The Bomb and the 509th

Pres. Truman

In a 1958 interview, Truman was asked about the soul-searching decision he went through to decide on dropping the bomb. He replied, “Hell no, I made it like _ (snapped his fingers) _ that!” One year later at Columbia University, he said, “The atom bomb was no great decision.” He likened it to a larger gun.

The components for the 20-kiloton weapon were being shipped to Tinian Island, in the Marianas, aboard the USS Indianapolis.   The top-secret package arrived at its destination a mere 24 hours after the official operational order for the bomb was sent to General Carl (“Tooey”) Spaatz.

Prince Konoye

Prince Konoye, after laboring two years for a route to peace, swallowed poison and died the day before he was to turn himself in as a war criminal.

Sadly, four days later, the Indianapolis was hit by three torpedoes and sunk within twelve minutes. The ship was without a sufficient number of lifeboats, her disappearance went unnoticed for almost four days and the navy search team was called off early. Therefore, only 316 men of her 1,196-man crew were rescued. This has been considered the most controversial sea disaster in American history.

USS Indianapolis

The bomb, when it arrived, was a metal cylinder approximately 18 inches in diameter and two feet high, but when fully assembled, it measured ten feet long and 28 inches in diameter. It had originally been nicknamed “Thin Man” after the movie and the expected shape, but when it was completed, they changed it to “Little Boy” and gave the small bundle its own hiding place. The secrecy involving the bomb storage area was so secure that a general was required to have a pass to enter.

The other members of the 509th Bomber Group, not included in the mission, knew something was brewing, but they also were unaware of the exact plans. Hence, an anonymous writer was inspired:
Into the air the secret rose,
Where they’re going, nobody knows.
Tomorrow they’ll return again,
But we’ll never know where they’ve been.
Don’t ask about results or such,
Unless you want to get in Dutch.
But take it from one who is sure of the score,
The 509th is winning the war.

The crew of the ‘Enola Gay’ even received a humorous menu as they entered the mess hall for breakfast:
Look! Real eggs (How do you want them?)
Rolled oats (Why?)
Milk (No fishing)
Sausage (We think it’s pork)
Apple butter (Looks like axle grease)
Butter (Yep, it’s out again)
Coffee (Saniflush)
Bread (Someone get a toaster)

After takeoff, they met up with their two escort planes, ‘The Great Artiste,’ which carried scientific equipment and Number 91 (never named) carrying photographic gear.

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Military Humor – 

“Whoever is humming the ‘Jaws’ theme is gonna get slapped!”

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Farewell Salutes – 

Edwin Askins – Calhoun, MO; US Army, WWII, ETO, 240th Medical Battalion

Norman Baylis – Rotorua, NZ; NZ Expeditionary Force # 455856, WWII

Final Mission

Bobby L. Dew – Norfolk, VA; US Army, 101st Airborne  /  Korea, 7th Division, Bronze Star, 2 Purple Hearts

Alfred Fergen – Parkston, SD; US Navy, WWII, PTO, Sea Bees, 109th Construction Battalion

Frank Gaughan (101) – Cleveland, OH; USMC, WWII, PTO

Robert Haney – Columbia City, IN; US Army Air Corps, Japanese Occupation, 11th Airborne Division

William G. James – Boynton Beach, FL; US Army, 508th RCT

Edward Kirwan Jr. – Newburgh, NY, USMC, WWII, PTO

Dennis C. Lansing – Richland, WA; US Army, Vietnam, Green Beret, Major (Ret. 22 y.)

George McLean – New Orleans, LA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, GSgt., 93 BG/8th Air Force

Brian Reichert – Andover, ND; US Army, 82nd Airborne Division, Sgt. (Ret.)

Bruce Sauder – Highspire, PA; US Army, 11th Airborne Division

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I’m no quitter!

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About GP

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GP is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on September 26, 2022, in WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 105 Comments.

  1. Great combat fatigues!! Road Runner’s nemesis😆

    Liked by 1 person

  2. great post — very sad…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I feel badly for Prince Konoye. I was never a Truman fan. I always love your history, GP.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Thanks for the follow, GP 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I still have sympathy for the same. Thank God we were not born in that Era. GP

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Is it really the truth that Truman said that the decision about the bomb was not a big decision?
    I don’ t can understand that the Indianapolis had not little boats to safe the soldiers

    Liked by 2 people

    • Uw beide vragen zijn geldig, maar ik kan ze niet beantwoorden. Hoewel ik het ermee eens ben dat de bom moest worden gedropt, had het naar mijn mening eerst moeten nadenken over de gevolgen.
      De USS Indianapolis was een zeer trieste episode in onze geschiedenis en ik heb geen idee hoe ze een schip de enorme Stille Oceaan hebben laten oversteken zonder voldoende reddingsboten.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I didn’t know the Indianapolis story. Thank you for educating me, GP.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Horrible for the pilots and of course the survivors

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I remember the Indianapolis story in Jaws

    Liked by 2 people

  10. The more I’m learning about Truman, the less I like him

    Liked by 2 people

  11. It is shocking that Truman was so cavalier about his decision. If Putin uses nukes, even tactical ones, in Ukraine, I think there is a good chance he would be considered to be a war criminal. The Jaws cartoon fits with the reference to the U.S.S. Indianapolis because the shark hunter, Quint, was a survivor. He tells the story in one of the scenes at the end of the movie.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I would have thought the decision would have weighed heavily on Truman’s mind for a bit more than a few seconds. Given that my dad would have been in the invasion, if it had come to that, I’ve always been glad the war ended without invading Japan. I didn’t know about the possible opportunities we had for a negotiated solution. It’s hard to judge in hindsight. Thank you for the effort to bring the complete story for us to consider, GP. One thing is for sure, I hope we never come to this point again.

