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Music History #15: "Enola Gay"

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“Enola Gay”
Written by Andy McCluskey (1980)
Performed by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (better known as OMD)

The Music

“We were both geeks about World War II airplanes,” said Andy McCluskey. “The most famous and influential single bomber was Enola Gay. Obvious choice for us, really.”

In 1980, McCluskey and his musical partner Paul Humphreys scored their first hit as OMD with “Enola Gay.” Though it borrowed the name of the famous Boeing B-29 plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, the lyric was vague enough to be interpreted as a love song. The only overt war references were to “8:15,” the time that the bomb was dropped, and “Little Boy,” the code name for the bomb itself.

The song reached #8 on the UK singles chart.

The History

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The most famous war plane in history was built in 1945, as part of a batch of 15 Silverplate B-29 bombers specially modified for atomic bombing missions.

The plane arrived on the South Seas island of Tinian in July 1945. The island, formerly under Japanese control and used as a sugar plantation, had been seized by U.S. forces the year before. The Navy turned it into a 40,000-person military base.

In the month leading up to the Hiroshima bombing, the plane, still unnamed, flew eight practice missions and two regular bombing missions over Japan. On one, it dropped a 6300 “pumpkin” bomb, designed to simulate the “Fat Man” atomic bomb (the code name reportedly referred to Sydney Greenstreet’s character in the movie The Maltese Falcon), which would soon be dropped on Nagasaki.

The planned attack on Hiroshima for August 1st was postponed for a few days because of a typhoon. On August 5th, while preparing for the mission, pilot Colonel Paul Tibbets named the B-29 after his mother, Enola Gay Tibbets. Tibbets later said, “My dad never supported me with the flying. He said, ‘If you want to go kill yourself, go ahead, I don’t give a damn.’ Then Mom just quietly said, ‘Paul, if you want to go fly airplanes, you’re going to be all right.’”

Tibbets was born in 1915. After dropping out of college, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps. Over the course of the combat missions he flew in Europe during the first part of World War II, Tibbets earned a reputation as one of the best fliers in the service. He even served as a personal pilot to General Dwight Eisenhower.

After returning to the US in 1944, Tibbets did test flying of development B-29s. This led to him being chosen to command the atomic bombing mission in Japan.

Tibbets was not completely briefed on the nature of the Little Boy bomb. He later said, “[They said] the only thing we can tell you about it is, ‘It’s going to explode with the force of 20,000 tons of TNT.’ I’d never seen one pound of TNT blow up. I’d never heard of anybody who’d seen 100 pounds of TNT blow up. All I felt was that this was gonna be one hell of a big bang.”

The Bomb and Its Aftermath
At 8:15 am on August 6th, the Enola Gay dropped the Little Boy atomic bomb on Hiroshima. From the bomb’s fall to the initial 2,000 foot burst altitude (its mushroom cloud eventually climbed to 40,000 feet), it lasted 43 seconds (Tibbets would describe the cloud as “black as hell, and it had light and colors and white in it, and the top was like a folded up Christmas tree”). Little Boy’s explosion moved with a vertical velocity at just over the speed of sound.

As Tibbets maneuvered the Enola Gay away from the blast, the plane was rocked by a series of shock waves. Below there was instant death and obliteration. In a split second, Hiroshima ceased to exist. The radioactive fallout from the bomb caused horrific damage for years afterwards.

In the years since, both Tibbets and the Enola Gay have been at the center of various controversies.

In 1976, Tibbets performed a re-enactment of the bombing in a restored B-29, at a Texas air show. There was even a mushroom cloud. Afterwards, the US government made a formal apology to Japan.

After its mission, the Enola Gay was kept at various air fields, before ending up at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. In 1960, it was disassembled by a team from the Smithsonian Institution. Its parts were kept in storage for over twenty years. In 1984, a restoration of the plane began. Then in 1995, the partially rebuilt Enola Gay was displayed at the Smithsonian’s 50th anniversary exhibition about the Hiroshima bombing. Critics, including the American Legion and the Air Force Association, said the exhibit focused too much on the Japanese casualties, rather than what they felt were the legitimate reasons why the bomb was necessary to end the war.

The restored fuselage of the plane went on display. Protests continued, and there was one incident where three people were arrested for throwing ash and human blood on the plane.

In 2003, the Enola Gay's restoration was finally complete. It is now on regular display in a museum annex at Washington Dulles Airport.

The Gooey History of the Fluffernutter Sandwich

Open any pantry in New England and chances are you’ll find at least one jar of Marshmallow Fluff. Not just any old marshmallow crème, but Fluff; the one manufactured by Durkee-Mower of Lynn, Massachusetts since 1920, and the preferred brand of the northeast. With its familiar red lid and classic blue label, it's long been a favorite guilty pleasure and a kitchen staple beloved throughout the region.

