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  • Fat Boy Blusters October 23, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary , trackback

    fat boy

    The US bombing of Hiroshima went off, in operational terms, flawlessly. The bombing of Nagasaki was a different matter. For one thing, Nagasaki was not even the target: Fat Man was supposed to have been dropped on nearby Kokura but smoke from a conventional raid obscured the bombing run. Everything that could go wrong on the mission did, in fact, go wrong short of the bomb blowing up in American hands: though that almost happened twice. The first close shave took place on Tinian (where the bombs were housed) the night before the mission when engineers assembled the bomb wrongly and almost set it off. The bomb was then trundled into the Bockscar, flown by one Chuck Sweeney (who had never flown a combat mission before!!). The mission was given the go ahead despite a problem with the reserve tank fuel supply and there would be concerns right through the mission about whether Bockscar would make it home or not. Over Kokura the plane was ripped into by Japanese flak and could have been downed: the plane made two runs over the original target before heading off to Nagasaki to lighten its load. Then, finally, mission control got an incomplete reference over the static and  decided that the Bockscar had been shot down… Bockscar then almost crashed into a row of B-24 bombers full of incendiary bombs while landing. By far the tensest moment on board came, though, about three hours into the flight as dawn was breaking. A weapons officer, Barnes, was unnerved to see some red lights flashing on the weapon’s control panel. Fat Boy was ready to blow. The conversation that followed was recorded by Ashworth the chief weapons officer many years after the event. The words sound all too credible. Welcome to one of our earliest acts of nuclear incompetence.

    Barnes   ‘Hey, Commander, Ashworth, Dick. Hey, we got something wrong here. We got a red light going off like the bomb is going to explode right now. Armed, it’s armed. Fully armed, look at this. Can you take a look, what is going on with this?’

    Ashworth had been sleeping with his head on Fat Boy (!) and now woke up very quickly.

    Ashworth: ‘Are you sure? Oh my God. There is something … do you have the blueprints? This bomb can pre-detonate if we drop below a predetermined level. What’s our altitude? Where are the blueprints?’

    There followed ten very tense minutes with the rest of the crew apparently unaware what was at stake. The problem was that Ashworth and Barnes had armed the bomb in midair and that they had carried out the mechanism wrongly. They removed the casing and found, after several minutes, the issue. Two switches had been reversed. Fat Man returned to relative somnolence. He would speak more emphatically later that day. Ashworth dropped off to sleep again his head returning to Fat Boy’s casing. Barnes, meanwhile, sat and watched the bomb’s panel terrified that the red light would come on again: the world would be watching for that light for the next fifty years.

    Other WIBT moments from world history: drbeachcombing At yahoo DOT com

    Invisible writes in , 25 Oct 2016: Bockscar is in the National Museum of the US Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. Five figures–silhouettes of a plump man like Alfred Hitchcock–the Fat Man–are painted on the side of the plain. Four are black and one is red. The black figures represent test runs with dummy bombs. The red figure is the attack on Nagasaki. There is one more black silhouette painted after the red one: another test, since the Japanese had not yet surrendered. Guards and cleaning staff say that they have seen a little Japanese boy run by Bockscar in the middle of the night. http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/