Remembering Russell E. Gackenbach: Last Member of the Hiroshima Mission
On November 13, 2019, 2nd Lt. Russell E. Gackenbach passed away in Florida at the age of 96. He was the last surviving member of the 34 men who made up the crews from the main three planes involved in the mission to drop the atomic bomb over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.
Enola Gay carried the bomb, while Great Artiste was the observation/instrument plane, and Necessary Evil was the camera plane. Gackenbach was the navigator aboard Necessary Evil and he snapped the only non-governmental photo of the detonation from the air.
Astoundingly, he also played a role in the Nagasaki bombing mission three days later on August 9. During that mission, Russ served on the Enola Gay, which operated as a weather plane over Kokura - the initial target - on that mission. Due to cloud cover, the bomb was dropped on Nagasaki as a secondary target.
I met Russ back in 2014 and it was an event that I won't soon forget. In an era where we lose 300+ WWII vets each day, I consider it an honor to have spent a few minutes with him.
Godspeed, 2nd Lt. Russell E. Gackenbach.
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