This gooey, spreadable, marshmallow-infused confection is used in countless recipes and found in a variety of baked goods—from whoopie pies and Rice Krispies Treats to chocolate fudge and beyond. And in the beyond lies perhaps the most treasured concoction of all: the Fluffernutter sandwich—a classic New England treat made with white bread, peanut butter, and, you guessed it, Fluff. No jelly required. Or wanted.

There are several claims to the origin of the sandwich. The first begins with Revolutionary War hero Paul Revere—or, not Paul exactly, but his great-great-great-grandchildren Emma and Amory Curtis of Melrose, Massachusetts. Both siblings were highly intelligent and forward-thinkers, and Amory was even accepted into MIT. But when the family couldn’t afford to send him, he founded a Boston-based company in the 1890s that specialized in soda fountain equipment.

He sold the business in 1901 and used the proceeds to buy the entire east side of Crystal Street in Melrose. Soon after he built a house and, in his basement, he created a marshmallow spread known as Snowflake Marshmallow Crème (later called SMAC), which actually predated Fluff. By the early 1910s, the Curtis Marshmallow Factory was established and Snowflake became the first commercially successful shelf-stable marshmallow crème.

Although other companies were manufacturing similar products, it was Emma who set the Curtis brand apart from the rest. She had a knack for marketing and thought up many different ways to popularize their marshmallow crème, including the creation of one-of-a-kind recipes, like sandwiches that featured nuts and marshmallow crème. She shared her culinary gems in a weekly newspaper column and radio show. By 1915, Snowflake was selling nationwide.

During World War I, when Americans were urged to sacrifice meat one day a week, Emma published a recipe for a peanut butter and marshmallow crème sandwich. She named her creation the "Liberty Sandwich," as a person could still obtain his or her daily nutrients while simultaneously supporting the wartime cause. Some have pointed to Emma’s 1918 published recipe as the earliest known example of a Fluffernutter, but the earliest recipe mental_floss can find comes from three years prior. In 1915, the confectioners trade journal Candy and Ice Cream published a list of lunch offerings that candy shops could advertise beyond hot soup. One of them was the "Mallonut Sandwich," which involved peanut butter and "marshmallow whip or mallo topping," spread on lightly toasted whole wheat bread.

Another origin story comes from Somerville, Massachusetts, home to entrepreneur Archibald Query. Query began making his own version of marshmallow crème and selling it door-to-door in 1917. Due to sugar shortages during World War I, his business began to fail. Query quickly sold the rights to his recipe to candy makers H. Allen Durkee and Fred Mower in 1920. The cost? A modest $500 for what would go on to become the Marshmallow Fluff empire.

Although the business partners promoted the sandwich treat early in the company’s history, the delicious snack wasn’t officially called the Fluffernutter until the 1960s, when Durkee-Mower hired a PR firm to help them market the sandwich, which resulted in a particularly catchy jingle explaining the recipe.

So who owns the bragging rights? While some anonymous candy shop owner was likely the first to actually put the two together, Emma Curtis created the early precursors and brought the concept to a national audience, and Durkee-Mower added the now-ubiquitous crème and catchy name. And the Fluffernutter has never lost its popularity.

In 2006, the Massachusetts state legislature spent a full week deliberating over whether or not the Fluffernutter should be named the official state sandwich. On one side, some argued that marshmallow crème and peanut butter added to the epidemic of childhood obesity. The history-bound fanatics that stood against them contended that the Fluffernutter was a proud culinary legacy. One state representative even proclaimed, "I’m going to fight to the death for Fluff." True dedication, but the bill has been stalled for more than a decade despite several revivals and subsequent petitions from loyal fans.

But Fluff lovers needn’t despair. There’s a National Fluffernutter Day (October 8) for hardcore fans, and the town of Somerville, Massachusetts still celebrates its Fluff pride with an annual What the Fluff? festival.

"Everyone feels like Fluff is part of their childhood," said self-proclaimed Fluff expert and the festival's executive director, Mimi Graney, in an interview with Boston Magazine. "Whether born in the 1940s or '50s, or '60s, or later—everyone feels nostalgic for Fluff. I think New Englanders in general have a particular fondness for it."

Today, the Fluffernutter sandwich is as much of a part of New England cuisine as baked beans or blueberry pie. While some people live and die by the traditional combination, the sandwich now comes in all shapes and sizes, with the addition of salty and savory toppings as a favorite twist. Wheat bread is as popular as white, and many like to grill their sandwiches for a touch of bistro flair. But don't ask a New Englander to swap out their favorite brand of marshmallow crème. That’s just asking too Fluffing much.

