Atomic Bomb Weather Planes and Crew 6

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by timshatz, Jan 20, 2011.

  1. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    Guys,

    Have a friend who's father flew as the Pilot on the B29 that did the Weather Recon for the Atomic Bomb Raids. His name was George Furey, I think he was a Capt, attached to the 20th Airforce, he'd flow B24s in the Pacific before being transitioned over to B29s.

    Does anyone have any information on this guy and which target he flew his weather runs on for the A Bomb? According to my friend, his father said there were 6 Weather crews and they flew their missions to find the best target in terms of clear air over the target. But he does not know which targets his father flew over, might've been Hiroshima or Nagisaki.

    Father is now deceased.

    Appreciate any help.
     
  2. antoni

    antoni Banned

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    For the Nagasaki drop:

    Up An' Atom, piloted by Capt. George Marquardt, acted as a weather plane flying ahead to the primary target of Kokura.

    Laggin' Dragon, piloted by Capt. Charles McKnight, acted as a weather plane flying ahead to the secondary target of Nagasaki.

    Elona Gay made the long range weather reconnaissance.
     
  3. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    Thanks Antoni, interesting info.

    Were there only two targets on any given A-Bomb run or were there more? I realize it would be impossible for a bomber to go to all the targets that would be checked for weather, but if they started far enough out to sea, maybe they could change course to a different target.
     
  4. antoni

    antoni Banned

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    Kokura had been the intended target and the mission came close to a fiasco.

    There were six aircraft assigned to the mission, seven if you count Elona Gay which made the long range weather reconnaissance.


    Bocks Car, piloted by Maj. Charles Sweeney carried the Fat Man plutonium bomb.



    The Great Artiste, piloted by Capt. Fred Bock, was assigned to drop the three instruments used to measure the blast effects of the bomb.



    The Big Stink, flown by Maj. James Hopkins, carried the scientific observers.



    Up An' Atom, piloted by Capt. George Marquardt, acted as a weather plane flying ahead to the primary target of Kokura.



    Laggin' Dragon, piloted by Capt. Charles McKnight, acted as a weather plane flying ahead to the secondary target of Nagasaki.



    The sixth, Full House, flown by Capt. Ralph Taylor, flew to Iwo Jima to act as the standby aircraft should there be any mechanical problems with Bocks Car.



    The decision to drop a second bomb had been made on Guam on the 7th August. Its use was calculated to indicate that that there was endless supply of the new weapon. Originally scheduled for the 11th August it was brought forward to the 9th August due to weather concerns. If the mission had to be aborted then there was an undetermined delay before it could be reinstated. Returning the bomb to Tinian or cancelling the mission would have required disassembly of the bomb to allow the internal batteries to be recharged. This would have taken about three days to complete and they required recharging every three days and after nine days they needed to be replaced. The arming device could only be left in the bomb for about ten days from the start of assembly before heat degradation of the high-explosive lenses required them to be replaced. There was no other set of usable lenses available on Tinian.

    The weather and lack of fuel were not the only problems that threatened to turn the mission into a fiasco. When it came to assemble Fat Boy the casings were found to be warped. They tried beating them into shape and when that failed those from a pumpkin bomb were used instead. (The pumpkin bomb was a close but non-nuclear replication of the Fat Man bomb with the same ballistic and handling characteristics. Its purpose was to provide continued realistic training for the B-29 crews assigned to drop the atomic bomb after their deployment to the Western Pacific.) In the haste to complete the bomb, the firing unit cable was installed backwards. There was not time to reassemble the bomb so the connectors were cut and resoldered in the correct order.

    Originally, The Great Artiste, the nickname of the crew’s highly skilled bombardier Kermit Beahan, commanded by Major Charles W. Sweeney was the plane scheduled to drop the second atomic bomb flying The Great Artiste, flown by Sweeney and his crew C-15, had accompanied Enola Gay on her flight to Hiroshima on August 6, carrying instrumentation to record and support the mission. On their return Sweeney and his crew began to prepare for their turn doing training runs in Captain Bock’s plane Bocks Car. The Great Artiste was to have the instruments removed and installed in another plane. When the mission was brought forward there was not enough time for the ground crews to accomplish this. Therefore, Tibbets made the quick decision to have the crew of The Great Artiste carry the Fat Man bomb in Bocks Car and Bock would fly The Great Artiste in the support role.

