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12 Beachwood Buzz
July 2016
The Restoration of the Enola Gay
A Labor of Love for Al Gray
By Donna L. Robinson
"I am proud to be an Ameri-
can," said Alvin (Alvie) Lawrence
Gray, as he shared his role in
the funding for the restoration
of the Enola Gay, the Boeing
B-29 Superfortress bomber
that dropped the first atomic
bomb on Hiroshima during the
final stages of WWII. The Enola
Gay was flown by Colonel Paul
Tibbets, and was named for his
mother. "We must be proud of
what our military accomplished
by the end of that war," said the
88 year-old Beachwood resident
and the "president of residence"
of Stone Gardens Apartments.
When asked what drew his
interest in the Enola Gay, Gray
replied, "I always thought that
the success of the atomic bomb
not only ended the war, but
it saved millions of lives from
combat. We would otherwise
have had to continue the war
with Japan for a couple of more
years and invade the Japanese
islands. That would have cost, in
my opinion, the lives of several
million Americans and Japa-
nese. The bomb was actually a
blessing for the world."
Gray said, "So my interest
in the Enola Gay was based
very much on that. It was of
historical interest. I've been an
amateur historian my whole life.
Even as a kid, I was big on the
military from 1939 at the start
of WWII, and I was big on Great
Britain and its fight with Nazism.
I've had a Winston Churchill
mug since I was very young, and
a Winston Churchill plaque, too."
He continued, "Personally,
I got involved in the `Cause of
Soviet Jewry.' I was in the Soviet
Union seven times, which was
Russia under the control of the
Communists. I went there to
help Soviet Jews get out of the
country, and as a result was
held twice by the Communist
government. I was once inside
Siberia because the United
States military asked me to take
pictures of a dam that had just
been built. I wasn't held long
because the U.S. government
got me released. The second
time I was held captive was
when I got married; I was 47
years old," he smiled.
Gray explained that when the
war ended, people got interest-
ed in the airplanes from the war.
The Enola Gay was abandoned
in the Arizona desert and left to
rust for more than 30 years. "I
found out that the Smithsonian
Air Museum in Washington,
D.C., was interested in acquiring
the Enola Gay because of its
historical value, and restoring it
and putting it on public display.
I volunteered to help [the
Smithsonian] fund the plane's
restoration. The Smithsonian
raised $8 million on their own
to restore it. I loved what I did
for the Enola Gay. It was a labor
of love for the plane and for our
Little was known about the
Enola Gay for years, but then,
Gray said, "I caught a news item
that said the government was
going to let the Smithsonian
restore it, and it excited me in a
big way. I contacted the Smith-
sonian, and I felt it was one of
the great opportunities for a
guy like me to do something
that was very meaningful." Gray
said the final work on the Enola
Gay is fabulous. He claims that it
looks like a brand new airplane.
Gray, a veteran of the
United States Navy, graduat-
ed from Cleveland Heights
High School in 1945, just two
months before the end of the
war, and no atomic bomb had
been dropped at that point. "I
went into the Navy pre-flight
program and was preparing to
enter military air training. Then
the war ended after the bombs
were dropped. I remained active
in the Navy for two years, as I
continued with my pre-flight
training at Denison University
in Granville, Ohio, and then at
Union College in Schenectady,
New York. Then I went to boot
camp," he added.
He continued, "I ended my air