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The Hospital in the Rock
Budapest’s Former Top-Secret Hospital Inside a Cave
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The Hospital in the Rock

At the top of a hill in Budapest, overlooking the Danube River, sits Buda Castle, a gorgeous UNESCO World Heritage site visited by thousands of tourists every year. Directly underneath the castle, however, lies a less-frequented tourist attraction: a series of ancient, naturally formed caves with a colorful and sometimes disturbing history.

The entire cave system is over six miles long, and most of that has been left unchanged since it was used as cold storage (and a rumored dungeon) in the Middle Ages. Between 1939 and 2008, however, a half-mile stretch of those caves was built up and repurposed many times over. Known as Sziklakorhaz or The Hospital in the Rock, its many uses are a testament to the area’s involvement in World War II and the Cold War.

At the start of World War II, the location served as a single-room air raid center, but operating theaters, corridors, and wards were quickly added to create a much-needed hospital. By early 1944, the hospital had officially opened inside the cave, tending to wounded Hungarian and Nazi soldiers. After less than a year of operation, the facility found itself facing its largest challenge—the Siege of Budapest, which lasted seven weeks and was eventually won by Allied forces on their way to Berlin.

As one of the few area hospitals still operational, the Hospital in the Rock was well over capacity during the siege. Originally built to treat around 70 patients, close to 700 ended up crammed into the claustrophobic caves. The wounded lay three to a bed—if they were lucky enough to get a bed at all. Unsurprisingly, heat from all those bodies raised the ambient temperature to around 95°F, and smoking cigarettes was the number one way to pass the time. Add that to the putrid mix of death, decay, and infection and you’ve got an incredibly unpleasant wartime cocktail.

A recreation inside the museum. Image credit: The Hospital in the Rock 

After the siege, the Soviets took control of the caves (and Budapest itself) and gutted the hospital of most of its supplies. Between 1945 and 1948, the hospital produced a vaccination for typhus. As the icy grasp of the Cold War began to tighten, new wards were built, new equipment was installed, and the hospital was designated top-secret by the Soviets, referred to only by its official codename LOSK 0101/1.

Eleven years after facing the horrors of the Siege of Budapest, in 1956, the hospital hosted the casualties of another battle: The Hungarian Uprising. Thousands of Hungarians revolted against the Soviet policies of the Hungarian People’s Republic in a fierce, prolonged battle. Civilians and soldiers alike lay side-by-side in wards as surgeons attempted to save them. During the uprising, seven babies were also born in the hospital.

Surgeons lived on-site and rarely surfaced from the caves. The hospital’s chief surgeon at the time, Dr. András Máthé, famously had a strict "no amputation" rule, which seemed to fly in the face of conventional wisdom, but in the end reportedly saved many patients' lives. (Máthé also reportedly wore a bullet that he’d removed from a patient’s head on a chain around his neck.)

The Hospital in the Rock ceased normal operations in December 1956, after the Soviets squashed the uprising, as the Soviets had new plans for the caves. With the Cold War now in full swing, the still-secret site was converted into a bunker that could serve as a hospital in case of nuclear attack. Diesel engines and an air conditioning system were added in the early '60s, so that even during a blackout, the hospital could still function for a couple of days.

The Hospital in the Rock

The official plan for the bunker was as follows: In the event of a nuclear attack, a selection of doctors and nurses would retreat to the bunker, where they would remain for 72 hours. Afterward, they were to go out and search for survivors. Special quarantined rooms, showering facilities, and even a barbershop were on site for survivors brought back to the site. (The only haircut available to them, however, was a shaved head; radioactive material is notoriously difficult to remove from hair.)

Thankfully, none of these nuclear procedures were ever put into practice. But the hospital was never formally decommissioned, and it wasn’t relieved of its top-secret status until the mid-2000s. For a while, it was still being used as a storage facility by Hungary’s Civil Defense Force. The bunker was maintained by a nearby family, who were sworn to secrecy. In 2004, it was decided that responsibility for the site fell solely on St. John’s Hospital in Budapest, who were seen as the de facto owners in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union.

By 2008 the bunker was renovated, refurbished, and ready to be opened to the public. Today it operates as a museum, with exhibits detailing life in the hospital from various periods of its history, as well as the history of combat medicine as a whole. The sobering hour-long walk around the hospital concludes with a cautionary gaze into the atrocities of nuclear attacks, with the final walk to the exit featuring a gallery of art created by survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings.

Another part of the caves beneath Buda Castle. Image credit:Sahil Jatana via Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

The caves beneath Buda Castle have certainly had a bumpy history, and walking through them now is chilling (and not just because they keep the temperature at around 60°F). A tour through the narrow, oppressive hallways is a glimpse at our narrowly avoided nuclear future—definitely a sobering way to spend an afternoon.


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