Charles Donald Albury

Charles Donald Albury (October 12, 1920 – May 23, 2009) was an American military aviator who participated in both atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He co-piloted the United States Army Air Forces B-29 bomber known as the Bockscar during the mission which dropped the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945.[1] The bombing of Nagasaki killed an estimated 40,000 people instantly, and led to Japan's unconditional surrender on August 14, 1945, ending World War II.[1]


Early life

Albury was born in 1920 at his parents' home in Miami, Florida.[1] The Miami Police Department building currently stands on the site of Albury's birthplace, as of 2009.[1]

World War II

Albury enrolled at the University of Miami's engineering school, but dropped out before he completed his bachelor's degree in order to enlist in the United States Army during World War II.[1] He was one of three pilots assigned under the command of Captain Charles Sweeney to test the XB-29 and YB-29 delivered to Eglin Air Force Base in September 1943. Albury joined (now Major) Sweeny at Wendover Air Force Base in Utah where he and Sweeney were invited by Colonel Paul Tibbets to join what would become the nucleus of the 509th Composite Group in September 1944. (The 509th Composite Group was activated December 17, 1944.) Tibbets initially organized two air crews: one headed by himself with Robert A. Lewis as co-pilot (cockpit crew of the Enola Gay during the atomic bombing of Hiroshima), the other headed by Sweeney with Albury as the co-pilot. Roberts and Albury acted as pilots and crew commanders for their respective planes when Tibbets and/or Sweeney were not flying.[1][2]

Atomic bombing of Hiroshima

On August 6, 1945, Albury witnessed the first atomic bombing of Hiroshima as pilot of the instrument observation plane, The Great Artiste, which accompanied the Enola Gay commanded by Tibbets.[1][3] Albury measured the levels of radioactivity and magnitude of the atomic bomb from his plane.[1] He would later state in an interview with Time Magazine, "When Tibbets dropped the bomb, we dropped our instruments and made our left turn. Then this bright light hit us and the top of that mushroom cloud was the most terrifying, but also the most beautiful, thing you've ever seen in your life. Every color in the rainbow seemed to be coming out of it."[1]

Atomic bombing of Nagasaki

On August 9, 1945, just three days after the bombing of Hiroshima, Sweeney's crew, with Albury as co-pilot, took off in the B-29 Superfortress, nicknamed the Bockscar, which would drop the atomic bomb known as the "Fat Man" on the city of Nagasaki.[1][4] The attack was delayed by cloud cover until the crew located a hole in the clouds.[1] The Bockscar dropped the 10,200-pound "Fat Man" on the city of Nagasaki, instantly killing 40,000 people, the vast majority of them munitions workers.[1] An additional 35,000 Japanese citizens would succumb from radiation sickness and other injuries in the aftermath of the bombing.[1]

Immediately after the formal surrender of Japan on September 2, 1945, Albury flew with Tibbetts, Sweeney and close to twenty other members of their aircrews to Japan. The group eventually reached Nagasaki and witnessed on the ground the destruction caused by the atomic bomb.[5]

Albury stated repeatedly during his life that he did not have any remorse for the attack or his role in the attack on Nagasaki, noting that many more lives would have been lost if the United States had launched a full invasion of mainland Japan.[1]

Life following World War II

At the end of the second world war, Albury moved to Coral Gables, Florida with his wife, Roberta.[1] He chose a career as a commercial airline pilot for the now defunct Eastern Airlines.[1] He later became the co-manager of Eastern's Airbus A300 training program. He later moved to a house in Hunter's Creek (south Orlando) where he lived until his death.

Charles Donald Albury died on May 23, 2009, at a hospital in Orlando, Florida, at the age of 88. He had suffered from congestive heart failure for several years before his death.[1] He appeared in the Smithsonian Networks program Smithsonian Channel's War Stories, "The Men Who Brought the Dawn", in 1995, giving his recollections and reflections on the two atomic bomb missions.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q "Charles Donald Albury dies at 88; copilot on the Nagasaki bomb plane". Associated Press. Los Angeles Times. 2009-06-09. Retrieved 2009-06-19.
  2. ^ Sweeney: 38–39, 81, 107
  3. ^ Sweeney: 164–71
  4. ^ Sweeney: 207–26
  5. ^ Sweeney: 247, 252–58


  • Sweeney, Charles W. (1997). War's End. New York: Avon Books. pp. 38–39, 81, 107. ISBN 0-380-78874-8.
Albury (surname)

Albury is a surname. Notable people with the surname include:

Andy Albury (born 1961), Australian murderer

Bill Albury (born 1933), English footballer

Charles Donald Albury, co-pilot of the B-29 Bockscar when it dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki

James Albury, baseball player

Vic Albury, baseball player


Bockscar, sometimes called Bock's Car, is the name of the United States Army Air Forces B-29 bomber that dropped a Fat Man nuclear weapon over the Japanese city of Nagasaki during World War II in the second – and last – nuclear attack in history. One of 15 Silverplate B-29s used by the 509th, Bockscar was built at the Glenn L. Martin Aircraft Plant at Bellevue, Nebraska, at what is now Offutt Air Force Base, and delivered to the United States Army Air Forces on 19 March 1945. It was assigned to the 393d Bombardment Squadron, 509th Composite Group to Wendover Army Air Field, Utah in April.

Bockscar was used in 13 training and practice missions from Tinian, and three combat missions in which it dropped pumpkin bombs on industrial targets in Japan. On 9 August 1945, Bockscar, piloted by the 393d Bombardment Squadron's commander, Major Charles W. Sweeney, dropped a Fat Man nuclear bomb with a blast yield equivalent to 21 kilotons of TNT over the city of Nagasaki. About 44% of the city was destroyed; 35,000 people were killed and 60,000 injured.

After the war, Bockscar returned to the United States in November 1945. In September 1946, it was given to the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. The aircraft was flown to the Museum on 26 September 1961, and its original markings were restored (nose art was added after the mission). Bockscar is now on permanent display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Dayton, Ohio, next to a replica of a Fat Man.

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