“Enola Gay” is an anti-war song by the British synthpop group Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD). It was the only single from the band’s 1980 album, Organisation.
Written by Andy McCluskey, it addresses the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945, during the final stages of World War II, and directly mentions three components of the attack: the Boeing B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay, which dropped the nuclear weapon Little Boy on Hiroshima at “8:15”.
The song is named after the Enola Gay, the USAAF B-29 Superfortress bomber that carried Little Boy, the first atomic bomb to be used in an act of war, dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945, killing more than 100,000 of its citizens. The name of the bomber itself was chosen by its commanding pilot, Colonel Paul Tibbets who named it after his mother, Enola Gay Tibbets (1893–1983), who herself had been named for the heroine of the novel Enola; or, Her fatal mistake.
The lyrics to the song reflect on the decision to use the bomb and ask the listener to consider whether the bombings were necessary (“It shouldn’t ever have to end this way”).
The phrase, “Is mother proud of Little Boy today?”, is an allusion to both the nickname of the uranium bomb, as well as the fact that pilot Paul Tibbets named the aircraft after his mother.
The phrase, “It’s 8:15, and that’s the time that it’s always been”, refers to the precise time of detonation over Hiroshima at 8:15am JST; as many timepieces were ‘frozen’ at this exact moment by the effects of the blast, it becomes ‘the time that it’s always been’.
The song was also released during a major controversy surrounding then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s decision to allow US nuclear missiles to be stationed in Britain.
The music video begins by showing sped-up footage of clouds passing through the sky. After the opening riff, which is shown as just the keyboardist’s hands playing it whilst being animated using digital rotoscoping, it shows a transparent video image of McCluskey vocalising and playing a bass guitar. The still photo from the album cover is taken from the video.