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Russell E. Gackenbach Collection Related to Atomic Bomb Missions

Identifier: SC MS 0279

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of three volumes of photographs containing approximately 893 photographs mostly black and white but a number of colored as noted of assorted sizes assumed to be Series I, seven albums of newspaper articles denoted as SC MS 0279.II Series II, eleven videotapes denoted as SC MS 0279.III Series III, and assorted books all related to the U.S. Army and the atomic bomb missions involved in World War II and later reunions of members of the Army Air Corps squadrons especially the 393rd Bomber Squadron and the 509th Composite Group.


  • Creation: 1942 - 2011
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1944 - 1945


Conditions Governing Access

Collection housed remotely. Users need to contact 24 hours in advance.

Conditions Governing Use

Collection is open for research.

Please inquire about copyright information.

Biographical / Historical

Russell E. Gackenbach, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Gackenbach of 434 N. 9th St., Allentown, Pennsylvania, was born in Allentown and a graduate of the Allentown High School Class of 1941. He was sworn in as an Army Aviation Cadet October 28, 1942 in the Allentown Post Office. He left Allentown to train as an aviation cadet at Miami Beach, Florida. Before entering the Army Aviation Corps, Russell worked at Bethlehem Steel Company as a bomb and shell casing inspector. He was called to active duty January 30, 1943 and in April 1943 was assigned to the AAF Classification Center at Nashville, Tennessee. On May 12, 1943 he qualified for pilot training at Maxwell AAF in Montgomery, Alabama. In July 1943 he was assigned primary flight training at Darr Aerotech, Albany, Georgia but did not solo. In September 1943 he was assigned to navigation training at Selman AAF, Monroe, Louisiana. In October 1943 he was trained in Consolidated Commodore Flying boats out of Coconut Grove, Florida. February 11, 1944 he received commission as a 2nd Lt. in the Air Corps, AUS and received wings as a navigator at Coral Gables, Florida. February 24, 1944 assigned to 1st Sea Search Attack Group, Langley AAF, Virginia. March 15, 1944 he was assigned to AAF Technical School at Boca Raton, Florida to pursue radar training and on July 6, 1944 he was reclassified Navigator-Radar and assigned to the 504th Bomb Group at Fairmont AAF, Fairmont, Nebraska. July 8, 1944 he was assigned to the 393th Bomb Squadron as B-17 navigator on crew B-10. On September 10, 1944 the entire 393th Bomb Squadron transferred to Wendover AAF, Wendover, Utah and transitioned to B-29s, trained under tight security and removed all but tail guns from the plane. The crew B-10 was sent to Batista Field, Cuba for over water flight training and returned to Wendover AAF. April 3, 1945 Crew B-10 was assigned a new plane #44-27304 that was built and modified for our special project by Glenn L. Martin Aircraft Plant in Omaha, Nebraska and practiced dropping special bombs called “pumpkins.” On June 11, 1945 Crew B-10 proceeded by B-29 #44-27304 flew from Wendover to Mather Field, California and then on to North Field, Tinian Island as part of project #98228-S (Silverplate). Arriving at Tinian, July 14, 1945, the Crew B-10 flew five calibration and training missions and seven practice bombing missions in plane #44-27304 with call sign V-88, names and nose art was not allowed on the planes at this time. Crew B-10 flew two combat missions on July 20, 1945 in the V-88, dropping “pumpkin” bombs on secondary targets, Taira urban area and Hamamatsu urban area, using radar-bombing techniques. August 6, 1945, three planes took off from Iwo Jima, Crew B-10 made a third combat mission flying plane V-91 whose nose name was Necessary Evil. This plane served as a photo observation plane fitted with Fastax cameras and trained photographers. Along with Great Artiste, Necessary Evil accompanied V-82 known as the Enola Gay on the bombing of Hiroshima dropping the atomic bomb, Little Boy. The Great Artiste was charged with parachuting observation blast measurement equipment and flew with Enola Gay on to Hiroshima; Necessary Evil stayed back circling at 30,000 feet taking photographs. Gackenbach, as navigator, used his own camera, an Agfa 620, and also took a photo of the atomic bomb mushroom cloud out of the navigator’s window. On August 8, 1945, on the fourth mission Crew B-10 flew the plane V-82, the Enola Gay, in an advanced weather recon over the primary target of Kokura. The weather forced V-77 (Bockscar) to proceed to the secondary target of Nagasaki and dropped the second atomic bomb, known as Fat Man. Around August 12, 1945, crew B-10 named their plane V-88 (UP an’ Atom), a take-off on the phrase “up and at ‘em.” Gackenbach was promoted to 1st Lt. on September 11, 1945. On September 14, 1945 he was awarded the Air Medal for participation in the aerial flight on August 6, 1945 dropping the first atomic bomb, Little Boy, on Hiroshima, Japan. On November 1, 1945 he was assigned to Roswell AAF in Roswell, New Mexico. February 10, 1946 he was assigned to Separation Center at Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania for separation from the military and March 13, 1946 placed on inactive status in the USAFR. Following the war, Gackenbach came to Lehigh and graduated Class of 1950 with a BSMT degree. On July 1, 1957 he was honorably discharged from status as a reservist of the Air Force and from all appointments by reason of resignation. He returned to Florida and resided in Melbourne, Florida. From the display of photographs in this collection, it can be assumed that Mr. Gackenbach early in his life not only was interested in aviation but photography as well and chronicled his entire military career.


6 Linear Feet

77 book

Language of Materials



The collection of photographs, recordings, publications and documents contains numerous photos of World War II military life as well as individual insight into preparations for the atomic bomb mission over Japan ending World War II including an original photo of the “mushroom cloud” over Hiroshima taken by the creator.


3 photograph albums + 7 3-ring binder albums + 11 videos + 1 flat box + 77 books, 6 linear feet.

The material is arranged in chronologically and maintained in the sequence as determined by the creator.

77 books cataloged and shelved separately with a local note: “(Russell E. Gackenbach, Class of 1950) gift” (Location: SC-E)

One flat box with Miscellaneous material.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The creator of the photograph albums, Russell E. Gackenbach, donated his personal collection of atomic bomb mission photographs to Lehigh University in April 2013 as well as other related materials such as books, videos and newspaper clippings that he collected throughout the years.

Related Materials

Krauss, Robert and Amelia. 2009. The 509th Remembered: A History of the 509th Composite Group as Told by Veterans Themselves Who Dropped the Atomic Bombs on Japan, 509th Anniversary Reunion, Wichita, Kansas, October 7 -10, 2004. Wilderness Adventure Books, 2005. (ISBN-13:9780923568665)

Lehigh Alumni Bulletin. Fall 2011, p. 30-32. Lehigh University.

Lynn S. Beedle U.S. Navy career at Bikini Atoll atomic test site.

Separated Materials

77 books are cataloged and shelved (SC-E) separately.

Cultural context

Russell E. Gackenbach Collection Related to Atomic Bomb Missions
Eleanor Nothelfer
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Lehigh University Special Collections Repository

Lehigh University
Linderman Library
30 Library Drive
Bethlehem PA 18045 USA
610-758-6091 (Fax)