Enola Gay’s Wendover Hangar On Top 11 List

By Scott Spangler on May 13th, 2009

JetWhine_Enola Gay Aviation history is written by the triad of people, planes, and places, and news about any of the three always catches my attention. The National Trust for Historic Preservation recently published its 22nd annual list of the nation’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. On it is the hangar at the Wendover, Utah, airfield that protected the Enola Gay when the 509th’s Composite Squadron was practicing for its historic missions over Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Waiting for the YouTube video tour to load (after shaking my head at its unchangeable headline error), my mind played the scene where a black and white Eleanor Parker, playing the wife of 509th commander Paul Tibbets and bundled up in sheepskin flight gear, collects frozen sheets from her Wendover clothesline in the 1952 film, Above & Beyond. At the same time I kicked myself for not making the short detour from Interstate 80 on my cross-country motorcycle trip in 1974. But it was August, very hot, and I was sure I’d pass that way again. But unless action is taken soon, I’ll have to settle for two out of three, person and plane.

JetWhine_Tailgunner George Caron With several hundred others in the audience, I first met Paul Tibbets at EAA AirVenture when it was still called Oshkosh, in the late 1970s or early 1980s. I was more intimate with the Enola Gay during a tour of the Garber Restoration Facility in the 1990s. The nose with its famous block lettering was just put on display at the National Air & Space Museum, and the craftsmen were working on the rest of the airplane. Falling back from the small group I climbed on the wheeled cradle that held the tailboom, looked over the curved opening where the B-29’s tail feathers fit, and thought about climbing over it and through the manhole-size pressure door to George Caron’s tail gunner seat. Like stopping at Wendover, I didn’t do it. Its parts now reunited, the Enola Gay now lives at NASM’s Udvar-Hazy Center.

JetWhine_Wendover Training JetWhine_Wendover Bomb Pit

There is a bit of hope, however. Historic Wendover Airfield seems to be doing its best at preserving and restoring this historic place. It has saved the squadron building, which houses a museum, and the bomb pit, where dummy Little Boys and Fat Man’s were lifted into the belly of the Enola Gay and Bock’s Car. But the group’s last work, according to its website, was 2005, so the future seems uncertain. Let’s hope, for the memory of the people who made history, and for future generations who can benefit from history’s lessons, that making the Top 11 Endangered List will, perhaps, influence the site’s future course. —Scott Spangler

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7 Responses to “Enola Gay’s Wendover Hangar On Top 11 List”

  1. Sabre Driver Says:

    Actually Scott, the museum foundation has been very active just struggled to find a good volunteer webmaster! We have renovated a squadron admin building, the old Officers Club is being restored (probably one of the last of its kind in the US) and we also are going to begin work on the “Enola Gay” hangar this year. Stop in next time you come through and watch for our new website in the next month or so!

  2. Jeffrey Says:

    I’m going to have to make my way to Utah one of these days being the WWII buff that I am, this would be a worth while stop.

  3. Gerry Says:

    You will happy to know the YouTube video has been properly renamed. I took a visit to Wendover Airfield yesterday, walked around the old buildings and hiked up into the old control tower to see a 737 full of gamblers arrive from Texas. The airport manager says they had averaged about 7 GA flights per day, but that seems to be down to about half that this past year. Most of the flights are on the weekends.

  4. Virtual Vacation & Warm Weather Plans - Jetwhine: Aviation Buzz and Bold Opinion Says:

    […] historic tourism. While I doubt that a trip to the historic B-29 hangars in Wendover, Utah, (see Enola Gay’s Wendover Hangar on Top 11 List) will happen this year, Nebraska is more doable…when it gets warmer. – Scott Spangler […]

  5. Virtual Vacation & Warm Weather Plans | RENT-A-PLANE Says:

    […] historic tourism. While I doubt that a trip to the historic B-29 hangars in Wendover, Utah, (see Enola Gay’s Wendover Hangar on Top 11 List) will happen this year, Nebraska is more doable…when it gets warmer. – Scott Spangler […]

  6. Wendover Says:

    I’ve had the pleasure to see the Enola Gay hanger myself (nice video by the way) and it really is a great piece of American history in such an unlikely place like Wendover Nevada. Everyone who is into historical aviation should check it out at some point.

    http://www.WendoverWinnings.com/Wendover_History.html

  7. mary spurlock Says:

    I love anything about WW11 my husband was retired ARMY and we were stationed at Dugway Proving grounds in 1967 1968 visited Wendover several times would like to see more photos of Enola gay.

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