History in Song: “Enola Gay” by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

enolagay

Today is the anniversary of the first atomic bomb drop on Hiroshima. On August 6, 1945 at 8:15 in the morning, local time, the Enola Gay, a Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber, released the atomic bomb code-named “Little Boy.” The bomb’s blast and firestorm killed 70,000-80,000 people, 30% of the city’s population, and another 70,000 were injured. Out of those killed, only 20,000 were soldiers. These numbers do not include those who suffered long-term health effects and early deaths from the fallout and radiation.

While the attack on Hiroshima and the later attack on Nagasaki brought an end to World War II without the invasion of Japan, the immense loss of life and almost complete destruction of the two cities has been the source of much debate and controversy. Many of the mission’s crew have maintained that they felt the attacks were warranted in that they brought a swifter end to the war and resulted in less casualties than an invasion of Japan might have. Many have also argued that the immense and terrifying power of the atomic bomb as displayed in these two attacks has prevented future use of atomic weapons. However, the loss of life was catastrophic and many have questioned whether it was really necessary or the only option to bring about the end of the war.

1980s British synth-pop band, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, explored the moral questions rising from the use of the atomic bomb in their song, Enola Gay (1980). Interpreted by many as an anti-war song, the songwriter Andy McCluskey actually stated that the song was not politically motivated and he hoped the track “conveyed an ambivalence about whether it was the right or the wrong thing to do.” However, the song was released during a time of growing anti-nuclear sentiment.

Music Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5XJ2GiR6Bo

Lyrics:

Enola Gay, you should have stayed at home yesterday
Oh, words can’t describe the feeling and the way you lied
These games you play, they’re gonna end in more than tears someday
Oh, Enola Gay, it shouldn’t ever have to end this way
It’s 8:15, that’s the time that it’s always been [the time the bomb was dropped and a reference to the fact that the blast stopped watches]
We got your message on the radio
Condition’s normal and you’re coming home
Enola Gay, is mother proud of her little boy today? [a reference both to the code name of the bomb,”Little Boy” and the fact that the plane was named after the pilot’s mother, Enola Gay Tibbets]
Oh, this kiss you give, it’s never ever gonna fade away
Enola Gay, it shouldn’t ever have to end this way
Oh, Enola Gay, it should’ve faded our dreams away
It’s 8:15, and that’s the time that it’s always been
We got your message on the radio, condition’s normal and you’re coming home
Enola Gay, is mother proud of her little boy today?
Oh, this kiss you give, it’s never ever gonna fade away.