Nuke Opera 2020: Pictures of History

A few snapshots from my last trip to the National Museum of the United States Air Force back in October 2019. The museum is located on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, though you don’t have to pass through security to get there. If you have any interest in airplanes or in the military history of flight, it’s very much worth a visit. Admission is free, but be warned that the place is absolutely HUGE, since it holds over 360 full-size aircraft and missiles as well as other exhibits.

One of the historic planes at the Museum is Bockscar, the plane that dropped the atomic bomb over Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. It’s located in the World War II gallery at the Air Force Museum, one of the first galleries you come to after entering the museum.


Bockscar, the plane that dropped the “Fat Man” bomb on Nagasaki, August 9, 1945.

The picture doesn’t really do the size of the plane justice — like the Enola Gay, Bockscar is a B-29 Superfortress. It’s about 99 feet long with a wing span of 141 feet and is 27 feet, nine inches high. It’s imposing to look at but if you didn’t know its history, you wouldn’t think there was anything special about it.

On the other hand, there’s definitely something off-putting about the model of Fat Man that sits next to Bockscar.

Fat Man

Full-size model of “Fat Man,” the bomb dropped on Nagasaki. 

Again, you can’t tell from the picture, but Fat Man lives up to its name: the bomb was 10 feet, eight inches long and five feet in diameter. It weighed 10,300 pounds (about 5.15 US tons). And, yes, it was painted that bright yellow color to make it easier for the bomb to be tracked as it fell.

The creepiest thing about the model is just how innocuous it looks. It looks like a cartoon conception of a bomb, like it shouldn’t be as dangerous as it was.

Bockscar crew (Nagasaki raid)

The crew of Bockscar on the day of the Nagasaki bombing raid.

There’s also a model of Little Boy, the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, near the display for Bockscar. 

Little Boy

Model of Little Boy, the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, August 6, 1945. 

Little Boy was comparatively smaller than Fat Man — it was about as long (around 10 feet), but narrower, being only 28 inches (2 feet, 4 inches) and weighed 9,700 pounds (4.85 US tons).

The Enola Gay, the plane that dropped Little Boy, is on display at the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

In addition to the World War II gallery, the Air Force Museum also has galleries dedicated to the Cold War and the Space Race. I’ll be sharing more pictures from those galleries as we move further along in our timeline.

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