Wendover Field was concieved during the late 1930`s,and Congress appropriated funds in 1940 for the acquisition of land for bombing and gunnery ranges.Wendover was selected because of the Great Salt Lake desert and it`s vast uninhabited terrain.
The first unit to arrive there was the 306th Bombardment Group,with four squadrons of B-17 aircraft.
All told,there were 21 bomber groups and over 1,000 aircrews that completed training at Wendover airfield.The crews participated in the strategic bombing of Germany,flew in support of D-Day,and conducted combat missions around the world.Three of the groups had Medal of Honor reciepients.
In 1942 FDR had established the "Manhattan Engineer District",(Manhattan Project) for the purpose of developing an atomic bomb.By 1944 development of the bomb was under way and the B-29 Superfortress was selected to deliver the weapon.General "Hap" Arnold,Cmdr.,Army Air Forces,named Col.Paul W.Tibbets to head the select team.Only Tibbets knew the mission of the 509th Composite Group,and he chose Wendover Field for training because of it`s isolation,the need for security,and the wide open spaces available for training.
The hurried departure of the 72nd fighter wing made room for the 393d Bombardment Squadron(B-29) to be moved to Wendover in September 1944.This move was made without explanation and on short notice,and the 393rd was to become the core of the project to deliver the atomic bomb.
In January 1945,a portion of the 393rd group left for Cuba,where they flew simulated combat,high altitude,over water radar bombing and navigation missions.They returned to Wendover and in May recieved new B-29s which featured lighter engines with fuel injection,reversible electric propellers,pneumatic bomb doors,and a modified tunnel to hold the atomic bomb.
A successful test of the "Fat Man",called "Trinity Test" took place on July 16th at Alamorgordo Army Air Field,NM.Truman warned the Japanese that a "Bomb of Extraordinary Power" would be used,but the warning was ignored.Col.Tibbets took off in the "Enola Gay" at 0245 on the morning of 6 August 1945."Little Boy" was dropped at 0915 over Hiroshima,Japan.
Three days later "Fat Man" was dropped on Nagasaki.
The third bomb,a "Fat Man",was sent for by Tibbets when the Japanese didn`t immediatly surrender after the Nagasaki bomb.The surrender came on August 14 1945,shortly after the plane took off from Wendover.The B-29 carrying the bomb was intercepted somewhere beyond California,and returned to Wendover where the "Fat Man" was disassembled and the nuclear components taken back to Los Alamos.
Brigadier General Paul W. Tibbets Jr. died November 1,2007 at his home near Columbus,Ohio.He was 92.