    On the 8th August at 11:00 pm a pre-flight briefing was held for all crew members of the three primary planes. A typhoon was threatening Iwo Jima, the mission rendezvous point, so it was altered to Yakushima. Four B-29's were deployed as rescue planes in case crews needed to ditch over water. In addition, the cruise altitude at which they were to fly was raised from the usual 9,000 ft to 17,000 ft. The different rendezvous point was not of any consequence, but the higher altitude caused greater fuel consumption. Two important directives were issued by Tibbets at this briefing. (1) Wait no more than 15 minutes at the rendezvous point before proceeding on to Japan and (2) Drop Fat Man visually, i.e., they must see the target!

    Just before takeoff from Tinian, flight engineer Master Sergeant John D. Kuharek noticed the fuel transfer pump for one of the reserve tanks in the rear fuselage of Bocks Car was not functioning, effectively reducing Bocks Car's fuel supply by 640 gallons. This could jeopardize a safe return and under other circumstances would have meant canceling the mission. The crew deplaned and Sweeny and Tibbets discussed the problem. Because of the importance of convincing the Japanese that Hiroshima was not a one-off occurrence it was decided to continue the mission. Finally, at 1:56 am on 9th August, with scant yards of runway left, Bock's Car lifted off.

    Dr. Robert Serber, Los Alamos physicist , was assigned as the mission's high-speed camera specialist. He was supposed to be in Major James T. Hopkins's support plane The Big Stink, but was scratched from the mission because he had forgotten his parachute. Radio silence had to be broken to instruct Hopkins on how to operate the camera.

    While the two weather planes were reporting favourable conditions over both Kokura and Nagasaki, on board Bocks Car the red arming light on the black box connected to Fat Man was lit indicating that the firing circuit had closed. A half hour later weaponeer Captain Frederick L. Ashworth and his assistant 2nd Lieutenant Phillip M. Barnes had isolated the failed switch that had caused the malfunction and corrected the problem.

    Bocks Car and The Great Artiste rendezvoused at Yakushima and waited for The Big Stink. Bock, aboard The Great Artiste, caught a glimpse of it, but Sweeney never saw the plane. The aircraft increased their altitude to 30,000 feet and slowly circled Yakushima Island for forty minutes, wasting more precious fuel, before finally taking off for Kokura. During this circling both weather planes reported that both Kokura and Nagasaki had cloud cover but visibility was sufficient for visual bombing. This additional 30 minutes delay lost them the clear, visual bombing conditions over Kokura. It also saved Kokura from destruction and the phrase Kokura's Luck was coined in Japan to describe escaping a terrible occurrence without being aware of the danger.

    More fuel was wasted on three unsuccessful bomb runs on Kokura. Animated discussions took place amongst crew members as what to do next. Fuel was becoming a real problem. The decision was made to reduce power to conserve fuel and head for the secondary target, Nagasaki, 95 miles to the south. While anti-aircraft fire zeroed in on them and Japanese fighter planes began to climb toward them, they broke off and headed for Nagasaki.

    Clouds covered Nagasaki on Bocks Car’s arrival. Contrary to orders, weaponeer Ashworth determined to make the drop by radar if they had to, due to their short fuel supply. At the last minute a small window in the clouds opened and bombardier Captain Kermit K. Beehan made the drop at 10:58 am. Nagasaki time. Bocks Car now had only 300 gallons of fuel remaining not enough to get them back to Tinian or Iwo Jima, and perhaps not even to Okinawa. Sweeney had his radio operator, Sergeant Abe M. Spitzer, contact the air-sea rescue teams to alert them to the possibility of ditching. There was no answer. The rescue teams had shut down, apparently deciding Bocks Car had long returned to Tinian.

