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Claude Eatherly

Born2 Oct 1918
Died1 Jul 1978
CountryUnited States

Contributor: C. Peter Chen

Major Claude Eatherly was the pilot of the 393rd Bomb Squadron, 509th Composite Group, United States Army Air Forces B-29 Superfortress bomber "Straight Flush". At 0137 hours on 6 Aug 1945, he took off from Tinian in the Mariana Islands, one hour ahead of the bomber "Enola Gay", for Hiroshima, Japan. His crew members evaluated weather conditions over Hiroshima, and radioed the "Enola Gay" to proceed with the plan to release the atomic bomb over the city. After WW2, he was released from the military in 1947 for cheating on a written test. Immediately following his release, he flew an aircraft to smuggle weapons to Cuba to support anti-communist rebels; he was eventually caught but was never tried or jailed. Later in his life, he began sending parts of his paychecks to the city of Hiroshima, along with letters of apology. Later, he began committing crimes on small scales to benefit others, such as forging checks and donate the money illegally obtained in the process to a fund for the children of Hiroshima. Other crimes he committed included holding up banks and individuals without actually taking anything. He was convicted of forgery in New Orleans, Louisiana, United States, and served a year in prison beginning in 1954. In 1957, he pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity during another trial for robbing two post offices in Texas, United States; the court released him into the custody of his brother. In the late 1950s, he was held by the Veterans' Administration Hospital in Waco, Texas for possible mental disorders. In 1961, his brother tried to have Eatherly declared insane at a 1961 juried hearing at Waco. While in the hospital, he began to correspond with Viennese philosopher and pacifist GŁnther Anders, with whom they worked to lobby for the abolition of nuclear weapons. The media at the time blamed his mental unstableness to his guilt for having participated in the Hiroshima bombing, but scholars today wonder if his problems, which also included gambling, were really not connected to the war. Some reasons supporting that view include the fact that his aircraft did not actually drop the devastating bomb, and he did not witness the actual explosion. Eatherly's first wife claimed that part of his problem stemmed from the disappointment for not being chosen as the pilot of the actual bombing aircraft, a view which was supported by some of his flight crew.

Sources: Harvard University Gazette, Wikipedia.

Claude Eatherly Timeline

2 Oct 1918 Claude Eatherly was born.
1 Jul 1978 Claude Eatherly passed away.

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Stern view of USS Becuna departing Mare Island Naval Shipyard, California, United States, 25 Aug 1947

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