Marble Hill man worked on Enola Gay - plane that dropped atomic bomb

By Christy Millweard - bio | email

MARBLE HILL, MO (KFVS) - Sixty-nine years ago almost 400 Japanese aircraft attacked Pearl Harbor. That event launched the U.S. into World War II. But one local man talks not about the beginning, but instead the end of the war.

"I was standing there at the corner of the hanger when the plane went to go and he went to drop the bomb," said Estel James, a World War II veteran.

Estel James had a front row seat to World War II. As a technician, he worked on U.S. aircrafts solving problems. But there was a certain B-29 he worked on that would live in infamy.

"Took some of the radio equipment out, some of the radar equipment and different things so the plane can be light, not heavy to fly," said James.

James was one of the men who modified the Enola Gay plane to be able to carry an atomic bomb straight to Hiroshima.

"They told us they was going to fly straight through to the states without stopping but we knew better," said James.

"That was one of the most major points in any war we've had because it just put a dead stop to the war with Japan. And to think somebody like that, that contributed so much to save so many lives on both sides is here from the Heartland, that's pretty remarkable," said Gary Shrum, a friend of James.

Even in his nineties, James still loses sleep thinking about the horrors of war. He didn't say that, but the woman who sleeps next to him every night did.

"I know there have been times that he couldn't sleep the night for that being on his mind," said his wife Lucille James.

To celebrate the remarkable feats of all veterans in Bollinger County, a group is building a memorial in Marble Hill.  Shrum is helping to raise the money.

"We are building a DVD/CD that pictures any Bollinger County veteran that has ever served in any war, from the Revolutionary war, up until now," said Shrum.

All the money earned will go towards engraving veterans' names on the walls.

"I think that a lot of them will be viewed by grandchildren, or great grandchildren that have never seen their grandfather, or great grandfather in uniform before," said Shrum.

But not James's grandson who fought in Desert Storm.

"Me and him swap war stories," said James' grandson Archie McCoy.

He wants to preserve these stories for future generations...his children.

"The more I listen, and the more I appreciate history," said McCoy.

That's history James does not want to repeat.

"When we got off, all of us men got down on our knees and kissed the ground," said James.

If you want to purchase one of the veteran DVDs, you can stop by Marble Hill City Hall, or contact the Bollinger County Veterans Memorial Committee. Shrum said the DVDs will sell for about twenty dollars.

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