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Thursday, 28 March, 2002, 08:57 GMT
Hiroshima bomb log sold for $350,000
Enola Gay crew (Christie Images)
The crew did not know what to expect
The logbook written by one of the American pilots aboard the Enola Gay which dropped the first atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima has been sold at Christie's in New York for $350,000.


My God, what have we done?

Robert A Lewis
The book belonged to Robert A Lewis, co-pilot of the B-29 bomber, and contains a minute-by-minute account of the mission to deliver the bomb codenamed Little Boy.

It was written in flight over the Pacific and over the target on 6 August 1945, and contains a sketch of the explosion.

"It's a terribly sad record. I think that affects the desire to own it," said dealer Seth Kaller.

Explosion sketch (Christie Images)
"The greatest explosion man has ever witnessed"

The log sold for more than the estimated range of $200,000 to $300,000 but far short of some of the other historic documents that were also on sale at the auction.

A forewarning that the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima could be developed at all came in a letter from Albert Einstein to former US President Franklin D Roosevelt, which sold for nearly $2.1m.

His August 1939 missive led President Roosevelt to launch the secret Manhattan Project which culminated in the first atomic bomb.

And an autographed manuscript of Abraham Lincoln's last speech, which he delivered from the window of the White House three days before 1865 assassination, was bought for $3,086,000 - the record for a US historical document.

The documents on sale, 201 in all, were from the Forbes Collection, started by the late financial publisher Malcolm Forbes.

Dawning horror

"My God, what have we done?" the Enola Gay's Capt Lewis wrote in the document marked "Hold for Top Secret Clearance".

Christie's says it is a unique first-hand account of the bombing, along with the navigator's log, which numerically recorded the aircraft's course, airspeed, latitude and longitude.

Japan surrendered five days after the second bomb was dropped in Nagasaki on 9 August 1945.

'How many did we kill?'

At 0815 on 6 August, the Hiroshima bomb was dropped and the detonation occurred a minute later.

Robert Lewis (Christie Images)
Capt Lewis' account is a unique first-hand record of the event

"For the next minute no one knew what to expect... The flash was terrific.

"Fifteen seconds after the flash, there were two very distinct slaps [air turbulence] that was all the physical effects we felt.

"We then turned the ship so we could observe results, and there in front of our eyes was without a doubt the greatest explosion man has ever witnessed.

"The city was 9/10 covered with smoke... and a column of white cloud, which in less than 3 mins. reached 30,000 feet and then went up to 50,000.

"I am certain the entire crew felt this experience was more than anyone human had ever thought possible. It just seems impossible to comprehend. Just how many did we kill?

"If I live 100 years, I'll never quite get those few minutes out of my mind..."

He observes that the massive cloud was still visible after an hour and a half, 400 miles from the target.

See also:

17 Mar 00 | Americas
Hiroshima bombardier dies
19 Oct 99 | Asia-Pacific
Japan 'should consider nuclear arms'
09 Aug 98 | Asia-Pacific
Japan blasts N-tests
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