Charles Albury, 88; copiloted plane that bombed Nagasaki
ORLANDO, Fla. - Charles Donald Albury, copilot of the plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan, has died after years of congestive heart failure. He was 88.
Mr. Albury died May 23 at a hospital, Family Funeral Care in Orlando confirmed.
He helped fly the B-29, nicknamed Bockscar, that dropped the weapon on Aug. 9, 1945, and he witnessed the deployment of the first atomic bomb over Hiroshima three days earlier as a pilot for a support plane. His plane dropped instruments to measure the magnitude of the blast and levels of radioactivity for the Hiroshima mission led by Colonel Paul Tibbets Jr.
"When Tibbets dropped the bomb, we dropped our instruments and made our left turn," Mr. Albury told Time magazine four years ago. "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."
Three days later, Mr. Albury copiloted the mission over Nagasaki. Cloud cover caused problems for the mission until the bombardier found a hole in the clouds.
The 10,200-pound explosive instantly killed an estimated 40,000 people. Another 35,000 died from injuries and radiation sickness. Japan surrendered on Aug. 14.
Mr. Albury said he felt no remorse, because the attacks prevented what was certain to be a devastating loss of life in a US invasion of Japan.
"My husband was a hero," Roberta Albury, his wife of 65 years, told The Miami Herald. "He saved 1 million people. . . . He sure did do a lot of praying."
Gwyneth Clarke-Bell, Mr. Albury's secretary at Eastern Airlines, where he worked for most of his career after World War II, told the Herald that Mr. Albury "felt he was doing his job, and that lives were saved on both sides."
Mr. Albury was born in 1920 at his parents' home, now the site of the Miami Police Department. He enlisted in the wartime Army before graduating from the University of Miami's engineering school.
After the war, he settled in Coral Gables, Fla., with his wife.