"Bockscar", sometimes called Bock's Car or Bocks Car, is the name of the
United States Army Air Forces B-29 bomberthat dropped the " Fat Man" nuclear weaponover Nagasaki on 9 August 1945, the second atomic weapon used against Japan.
The name painted on the aircraft after the mission (shown here) is a pun on "
boxcar" after the name of its aircraft commander, Captain Frederick C. Bock. [ [http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=2546 USAF Museum - Bockscar Story] Fact Sheet]
Atomic bomb mission
"Bockscar" was flown on that day by the crew of another B-29, "
The Great Artiste", and was commanded by Major Charles W. Sweeney, commander of the 509th Composite Group's [ [http://www.mphpa.org/classic/CG/CG_02A.htm 509th CG Aircraft Page, MPHPA] ] only bomber squadron, the 393d. "The Great Artiste", which was the assigned aircraft of the crew with whom Sweeney most often flew, was slotted in preliminary planning to drop the second bomb, but it had been fitted with observation instruments for the Hiroshima mission. cite web | last = | first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | year = | url = http://www.uwosh.edu/faculty_staff/earns/olivi.html | title = Reflections from above| format = | work = | publisher = University of Wisconsin Oshkosh| accessdate = 9 May| accessyear = 2007]
"Bockscar" had been flown by Sweeney and crew C-15 in three test drop rehearsals of inert "
Fat Man" assemblies in the eight days leading up to the second mission, including the final rehearsal the day before. [cite book
author=Richard H. Campbell
title=The Silverplate Bombers: A History and Registry of the Enola Gay and Other B-29s Configured to Carry Atomic Bombs
publisher=McFarland & Company, Inc.
id= ISBN 0-7864-2139-8
year=2005| pages=, 113-114.] Rather than move the instrumentation from "The Great Artiste" to "Bockscar", a complex and time-consuming process, the crews of "The Great Artiste" and "Bockscar" switched planes. The result was that the bomb was dropped by "Bockscar", flown by the crew C-15 of "The Great Artiste".
There was confusion over the name of the plane because an initial eyewitness account by reporter
William L. Laurenceof the " New York Times" said that the second bomb had been dropped from "The Great Artiste". cite web | last = | first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | year = | url = http://www.atomicarchive.com/Docs/Hiroshima/Nagasaki.shtml| title = Eyewitness account of atomic bombing over Nagasaki| format = | work = | publisher = Atomic Archive.com| accessdate = 9 May| accessyear = 2007] Laurence, who accompanied the mission as part of Bock's crew, had interviewed Sweeney and his crew in depth and was aware that they referred to their airplane as "The Great Artiste". Except for " Enola Gay", none of the 393rd's B-29s had yet had names painted on the noses, and unaware of the switch in aircraft, Laurence assumed victor 77 was "The Great Artiste". [Campbell, 222 Appendix G note 13.] Kokurawas the primary target, but when "Bockscar" arrived at its rendezvous point off the coast of Japan the third aircraft of its flight (the photo ship " Big Stink") was not present. After fruitlessly waiting 40 minutes, Sweeney and Bock proceeded to Kokura but found it obscured by clouds. Sweeney had orders to drop the atomic bomb visually if possible, and after three unsuccessful passes over Kokura, conferred with weaponeer Commander Frederick Ashworth(USN). They agreed to strike the secondary target, Nagasaki. cite web | last = | first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | year = | url = http://www.mphpa.org/classic/HISTORY/H-07m1.htm| title = Timeline #3- the 509th; The Nagasaki Mission| format = | work = | publisher = The Atomic Heritage Foundation| accessmonthday = 5 May| accessyear = 2007] A combination of factors including confusion about a malfunctioning transfer pump made fuel consumption a critical factor. Ashworth did not want to be forced to dump the bomb into the sea and decided to make a radar bombing run if necessary. cite web | last = | first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | year = | url = http://www.mphpa.org/classic/COLLECTIONS/CG-ASPI/01/Pages/CGP-ASPI-025.htm| title = Spitzer Personal Diary Page 25 (CGP-ASPI-025)| format = | work = | publisher = The Atomic Heritage Foundation| accessmonthday = 5 May| accessyear = 2007] However, enough of an opening appeared in the cloud cover to allow Bombardier Kermit Beahanto confirm Nagasaki and the bomb was dropped, with ground zero being about 3/4 mile from the planned aiming point. This combined with Nagasaki's position on the foothills (as opposed to Hiroshima's mostly flat terrain) resulted in lower overall casualties than in Hiroshima, with much of the blast confined in the Urakami Valley. [cite book| author=Dennis D. Wainstock| title=The Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb| publisher=Praeger| year=1996| pages=92]
Because of the delays in the mission, the B-29 did not have sufficient fuel to reach the emergency landing field at
Iwo Jima, so Major Sweeney flew the aircraft to Okinawa, where, despite being unable to make contact with the control tower, he made a safe landing with virtually empty fuel tanks.
