Lt. William A King - Nagasaki Bomb Core Courier to Tinian Island

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Lt. William A. King

Biography - 3 of 3


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     Also at Hickam Field that early morning was an Army Colonel in transit from recent fighting in the Pacific, looking for a way to move his men back to the states. He heard about the C-54 sitting on the runway with only one passenger. Pushing his way past the guards around the plane, he started up the steps to the plane's doorway where Bill was positioned. Bill requested the officer to back off and not attempt to enter the plane. But the Colonel was determined. Bill finally un-holstered his .45, cocked it, and said. "You can't come aboard this plane!!" After some further "discussion" in front of the "shaking" .45 automatic, the Colonel backed down and left the C-54. Bill turned to the 19 year old Italian pilot from Brooklyn and told him to " get this plane off the ground and out of here, or I'm going to get in trouble!" They took off.

     During the flight from Johnson Island to Tinian, they ran into bad weather and the flight became a bit rough. Bill was afraid the opportunity to use the hunting knife he had been issued might develop. The "bird cage", which had floatation and signaling devices built in should it be necessary to jettison it or ditch the plane, had been strapped down to the plane's floor. The knife was to be used to cut the straps. The plutonium was not be lost, no matter what.

     Upon arrival at Tinian, the "package" mentioned in his orders was turned over to its rightful owners, the technical personnel of Project Alberta. Bill stayed in Captain William "Bud" Uanna's tent. (Uanna later worked in the Personnel Security Program for the Atomic Energy Commission in Washington DC, at the same time that Bill ran the Personnel Security Program at Los Alamos.)

     Bill hoped that he would be on Tinian when the "Enola Gay" completed its mission of dropping "Little Boy" on Hiroshima on August 6, but he was recalled to Washington DC to deliver documents to General Groves. When he arrived in Washington, he knew that the mission had been successful from the atmosphere and the conversation among the personnel in the General's office.

     Bill then received orders on August 10, 1945 to move from Washington DC to San Francisco for another potential trip to Tinian with another plutonium core, located at Mare Island Navy Yard. He was at station there for a few days awaiting final orders to go. Finally his driver arrived to pick him up at the Fairmont Hotel, but as they prepared to drive away, the car had a flat tire. While they were changing it, word came to cancel the trip and Bill checked back into the hotel. Within literally a matter of hours the town started to celebrate as word of Japan's surrender hit the airwaves. The delivery of the second plutonium core for the third bomb was unnecessary.

     After checking with the Oakland California Security and Intelligence staff, Bill was assigned as a Security Courier, with the tasking of collecting all Manhattan Project sensitive and classified material, explosives, documents, and equipment from the West coast facilities to other more secure locations. Material was moved by automobile, truck, plane and freight train.

     In October 1945, Bill returned to Washington DC and received compliments from General Groves.  Instead of being re-assigned to the MED New York Office for termination of his military service, Bill asked for and received a transfer with his family by private auto to Los Alamos. He was assigned as Post Intelligence Officer at Los Alamos in March 1946. He stayed on as the first civilian employee and Security Branch Chief in the Intelligence and Security programs and later stayed on with the Atomic Energy Commission.

 

 

 

 

 

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