“15 seconds.”

I glance in the mirror to the left of the controls and see a few members of the crew praying. I’ve never been a religious man. God can’t save them now. This is my plane; whatever happens, happens. It’s on my head. I flip a few switches and the bomb lowers to Ferebee’s control. It’s out of my hands now. I fly planes for the United States Air Force, and in this particular war, I will be responsible for devastating an entire island.

“Standby in 10, 9, 8, 7-“

Everything is suddenly moving in slow motion as my thoughts briefly wander. I’m not married. I have no children. The military is my life. It always has been. I love what I do, but now? These moments-these are the times that I question my own morality. Women, children, innocent people are going to die. They don’t have the slightest idea as to what is coming.

“5”

I sit back in my seat and brace myself. Those Japanese people are just beginning their day; they are naïve and have no foresight regarding what is about to hit them.

“4.”

I breathe in rhythmically at an even pace. Their entire lives are going to be turned upside down. They have no idea. Schools of children, these casualties of war, will die.

“3.”

It’s just another operation. That’s all this is really about. It’s just a job; I’m protecting my country. It’s necessary; there is no alternative. We’ve given them fair warning. If they had listened, this wouldn’t be happening to them. They asked for it.

“2.”

It’s now or never.

“1.”

The nose of the plane lurches up, having lost four tons of weight, as I maneuver the aircraft into a 160-degree turn. I put the plane at full throttle and fly us away from the blast. An audible sigh of relief sounds around the plane. I take a deep breath and relax. I’ve practiced that turn repetitively for the past few months, just for this moment. My knuckles whitened, relax their grip on the controls. If I had let the plane turn any further I would have snapped the tail off our bomber. We could’ve crashed into enemy territory. I suppose that’s what all the cyanide pills next to me are for; death is certainly preferable to torture. A small smile graces my lips as exactly forty-three seconds pass and the sky erupts in blue light. Mission accomplished. The aircraft shakes and shudders from the impact of the shock wave, but I hold us steady. I always do. The second wave hits and I breathe a sigh of relief. We fly back home in a sea of black fog and smoke. The worst has past; now we return home to deal with the aftermath. The war is over but the peace negotiations remain. I for one am ready for a desk job.



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