WWII Archive of Russell E. Gackenbach, Navigator of Necessary Evil, Incl. Camera and Photograph of the Bombing of Hiroshima

Archive of Lt. Russell E. Gackenbach, the last surviving crew member of the three strike planes that carried out the first wartime use of an atomic bomb in human history, including the only known non-government photograph of the mushroom cloud over Hiroshima which resides in private hands, 2.5 x 3.5 in., inscribed on verso Hiroshima 6 Aug and signed Taken by Russell Gackenbach; the Agfa PB 20 Viking camera with which it was taken;  a note signed by Gackenbach attesting that the camera was the one used on Necessary Evil on Aug. 6, 1945; a 5 x 7 in. photograph of Gackenbach in front of the front landing gear of Necessary Evil, Signed Russell E. Gackenbach, Navigator, with inscription to Richard DeRosa; a 5 x 7 in. photograph of Necessary Evil, signed R.E. Gackenbach/ Navigator 6 Aug ‘45/ Hiroshima Photo plane; a 3.5 x 5 in. photograph of a crew of ten, with Gackenbach at center, inscribed Crew B-10, Dec. 1944, and signed Russell E. Gackenbach; a photograph of an aged Gackenbach, dated 11/11/01; AAF cloth chart No. C-52 Japan and South China Seas /No. C-53 East China Sea, 31 x 33 in.; two US Army Air Force Navigator Wings; eight lieutenant’s bars; two U.S. flight officer insignia; a US Army Air Force aviation cadet pin; and a theatre-made US Army Air Force patch.

The bombing of Hiroshima, known internally as Special Mission 13, was carried out by three B-29s of the 393rd Bombardment Squadron, 509th composite group: the B-29 Enola Gay, serving the mission role of weapon delivery; The Great Artiste, responsible for blast measurement and instrumentation; and Necessary Evil, responsible for strike observation and photography (three weather reconnaissance planes had previously scouted the conditions over Hiroshima, the primary target, and the contingency targets of Kokura and Nagasaki). 2nd Lt. Russell Gackenbach served as Navigator on Necessary Evil, which also carried Prof. Bernard Walman, the only civilian in the crew of 10, as the official government camera operator. Despite a search of the crew before takeoff, Lt. Gackenbach managed to secrete his personal Agfa Viking camera aboard. According to interviews with Gackenbach, he retrieved his camera barely one minute after Little Boy was dropped from the Enola Gay – “as soon as the initial flash died down” – and snapped two photographs. 

One of the two photographs was donated to the archives of Lehigh University, and the other is offered here. The lot contains documented provenance from Gackenbach to Richard DeRosa to the current consignor. This is once-in-a-lifetime chance to own this unique documentation of one of the watershed moments in human history.

Estimate: $20,000 - $30,000
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