WWII veteran who worked on the Enola Gay relives experience - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

WWII veteran who worked on the Enola Gay relives experience


A World War II veteran in Bollinger County played a unique role in the war. He worked on the airplane that dropped the atomic bomb.

Ninety-six-year-old Estel James was known by his fellow service members as the fastest and best mechanic in the military. He said he worked on countless planes, but none more memorable than the Enola Gay.

“[I’m] just glad I could do something for the United States,” James said.

Those are humble words from an American airman.

“I wear this cap around and every once in a while somebody will thank me for fighting for their country,” James said.

He said no praise is necessary, but it’s far from unwarranted.

“We were dropping bombs twice and day and three times a day,” James said.

James knew the B-29 Bombers like the back of his hand.

“I could fix a plane quicker than anybody else,” James said.

That’s why there was no better man for the job of preparing super fortress bomber, the Enola Gay for attack.

“A bomb. A big bomb. I knew all about it and I knew about it for a month before we dropped it,” James said.

He watched the Enola Gay take off, carrying the atomic bomb that would help end the war. If it weren’t for mechanics like James, history shows, the U.S. may not have won the war.

“We may not because we dropped a many a bomb,” James said.

Now, he and his wife of nearly 70 years look back on his service.

“We feel proud that they did it,” Lucille James said.

“I wouldn’t take it back. I know I done something for my country,” Estel James said.

His service has certainly left a legacy in American history, but his precious Lucille said Estel’s legacy goes well beyond the Enola Gay.

“I’m proud of what he did in service, but I’m glad he made it back home too,” Lucille James said.

She said as good of an airplane mechanic as he was, she’s thankful for the great man he is.

“He’s a good father, he’s a good husband,” Lucille James said.

It’s the legacy of a true American hero.

Estel and Lucille raised two boys. Both followed in their dad’s footsteps and served their country.

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