    On reaching Okinawa at 1.00 pm, repeated attempts to raise the tower for landing instructions went unanswered. There were other planes landing at the time on the only active runway Sweeney did not have enough gas to circle. He set off flares and finally somebody on the ground noticed. At 1.20 pm The Great Artiste and The Big Stink landed at Okinawa. They refueled, took off for at 5.30 pm for Tinian, and landed without further incident at 11:39 pm. local time.

    General Groves had hired William Laurence, the New York Times science reporter, to write press releases and other documents. Unaware the Sweeny and Bock had switched aircraft and confused as to which B-29 he was aboard. He was flying with Bock as an observer believing he was aboard Bocks Car when he was in fact a passenger on The Great Artiste. He would write that the second bomb was dropped by The Great Artiste, a mix-up that persisted in official dispatches for years afterward.

    Google 'Silverplate B-29', you should be able to find crew lists
     
  5. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    Thanks Antoni, seems there wasn't a Furey on the Nagasaki mission. Do you know if he might've been on the Hiroshima mission?

    If what my friend tells me is accurate, there were 6 weather crews and only two of them flew on each mission. Might've been the same as far as the actual bomb crews are concerned as well.
     
  6. R Leonard

    R Leonard Member

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    For the record, Frederick L Ashworth was, at the time, a Commander, USN, formerly CO VT-11 (10 Oct 42), then CAG 11 (19 Jun 43), before moving to the Manhattan Project (1 Nov 43) as an ordnance expert. It was he who briefed Nimitz on the existence and planned use of the bomb. Ashworth, forever after known in Navy circles as “Nagasaki Ashworth” (shades of “Albemarle Cushing”) retired a Vice Admiral - a fine gent. Philip Barnes, I believe, was also a naval officer, a Lieutenant at the time.

    Rich
     
  7. antoni

    antoni Banned

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    The four cities selected as targets were Hiroshima, Kokura, Niigate and Nagasaki.

    Hiroshima mission.

    Straight Flush – weather reconnaissance to Hiroshima

    Crew C-11 (regularly assigned to Straight Flush)
    Major Claude R. Eatherly, Aircraft Commander
    2nd Lt. Ira J. Weatherly, Co-Pilot
    Captain Francis D. Thornhill, Navigator
    2nd Lt. Franklin K. Wey, Bombardier
    2nd Lt. Eugene S. Grennen, Flight Engineer
    S/Sgt. Pasquale Baldasaro, Radio Operator
    Sgt. Albert G. Barsumian, Radar Operator
    Sgt. Gillen T. Nicely, Tail Gunner
    Sgt. Jack Bivans, Assistant Engineer/Scanner

    Jabbit III – weather reconnaissance to Kokura
    Crew B-6 (regularly assigned to Jabit III)
    Maj. John A. Wilson, Aircraft Commander
    2nd Lt. Ellsworth T. Carrington, Co-Pilot
    2nd Lt. James S. Duva, Navigator
    2nd Lt. Paul W. Gruning, Bombardier
    M/Sgt. James W. Davis, Flight Engineer
    S/Sgt. Glen H. Floweree, Radio Operator
    Sgt. Vernon J. Rowley, Radar Operator
    Cpl. Chester A. Rogalski, Tail Gunner
    Cpl. Donald L. Rowe, Assistant Engineer/Scanner

    Full House - – weather reconnaissance to Nagaski
    Crew A-1 (regularly assigned to Full House)
    Major Ralph R. Taylor Jr., Aircraft Commander
    2nd Lt. Raymond P. Biel, Co-Pilot
    1st Lt. Fred A. Hoey, Navigator
    1st Lt. Michael Angelich, Bombardier
    M/Sgt. Frank M. Briese, Flight Engineer
    S/Sgt. Theodore M. Slife, Radio Operator
    Cpl. Nathaniel T. R. Burgwyn, Radar Operator
    T/Sgt. Robert J. Valley, Tail Gunner
    Cpl. Richard B. Anselme, Assistant Engineer/Scanner

