C. Donald Albury, co-pilot of the B-29 that dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki in 1945, bringing about the surrender of Japan and ending World War II, died May 23 at a hospital in Orlando, Florida. He was 88 and had congestive heart failure.
Albury was co-pilot of the B-29 Superfortress named “Bockscar” by pilot Frederick Bock. The “Fat Boy” atomic bomb was dropped from “Bockscar” on Aug. 9, 1945. Albury also witnessed the first atomic blast, at Hiroshima, as pilot of a support plane that measured the magnitude of the blast and levels of radioactivity.
The better-known Hiroshima mission was led by then-Colonel Paul Tibbets, piloting the famous B-29 “Enola Gay.”
“When Tibbets dropped the bomb, we dropped our instruments and made our left turn,” 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, Albury was co-pilot on the Nagasaki mission.
The 10,200-pound bomb killed an estimated 40,000 people instantly; an additional 35,000 later died from injuries and radiation sickness. Japan surrendered Aug. 14.
Albury, like Tibbets, always said he felt no remorse because the attacks prevented what was certain to be a devastating loss of American and Japanese lives had an invasion of Japan been necessary.
“My husband was a hero,” Roberta Albury, his wife of 65 years, told the Miami Herald. “He saved one million people. . . . He sure did do a lot of praying.”
Charles Donald Albury, a native of Miami, enlisted in the wartime Army before graduating from the University of Miami engineering school. In 1943, he joined Tibbets’ elite 509th Composite Group. They trained at White Sands, N.M. At the time, the participants had no idea of what they were being trained to do, Albury said.
Albury told the Miami Herald in 1982 that he deplored war but that he would fight again if someone attacked the United States. “Everyone should be prepared to fight for liberty,” he said. “Our laws give us our freedom, and I think that’s worth fighting for.”
After the war, Albury settled in Coral Gables, Fla., and flew for Eastern Airlines.