Front view of Major Thomas Ferebee’s Utah liquor ration card. NASM 9A08342
Before shipping out to Tinian, the island in the Marianas from which the Enola Gay launched its flight to Japan, Tibbets and the 509th Composite Group were stationed at Wendover Army Air Field on the western edge of Utah. The population of the town of Wendover was just over 100 people. Surrounded by miles of salt flats, there so little to do in Wendover, Bob Hope reportedly called it “Leftover” Field. This isolation was ideal for Tibbets, since he was especially concerned with operational security for his top secret B-29 program. Tibbets hoped to keep his men out of the bars, where they could potentially talk about their lives and jobs.
Reverse view of Major Thomas Ferebee’s Utah liquor ration card. NASM 9A08342-A
Just because they were isolated in Utah, famous for its strict liquor laws even before wartime rationing, didn’t mean that alcohol was unavailable to the men of the 509th. During their stay at Wendover, Tibbets and Ferebee were issued new 1944 to 1945 individual liquor permits. According to the Salt Lake Telegram, the new 1944 to 1945 liquor permits were supposed to be a new “foolproof” design to curb rampant counterfeiting. Before, purchasing liquor in Utah required a liquor permit and a ration card, which were both easily forged. The new design was enclosed in cellophane and included a year’s supply of liquor. In order to receive a permit, an applicant needed to produce a ration book and at least three other forms of identification, including a service identification card if a member of the military.
Reverse view of Colonel Paul Tibbets’ Utah liquor ration card. NASM 9A08343-A
Elizabeth C. Borja, Reference Services Archivist
National Air and Space Museum Archives Division