Sunday, September 4, 2011

Wendover Airfield Tour August 27, 2011

Inside the hospital at the Wendover airfield
Directions: Historic Wendover Airfield is located in Wendover, Utah, approximately 110 miles west of Salt Lake City. Visitors can see a small museum of the base open daily or take a short tour of the base by car or with a guide. This was the first time the airfield had offered a more extensive tour.
The tour: August 27, 2011, the nonprofit organization, Historic Wendover Airfield, offered an exclusive tour of the World War II base. The tour lastest four hours and included buildings which had never seen by the public. Notable tour destinations included the armament storage bunker, hospital, enlisted serviceman mess hall, barracks, Fat Man and Little Boy loading pit and the remains of the bomb assembly building (now just a block). For the tour visitors had the opportunity to ride in a vintage World War II troop carrier or Jeep. The tour was narrated by two knowledgable airfield historians: Jim Peterson and Thomas Peterson. Today the airfield needs $3 million to restore important buildings on base and to create a bigger functional museum. The base did receive a grant from the Department of Interior to renovate the Enola Gay Hanger but it is far from completion. Overtime through the help of voluteers and donors this airfield will be restored.
Short History: Selected because of its remote location, Wendover airfield would become the largest base in the World during World War II at 3.5 million acres. By 1944 the base had 668 buildings and 20,000 personnel. The main role for the base was as a training site for B-17, B-24 and P-47 heavy bomber groups. After training at Wendover, these crews fought in the European and Pacific theaters. Later in the war Wendover, was selected to develop and test the Fat Man and Little Boy bombs and train the crews of the Enola Gay and Boxscar. No nuclear material was ever in Wendover and each bomb had 1,000 pounds of TNT. The military tested the radar components on its aerial drops to make sure the bomb dropped straight and exploded at the right altitude.
One major aspect of the Wendover tests was secrecy. The crews of the Enola Gay and Boxscar didn't know the true nature of the mission. To get to the bomb loading pit and assembly building a serviceman had to have three security badges and signed authorization from Col. Paul Tibbets. Likewise, the companies who built various components of the bomb had no clue what it would be used for. (Information from the Historic Wendover Airfield personnel and pamphlet).
For more pictures and information about the base please go to my Veteran's Day post.
Enlisted mens quarters
Outside one of the barracks
Inside the barracks. These barracks were heated by coal powered heaters during the winter.
Inside the Officer's Club where social functions such as dances and games took place. This building also served as the Officer's dining hall.
Another pic in the Officer's club. This space in the future will become a community center.
Inside Hangar #3
The Norden Bombsight had its own climate controlled and secured building. The Norden Bombsight would be kept behind vault style doors and would be guarded 24 7.
Outside the Enola Gay hangar
Tail door in the Enola Gay hangar. B-29s from tail to nose were too big length wise for the hangar.
Inside the offices of the Enola Gay Hangar. This would have been Col. Tibbet's office.
At the bomb loading sight. Heavy bombers would back over pit and the bomb would be raised
into the belly of the aircraft. Airmen had to have many security clearances to be in this area.
Vintage World War II aircraft taking off from the airfield.
Replica explosives and armaments inside storage bunkers.
Outside armament bunker
What remains of the Fat Man and Little Boy assembly building. After the war many of the buildings on the base were transferred to New Mexico.

1 comment:

  1. This is a great place to visit. A lot of history in place that use to have a hospital in 1945 and doesn't have it now... If you get sick in Wendover on Friday after 6 PM, sorry, have to drive 100 miles to the closest city... Life in the desert, I guess