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Wendover • For the first time in decades, Historic Wendover Airfield revealed its nuclear secrets Saturday to a small group of guests who got a look at what's on the south side of the still-operational runway.

And a peek at pieces of American history.

Wendover is where flight crews trained to drop the atomic bombs that ended World War II and where those bombs, Fat Man and Little Boy, were developed and assembled (with the exception of the atomic warheads).

"It's awesome," said Faye Sanders, of Salt Lake City. "The history is just amazing."

"I had no idea this even went on," said Bonnie Wilson, of Taylorsville, Sanders' mother. "I thought Wendover was just for gambling."

While visitors had only to wait for a T-33 jet to clear the runway, it was considerably more difficult for those stationed at the base during WWII to make the short trip.

"To get out here during 1944-45," said Wendover Airfield Historian Thomas Peterson, "you had to have three security badges and a personally signed authorization from Col. Paul Tibbets," who commanded the air group and piloted the Enola Gay, which dropped Little Boy on Hiroshima. "This is where all the nuclear bomb development took place as far as ballistics."

And even those who were authorized to be there didn't know what was going on.

"Their instructions were don't ask the man standing next to you what he's doing," Peterson said. "He's not going to tell you. And you shouldn't be asking."

Visitors got to see the crumbling concrete block on which Little Boy was assembled.

"It's amazing to think that that's where it happened," said Frank Stehno, of Sandy. "We've stopped at the museum before, but I didn't know this was here."

The tourists also got a look at bunkers that were once filled with classified material.

"The stuff that would tell us exactly what was here is still classified as top secret," Peterson said. "As far as we're aware, you may be standing in the building that held a lot of those parts for the bombs."

The tour also included a stop at "the most important hole on Earth," according to Peterson — the atomic-bomb loading pit. With the help of a troop of Boy Scouts, the Historic Wendover Airfield group cleaned out the pit, a large concrete rectangle that housed a hydraulic lift to load the 10,000-pound bombs into B-29 Superfortress bombers. (B-29s normally carried bombs that weighed up to 500 pounds.)

The tour featured stops at Wendover sites that have been open to visitors before — dining hall, barracks, hospital, etc. Peterson said the group is "going to try to do the all-access tour a few times a year" to promote interest and raise funds to continue the restoration of the base.

Saturday's tour was made possible by the donations of a WWII-era Jeep and troop carrier, along with the $1,500 that paid for a surplus 11-passenger shuttle to ferry visitors to the south field.

Considerable progress has been made. The hangar that housed the Enola Gay is no longer in danger of collapsing, but there's a lot left to do.

"If anybody knows anybody with an extra $3 million, let us know," said Jim Peterson, president of Historic Wendover Airfield. "Our real objective is to have you walk onto the air base and experience what you did out in the south field — to know what it was like when history was being made."

Historic Wendover Airfield

The site is at 345 S. Airport Apron, Wendover, approximately 120 miles west of Salt Lake City on Interstate 80. For more information, go to