    Enola Gay – weapon delivery
    (Asterisks denote regular crewmen of the Enola Gay.)
    Colonel Paul W. Tibbets, Jr. - Pilot and Aircraft commander
    Captain Robert A. Lewis - Co-pilot; Enola Gay's assigned aircraft commander*
    Major Thomas Ferebee - Bombardier ; replaced regular crewman Donald Orrphin.
    Captain Theodore "Dutch" Van Kirk - Navigator [N 4]
    U.S. Navy Captain William S. "Deak" Parsons - Weaponeer and bomb commander; replaced regular crewman William "Bill" Arre, due to his advanced knowledge of atomic weaponry.
    Lieutenant Jacob Beser - Radar countermeasures (also the only man to fly on both of the nuclear bombing aircraft)
    Second Lieutenant Morris R. Jeppson - Assistant weaponeer
    Technical Sergeant George R. "Bob" Caron - Tail gunner*
    Technical Sergeant Wyatt E. Duzenberry - Flight engineer*
    Sergeant Joe S. Stiborik - Radar operator*
    Sergeant Robert H. Shumard - Assistant flight engineer*
    Private First Class Richard H. Nelson - VHF radio operator*
    John P. Merrill -- flight surgeon

    The Great Artiste – Blast measurement instrumentation

    Crew C-15 (normally assigned to The Great Artiste)
    Maj. Charles W. Sweeney, aircraft commander
    1st. Lt. (Charles Donald) Don Albury, pilot
    2nd Lt. Fred Olivi, co-pilot
    Capt. James Van Pelt, navigator
    Capt. Raymond "Kermit" Beahan, bombardier
    Cpl Abe Spitzer, radio operator
    Master Sgt. John D. Kuharek, flight engineer
    Staff Sgt Ray Gallagher, gunner, assistant flight engineer
    Staff Sgt Edward Buckley, radar operator
    Sgt. Albert Dehart, tail gunner
    Necessary Evil – Strike observation and photography
    Crew B-10 (normally assigned to Up An' Atom)
    Capt. George W. Marquardt, Aircraft Commander
    2nd Lt. James M. Anderson, Co-Pilot
    2nd Lt. Russell Gackenbach, Navigator
    Capt. James W. Strudwick, Bombardier
    T/Sgt. James R. Corliss, Flight Engineer
    Sgt. Warren L. Coble, Radio Operator
    Sgt. Joseph M. DiJulio, Radar Operator
    Sgt. Melvin H. Bierman, Tail Gunner
    Sgt. Anthony D. Capua, Jr., Assistant Engineer/Scanner
    (Civilian) Prof. Bernard Waldman, Project Alberta, camera operator

    Top Secret – Substitute if Enola Gay suffered mechanical failure
    Crew B-8 (regularly assigned to Top Secret)
    Capt. Charles F. McKnight, airplane commander
    2nd Lt. Jacob Y. Bontekoe, co-pilot
    2nd Lt. Jack Widowsky, navigator
    2nd Lt. Franklin H. MacGregor, bombardier
    1st Lt. George H. Cohen, flight engineer
    Sgt. Lloyd J. Reeder, radio operator
    T/Sgt. William F. Orren, radar operator
    Sgt. Roderick E. Legg, tail gunner
    Cpl. Donald O. Cole, Assistant engineer, scanner

    Nagasaki Mission

    Enola Gay – weather reconnaissance – some sources say long range, others Kokura.
    Capt. George W. Marquardt
    Cannot find list of crew for Nagasaki mission.

    Up An’ Atom – some sources say this flew weather reconnaissance to Kokura.
    Capt. George W. Marquardt
    Perhaps there is some confusion as Up An’ Atom was Marquardt’s and crew usual aircraft.

    Laggin Dragon – weather reconnaissance to Nagasaki
    Crew B-8 (regularly assigned to Top Secret)
    Capt. Charles F. McKnight, airplane commander
    2nd Lt. Jacob Y. Bontekoe, co-pilot
    2nd Lt. Jack Widowsky, navigator
    2nd Lt. Franklin H. MacGregor, bombardier
    1st Lt. George H. Cohen, flight engineer
    Sgt. Lloyd J. Reeder, radio operator
    T/Sgt. William F. Orren, radar operator
    Sgt. Roderick E. Legg, tail gunner
    Cpl. Donald O. Cole, Assistant engineer, scanner

