Robert A. Lewis

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Robert A. Lewis (October 18, 1917 - June 18, 1983) was a United States Army Air Forces Officer serving in the Pacific Theatre during World War II.

Lewis grew up in Ridgefield Park, New Jersey and attended Ridgefield Park High School there, graduating in 1937.[1]

Lewis had lived in Smithfield, Virginia for two years before his death of a heart attack at a hospital in Newport News, Virginia.[2]

The Hiroshima Bombing[edit]

On 6 August 1945 Captain Lewis was the co-pilot of the Enola Gay, the B-29 Superfortress bomber which dropped the atomic bomb Little Boy on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Normally the aircraft commander assigned to the Enola Gay, for this important mission he acted as co-pilot, assisting Enola Gay's new aircraft commander Colonel Paul Tibbets.

In 1990, an item described as the log from the Hiroshima mission was offered for auction by Christie's by Lewis' widow. The validity of the log could not be confirmed, as there were alternate claims for an authentic version of the Enola Gay's log.[3] The log was bought at auction in 1971 for $37,000, and then purchased in 1978 by Malcolm Forbes for $85,000, for what was then a record price for an American autographed document.[2]

Guest appearance[edit]

On May 11, 1955 Kiyoshi Tanimoto, a Japanese minister who had been living in Hiroshima at the time of the bombing and survived the explosion of 6 August 1945, had traveled to the US with the Hiroshima maidens to get reconstructive surgery for them, and while there was the subject of an episode of the American show This Is Your Life. After meeting various friends, family members and former colleagues and parishioners, Reverend Tanimoto's special guest at the end of the night was Captain Lewis, by then retired, representing the crew of the aircraft that had so dramatically changed his life.[4]

By that time, Robert Lewis was working as a personnel manager for Henry Heide Candy Company, a confectionery company. Lewis described the Enola Gay's flight and the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima. When asked if he remembered his reaction on that fateful day, he remarked:

[In the official log] I wrote down the words, "My God, what have we done?"

In John Hersey's book Hiroshima, he writes of the interview and states that on the night, Lewis was drunk and nearly missed the show:

Years later, Marvin Green told a young journalist named Rodney Barker...that Lewis had panicked the show people by failing to turn up that afternoon for the rehearsal of all participants except Tanimoto. It seemed that he had expected to be given a fat check for appearing on the show, and when he learned that he would not, he had gone out bar crawling. Green said he had found the copilot in time to get a cup of coffee in him before the show.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Fosdick, George. History of Ridgefield Park High School, Ridgefield Park Jr. / Sr. High School Alumni Association. Accessed February 12, 2008. "Bud Lewis '37 was the co-pilot of the Enola Gay Aircraft which dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, leading to the end of World War II, a war in which over 1,000 RPHS graduates served. Many years later, when questioned about his role in World War II, Lewis commented, 'I would rather be remembered for being a member of RPHS Championship Football Team than for being the co-pilot of that plane.'"
  2. ^ a b Grusin, Lindsey. "ROBERT A. LEWIS, 65, CO-PILOT ON MISSION OVER HIROSHIMA", The New York Times, June 20, 1983. Accessed February 12, 2008.
  3. ^ "Enola Gay Log at Christie's Is Disputed", The New York Times, December 7, 1990. Accessed February 12, 2008.
  4. ^ Rakoff, David. "THEATER; Hiroshima Bomber and Victims: This Is Your (Puppet's) Life", The New York Times, January 11, 2004. Accessed February 12, 2008.