Charles Donald Albury, copilot of the plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan, during World War II, has died. He was 88.
Albury died May 23 at a hospital in Orlando, Fla., after years of congestive heart failure. Family Funeral Care in Orlando confirmed his death.
Albury helped fly the B-29 Superfortress, nicknamed Bockscar, that dropped the bomb on Aug. 9, 1945.
He also witnessed the first atomic blast over Hiroshima as a pilot on a support plane that measured the magnitude of the blast and levels of radioactivity.
The Hiroshima mission, on the better-known Enola Gay, was led by Col. Paul Tibbets Jr.
“When Tibbets dropped the bomb, we dropped our instruments and made our left turn,” Albury told Time magazine some 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 co-piloted the mission over Nagasaki. Cloud cover caused problems for the mission until the bombardier found a hole in the clouds.
The 10,200-pound explosive instantly killed an estimated 40,000 people, and 35,000 more died from injuries and radiation sickness. Japan surrendered on Aug. 14.
Albury said he felt no remorse, because the attacks prevented what was certain to have been a devastating loss of life in a U.S. invasion of Japan.
Albury was born in 1920 at his parents’ home, now the site of the Miami Police Department.
He enlisted in the wartime Army before graduating from the University of Miami’s engineering school. In 1943, Albury joined Tibbets’ unit: the elite 509th Composite Group. They trained at Wendover Air Field in Utah.
At the time, the participants did not know what they were training to do.
After the war, he settled in Coral Gables, Fla., with his wife, Roberta, and flew for Eastern Airlines. He eventually co-managed Eastern’s Airbus A-300 training program.
Survivors include his wife and a son.