The B-29 Superfortress Forever Ember took off from Tinian in the Northern Marianas Islands early on the morning of Sept. 2, 1945–its destination Iwo Jima, then nonstop to Hickam Field, Hawaii, and on to Washington, D.C.
Its mission was to deliver without delay to the Pentagon the still photography and motion-picture footage of the Japanese surrender ceremony the day before aboard the battleship U.S.S. Missouri.
Forever Ember’s commander was Lt. Col. William J. Gibson of Ogden, Utah, serving his second combat tour in the Pacific Theater when the war ended.
Before B-29s, he flew B-17 Flying Fortresses from bases in Java, Australia and New Guinea with the 7th and 19th U.S. Bomb Groups. His second tour was as squadron commander of the 484th Bomb Squadron, 505th Bomb Group, which arrived on Tinian in December 1944.
Gibson may have been Gen. Curtis LeMay’s youngest squadron commander, having turned 25 just before the Sept. 2 flight.
The ceremony film was carried in several diplomatic pouches, Gibson recalled, and brought to Iwo aboard a Navy torpedo bomber from Tokyo. The pouches arrived shortly before Gibson was set to take off for Hickam Field.
His orders were simple and to the point: deliver the film without delay.
Gibson’s reflection on the flight a half-century later: “Mission accomplished.”
He has been married for almost 50 years to the former Beth Jensen of Huntsville, Utah. They are parents of two sons and a daughter. Gibson served in the Air Force for 30 years with assignments in the United States and overseas in Morocco and England. He served his last combat tour as a C-123 unit commander in Viet Nam and spent several years as an airport executive. He and his wife now live in San Antonio, Texas.