    Liked by 4 people

  13. I have always felt sympathy as regards the atomic bomb only for the children and teenagers who were caught in the blast.
    To them should be added the crew of the USS Indianapolis whose story I read about in a book, I think, by Doug Stanton, called “In Harm’s Way”. The heroism and perseverance of their rescuer was beyond compare, and if you don’t know the story of the Indianapolis, you really should buy one of the many books on sale and read it for yourself.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Always found it interesting that the “little boy” design was not tested. Theory is that we used a German design that was tested in Eastern Europe. I’ve seen several references to the German test, but it is never mentioned in MSM.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. I’ve read a lot of books about World War II, but only two of them kept me awake for weeks with nightmares. One was about the Indianapolis (Abandon Ship! – Newcomb). The other was about the bombs (Last Train from Hiroshima – Pellegrino).

    Liked by 2 people

  16. I hadn’t known of the fate of the Indianapolis…..a ship lost in the fog of war by the sound of it. As for Truman’s snap of the fingers quote…..if true he was unworthy to lead his country, if said for effect, then it disgraces his country.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Frankly, I don’t know why he was picked as Vice Pres., let alone President. But we quickly went from WWII into Korea, didn’t we – despite so many military men advising the reverse.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Truman’s comment that it was no great decision…I have trouble believing he was being honest, because if he really felt that way I would really wonder if he knew exactly what he was giving the go-ahead on, what the bomb would actually do.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Thanks, GP. Thanks for the reminder about the Indianapolis. Those sailors should never be forgotten. Truman’s decision saved lives on both sides no matter how quick he got there. Thanks for that story too.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. The men in the water being attacked by sharks after the sinking of the Indianapolis never fails to haunt me.
    Truman may have made his decision flippantly, but I still feel it saved countless lives of allied soldiers. I would have done the same thing, I have no doubt. As would my relatives who suffered in Japanese POW camps.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Were the allied military leadership in favor of dropping the bombs ?

    Liked by 2 people

  21. You’d have to think GP that despite this decision that ended the War, he must have known this entered us into a new era. And when you see some of the madmen in this world with a Red button on their desk …

    Liked by 2 people

  22. No one should ever be called upon to make such a decision, but, perversely, lately we seem to be inching closer and closer

    Liked by 2 people

  23. What an interesting post from start (didn’t know it was such an easy decision for Truman) to finish (“The 509th is winning the war.”)

    Liked by 2 people

  24. “Prince Konoye, after laboring two years for a route to peace, swallowed poison and died the day before he was to turn himself in as a war criminal. Sadly, four days later, the Indianapolis was hit by three torpedoes and sunk within twelve minutes. The ship was without a sufficient number of lifeboats, her disappearance went unnoticed for almost four days and the navy search team was called off early. Therefore, only 316 men of her 1,196-man crew were rescued. This has been considered the most controversial sea disaster in American history. ” What a sad and unnecessary ending for Prince Konoye. As for the Indianapolis, the insufficient number of lifeboats, unnoticed disappearance and search called off early is certainly inexplicable, and suspicious.

    Liked by 2 people

  25. Truman really said that dropping atomic bombs was a snap decision? That’s appalling. Even if the decision was necessary, the consequences to the Japanese people should still have weighed heavy on his mind.

    Liked by 2 people

  26. Great post, GP. I’ve heard a lot about Truman’s decision, and still can’t come to a solid conclusion of whether or not I think it was the right thing to do. The story of the Indianapolis enforces my decision to join the Army instead of the Navy.

    Liked by 2 people

  27. Drop and cover said the animated turtle…. Recent threats by Putin brought back the anxiety I remember from a 1950s childhood. I hope a coup happens before he can put that threat into practice.

    Liked by 2 people

  28. A vessel of this size with so many men on board and insufficient lifeboats is almost a criminal lacking foresight.

    Liked by 2 people

  29. I too read about the USS Indianapolis and her captain, Charles Butler McVay III. It stayed with me. Hunter Scott got McVay exonerated in 1997 based upon his research for a school project. You provide some wonderful background to the first nuclear bomb story. Military food can be a joke. I can remember a comedian making a couple of jokes about MREs. Meals Rejected by Ethiopians and the brown color of the wrapper is no coincidence.

    Liked by 2 people

  30. Your bits of humor really got me laughing this morning, especially the reference to the “Jaws” theme. I was astonished to read of the fate of the USS Indianapolis. I’ve never heard a thing about that event. You mentioned reading a book about it; what was the title?

    Liked by 2 people

  31. Snap your fingers just like that. I remember my training at military school on nuclear war in 60’s and we viewed the U.S. official films of both incidents and the aftermath. I can assure you that many colleagues ran out of the room to puke outside.

    Liked by 4 people

  32. life changing for so many in so many ways. the Indianapolis story is one tragedy that remains

    Liked by 2 people

  33. Remember that scene from Jaws? Where Quint recalls when the Indianappolis got hit? For me, this was the scariest scene in the entire movie.

    Liked by 3 people

  34. Truman’s decision will probably be debated over and over in the foreseeable future.

    Liked by 2 people

  35. The story of the Indianapolis is so heart-rending.

    Liked by 3 people

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