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Manhattan Project History

Putting the "Weapon" to Military Use

509th Composite Group

The Nagasaki Mission


Mission:  Nagasaki

Plane: B-29; Bockscar; Ser. # 36-MO-44-27297

Weapon:  "Fat Man" Plutonium Bomb

Date: August 9, 1945

Capt. Kermit K. Beahan, the bombardier on Bockscar, was interviewed on August 15, 1945 while still on Tinian Island.  "Click" below on Kermit Beahan's name to listen to the "live" interview.  Note: You must have RealPlayer installed to hear this broadcast.

Charles W. Sweeney

Aircraft Commander
Charles D. Albury Pilot
Fred J. Olivi Co-Pilot
James F. Van Pelt Navigator
Kermit K. Beahan Bombardier
Frederick L. Ashworth Weapon Officer
Philip M. Barnes Weapon Test Officer
Jacob Beser Radar Countermeasures
John D. Kuharek Flight Engineer
Abe M. Spitzer Radio Operator
Edward R. Buckley Radar Operator
Albert T. Dehart Tail Gunner
Raymond G. Gallagher Asst. Engineer/Scanner


Mushroom Cloud - 50,000 Feet High - Nagasaki Mission


The Hiroshima mission did not end the war. Despite the scale of destruction, the Japanese did not immediately give up. Nelson thinks, "It required something else, and that something was the second bomb.... The second bomb was a necessity.... It did show that we had more than one weapon." He feels that the bomb dropped on Nagasaki "worked--because three days later they did concede defeat."  For a complete timeline of the Nagasaki Mission, please "click" here!

Where the Hiroshima mission's Little Boy, like most bombs, was cigar-shaped, the plutonium bomb dropped on Nagasaki looked more like a giant egg, and was aptly nicknamed Fat Man. Little Boy was a uranium bomb. It was also the only one of its kind in existence. The uranium isotope of atomic mass 235 was arduous to isolate from its sister isotope of mass 238, occurring in far greater abundance in ordinary uranium ores. Material for a second bomb of this kind would not have been available for several more months. The explosive for the bomb dropped on Nagasaki was plutonium, an element that does not exist naturally on Earth. It had to be manufactured from uranium 238 in giant nuclear reactors in a huge new plant built for the Manhattan Project by the Army Corps of Engineers at Hanford, Washington. By August 1945, Hanford was producing enough plutonium for two or three bombs a month.

Tibbets decided not to go on the second bombing mission himself, and assigned the command to Chuck Sweeney. Since Sweeney's The Great Artiste had been outfitted for instrumentation, he was assigned to fly Bockscar, while Fred Bock, who normally piloted the plane that bore his name, would command the instrumentation aircraft on this flight.

The Nagasaki mission was plagued with troubles. A faulty fuel pump prevented complete use of the fuel on board. Kokura, the primary target for the mission, was so clouded in that Sweeney had to give up after circling the city for some time and go for the alternate target, Nagasaki. That city also was heavily overcast, but Sweeney did drop the bomb. Then, heading home he was so low on fuel that he had to land on Okinawa to refuel before proceeding back to Tinian.





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