"Bockscar", B-29-36-MO 44-27297, victor number 77, was assigned to the 393rd Bomb Squadron of the 509th Composite Group. One of 15
SilverplateB-29s used by the 509th on Tinian, "Bockscar" was built at the Glenn L. Martin Aircraft Plant at Omaha, Nebraskaat what is now Offutt Air Force Base, as a Block 35 aircraft. It was one of 10 modified as a Silverplate and re-designated "Block 36". Delivered on 19 March 1945, to the USAAF, it was assigned to Capt. Frederick C. Bockand crew C-13 and flown to Wendover Army Air Field, Utah. [Campbell, 172.]
It left Wendover on 11 June 1945 for Tinian and arrived 16 June. It was originally given the victor number 7 but on 1 August was given the triangle N tail markings of the 444th Bomb Group as a security measure and had its victor changed to 77 to avoid misidentification with an actual 444th aircraft. [Campbell, 19.]
"Bockscar" was also used in 13 training and practice missions from Tinian, and three combat missions in which it dropped
pumpkin bombs on industrial targets in Japan. Bock's crew bombed Niihamaand Musashino, and 1st Lt. Don Albury and crew C-15 bombed Toyama. [Campbell, 113, 139, 142.]
It returned to the United States in November 1945 and served with the 509th at Roswell Army Air Field,
New Mexico. It was nominally assigned to the Operation Crossroadstask force but there are no records indicating that it deployed for the tests. In August 1946 it was assigned to the 4105th Base Unit at Davis-Monthan Army Air Field, Arizona, for storage.
At Davis-Monthan it was placed on display as the aircraft that bombed Nagasaki, but in the markings of "The Great Artiste". In September 1946 title was passed to the Air Force Museum (now the
National Museum of the United States Air Force) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, but it was not moved there until 26 September 1961, where its original markings were restored. [Campbell, 172-173.]
"Bockscar" is now on permanent display at the
National Museum of the United States Air Force, Dayton, Ohio. This display includes a replica of the "Fat Man" bomb and signage that states that it was "The aircraft that ended WWII". This is in contrast to the display of " Enola Gay" at the Smithsonian's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, where little mention is made of that aircraft's role in WWII.
In 2005, a short documentary was made about Charles Sweeney's recollections of the Nagasaki mission aboard "Bockscar", including details of the mission preparation, titled "Nagasaki: The Commander's Voice." [ [http://www.mputtre.com/id39.html Last recording of Sweeney before his death in 2004] ]
Regularly assigned crew
Crew C-13 (manned "
The Great Artiste" on the Nagasaki mission)
*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
Nagasaki mission crew
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)
*2nd Lt. Fred Olivi, regular co-pilot
*Capt. James Van Pelt, navigator
*Capt. Raymond "Kermit" Beahan, bombardier
*Master Sgt. John D. Kuharek, flight engineer
*Staff Sgt. Ray Gallagher, gunner, assistant flight engineer
*Staff Sgt. Edward Buckley, radar operator
*Sgt. Abe Spitzer, radio operator
*Sgt. Albert Dehart, tail gunner
Also on board were the following additional mission personnel:
* Cmdr. Frederick L. Ashworth (USN), weaponeer
*Lt. Philip Barnes (USN), assistant weaponeer
Jacob Beser, radar countermeasures
National Museum of the United States Air Force display
* Campbell, Richard H., "The Silverplate Bombers: A History and Registry of the Enola Gay and Other B-29's Configured to Carry Atomic Bombs" (2005), ISBN 0-7864-2139-8
* [http://www.atomicarchive.com/Docs/Hiroshima/Nagasaki.shtml Eyewitness account of atomic bombing over Nagasaki, by William Laurence, New York Times]
* [http://www.uwosh.edu/faculty_staff/earns/olivi.html Reflections from above: an American pilot's perspective on the mission which dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki]
* [http://www.hbo.com/docs/programs/whitelightblackrain/index.html White Light/Black Rain Official Website] (film)
* [http://www.uwosh.edu/faculty_staff/earns/olivi.html Fred Olivi's perspective on the mission]
* [http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=527 US Air Force Museum Archives Gallery Bockscar page] with aircraft specifications
* [http://www1.city.nagasaki.nagasaki.jp/na-bomb/museum/m1-1e.html Records of the Nagasaki Atomic Bombing]
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