Fat Man explodes

May 6, 2013 in Am, In the Public Domain, Japan, Pictures, Pictures of War, WW2, WWII



Picture Taken On:
August 9, 1945


Place:
Nagasaki, Japan

Behind the Camera:
A crew member of one of the two B-29 Superfortresses used in the attack.
National Archives image (208-N-43888)

Picture Summary:
Atomic bombing of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945
This image is in the public domain because it was taken by a military photographer
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In an effort to end the war, and three days after the Hiroshima Atomic bombing, the Americans dropped a nuclear bomb (Equal to the force of 21 kilotons of TNT) on the city of Nagasaki, Japan. The United States Army Air Forces B-29 bomber that dropped the bomb was called the Bockscar (sometimes called Bock’s Car or Bocks Car). The plane was piloted by Maj Charles W. Sweeney and co-pilot Capt Charles Donald Albury. Fat Man Detonated at about 1,800 feet (550 m) the explosion flattened the city and killed outright around 39,000 people, with a further 25,000 injured. Thousands more would soon die from their wounds.

Bombing mission


Enlisted flight crew of the Bock's Car.

Crew C-15. front row: Dehart, Kuharek, Buckley, Gallagher, Spitzer; back row: Olivi, Beahan, Sweeney, Van Pelt, Albury

The mission procedure for the, August 9, 1945, nuclear bombing run involved 5 B-29s bombers. Two were equipped as weather reconnaissance planes and would fly an hour ahead of the one designated bomber and two support bombers who would be providing instrumentation and photographic support for the mission. The primary target for the second nuclear attack (The first was the Hiroshima bombing on August 6, 1945) was the city of Kokura. The port city of Nagasaki was the secondary target. At the designated time the two weather bombers flew over the cities and determined that both targets were clear.

After getting the all clear by the weather planes the designated bomber, Bockscar, and its support plane the The Great Artiste met at the designated rally point. However the third support plane Big Stink failed to show. After waiting 40 min the two bombers continued to the primary target, Kokura. The drop on Kokura was cancelled as the city was covered by cloud and smoke from an earlier firebombing attack. The planes moved onto the secondary target, Nagasaki only to find that it too had been covered in clouds. While circling the city the crew determined that fuel levels would force them to ditch the mission. Sweeney decided that against orders he would do a radar run, a system that in 1945 was notoriously inaccurate. As the plane prepared to drop the bomb, twenty seconds before release, Beahan spotted a cloud break and shouted over the intercom, “I can see [Nagasaki], I can see it, I’ve got it!” Sweeney halted the radar drop and answered, “You own it.” Co-pilot Fred Olivi would recall that Beahan “took over, set up the bombsight and dropped the bomb.”
Both planes quickly turned to flee the explosion but even as they speed away all aboard the planes were aware of an intense flash that could even be seen through their arc-welder glasses. William Laurence a reporter flying on the The Great Artiste would later write:

Observers in the tail of our ship saw a giant ball of fire rise as though from the bowels of the earth, belching forth enormous white smoke rings. Next they saw a giant pillar of purple fire, 10,000 feet high, shooting skyward with enormous speed … [As the radioactive cloud reached the planes altitude] it was no longer smoke, or dust, or even a cloud of fire. It was a living thing, a new species of being, right before our incredulous eyes.

The cloud rising to almost 60,000 feet seemed to chase the planes and the crew of the Bockscar had to take evasive manoeuvres to escape the cloud. Co-pilot Fred Olivi reported that Sweeney “dove the aircraft down and to the right with full throttles, to pull away from the oncoming mushroom cloud. For a while I couldn’t tell whether we were gaining on it, or it was gaining on us … But then we began to see that we were pulling away and we escaped the radiation.”
As they put distance between the cloud and the planes someone on either the the Bockscar or the The Great Artiste took the famous Fat Man photo.


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Mission crew


Nagasaki, Japan, before and after the atomic bombing of August 9, 1945.

Nagasaki, Japan, before and after the atomic bombing of August 9, 1945.


Nagasaki, Japan, before and after the atomic bombing of August 9, 1945
The Bockscar crew was made up of:
Maj Charles W. Sweeney, Flight Commander
Capt Charles Donald Albury, Pilot
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
CDR Frederick L. Ashworth USN, weaponeer
LT Philip Barnes (USN), assistant weaponeer
2nd Lt Jacob Beser, radar countermeasures

Accompanying the Bockscar was another B-29 bomber the The Great Artiste

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
S/Sgt. Walter Goodman
Reporter William Lawrence

Final landing

Once the bomb was dropped and the planes headed home. Commander Sweeney couldn’t get any response on the radio from Navy rescue squad that were supposed to accompany the Bockscar back to base. Since they were hours behind schedule the crew determined that the Navy had given up and returned home. Due to fuel constraints they headed to Okinawa but couldn’t raise anyone at Okinawa’s Yontan airfield. To get the attention of the ground crews Sweeny ordered the firing of all flares on board and then brought the plane in for a landing. They landed halfway down the runway narrowly missing a B-24 taking off and a line of parked B-24s. Only the skill of the pilots prevented the plane from crashing. After they grounded the plane they discovered that there was only seven gallons of fuel left, about one minute of flight time for a B-29. When emergency crews reached the plane a paramedic popped the hatch and asked where the wounded and dead were? Commander Sweeney, pointed north towards Nagasaki and said, “back there.”

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