    Bockscar – weapon delivery
    Crew C-15 (normally assigned to The Great Artiste):
    Maj Charles W. Sweeney, aircraft commander
    Capt Charles Donald Albury, co-pilot (pilot of Crew C-15) [3]
    2nd Lt Fred Olivi, regular co-pilot
    Capt James van Pelt, navigator
    Capt Kermit Beahan, bombardier
    Master Sergeant John D. Kuharek, flight engineer
    SSgt Ray Gallagher, gunner, assistant flight engineer
    SSgt Edward Buckley, radar operator
    Sgt Abe Spitzer, radio operator
    Sgt Albert Dehart, tail gunner
    Also on board were the following additional mission personnel:
    CDR Frederick L. Ashworth (USN), weaponeer
    LT Philip Barnes (USN), assistant weaponeer
    2nd Lt Jacob Beser, radar countermeasures

    The Great Artiste – blast measurement instrumentation
    Crew C-13 (normally assigned to Bockscar)
    Capt. Frederick C. Bock, aircraft commander
    Lt. Hugh C. Ferguson, co-pilot
    Lt. Leonard A. Godfrey, navigator
    Lt. Charles Levy, bombardier
    Master Sgt. Roderick F. Arnold, flight engineer
    Sgt. Ralph D. Belanger, assistant flight engineer
    Sgt. Ralph D. Curry, radio operator
    Sgt. William C. Barney, radar operator
    Sgt. Robert J. Stock, tail gunner
    Project Alberta members aboard:
    S/Sgt. Walter Goodman
    Lawrence H. Johnston
    (The British observers, Group Captain Leonard Cheshire, and Professor William G. Penney a member of Project Alberta, were on Big Stink (B-29).

    Big Stink – observation and photography

    Crew C-14 (normally assigned to Necessary Evil; Capt. Norman Ray)
    Major James I. Hopkins, Jr., Aircraft Commander
    2nd Lt. John E. Cantlon, Co-Pilot
    2nd Lt. Stanley G. Steinke, Navigator
    2nd Lt. Myron Faryna, Bombardier
    M/Sgt. George L. Brabenec, Flight Engineer
    Sgt. Francis X. Dolan, Radio Operator
    Cpl. Richard F. Cannon, Radar Operator
    Sgt. Martin G. Murray, Tail Gunner
    Sgt. Thomas A. Bunting, Assistant Engineer/Scanner
    The crew were joined by two British observers:
    Group Captain Leonard Cheshire
    Professor William G. Penney, a member of Project Alberta.

    Full House – substitute if Bockscar suffered mechanical failure.
    Major Ralph R. Taylor Jr.
    Cannot find crew list for Nagasaki mission, presume it was A-1 as on Hiroshima mission.
     
  8. John Coster-Mullen

    John Coster-Mullen New Member

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    Over the years, literally thousands of people have claimed to have been on the atomic missions. It is widely acknowledged by every historian that 12 men, and only 12 men, were inside the Enola Gay on the August 6, 1945 mission to bomb Hiroshima. These names are written in the history books. All the newspaper accounts from that time list 12 names. Spend some time, go to your local library, and dig out the New York Times microfilms, the Life Magazine collections, Time Magazine, etc. that will show you all the dozens of articles written in August 1945 about what was the most important event of WWII. They have detailed stories about all the crewmembers. John P. Merrill was not mentioned even one time. Indeed, there were no flight surgeons onboard any of the planes.

    Paul Tibbets commanded not only the Enola Gay, but also the entire 1,800+ members of the 509th. He was tasked by General Ent with forming this group in late 1944. It was his crowning achievement in WWII. Tibbets own autobiography, in all its various editions, has always stated the following.

    When we were about to leave the mess hall, flight surgeon Don Young came to my table and slipped me a small cardboard pillbox. “I hope you don’t have to use these,” he said, trying to be cheerful. “Don’t worry. The odds are in our favor,” I replied, slipping the box into a pocket in my coveralls. However casual we tried to be, the subject was grim. The pillbox contained 12 cyanide capsules, one for each member of the Enola Gay crew.

    I consider this as the definitive primary source for who handed him this box.
     
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